Typically, you can cut the cost of beer in half when you’re home brewing.
Given you buy beers like Sam Adams and other premium craft beers at a grocery store, the cost of making a 5-gallon batch of beer is around 25$ if you do it right. That’s usually a case of 24 12-oz bottles. But: 5 gallons of beer is usually around 40-48 bottles depending on how much trub (debris from hops and yeast cake left in the fermentation vessel) you generate. So, it’s about half.
Malt in Bulk
I decided to go a step further. I wanted to look at how much it costs to buy grain in bulk versus buying it by the pound at my local store every time I make a batch. Buying at the local beer store is great because you get it the same day and they mix and mill your grains for free. But you can also buy malt in 50 pound bags and you can buy malt in 10 pound bags from amazon prime.
But… I use 21 different types of malt. Which malts should I buy in bulk if I were to decide to do so? I made a spreadsheet to analyze the malts in all my recipes. Given I make each type of beer once, which I normally do, this works.
As you can see from my ledger here, 59% of the malt I use is Pale Two-Row. It’s in every recipe I use except one. It would make sense to look at buying Pale Two-Row if I wanted to see how much I could save by buying in bulk. The only other type of malt I would buy in bulk would be Munich Malt 20L. But it’s only used in 2 of my 12 recipes. So, I think Pale Two-Row is the only malt I would buy in bulk.
How much does Pale Two-Row cost?
- Amazon Prime: $20.00 for 10lbs or $2.00/lb
- My local Store (by the pound) $1.20.
- My local Store (in a 50# bag) $37.00 or $.74/lb
Easily, you can see I’m making a huge savings by buying a 50 pound bag of Two-Row Pale. The cost savings for buying 1 60# bag versus buying by the pound at the store is about 21$.
But: When you buy a 50# bag, the malt isn’t milled. You have to mill it yourself! Luckily, my awesome wife bought me a grain mill for Christmas. So, it makes sense to buy a 50# bag of Pale Two Row, and mill it when I’m ready to make beer. (You shouldn’t store milled grain. When storing whole grains, keep them in a cool dry place in a sealed container.)
This may not save me money, but it will be really fun. I decided to grow hops this year. My buddy and I will build a planter that grows up my deck. From doing some research, I found I’ll need a well-sunlit place and about 15′ of rope. My backyard deck will be perfect. I gets light most of the day in the summer and is around 18′ high. You should plant each vine about 5′ apart according to “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.” So, with my space available, I can plant 4 plants. But which types to plant? Again, I whipped out an excel spreadsheet to see which hops I use the most…
From here, you can see I only use 9 different types of hops. If I were to plant 4 plants, they would be Cascade, Willamette, Hallertau and Chinook. But here’s the thing: I only use about 20.5 ounces of these types in a year. A single hops vine will produce 0.5-2 pounds of dried hops per plant. (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=372944) So, If I use 7 ounces of Cascade a year (about .4 pounds), that will be enough for me for a whole year, even in the worst growing conditions. It’s possible with a good yield of 2 pounds, I’ll have hops left over from even my most-used variety.
Here’s another cool thing… It’s not illegal to sell hops. Typically, a beer store sells dried hops at around $2.20/ounce. If each of my 4 plants produced 1 pound of hops and I used 20.5 ounces, I would have 43.5 ounces left over. If I sold them (and finding buyers would NOT be a problem), I could bring in $130.50. That will easily pay for the lumber to build the planters and the hops rhizomes. (About 9$ per). Plus, just using your own hops that you grew would be hella cool.
I just ordered my Hops Rhizomes from this company today: http://www.homebrewing.org/
They had Cascade, Willamette and Chinook, but no Hallertau. For the Hallertau, I ordered from http://www.thymegarden.com/. They won’t ship this one until March. March seems like a good time to plant.