Ballpark estimate: $49 to $180 for a starter kit
Why Brew Beer at Home?
Brewing beer at home can be a fun activity for many people who find the whole process something akin to gourmet cooking or backyard barbequing; as for saving a lot of money over purchasing beer at the store, you might just want to step up your payroll deductions and leave the beer business to the pros. Keep in mind that brewing beer at home will require several steps and a bit of waiting (weeks, not hours), so don’t plan the party for the same day you purchase the kit! Think of this as a hobby, get to know the process, and probably test your results a few times before having your first home brew backyard bash!
What You’ll Need to Get Started
Brewing beer at home is actually relatively easy and requires only a small initial investment to get started. Once you have mastered the basic technique, you can start to experiment and find that perfect brew for a Saturday afternoon with friends or something different to stand up when served with a particular food. Anyone have a great recipe for five alarm chili or ribs that friends and neighbors brag about?
The simplest and probably best choice for a beginner is to purchase a complete beer making kit that contains everything you’ll need, except the ingredients. You can also find kits with the ingredients included in case you are looking for something completely self-contained, such as for a gift for a buddy who may never get started without everything in one box!
Purchasing Your First Home Brew Kit
If you like to shop online, there are many options to choose from and you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed. Another option is to find a local brewing store where you can make your purchase with guidance from experienced staff and support a local business at the same time. In the greater Boston area, for example, I found several
choices within a five-mile radius of my home with a simple Google search using “home brewing stores near me.” Once you walk into the store you’ll probably know if it’s right for you based on your gut reaction. If you want something to double-check your gut you can always look for the Better Business Bureau logo on the door or window, or look the store up online at http://www.bbb.org/ for any complaints filed with BBB.
Once you have decided where to purchase your beer brewing kit, you’ll need to settle on a few specific criteria that will affect the initial investment and may impact your experience down the line. Most kits are priced based on two factors, the quantity that can be brewed at one time and the quality of the equipment in the kit.
Cost for a Beer Brew Kit
For as little as $49, you can get a basic kit that includes everything you need (including the ingredients) to brew beer in small batches (about two six packs). If you want to start out with a more robust set of equipment, you can get purchase a deluxe kit large enough to brew 5 gallons at a time for an investment of $150 to $180, which will yield enough home brew to share with friends and family. In addition to allowing for larger batches, the more expensive kits also come with durable and versatile equipment that will serve you for many years of brewing fun. All kits should come with complete instructions on how to get started brewing your own beer. Try looking at the American Homebrewers Association or use your favorite search engine to come up with another of the many great sources of information for brewing beer at home.
While some kits come with ingredients included in the purchase price, you’ll often get to make a choice based on the type of beer you want to brew. For example, you can start off with a nice IPA that will give you a clear, golden brown color and impress all your friends from connoisseur to corner store beer drinkers. Choosing your ingredients is really about your taste and prices vary by only a few dollars per batch, so indulge and get something you’ll really enjoy drinking when the work (and the waiting) is over.
Further, if you want an idea of what it could cost to buy ingredients separately, it all depends on the recipe you use and the type of beer you desire. One home-brewer reported that he spent $35 to buy the needed items for a specialty brew. For this price, he purchased amber malt extract, crushed crystal malt, crushed chocolate malt, crushed black patent malt, and two types of cluster hops for (one for bittering and one for finishing).
Bottom Line on Costs
Like anything else, the cost of home brewing is often a trade-off between cost and quality. If you start with a very basic $49 kit, you’ll have everything you need to brew about two six packs of beer. The quick math on that choice clearly favors purchasing something from even the best microbrewery at your local package store. Of course the second batch only requires purchasing new ingredients, since you already have the equipment. If you brew a batch approximately once a month, you should have plenty of beer and end up with a cost of about $3.99 per six pack, spreading the equipment cost across the year. After that, your per six pack price could drop even lower. If you decide to continue with this hobby, you will undoubtedly find ways to save more money. On the other hand, if you are anything like this author, you’ll also find more equipment to purchase for specialized brews and just because it’s fun to have more and better toys to keep the hobby interesting! If you can afford it, the best bet is to purchase a solid starter kit for about triple the cost of the basic kit, but in return for the added expense, you’ll have quality equipment that will last. Now just choose your flavor, brew that first batch, and sit back and wait to enjoy.