make beer cheapfood
Now that I have your attention … time for the bait and switch. It very much depends on how much you budget for beer. Lemmee spoil the lede, I got my costs down to one dollar per 22oz beer. The end result, brewed to my taste, competed handily with the better beers on the shelf.
Now the for the asterisks you likely saw from miles away. Those costs are for ingredients only. They assume free labor and existing equipment with no depreciation. So honestly, not a huge savings over a decent Redhook (just for example). And yet … a distinct cost savings over an average five dollar bomber of craft brew. Providing that your labor is love.
A lot of ink has been spilled over home-brewing, and maybe the most delightful experience I had along the way was encountering the truly helpful community over on reddit /r/homebrewing. It was deeply heartening to watch volunteers step forward to answer the same question that had been asked hundred times before. (Did I wreck my beer? The answer: no.)
A high-level summary of my technique: I skipped straight to all grain brewing beer in a bag which required a 7 gallon kettle, a nylon bag fermenting bucket and a motley collection of recycled bomber bottles. I took a few short cuts along the way. For the most part beer making has been overly shrouded in mystery. Barley wants to be bread and bread is half ways to beer. Traditionally beer has been made over the ages without hitting exact temps, without using an aerating stone, without a water report from your city etc. etc.
Which is not to say that traditional beer was necessarily good … but rather the process is more flexible than you might guess from reading about it. Except cleanliness. Very important unless you like sour beers, which is totally a thing. And bottle bombs. Which should never be.
As I got more confidant, (and was kicked out of the kitchen,) I augmented my gear with a propane burner, a wort chiller and various and sundry toys. As a hobby it was great, as a way to save money; not so much, as a way to make friends nonpareil. So why, you might ask, is my equipment gathering dust. I’ve heard beer referred to as liquid bread. I can attest that an endless supply of liquid bread leads to the proverbial beer belly that we hoped was myth.