Throughout the recession, Americans have been cutting their budgets across the board and that often means slashing spending on alcohol. But if you’re interested and devoted enough to learn a craft, do-it-yourself alcohol can be a great way to save money.
Of course, you’ll need startup funds for supplies or kits, enough space to do your work and plenty of patience during the fermentation or distilling process. Here’s what you need to know about home wine making, beer brewing and liquor distilling before you decide whether DIY alcohol is right for you.
Many DIYers do it themselves not just because it’s cheaper, but because they take pride in the craft, and that’s one thing that motivates many home beer brewers.
A basic beer brewing kit used to make five gallons at a time costs about $66 on HomeBrewery.com for example, and consists of a plastic fermenter and lid, a bottling bucket, rubber stoppers, a bottle filler, tubing, a floating thermometer, a bottle capper, bottle caps and other supplies. Plus you’ll need raw ingredients which might include malt, hops, yeast, a clarifier and priming sugar for carbonating for about an additional $20 to $45.
But with startup capital, bulk buying and persistence, beer making can definitely save you money, attests Spence Strath, a home brewer in Milwaukee.
“In three or more batches I'll approach break-even … and after that I'd be saving about 30% per beer made from there on,” says Strath. “I made an IPA the first time, and a comparable mid-high quality store-bought brand would run about $28 a case out the door, so apples to apples, buying it would have cost me $60,” Strath says, adding that his second batch, an Irish Stout cost about $45 to make vs. about $65 to $70 at the store. His third batch, a Pilsner, cost about $25 to make compared with about $50 for store-bought beer (a five-gallon yield amounts to about 51 twelve-ounce bottles after accounting for some spillage or waste).
A set of wine making supplies also means it’ll take several batches before your craft will pay off.