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Beer on the cheap

If I purchased all the right equipment can I brew just a basic lager for less money than I pay for Bud or Coors in the store?

Extremely difficult to do.

For lager like Bud, Miller, Coors… you need to ferment cold, in the 50’s. So you will need a dedicated refrigerator/freezer with an external temp controller.

Starting out you will likely be brewing with malt extracts. Tough to get a light body beer with them.

More likely making from grain. But then you have even more equipment to purchase.

My advice if you don’t like anything but BMC, buy it when it’s on sale.

Bud and Coors were designed to be mass produced cheap lagers. It’s like asking if you can make a bookshelf cheaper than Ikea. Probably not. Now if you want to talk about quality, it’s pretty easy to make a much better beer than Bud. It’s like comparing a thick homemade charcoal-grilled burger to a McDonald’s. The homemade burger takes more time, more work, special equipment, and depending on how crazy you go, it could cost a lot more. But it is worth it.

P.S. Ale’s are much easier for beginners, since they can be brewed at higher temps. If you’re used to Bud, don’t worry too much about the different between ales and lagers. They’re both beer. Like Rottweilers and Shepherds, they ARE different, and both have fans and haters, but ultimately they’re both great dogs.

If your taste buds don’t like American wheat beer, California Commons, British Milds, Cream Ales; don’t bother with home brew.

Find a well stocked beer store that sells by the bottle/can. Ask for these styles as they can be made with out a fridge/freezer. If you don’t like these “unoffensive” styles, homebrewing is not for you.

There is a time/place for BMC and McD’/Burger King. Trying to replicate them at home can be difficult.

I know a guy that can not stand home made mashed potatoes. Even if they are run through a mixer for 10 minutes to ensure no lumps. He only likes instant. To each there own.

Every year I try to make a light American Lager, changing this and that hoping to nail it, it’s very difficult. They mostly turn out alright and drinkable but they’re still a little off. I’m finishing up a keg of this year’s that I brewed in January, I wish that I’d brewed 10 gallons of it 'cause it’s really good but it has quite a bit more body than Bud or Coors. My next attempt will likely have 30% - 40% adjuncts whereas I’ve normally been 10 to 20.

But yeah, like Nighthawk said, if you’re not into craft beer, you may want to skip on brewing your own. That said, I wanted to get into brewing for the same reason, to brew me some BMC and save money. I learned before I even invested that those were tough but I liked Porters, Stouts, Pale Ales, etc, so I jumped in anyway.

[quote=“Nighthawk”]If your taste buds don’t like American wheat beer, California Commons, British Milds, Cream Ales; don’t bother with home brew.[/quote]Huh? I prefer ice water over any of those styles. :shock:

To the OP, yes, you can certainly brew any style of beer for less money than you’d pay in the store as long as you don’t count the equipment costs. I can brew five gallons (two cases of 12-oz bottles) of basic beer, lager or ale, for about $10 for ingredients buying grain and hops in bulk and reusing yeast.

BMC beers are commodity beers, they are made so cheaply that you can’t compete on price unless you are brewing on their scale.

1 - 50 lb. bag of 2 - Row Pale - $35
1 - 50 lb. bag of 6 - Row Pale - $40
1 - 50 lb. bag of Flaked Rice - $29

Approx. Recipe for Bud - 5 Gallons:

2 lb - 2-Row - $1.40
2 lb - 6-Row - $1.60
2 lb - Flaked Rice - $1.16
1 pkg. Wyeast 2007 - $6
1 oz. Saaz or Tettnanger - $2.20

Total - $12.36* - ~$0.26 per beer for 48 - 12oz. bottles.

Cost of 6 - pack of Bud = $6 - $7 dollars + tax = $1 - $1.17 per bottle + tax

    • Groups buys may get ingredients cheaper
    • Excludes tax on ingredients and sunk costs of time, water, water salts, finings, equipment and energy to brew the beer.

So yea, you can make cheap beer if you invest in the equipment, knowledge, etc…

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What does a 48 pack of BMC cost at Costco? $18?

[quote=“PupThePup”]1 - 50 lb. bag of 2 - Row Pale - $35
1 - 50 lb. bag of 6 - Row Pale - $40
1 - 50 lb. bag of Flaked Rice - $29

Approx. Recipe for Bud - 5 Gallons:

2 lb - 2-Row - $1.40
2 lb - 6-Row - $1.60
2 lb - Flaked Rice - $1.16
1 pkg. Wyeast 2007 - $6
1 oz. Saaz or Tettnanger - $2.20

Total - $12.36* - ~$0.26 per beer for 48 - 12oz. bottles.

Cost of 6 - pack of Bud = $6 - $7 dollars + tax = $1 - $1.17 per bottle + tax

    • Groups buys may get ingredients cheaper
    • Excludes tax on ingredients and sunk costs of time, water, water salts, finings, equipment and energy to brew the beer.

So yea, you can make cheap beer if you invest in the equipment, knowledge, etc…[/quote]

At 75% efficiency, that is a 3.2% beer. BL is ~4.1 and Bud is ~5%
Adding an additional pound of each will get you to ~4.8. So another ~$2.25. Bringing the total up to $14.50.

Of course you can drop the price by reusing the yeast. And I’ve made beers with long grain white rice instead of flaked.

Add in the cost of water (including cooling) and propane. Amortizing out the cost of a propane burner, boil pot, fermentation chamber, mash tun, mill, various little things… it’s a long road before you come close to making a BMC style beer for less than you can buy it.

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Also consider what your time is worth. If you enjoy brewing then it’s a recreational activity. If you’re just trying to save money then it’s work, and you should think about how much you’d want someone to pay you for the 5ish hours you’d be sinking into making each batch.

I’m guessing that could easily push the price difference into negative territory, and the break-even point to sometime around the Battle of Hastings.

If you kind of write off the initial purchase of equipment as fixed cost, then you may be able to brew some of the types of beer for a like or slightly lower cost then some of the more expensive craft beers ($8.99/6 pack + range). BUT when you start comparing to the $5.49/6 pack budweiser / coors etc I don’t see any way you get close unless you take some pretty big steps ( bulk orders, reusing yeast etc) as described above. even then I doubt you come out ahead.

As others have pointed out… basically no - not if you are counting all of the expenses (water, propane, equipment, sanitizer, temperature control setup, yeast starter setup,etc. etc.) You can assume your time is worth nothing in the equation if you love brewing. If you value your time, you have zero chance of doing it.

Also, You can’t compare to “6 pack” cost of BMC - compare it to 24 or 30 pack cost.

Finally, something worth noting (even though most people on here are not really fans of BMC as far as their style of choice) - Even if you could get the cost to come out in the ball park, BMC type beers are not easy to brew. Say what you want, but a very light american lager is a tough beer to brew consistently well. The odds of you making a beer as “good” as BMC on a consistent basis might be more insurmountable than doing it for the cost.

  • 1.060!
  • 1.060![/quote]

Oh come on now guys. The OP is asking about making BMC. With out putting money into temp control, the closest a new brewer is going to likely get to that would be a Cream Ale or Cal Common. Next up the line of “non offensive” beers would be Irish Red, Milds and Am Wheat.

He is not asking about making a Rouge, Surly or New Glarius, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island… beer. :wink:

[quote=“Shadetree”][quote=“Nighthawk”]If your taste buds don’t like American wheat beer, California Commons, British Milds, Cream Ales; don’t bother with home brew.[/quote]Huh? I prefer ice water over any of those styles. :shock:

[/quote]

I don’t speak for Nighthawk, but I think he means that if those styles of beers have too much flavor, color, bitterness, whatever, for a BMC style drinker, then the OP may not like anything else you could brew, as it’s hard to make anything lighter or with less flavor than the styles he mentions.

edit…Nighthawk basically just posted the same thing.

I do speak for Shadetree here when I say I think he already knew that.

[quote=“Hoppenheimer”]I do speak for Shadetree here when I say I think he already knew that.[/quote]Yes, the winkie is usually a good clue that I’m messing around. :cheers:

Mostly rehashing what others have said but I’ll throw in my 2c anyway.

You CAN brew beer cheap once you have the equipment and knowledge, assuming you’re willing to buy ingredients in bulk.

That’s really the wrong reason to get into the hobby though. Brewing is a lot of work. Its also a lot of fun, but if you don’t truly love and respect both the process and the end product, you’re wasting your time.

Bud/coors/whatever are very good at what they do. If that is the product you want, buy it.

As I began to brew over the last few years, it has hit me just how big a task it is for these big breweries to produce such a consistant product with so many possible variants.

Even if the quality is, in most of our opinions, sub par to craft beers etc, it is still a testimate any of these major brewers can produce such a consistant product across at times multiple different plants etc and deal with issues like storage, transportation etc as well.

final confession - I love love love a good, real beer, but at times I am kind of happy just having 3-4 budweisers that i don’t have to ‘think about’ so to speak. I will say Budweiser is about where I draw the line, bud light, miller lite - I have to pass on those…

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