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Cheapskate question

I am just making the transition to AG. I am looking at alot of beers (I have a killer appetite for high gravity big beers) but one of the selling points for spending as much as I have and plan to has been that I can save some $$ on my beer bill (gotta sell this stuff to the SO somehow right :wink: .

SO - what are some of the lesser expensive recipies out there that are good tasty beer say in the 4-5 % alchohol range? I assume a simple grain and hops bill would be key.

When I figure this out I can mix a few batches of this in with my heavyer stuff.

Define what you mean by “lesser expensive” because you might be thinking $25 to brew a batch, but to me that would be expensive for an average gravity beer. It really depends on how much you are paying for base grain.

If you don’t want to spend much, stay away from big beers and IPA’s due to the amount of grain & hops, respectively.
Also, stay away from lagers for now because you’ll be required to use DME to make a real big starter.

Perhaps a brown ale, amber ale, or robust porter? You could also make a cream ale or american wheat pretty cheaply too.
In the 4-5% alcohol range you could also try to use dry yeast since it is much cheaper for one use.

If you can join a bulk buying club, you’ll start saving real money (we pay $25 for 50-lb sack with $3.50 shipping, but we buy 12,000 lbs at a time). And buy your hops by the lb. To make an inexpensive pale ale, use up to 10% light or medium crystal, maybe a lb of Munich, and the rest 2-row, shoot for an OG around 1.050, bitter with an oz of a high-alpha hop then add a couple oz late in the boil and another dry. Ferment with US-05 or with harvested yeast.

Thanks for the info. I had been planning on a wheat ale or a cream ale.

I already know I will be brewing a lot of “large” beer. I am really looking for those not as costly other beers. 25$ including yeast ain’t bad. I am just curious as a new brewer just what is possible as far as cost. I figure I am guaranteed to save money (ol rasputin ain’t cheap folks), especially on my bigger beers. I just am unsure how much I can save while at the same time laughing at the world cause I am drinking my own fine beer!

A related question. When I go to my local brew shop (what there is of it) they have 50 lb sacks of malted grain. I have no idea of its age. Should I be worried about that?

Well, if you figure 8-10lbs of 2 row base malt @ .50-.75 cents (if you get a sack - which you should). A couple pounds of specialty malt at $1.50/lb - you should be able to get by at $10 for grain. If you buy hops by the pound you can get them for .75-$1 an ounce for the basics. Yeast - if you reuse it a time or two, you can cut yeast down to $2-$3 a batch.

Grain = $10
Hops = $2-$3
Yeast = $2-3
Incidentals = $0-$5

Should be able to brew a basic brown, amber, pale ale for under $20 if you really look to pinch pennies.

Now, once you lay down $1000+ for equipment because it is so addicting - well . . . . . just keep telling the wife about how cheap the ingredients are:)

Aussie Light Ale:
7 lbs domestic pilsner- or plain old 2-row pale will work in a pinch
8 ounces Caramel 10L or CaraHelles
8 ounces Carapils or CaraFoam
1 ounce Tradition or Tettnanger hops at start of boil (60 min)
1 ounce of same at knockout

1 packet rehydrated Cooper’s dry ale yeast (I use the 15 gram size these days, but have had reasonable results in the past with the 7 gram size).

Cheap, fast, and very tasty replacement for commercial “light” beers.

Getting in on group grain and hop buys will save you a LOT of money. But, to your question, if you want a lower ABV beer with nice flavor think about the yeast! There are some great Belgian yeasts out there that can really impart fantastic flavors to an otherwise boring recipe. NB has a Patersbier kit that couldn’t be simpler. It’s a smash (Single Malt and Single Hop). Easy to make and inexpensive. The yeast used with it, Wyeast High Gravity Trappist 3787 imparts that fantastic Belgian fruity ester flavor to the beer. It’s a lower OG, FG and ABV beer, but great tasting. It’s a session beer that craft and BMC drinkers can all enjoy.

EDIT: NB’s recipe isn’t really a SMASH. They do use 2 different hops. When I made it I used Saaz throughout making it a SMASH.

yeah - now that I think about it - ingredients only - I can brew a standard 1.045-1.055 type beer for under .35 cents per 12 ounce bottle. So - about $2 a sixer for a good beer. Again, the devil is in the details . . . . stainless kettles, burners, kegs, fridge . . . . . . . never ends:)


You guys are great. I have been reading here for a while soaking up the wealth of knowledge here. Now I need to hop into the forum. You all gave just what I was seeking. Some ideas of beers to try that are “less” expensive. The info about just how reasonably low a cost one could hit. I will want to brew some of these to help defray the cost of my HG beers. Economy is tight these days!

Thanks all,

Buy 2-3 rhyzomes of your favorite hops and plant them this spring. It takes a couple of years before you get really decent yeilds but that helps save some money, and gives a “cool” factor to your brewing, you can brag that you grew your own. If you bottle your beer, watch eBay for bulk bottle caps, I bought something like 6,000 caps a year or so ago. Learn to reuse your yeast.

Already planning on growing hops :wink: but I have yet to wrap my mind around how to save yeast and keep it pure.

I’ve recently started saving yeast and reusing it. Just do a couple google searches for washing yeast. There are plenty of videos out there with a variety of different ways to do it, just choose what you think would work best for you.

If you’re not ready for that jump I’d at least look into pitching onto a yeastcake for you bigger beers. Just brew a lighter ale (~1.050) for a starter beer and then two weeks later brew your barleywine/IIPA/Imperial Stout or whatever you like and pitch it on top of the yeastcake.

Yeast is expensive so either of these methods would cut at least $5 of a batch.

Do you guys worry about any of the old “funk” (dried crap around the top of the fermenter) in the fermenter if you pitch onto a yeast cake?

I don’t worry about it. However, I do always taste the beer I took out of the fermenter to make sure it is good before I throw another beer in the same fermenter. Don’t want to throw a beer in a fermenter and then find out later that there was something wrong with the first beer (infection).

[quote=“Vulkin’”]Do you guys worry about any of the old “funk” (dried crap around the top of the fermenter) in the fermenter if you pitch onto a yeast cake?[/quote]Rack the first beer, add a little cold sterile water to the fermenter and swirl it to loosen the yeast, then divide into three quart-sized, sanitized Ball jars. Clean and sanitize the fermenter, rack the fresh wort to it, then pitch the yeast - two jars is plenty for anything but the most monster beer and you’ll have one left over to make another batch later.

So is there a practical limit to the number of times one can pull this hat trick on the same yeast cake? Say for instance I am going to stick with the same beer each time through. How many times could I rerun on the same yeast cake before “trouble” arose?

In theory, it can be used indefinitely. But you have to make sure that there is absolutely no contamination. Also yeast as it reproduces will change, I have read that after 2 pitches of the same yeast you can actually have an entirely different strain of yeast from mutations.

Most folks say after the second pitch it really isn’t worth it. But that is up to you!

That is kinda what I had figured. It seemed inevetable that you would drift from your original (desired) yeast at some point.

That brings up the next question, tying back to an earlier one actually, but does this same limitation exhist if we are talking saving yeast in general. IOW If I am saving/washing/culturing yeast is it only going to be dependable for a few generations?

[quote=“Vulkin’”] How many times could I rerun on the same yeast cake before “trouble” arose?[/quote]I typically brew a 3-gal batch of starter “beer”, pitch one vial of yeast, ferment it out, cold-crash, then decant the beer and harvest the yeast into three jars. These jars get an “A” on top. Then one jar goes into a 5-gal 1.060 batch, and the yeast is harvested again and marked with a “B”. Same thing with the “B” yeast to get a “C” series. Any wort less than 1.070 gets one jar of yeast, greater than that gets two. When all of the “B” and “C” is used up, I start over again with the second “A”. And repeat. With an aggressive yeast like WLP007, the second and third generations are even better than the first.

And as already mentioned, sanitation is key to making this work.

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