Enjoy the TLC of a craft beer for less
5 Ways to Save on Craft-Brewed Beer
by Gregg Smith
The Frugal Wine Lover
Fun Factory, Winery and Brewery Tours
By virtue of being produced in small batches with limited distribution, craft beer costs more than its widely produced counterparts. This fact goes hand in hand with why we enjoy it so much; it is somebody else's labor of love. This isn't a reason to throw in the towel however, and revisit your earliest drinking days of tasteless lagers and 40-ounce malt liquors. With a little effort and resourcefulness on your part (it's worth it, we promise), you can still sample unique and tasty brews and save your hard-earned dollars. The following five tips will let you have your beer and drink it too.
Hit a Happy Hour
It takes a bit of research, but we like to think it's research you'll enjoy. Scope out the bars in your neighborhood with interesting craft beer selections, and then visit them during happy hour. Find Craft Beer is a smartphone app that uses GPS to find brewpubs and breweries as well as bars, stores, and home brewing shops near your location. The app also lets you link to BeerMapping.com to read reviews of the locations before you visit.
Once you find an establishment with happy hour prices that make you, well, happy, be sure to chat up the bartender or the bar manager. If the spot serves interesting brews, chances are good a distributer has come by to educate the folks who will be serving it. Often the bartenders will know interesting factoids about the different varieties you're sampling. Not to mention that a customer who shows a lot of interest in the craft beer selection is incentive for the establishment to keep including noteworthy brews on the menu.
Find a Festival
Sure, you have to pay the cost of admission, and you don't get to take the beer home with you. But if you're interested in sampling as many locally produced craft brews as humanly possible in the span of an afternoon, there's no greater bang for your buck than a beer festival.
Most festivals offer pre-sale tickets, which give beer lovers a cost savings over buying at the door, not to mention the added bonus of securing a spot at events that often sell out. Not sure how to find the nearest festival? BeerAdvocate.com has an extensive events page and lets you search by country, city, and event type. Now grab yourself a designated driver and go get festive!
Visit a Brewery
If you're lucky enough to live in a town with an interesting brewery, visit often. This is a great way to discover new and seasonal beers by brew masters you already know you like, and even the six-pack price costs less on location because there's no mark up. While you're there, buy a growler of the house-brew to take home. Typically, a growler holds 64 ounces and most breweries will let you bring it back for a refill, which is significantly cheaper since you paid for the bottle the first time.
The next time you travel, make plans to visit nearby breweries in the cities you're visiting. In fact, planning your vacation entirely around destinations with fantastic beer is an idea we can stand behind. CraftBeer.com offers a continuously updated map of all US breweries and lets you search by state, brewery name, or keyword.
While many bigger cities have mom and pop beer and wine warehouses for acquiring your craft brews, Bev-Mo is one of the major chains that actually stock a decent selection of local and regionally sourced micro-brews. Plus, if you join ClubBev, every time your spending in the store reaches $250, you get a 5% savings reward you can use to buy more beer. As an added bonus, the first time you order online you get an even bigger savings (10% off), making the fact that your order will be ready and waiting for you even sweeter.
Brew at Home
While you certainly do have to lay out some cash to become a player in the home-brewing game, down the line, the cost-savings can be significant. The easiest way to get started is to buy a kit, which generally ranges from $80-$100 for the most basic equipment. Over time, depending upon your beer crafting interests, you'll likely invest in more specialized equipment that gives you greater flexibility during the brewing process. Ingredients cost roughly $25-$60 per five gallon batch depending on the style being brewed (five gallons makes about two cases of 12-ounce bottles with 24 bottles per case).
Once your operation is up and running, the costs associated with home brewing simply become the price of ingredients and the value of your time (which often ranges from 8-14 hours spread out over several weeks). Six packs of home brew can cost as little as $2.87 for Pale Ale, $5.90 for IPA, or $6.88 for Imperial Stout. Compare these costs to one of our favorite brew master's six-pack prices at $8.49 for Pale Ale, $9.99 for IPA, and $12.49 for Imperial Stout, and it's easy to see that home brewing can be a bargain. If you're especially resourceful, you'll scavenge bottles from store bought beers to save even more on your bottling costs.
Taking into account the learning curve involved in crafting brag-worthy brews as well as a time investment that might weed out those who aren't fully committed, we're fans of home brewing as a cost-saving option. We hope you'll employ some combination of the above cost-saving tips to get out there and start enjoying more delicious craft beer today.
Gregg Smith is the Social Media Coordinator at WearYourBeer.com, an online store offering Coors Merchandise, Guinness Merchandise, Jack Daniel's merchandise, and more.
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