The craft beer world is on fire. Breweries are opening faster than Ricky Henderson could steal second base and consumption has changed accordingly. This is all good news…unless you love craft beer and want to save money at the same time.
Prices are on on the rise and it can be difficult to drink great beer without spending way too much. So if you’re like me and have tasted the immense flavors that craft brewers are serving up and just can’t go back, here’s how to enjoy some killer brews without breaking the bank.
Don’t buy ‘bombers’
The absolute worst value in craft beer is buying a “bomber.” Bomber is a slang term for a 22 oz. bottle. They look cooler and breweries often dedicate some special beers to these larger bottles, but you don’t have to buy bombers to drink great beer. Bombers often have a much higher ABV (alcohol by volume) as well, so it is actually more difficult to drink one in a night unless you’re sharing. Since I’m a craft beer junkie I do occasionally purchase my brew in bomber form, but I try to do it selectively. One brewery that is a good go-to for the larger bottles is Lagunitas. You can often find their seasonal bombers for around $4.
Buy in bulk
So if we aren’t just buying one big bottle of beer then what do we do? Six packs are awesome. But if there is a beer you absolutely love, consider 12 packs or cases. Most package stores will offer you a discount for buying a case. My local shop offers a 5% discount with the purchase of 4 six packs. And they don’t have to be the same. I end up getting a variety of killer choices and still get a bit knocked off the price at checkout. And don’t forget Costco. You can save some real money on beer there. And guess what? They even sell select bombers at a discount.
The brewery matters
Some breweries are known for having high prices. Others are known for keeping costs down. I’m not saying that expensive beers are bad. Sometimes I’ll pay more for a beer I really want to try, however, value can certainly be had at a reasonable price. As mentioned above, Lagunitas is a solid brewery to check out for tasty brews that are reasonably priced. Sierra Nevada’s 12 packs sell for roughly $14. That’s a great value considering how good many of their beers are. Some of the other larger craft breweries like Dogfish Head, Founders, and New Belgium also have tasty brews at reasonable prices.
Do the math
Price per ounce of beer is the key. If you want to be even more of a nerd the key is “price per ounce of tastiness.” Yes, I just made that up. The Mad Fermentationist did an interesting write-up on price per ounce and how the costs of beer have changed over time according to what size bottle they are put into. He’s obviously down on bombers (like me) and breweries moving away from six packs (which normally represent the best value). BUT, price per ounce shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. I mean, we are talking about craft beer here. We want something really tasty too. Look up reviews on a site like Beer Advocate and make sure you find the sweet spot of “price per ounce of tastiness.”
Drink at home
I haven’t even mentioned drinking beers at your local bar yet. That’s because drinking at home will save you tons. Reserving most of your craft beer intake for your casa will be one of your biggest money savers.
Don’t get into sours
Most of your mainstream beer styles (Pale Ale, IPA, Porters, etc) can be found at a normal price point. Certain beer styles cost a considerable amount more to make and are in shorter supply. Sours are one of those styles. I recently started drinking sours and they will absolutely cost you a pretty penny. This one is a warning from someone who went down the wrong (but glorious) path. Don’t start drinking sours (or other fancy barrel aged beers) unless you want to get a part-time job to fund your beer habit!
You can always start brewing your own beer too. That will save you tons (but will also take time). You can also start drinking less and saving your money for the beers you really want to drink. Quality is more important than quantity — at least in my mind. Good luck saving money on your craft beer. And if you really love craft beer and saving money, check out my new podcast Pour Not Poor. Cheers!