Brewing on a Budget – The Poor Man’s Guide to Learning to Brew Beer at Home By Jason Torrick  |   Submitted On October 18, 2012

For a true beer lover, one of the most rewarding hobbies is brewing your own signature beer. Once you get set up with the equipment and basic supplies, it’s a fairly affordable hobby and you will get a lot of entertainment value out of going through the brewing and fermentation process. The real enjoyment, however, comes from the sense of pride you get from watching the enjoyment on friends’ faces when they taste a beer that you made.

One of the hold ups that keep many people from getting into home brewing is the startup cost. Let’s face it–if you’ve ever taken a tour of a brewery seen the huge machines and storage tanks, it can be hard to see how you can make beer in your kitchen with just a few simple devices. Fortunately, there is an entire home brewing subculture that has risen up based entirely on being able to make beer in small batches and at relatively low costs. It’s legal, it’s fun, and brewing beer can become a major hobby as well.

All that said, it’s true that the initial costs can be a bit intimidating. The cost of the pots, fermenters and other specialized equipment can run into several hundred dollars. It’s risky to sink that kind of money into a new hobby before you even know if you will enjoy making beer, whether the beer you make will be drinkable, or if you will stick with it. And during a time when we need most of what we earn just to get by, that is a risk that may be holding you back from getting into the hobby.

Of course one natural solution is to get your first exposure and training in making beer with someone else’s equipment. Once you start poking around on home brewing websites and places where the equipment and supplies to make beer are sold in your town, you can find out about clubs and societies that are full of people who have taken the plunge and are making beer all the time right in their own homes.

These people love home brewing, and they can become real boosters for their hobby. Ask if you can sit in on their next brewing session. With very little encouragement, you can enjoy some Saturdays in their shop or kitchen learning how to brew beer with someone who already knows the process. This kind of experience is priceless because you learn what to look for in equipment, as well as what is essential and what is merely optional. You can go through the brewing process and learn a lot about how to make actual beer that is drinkable, and what pitfalls to avoid. Meanwhile, you may not have spent any more than the cost of lunch for your friend, and maybe a bag or two of pretzels for the tasting party when the beer is done.

Craft beer ads, exquisite bottled beer in 3d illustration isolated on retro backgrounds with wheats, hops and barrel in etching shading style

When you are ready to get started brewing on your own, your knowledge of what you really need will pay off in a big way. You still don’t have to pay top dollar for the equipment to get up and running. Lots of people get started with making beer, and then for a variety of reasons, their hobby stops suddenly. The outcome is that there is a pretty brisk market out there for used basic home brewing equipment. You can find discounted equipment in new or like new condition for sale on eBay or Craigslist all the time. Don’t overlook the local sources like home brewing clubs and associations–they may have bulletin boards with listings from people who want to sell or upgrade their own equipment. Pawn shops in the area are another great resource.

Another great way to save money is to go in with a friend or family member and split the costs all the way down the line. This makes brewing beer more fun and social, and each of you can have the equipment and supplies home at different times. If you each learn to make good beer separately, you can also make great beer together! And who knows–you may get so good at it that you start selling your beer to local pubs. When the big bucks come rolling in from that, your investment in learning to brew beer will have been well worth it!

Jason J. Torrick, aka The Ale Monger, has been homebrewing beer for over a decade. He blogs about all things beer-related at

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