Beer-sterity sucks, but there's no reason to get all chained up over it.
All this talk about the best and most unobtainable beers has deterred us from contributing in recent months.*  You see, due to some factors beyond our control (such as the collapse of the European banking system) and some within our control (such as taking a 50% pay cut to move to Western Massachusetts or deciding early in life that it’d be a good idea to save the children and work in the public sector), we have been placed under brutal beer-sterity regimes.

*That, and the fact that we’re lazy sacks of shit.

Commander Pint O. Chug has the worse of it.  In order to qualify for a bailout package, he had to agree to a bi-weekly “lunch” budget of $25.  (As you may have guessed, he has stopped eating lunch.)  Lord Mashtun Copperpot’s situation is slightly more fluid (no pun intended), but his beer budget is identical to the Commander’s. It’s as if our wives talk to each other.*

*Oh fuck. They’re best friends.

Certainly, in these times where the overall economy is in the shitter while craft beer is on a launching pad, we cannot be the only two jamokes who are struggling to balance our urge to try every new brew that hits the local shelves with the stark reality that is our balance sheets. We figured we owed it to you other jamokes to write about how we’re coping. After all, the Aleheads are ultimately here to support you, and what better way than to relay some the experiences of our search to get the most solid craft beer bang for the buck?

That beer from 6,000 miles away is going to set you back.

So how does an Alehead survive on $25 in beer money every two weeks?  While our first answer was “he doesn’t,” we’ve found a number of strategies to cope with the scourge of beer-sterity.

1.  Buy local.  It’s nice to avoid the extra $2 per six-pack it costs you to get beer from the opposite coast.  It would be nicer if this was a silver bullet (again, no pun intended) that would solve all beer-sterity-related problems, but you can’t be an Alehead, even on the East Coast, and ignore all the West Coast beers.

2.  Find the value propositions in the craft beer aisle.  While true that prices are going up and not down, there are still some reasonable bargains to be had if you know what’s good.  Sierra Nevada 12-pack (recently found for $15 in Massachusetts), yes; Magic Hat Circus Boy 12-pack  (closer to $18), no.  We’ll be doing a series of posts on these offerings.

Bia Hoi, from Vietnam, is widely believed to be the world's cheapest beer. Looks good, eh?

3.  Keep an appropriate cheap beer in the house.  Don’t let the other Aleheads shame you out of your filler beer (fine, this time, pun intended).  The hitch here is that most of these beers are regional; most of the cheap national brands are owned by A-B inBev or Molson Coors.  Good examples include Yuengling, PBR, Lionshead and some of the Trader Joe’s beer.  The Commander keeps a 30-pack of cheap beer in the pantry to minimize consumption of the good stuff when other Alehead sympathizers aren’t around.

4.  Drink less.*


5.  To the extent your willpower allows, avoid bombers. This probably goes without saying, but price-wise, even the cheapest bombers cannot compare to the amount of beer you get in a 6-pack, or even a 4-pack for that matter. Remember, bombers contain 22 ounces. That’s 1.83 twelve-ounce bottles. As much as it pains us to say it, if you’re looking for something stellar/seasonal, skip the bomber and go with that 4-pack of Founder Breakfast Stout (about $12) or — significantly cheaper — the 6-pack of Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild ($9.99).

6.  Beers on your wish list. The holidays are coming up. Do you really need that new dress shirt or the gift card to Best Buy? Tell your family that you’re looking for Santa to hook you up with a bomber of Alesmith Speedway Stout or Firestone Walker Parabola. Best, Christmas, Ever.*

*If you happen to be Jewish, like the Commander, converting to Christianity is the best way to go.

Delicious, but worth an entire week's beer budget? Not to us.

7.  Along the same lines as #5, avoid going to beer bars. I know. It’s sacre-ale-gious to say so. But we recently found ourselves choosing between a 12 oz. pour (for $8) and a 12 oz. pour (for $10), at a fantastic beer bar. I mean, at that point, you’ve surrendered your budget and you might as well be the Bush Congress.

8.  Willfully ignore the situation. Convince yourself that your children will be able to pay their way through college.

What other methods are you using during these hard times of beer-sterity, Alehead Nation?

Lord Copperpot


  1. The Baron, Czar and I weep mightily for the plight of our Alehead brethren. Why, just yesterday, we were bass-fishing off the coast of Chile in the Czar’s 150-foot Lurssen (Svetlana’s Revenge), drinking goblets of Canadian Breakfast Stout, and fretting about the rising costs of bombers. The Baron was so distraught, he could barely finish his fourth 750 of Bruery Black Orchard. I, for one, vow to drink thrice as much in order to make up for the Commander and Copperpot’s restrictive lifestyles. The Aleheads are a collective…and I will pull for my brethren.

    Seriously though…if your beer budget is $25 every two weeks, you’re both doing yourself a disservice by not getting into homebrewing. $25 will get you 50 bottles of pretty decent brew once you get a handle on it. Can’t beat that price with a mash paddle.

  2. Oh man I can relate. Not only is money super tight, moving to new york city means that all beer is roughly $2 more expensive than it was in Virginia. Local beers are rarely cheaper than non-local ones, unfortunately.

    Best deals I’ve found so far are 12-packs of Yuengling Black and Tan ($11), 6 packs of Yuengling porter ($7), and 12 packs of Session ($14 or $15). Other than that, $11 for a sixpack is pretty much the norm, and $13 for good sixpacks. But! I’m going to what I’ve heard is the cheapest bottle shop in the city tonight so we’ll see if I can get anything better.

    I’ve been drinking beer less and making cocktails more. Cocktails are the NY way, I suppose, and liquor is usually cheaper per-drink.

  3. As prices increase and job situations are unstable, I’m on a nearly 100% homebrew beer diet. I could spend time and money trying to track down a pliny the elder in the midwest, or I could get the homebrew clone kit from NB and make a close facsimile. Bottling the homebrew also makes it possible to trade with other homebrewers to get greater variety. That leaves plenty of beer budget money available to try something new at the beer store.

    A tip I would add to the article is to maximize your variety by shopping at stores that allow you to build your own mixed six pack. In St. Louis, Trader Joe’s and Friar Tuck are two places that come to mind.

  4. Yeah, a new year’s resolution of mine will be to start homebrewing. Will be looking for the NB starter kit in my stocking.
    Santa Barley…

  5. Give a man a beer, and he’ll drink for a day. Teach a man to homebrew, and he’ll drink until he dies of delerium tremens.

    You better have one hell of a stocking to stuff a 5-gallon carboy in there, Mashtun.

  6. Doesn’t that Vietnamese beer have formaldehyde in it? Someone go ask Jimmy Wah.

    A word of caution on homebrewing – just like any hobby, you can spend a ton of money buying useful (but ultimately unnecessary) toys. Everything you need to make a decent beer comes in that starter kit, but you’ll find yourself wanting more equipment once you really get into it. I recently bought a wort chiller, as well as a stirplate/flask for starter cultures (figure any good chemist should have a stirplate somewhere at home). The good thing is you can buy the “extras” in bits and pieces to hide the true cost from your financial overlords (heh).

    Good luck!

  7. Two responses:

    1. I’m persuaded by the feedback we’ve gotten to this post that homebrewing is not a cure-all for the beer-sterity blues. Like every other habit I have, it will be plagued by an unquenchable thirst for additional equipment and bigger and better kits/recipes. I’ll probably end up with a grain silo in my yard by the time I’m done.

    2. I have to give a shout out to my favorite cheap beer, Narragansett Porter. It’s only available in New England, but it’s pretty good, and it’s $8 for a six-pack of what the Aleheads Manual of Style calls “pounders” (16 ounce cans). On a per-ounce basis, that’s about half the cost of an $11 six-pack of 12 ounce bottles.

    Taking 1 and 2 together, it’s clear that I should just drink Narragansett Porter rather than brewing my own beer. If the average cost of a kit/ingredients is $45/batch, and my brewing equipment costs $200 when all is said and done, it would take me over 30 batches before the cost of homebrewing dropped below Narragansett Porter.

    But either way, at least there’ll be no formaldehyde involved.

  8. Per ounce, growlers are often not that great of a deal. At least at the breweries I go to here in Co. You can get into extract home brewing for probably $70-80 or cheaper if you really search. You can use a pot you probably already have, and ferment in buckets instead of carboys. It really doesn’t get expensive until you go full gain.

  9. If you do want to get started homebrewing i’ll be happy to help…

    Commander, I’m sure you’ll end up with your very own 3-stage all-grain 2 barrel homebrewing setup if you were to get into it (all hand built, of course). And having seen some of the things you’ve built before, I’m sure it will be able to withstand a nuclear blast.

  10. My go to for cheap beer are the 33 oz cans of Asahi dry, the real stuff made in Tokyo, not the crap they make at the Molson factory (you really can tell the difference). One of these babies runs about $3 and is 2 full pints worth of (in my opinion) good, all around session lager. Growlers aren’t a good deal at all anymore. 60oz of beer is going to run you at least $12-14 here in CA. Seems that all brewers raised prices once they realized how much craft beer had caught on and that people were willing to pay a premium for having it fresh.

  11. Commander, I brew with a co-worker and we split all costs. We bought an on-sale starter kit that came with two glass carboys and all the trimmings for $100 (a great deal). The only add-on we splurged for was a wort chiller for $30. So our sunk costs were just $65 each (plus some B-Brite solution which costs about $3 a bag). If you and Copperpot asked your respective Better Halves, I’m sure they would buy you two a kit for Christmas/Chanukah.

    Down here, we buy all of our kits at the local homebrew store which has periodic sales and obviously no shipping costs since we just pick it up there. A reasonably high-end IPA kit would set us back about $30 with liquid yeast so we’re each spending about $15 each for a little more than a case of good IPA. Sure, it can’t compete with the best-in-class, storebought brews, but it’s surprisingly good and it’s a fun, all-around hobby,

    Of course, that doesn’t account for the cost of gas during your three-hour drive to Copperpot Hollow to brew with your life partner, but you can just charge that back to the firm as a business expense.

  12. Barley: Copperpot and I have been asking for a year and a half. We did decide it would be a little unwieldy to share one over a distance of about 150 miles. I can say for a certainty that Copperpot is not getting one in his stocking, though I hold out slightly more hope for myself.

    Where did you find a wort chiller for $30??

  13. A friend who was selling off his home-brew gear. He bought it for $60 so we offered him half since it was used. You don’t really “need”it, but it’s the one add-on I would highly recommend since it cuts down brewing time by well over an hour.

    I was kidding about brewing with Copperpot. Find a neighbor or co-worker willing to brew with you. There have to be some do-it-yourself types out in Western MA who want to make their own suds. Actually, just like sharing cabs in Vegas or NYC, the “best” option is to find three other guys (or girls, of course) to brew with you. You can brew once a month and rotate houses so you’re only messing up your kitchen three times a year. Each batch will only set you back $6-8 and you’ll get a 12-pack out of it.

  14. Amazon has them for about that much, but you can make one for even less if you go to home depot and just buy copper tubing, hose clamps, and tygon tubing.

    It’s the high gravity beers that run you $40-50 a kit — a solid breakfast stout kit from Northern brewer is only about $25, yeast included. And that will get you ~2 cases, as Barley mentioned. It only gets expensive when you start buying extras (kegs, bottle trees, whole grain systems, etc).

    I didn’t mean to sound negative about it — if you can be happy with a relatively simple kit and doing partial mash/extract kits (which is all I ever really do) you can get lots of great beer relatively cheap. I’ve amassed most of my equipment by regularly checking craigslist, relying on friends who had free stuff, and holiday presents over the ~10 years i’ve been brewing. In a metro area where Copperpot is there’s plenty of used brewing equipment floating around and you can get a kit ultra cheap.


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