Is brewing all grain really cheaper?

Many craft beer enthusiasts choose home brewing as an enjoyable hobby and extension of their love for fermentation and the freedom to create their own custom recipes, but another notable advantage is, financial. If you love craft beer; I likely don’t have to tell you that buying it can get expensive, a “bottle shop” 6-pack, at a time. For many, homebrewing can a great way to reduce overall costs, especially if you like to enjoy and share those classy-craft-brews, on a regular basis.

Here at Mr. Beer, we have spent some time talking about how brewing with our products, especially refills, can save you on both ingredient costs, equipment costs, and of course, time… But it may seem with our recipes, that an all-grain version might be a “less expensive” option. I decided to see if that was true. Is it a better value to brew with Mr. Beer when it comes to recipes, over an all-grain equivalent? I selected one of our more complex “clone” recipes from the site and compared it to the cost of brewing the same beer, but all-grain, and shopped all the needed ingredients for the “official” all-grain” version of the recipe.

The recipe I selected for this comparison was “Gnomes in The Abbey”, as this our “Mr. Beer version” inspired by Lost Abbey’s seasonal favorite, “Gnoel De Abbey”. Luckily, the publication “Brew Your Own” provided us with an all-grain “clone” recipe of this beer to compare with… I should really say “beers”, as the all-grain version they have provided, requires you to brew two separate batches in order to achieve the final product, after finally conducting a 70/30 blend. That is probably the first, most noticeable advantage of brewing the Mr. Beer version of this beer; you are only required to execute ONE brewing and fermentation process. Now, let’s look at the finer details starting with a list of ingredients for both versions, as well as the total estimated cost for each when shopped online:

Mr. Beer’s Gnomes in The Abbey

2 Canadian Blonde Brewing Extract (HME)

2 Packets of Robust LME

1 Packet of Booster

1 Packet of Vienna Malt

1 Packet of Honey Malt

1 Packet of Chocolate Malt

1 Packet of Crystal 60

1 Packet of Northern Brewer Hops

1 Packet of Oak Chips

3 Muslin Hop Sack

1 Packet of T-58

1 Packet of No-Rinse Cleanser

Cost from Mr. Beer: $39.95

All-grain Version from “Brew Your Own” magazine:

(Both recipes below are for 5 gallons, however, the final total represents what it would cost to shop these ingredients for a 2.25-gallon batch. I have listed the 5-gallon quantities to maintain the integrity of the original clone recipe.)

Blending beer #1 Abbey Blonde

9.75 lbs. (4.4 kg) American 2-row pale malt

5 oz. (0.23 kg) German Vienna malt

6.3 AAU US Magnum hops (90 min.) (0.45 oz./12.8 g at 14% alpha acids)

0.07 oz. (2 g) freshly ground coriander (15 min.)

1⁄2 tsp. Irish moss (15 min.)

White Labs WLP830 (German Lager) or Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager) or Mangrove Jack’s M84 (Bohemian Lager) yeast

Blending Beer #2 Imperial Stout

13.4 lbs. (6.08 kg) American 2-row malt

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) Gambrinus honey malt

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) crystal malt (70–80 °L)

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) crystal malt (165 °L)

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) chocolate malt

0.4 lb. (0.18 kg) Weyerman Carafa® II malt

0.8 lb. (0.36 kg) roasted barley

0.8 lb. (0.36 kg) flaked barley

1.75 lbs. (0.79 kg) dextrose

16.4 AAU US Magnum hops (90 min.) (1.1 oz./31 g at 14.9% alpha acids)

4.9 AAU Cascade hops (15 min.) (0.65 oz./18 g at 7.6% alpha acids)

1⁄2 tsp. Irish moss

4 oz. (113 g) Bourbon-soaked oak chips

White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or SafAle US-05 yeast

Wyeast 1098 (British Ale) or White Labs WLP007 (English Dry Ale) or LalBrew Nottingham yeast

Total cost estimate AFTER modifying for 2.25 gallons, shopped on a competitor’s website: $60-65

These estimates demonstrate how brewing the Mr. Beer option can save you money where ingredients are concerned, but there are even more advantages to be had. Continuing to use the all-grain version above as an example, even when the weights of the grains are reduced by half, storing, milling, and working with several lbs. of malted grain can be quite a hassle, and the equipment required for processing it and brewing with it, demands quite a large commitment to space. Next, we have the time-saving aspect. All-grain brewing can often be an all-day commitment from start to finish. That factor becomes even more pronounced when it comes to brewing two beers on the same day! By comparison, our clone version only requires about 2 hours maximum of your time, from the start of your brew day to the cleanup. Not worrying about where to store two fermenters is also another advantage in this case, and you will not have to worry about any pesky blending once fermentation is complete! Not having to blend two separate beers after fermentation, also greatly reduces the chance of infection and unwanted oxygen exposure.

To sum it all up, Mr. Beer's recipes allow you to brew beers easily and cost-effectively, which would typically be time-consuming, complicated, and expensive in their all-grain forms. We do all the hard work for you, so what’s left is an enjoyable and successful brewing experience; A greater chance of success, and a faster path to advancement in the flavor complexity of the beers you brew! We think home brewing should be inclusive to everyone, that means cost, accessibility and ease-of-use are always some of the biggest factors we consider when creating these recipes for our brewers. The value goes beyond money, time, and space; you might save a little on your sanity, too! All-grain brewing is awesome, but the truth is, not everyone has the resources of time, space, and money to achieve their goals and that makes our recipes a unique value!  

I hope you enjoyed this, and like always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics, do not hesitate to let us know! We always value hearing your thoughts and feedback!