Craft Beer on a Budget

The one thing I don’t discuss in my reviews is price.  I drink craft beer because I appreciate the quality, the diversity in style and flavor.  Often it’s a way to support a local brewery and that makes it worth the price for me, but I get it, $9+ for a six pack is pricey and if you get into hard to find specialty bottles it goes up from there, but craft beer doesn’t have to be a burden on the wallet. This blog post is intended to give you some ideas on how to save some money or help stretch your money so that you can experience more beers for the same amount.

Grab Bags and Discount Bins: This is kind of a shady area for purchasing craft beer so Buyer Beware. If you decide to take the gamble the only advice I will give you is know your bottle shop, if they are a reputable establishment you should have nothing to worry about. There is a shop local to me where I occasionally roll the dice on a grab bag, two beers for three dollars and change and I’ve never been disappointed but I trust the shop. Discount bins are a little less of a gamble because you can pick up the bottle and check the dates, you’ll often find that these beers are the last bottle left in the shop or a seasonal that’s been replaced by the newest seasonal offering.

Mix-a-Six:  I almost exclusively shop for mix-a-six’s, I hate paying the price for a six pack and only getting one type of beer when I can pay the same price or close to it for six different beers, this is a great way to explore new styles and brewers and if you don’t like something there aren’t five more waiting in the fridge, if you do like something you can always go back and get a whole six pack.

Bottle Shop Tastings: Some bottle shops host monthly tasting events, these are perfect for sampling on a budget as they are usually free and give you an opportunity to try before you buy making the decision to purchase a full bottle feel much safer.

Visit the brewery: This one’s great especially if you’re travelling, take a break and visit the brewery, some breweries give free samples at the end of their tour others will have a tasting room with reasonably priced samples, it’s a brewery, they want you to drink their beer.

Buy a Growler: Prices for fills and deposit on the growler vary, but this can be a very affordable option. Example: the local tasting room is selling pints for $5 each, 4 pints (64oz) will run you $20+tax and tip. The same tasting room is selling growlers (64oz) with a $2 bottle deposit and $9 refills, that’s $11 for the same amount of beer and you can take it home, plus the next time you fill the growler it’s only $9 because you already have the glass. Like I said prices vary but do the math you’ll probably find it’s worth it in the long run.

Visit the Brewpub:  Ask for a sampler flight, some brewpubs will give you a sample of everything they make and others will ask you to pick which beers you want to try. This option will usually run about the same price as a pint, maybe a bit more if you get a lot of samples and it’s a great way to try multiple beers and if you decide to buy a whole beer you’ll know exactly what you want.

Drink Local: This goes right along with “Visit the Brewpub” but extends out to local bars as well; it’s not uncommon to find a locally brewed beer for three and even four dollars cheaper than something brewed out of state.

Flight Night: Not every Beer Bar does one of these, Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor hosts one on Monday nights. This option is similar to a sampler flight at a brewpub, you get to choose as many samples as you like from the 14 beers on tap that day, price is per sample and very reasonable. This is a great option because unlike the brewpub where your samples are all their beers this gives you a chance to try beers from all over.

Half Pours:  Ask your bartender if half pours are an option, if they are it’s exactly what it sounds like, half a beer. You might not get as much but this allows you to try a few beers without having to buy a full glass of each, this isn’t a bad option for a beer with a higher ABV.

Specials: Pay attention to the bars in your area, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, they may run weekly or even one off specials that will save you some cash. The Great Lost Bear in Portland is a great example, I always see them promoting #shortbeernight on Twitter, 23oz beers for the price of a 16oz.

Attend a Local Brewfest: Watch the ticket prices and brewers list and you should be able to determine whether the festival will be worth your time and money. Some of the less expensive local festivals will run you $25 or so for a ticket and include a souvenir sample glass and about 10 samples. If the tickets look expensive there is probably a reason, example; The Festival US in Portland this summer was $65 per ticket but the opportunity to taste hard to find beers from around the globe in a festival setting is less expensive than chasing down full bottles if you can even find them available locally. As a bonus, for any festival and especially one like The Festival US, you have the opportunity to talk to the brewers, ask them question, compliment their products and that’s way cheaper than a flight to Belgium or New Zealand to accomplish the same task.

Host a Bottle Share:  Have your beer buddies pick up a bottle or two of something they think is fun and then invite them all over to do a sampling, for the price of a couple bottles of beer and some snacks you’ll get a chance to try a variety of beers.

Craft Beer on a budget is not impossible, sometimes it requires a little planning, effort and creativity on your part but the beer will be amazing and your wallet will thank you.



Chad Lothian

About Chad Lothian

Chad Lothian lives in Old Town, Maine. He is a craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer. Chad has travelled to brewpubs, breweries and brewfests all over New England.