Go Green: Brew Beer or Cider at Home


Not sure if this ever makes anyone else's ways to “go green,” but it seems like an easy and fun one to us. Believe it or not, drinking alcohol contributes in its own small way to our carbon footprint. A vast majority of the damage for the bottles and cans you buy in the store comes from transportation and packaging. Since water is heavy, the further away the source of the beer, the higher the footprint.

Thanks to the explosion of American craft beer, there are almost an unending amount local options to that can help, but they often cost more and suddenly make an afternoon of drinking incredibly expensive. It's a classic case of paying more to go green or spending less for lower quality and higher overall emissions. Luckily, in this case, there is an option that is both cheaper and better for the environment: making your own beer and cider at home!

Depending on where you live and what your pick of poison is, beers and ciders will cost you roughly $1-2/bottle or can. If you're drinking domestics, you might bring that down to $0.75 (or even cheaper for Kirkland Light, but that's basically an instant hangover). What we're considering cost effective is bringing that cost down to about $0.50/12oz. Honestly, what's the point of waiting month for your suds if it's going to cost you almost the same amount of money?

Brewing Beer

I've personally owned a brewing kit for a few years now, and there's something about drinking beer that you've made that's just...cool. I know I just said that half the reason to brew your own beer is to save money, but here's the thing about it: You'll need to invest about $100-125 for standard 5-gallon equipment. Here's a good place to start. Depending on the brewing kits you buy after that, you'll start really saving money after the third or fourth batch. Kits generally run from $25-40 and make the equivalence of just over 50 12oz bottles.

Personally, it gives me a good reason to use all the fancy growlers I've bought over the years (note: regular brew pub growlers are not designed to hold up to the pressures of the carbonating process and others have reported them exploding). I just keep cleaning and reusing them over and over again. At the end of the day, it means you're eliminating bottle/can waste, energy required for recycling, and reducing your transportation impact by over 80% per 5-gallon batch.

Sidenote: You're welcome to pick up a smaller kit like the 2-gallon Mr. Beer keg, but those kits average around $17-25. The “savings” feel marginal and they don't leave as much room for adding your own twist.

Brewing Cider

The beautiful thing about making hard cider is just how wonderful simple it is. Brewing only requires two ingredients: preservative-free apple juice and yeast. Add in the fact that you can ferment in basically any container, including juice bottles themselves, and you've got one of the easiest home booze processes around. The buy-in cost here is much lower. For around $20 you can buy the yeast, cleaner, and special caps to get going.

Apple juice tends to be one of the most locally sourced fruits, which helps keep transportation costs lower than pineapple, orange, or any other citrus juice. It's certainly better than buying anything imported. By brewing yourself, you remove the majority of the bottling and packing that comes with individual 12oz containers. Apple orchards themselves are less water-intensive than many other fruits, hops, and grains, which makes cider the most environmentally friendly alcohol you can drink.

Mostly, It's The Bottles/Cans

For all the nuance of this and that, the amount of 12oz bottles and cans NOT being made, transported, and melted down is what's really making the difference. Feel good about reducing the amount of carbon that has to go into production, save a few dollars, and gain a new hobby.

It's a win-win-win situation.

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