As I grow older, budgeting becomes more of a priority in my life. This is why beer clubs are attractive to me. When breweries decide to sell beer futures on upcoming batches, it’s good to remember that you’re investing in beer that hasn’t been brewed yet and sometimes the beer you expected doesn’t arrive on time or at all. Also, breweries with clubs aren’t always local so you have to factor in shipping as well. It’s time for me to renew my memberships at a few breweries and this form of thought process allows me to work through my options and see if I feel there’s a value in these clubs versus regular beer buying.

Let’s outline the spend of 2013 so far and I’ll try to figure in the estimated cost for the remainder of the year based on what I’ve done so far.
  • Bruery Reserve Society = $2,195 USD per year (est.)
    • $295 Membership Fee which gets you 1 beers delivered throughout the year
    • I’ve spent $872.66 in Beer from January – August 1st
    • This works out to about $124.66 per month in beer
    • If I continue this trend, that’s roughly $1500 in beer to one brewery this year + the $295 sign up fee
    • I’ve received 41 beers for the $872.66 spent so far (excluding the beers included in the membership) so each bottle costs an average of $21.25 per bottle
    • Shipping for these beers has been $3.50 per beer sent from Southern California to me. I return the styrofoam shipper to my trustee at a cost of $2 per slot (filling a few slots with beers as a thank you) I won’t calculate my “trustee gifts” because those don’t count but let’s call it $5 total cost to get these bottles back to me
    • Shipping cost so far equals $235 and should be about $165 more for the remainder of the year if I stay on track and order 28 more bottles + the 5 bottles left in the membership.
    • Therefore, Bruery should cost me roughly $2,195 for 2013
  • Crooked Stave Cellar Reserve = $1,257.50 USD per year (est.)
    • $300 Membership Fee which gets you 20 beers throughout the year
    • I’ve spent $419.05 from January to August
    • Average monthly spend is $60
    • 2013’s estimated spend on CS beers is $720
    • I’ve purchased 44 beers from CS for an average cost of $9.50 per beer
    • Shipping is hard to calculate but it’s just under half the shipping cost of Bruery at 2.50 per beer for a total spend so far of $110
    • Adding in the promised beers included in the membership and estimated purchases this year I’ll probably buy 75 beers from Crooked Stave this year + 20 that are included for a total of 95 beers
    • At $2.50 shipping, that’s $237.50 estimated shipping
    • $720 on beer + $237.50 on shipping + $300 upfront for a total CS spend of $1257.50
    • While I’ll get a lot of bottles, CS beers are all 375ML and Bruery is 750ML but the cost seems pretty close to 50% of what Bruery costs so their $ amount is very similar for the amount of ounces you actually get
  • Hill Farmstead Collected Works = $350 USD every half year ($700 a year?)
    • This program is done seasonally. A Winter session has not been announced but it is my understanding that CW will run a Summer and Winter program at $350 per session. This is not confirmed, only a guess.
    • $350 for session 1 allowed for each member to receive 12 Beers + a hand made wooden box from Shaun’s brother + a ticket to Festival of Farmhouse Ales ($100 value)
    • I placed the value of the box at $75 based on the prices of hand made woodcraft that I’ve seen in Vermont at shops. Laugh at me if you want but Vermont hand made furniture is very expensive.
    • So this roughly puts the value of the beers at $175 or $14.50 per bottle which is the average price overall if you add up all of the bottles that are included.
    • There is no shipping in this program since I pick up the beers in program

In beer clubs this year, my total spend is expected to be $4152.50. There’s no denying that this is a LOT of money. So I’m breaking down the budget just a bit and I’m going to include some other 2013 spending estimates.

  • Shipping Estimate for beer trades in 2013: $1,750 ($250 less than in 2012 and this includes shipments from Bruery / Crooked Stave so obviously, I’m trading a lot less this year than last)
  • Local beer purchases (Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s, Beer Co-Op and Alchemist): $2,000
  • Trips to Belgium happen 1-2 times per year: $1,500 for beer + shipping each trip is around what I spend
  • Online Beer orders (Gary’s in SF, Cascade Barrel House and other stores like Charleston Beer Exchange): $500
  • Orders from Etre Gourmet and Belgium in a Box: So far, this has been $450. I don’t anticipate doing any more orders in 2013 especially if I have a Fall trip to Belgium.
  • Festivals in 2013: $250 so far, maybe another $50 or so but festival season is mostly over.

Rough Estimate for 2013 Beer Spending: $10,652. (I didn’t add $1500 for the 2nd trip to Belgium because I’m not confirmed yet on that one)

Well this is downright disappointing.

Let’s take a break for a second and let me say that I don’t mind working this math out in public. The ridicule and jokes about my spending are hard to stomach and I’m not much a fan of being used as a mockery when it comes to these things but I feel like a lot of beer geeks spend money on beer carelessly without doing the math. It’s a big problem and I look at hauls of crazy rare whales and insane lambic and these guys posting 2-3 cases of KBS and BCBS and maxing out every Bruery Allocation and think that it’s insane and these guys are crazy but, taking a step back, I’m roughly in the same position. As long as you’re paying your bills and not getting into debt, this sort of spending is to your income and the kind of money you can afford. I don’t spend all winter on the ski slopes or put custom exhaust pipes on my car or have this insane home theatre setup. I mostly eat tuna & ramen and PB&J sammiches and all of my time and spare money goes to home brewing and other beer related activities. Therefore, I spend what I can afford.

With that said, I’d like to shift my spending in 2014. This spending is not sustainable and while I traded less in 2013, the beer buying I did still remained pretty high. Some changes need to be made going forward. I mostly wrote this because a nice guy who reads my blog chatted with me at Ommegang last weekend while we were drinking some Crooked Stave beers and while he said it’s cool to see my hauls photos and “drool on the keyboard”, he can’t spend as much as I do on beer since he’s a student so was wondering if Crooked Stave was worth it for their Cellar Reserve. For the money spent, I thought it was. you don’t have to max out your allocations and their bottle sizes are great as a daily drinking beer. I drink a CS beer twice a week because I have so many, can drink it by myself and all of them have been solid, quality beers. It was his inquiry into spending that inspired me to work this out.

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Conclusions?

Well, other than what is written above I do have some ideas for next year.

  • Stop maxing out Bruery allocations. The sours are usually too vinegar heavy compared to Lambic and, for the price per bottle + shipping, I can order a bunch of Gueuze from belgium and enjoy the beers much more.
  • Bruery beers aren’t trade bait. I should stop treating them as such and only buy what I personally intend to drink. If I don’t plan on drinking what is in my cart, remove a few beers. I didn’t need 7 bottles of Bottleworks 12 or 6 bottles of Chocolate Rain.
  • I’d like to continue maxing out Crooked Stave allocations. Chad’s beers this year have all been very good and I drink these more than any other brewery in the cellar.
  • I’m going to start skipping more Hill Farmstead Bottle Releases. I didn’t need 8 bottles of Civil Dis 6 or 6 bottles of Madness 1. What usually ends up happening is I buy these, then they slowly go to friends that drop by my place, trading partners and friends and then I realize I basically gave away $200 in beer. For the ticks, Collected Works will ensure I get to review every beer Shaun releases and I’ll continue to visit the brewery once a month for growler fills and beers I’m sure that I’ll drink all of but more than 4 of each release is absurd and a waste of money not because the beers are not great, but because I need to cut back on spending.
  • No more Belgian Beer orders online. I have some connections in Montreal now that are getting bottles for me of Lambic that I want and we meet every 3 months to swap cash for beer. This should keep me stocked and I can stop paying expensive prices.
  • Less online beer orders. Cascade is a great brewery making nice beers but they’re fairly one dimensional and I’d say my average rating of them is 3.7. Rarely do they blow my mind so cutting back on Cascade beers would be a good idea.

In 2014, I’d like to reduce my beer spending to $7500. I’d like to say 5K but I think splitting it in half is going to be next to impossible and I should take baby steps. Also, keeping an Excel sheet with running totals is going to be my new plan. 10K works out to about $830 a month on beer. Reducing this to $625 per month in 2014 is an easy enough goal. I’ll keep a tally of shipping, beer orders and trades and keep the figure at around $600. per month and if I go over, reduce spending the next month to even things out.

I don’t recommend all beer geeks do this but I really enjoyed the exercise. Actually, I’m betting most beer geeks reading this blog don’t have to do this exercise because most of you are good with money and keep this under control. I’m not proud of the money spend in 2013. Beer is great but not worth 10K so I do need to make some changes to keep things in check.

I always appreciate meeting people in person at beer festivals who read this blog. Nothing posted here is a masterpiece but it is nice for me to document this journey in beer geekery and use long form to keep the habit in check. Thanks for reading.