Indulging in craft beer can be a pricey hobby. One Portland, Oregon brewery peddled bottles of the extremely limited barleywine release they dubbed “Dave” for an astonishing $2,000 per bottle. The Hair of the Dog brewery aged the concoction for 19 years to perfect it before putting it on sale.
While most microbrews cost a tiny fraction of “Dave’s” $2,000-per-bottle price, enjoying a few drinks can add up quickly. These money-saving tips will help you enjoy your favorite craft beers without shelling out crazy amounts of money.
1. Volunteer at a Beer Festival
Drinking beer is a communal event. People enjoy imbibing their favorite malt, hops and barley concoctions while surrounded by jovial pals. And why not go somewhere where you and hundreds or thousands of like-minded peers are surrounded by hundreds or thousands of beers?
From local neighborhood festivals to epic events like the Great American Beer Festival, these celebratory occasions all need crews of volunteers to keep them running. Volunteers usually do little of everything, including setting up, cleaning up, checking IDs, taking tickets, directing people, and handling a multitude of other duties. While you work, you’ll get to meet a network of other beer lovers.
And what do volunteers get? Well, typically they enjoy free admission and free beer. Sometimes they get other perks too, such as event hats and T-shirts. While some well-known festivals have so many veteran volunteers, they’re not on the lookout for newbies, plenty of lesser-known festivals are looking for people to help. Look for a few nearby beer festivals and contact the organizers to see what opportunities may await.
2. Take Advantage of Happy Hour
Make a note of the happy hour specials at your favorite breweries. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Use social media to see when they have special events and offerings, and be sure to take full advantage of these opportunities.
Amazing limited-time specials are a big draw, whether you’re enjoying 2-for-1 drinks during happy hour, special pint deals or free or reduced-price appetizers. The key here is to be sure to only order these items during happy hour. It’s pretty easy to let a one-hour happy hour turn into a three-hour fun fest with friends. To enjoy your craft beer for less, be mindful of the clock and get your orders in before the clock rolls over and the drinks are full price.
3. Go on Brewery Tours
The back rooms of breweries are fascinating places. From the huge vats of beer in progress to the enormous machinery churning through heaps of raw ingredients, to the canning and bottling lines that make our favorite drinks portable, there’s a lot to see in the back room.
Arrange for a brew tour to delve into the details of your favorite brews. More and more breweries are offering tours to further engage craft beer lovers, help them learn more about the product and develop brand loyalty. These tours are often free (though some need to be arranged ahead of time), and free tasters are sometimes part of the process.
Of course, you shouldn’t go on a brewery tour just to avoid paying for a drink. But these free or very affordable tours are often fascinating and well worth a stop. If they come with a free taster at the end, that’s a bonus.
4. Buy a Growler
May breweries offer a reduced price when you buy in bulk, purchasing beer in a large, reusable glass jug called a “growler.” See how much your favorite brewery charges for a growler fill and consider taking advantage of this eco-friendly way to buy your favorite beer.
Yes, you’ll have the initial cost of buying your growler, but the savings of purchasing beer 16.9 ounces at a time rather than in a six-pack are significant. It’s also a great way to reduce your environmental impact by reusing the same container over and over again.
For even more savings, check with your favorite breweries to see if they offer discounted growler fills during happy hour or at other times. Mark your calendar and take advantage of these discounts.
5. Visit Tasting Rooms
If you want the best, go to the source. This advice applies to the headwaters of mighty rivers as well as the places that craft your favorite brews.
Many breweries offer low-cost or free samples in their tasting rooms. If you live in a city with a number of breweries, make the rounds and try out a few tasting rooms to sample some of the best beers.
Of course, this isn’t a way to completely avoid paying for beer. It’s a strategy to figure out which beers you like best so you can fill your growler or buy a six-pack of the ones you truly enjoy. This way, you can spend your beer budget on something you know you like rather than chancing it on a six-pack of the unknown — which could turn out to be awful.
6. Sign Up for a Cycle Pub Tour
Gather some friends and go on a cycle pub tour. A number of different companies offer these multi-rider bikes that often feature an on-bike bar (along with a company-provided designated driver, of course). Fort Collins, Colorado is just one city with such a service, dubbed My Handle Bar.
Curious? Up to 16 people can book a tour along pre-designated or custom-designed routes, and you’ll need at least eight people who can pedal to keep the bike moving along. The bike relies on passenger pedal power along with the My Handle Bar-provided designated driver’s steering ability, and you can play music, eat and drink non-alcoholic beverages while cycling. Prices start at $160 per hour with a two-hour minimum, so that’s only $20 per person if you can gather 15 friends. Of course, you’ll still have to pay for beer at the breweries, but if you time your tour to coincide with happy hour, you can save even more.
Of course, while everyone wants to save money, there’s one thing not to cheap out on: a ride home. Make sure you have a safe ride home, even if it means forking out some cash for a cab.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy craft beer? What’s your favorite way to save money?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.