Beering on a Budget

Some time ago, I launched “It’s Just a Beer” in an attempt to bring craft beer to the people who felt ostracized by the snobs with the tulip glasses and curly-Q mustaches. I was going at a good pace for several weeks until I hit a road block: money.

Although I am passionate about beers and admittedly spend a little too much on them for what I’m making at the day job, my bills and needs come before my hobbies so , sadly, craft beer was the first thing I cut back on in order to dig in and make sure the bills were paid. I’ve recently gotten a raise and have made other adjustments so I’m now able to really start digging into the beer scene once again and it’s been a blast! So much that I have decided to return to “It’s Just a Beer” but on a more flexible platform so I will be able to continue producing content on a regular basis, even when the ol’ pocket book is running a little thin.

The big change to the platform is that I’m going to pivot from strictly just beer reviews to a mix of beer reviews and column-type articles that will give you all a more in-depth look at my beer drinking lifestyle, general tips and tricks to get started on your craft beer journey or simply random bits, funny stories or cool things I find in my beer related adventures.

That being said, this week, I’m going to share with you all how I started to ease back into buying craft beers and what I do when I’m short on cash but high on thirst.

The first thing I do when I know I have limited beer money is take a peak at my local beer store’s create-your-own-six section. What makes this part of the store great is, unlike supermarkets’ versions of the CYOS, this store puts a nice variety of ciders and beers from all sorts of breweries and individually prices them to match the quality of the beer. (For example: I could buy a Newcastle Brown Ale for $2.99 but Oskar Blues’ Gubna is around $5.99.) To make it even better, I can simply buy one bottle or can and be done. I’m not locked into picking three or five more. This is especially helpful when I’ve been eyeing a 4- or 6-pack but haven’t wanted to take the plunge on buying the whole thing at $12 -$20. Not only does this allow you to keep a keen eye on how much your spending but it also dramatically cuts down on any potentially wasted beer while also allowing you to pick a variety of beers from a variety of different breweries.

If your local CYOS isn’t set up like that or you just don’t see anything that catches your eye, the second best thing to do is to look for in-house specials. At my beer store, the owner and another employee each pick a beer of the month and they put it on sale. For the most part, these are rather expensive bottles they have knocked a few dollars off to try and move more product or simply build the awareness for the brewery. This is my go-to way of cracking into an upper echelon of beers that I would normally never venture into without due cause.

Piggy-backing off that, go against the seasons. My favorite time of year is fall when the shelves and coolers are packed to the gills with smokey German marzens and enough pumpkin beers to drown out the noise of a thousand  toddlers screaming for candy. Applying the principle of supply and demand and all those tasty seasonals are going to be a little pricey to enjoy  en masse so ride it out. Wait until the winter season is almost over. For the most part, beer can keep for a while if kept in the proper conditions and a pro beer store owner will ensure his/her products are kept in such condition. Pick up one or two throughout the season but wait until the end of the next season and if the beer is still in your local store, chances are great that $12 bottle is going to be more like $7 or $8.

The final tip I have for today is to indulge in the sampler pack. For some reason, the sampler pack kind of gets a bad rap depending on what type of beer drinker you talk to. Based off the conversations I’ve had, the only real reason I can sort of understand is that a brewery isn’t going to put their top-flight beers in a sampler. For that, I have to give them credit because, by and large, that’s accurate. Sam Adams will never put a Utopias in their fall sampler but a lot of craft breweries are starting to come out with more and more samplers with three or four different beers and a lot of the times they throw a new beer in with some old classics. To make these boxes even better, you’ll be getting, on average, a dozen beers for around $20.

A personal favorite I had recently was from Narragansett, called the Clam Shack Summer Variety Pack. In it was four of their flagship lagers, four Del’s Shady and four Summertime Citra Ale. Better yet, on the back of the box were recipes for each of the beers. I tried out the beer can chicken with the shandy and it was fantastic.

I hope you guys enjoyed this change of pace. It feels good to be back in the saddle again and I have some great ideas for future posts and reviews but if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments below. What are some of the ways you all keep the beer flowing while also keeping the lights on? Let me know!



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