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The Beer Essentials

The personnel at the Oily Rag Research Department donned white coats and, with clip board in hand, ventured forth on a quest to find the cheapest way of buying beer.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Mentioning alcoholic substances is one of those touchy subjects that excites the Oily Rag mailbags! On one such occasion the mere recital of a home brew recipe generated responses ranging from “great recipe!” to “how dare you encourage intoxication – you naughty people you”!

For the record, our oily rag view is that a lot of money is wasted on alcoholic beverages and our first suggestion is to not drink alcohol at all. But as there are lots of beer drinkers around we thought it worth a mention.

The personnel at the Oily Rag Research Department donned white coats and, with clip board in hand, ventured forth on a quest to find the cheapest way of buying beer.  Their mission – which they courageously accepted without fearful inhibition – was to compare the cost of home brew against the price of New Zealand’s most popular beer when bought in cans, stubbies, or large bottles. They compared costs on a per 100 millilitres basis and, as a general rule, found cans to be the most expensive, followed by small bottles, then large bottles.

There was however a big difference in price so it comes down to the oily rag motto – “Let the buyer be aware!” A reader writes that by hunting out specials he is able to reduce the per 100ml price of caned beer in half by buying 430ml cans on special. If you are buying beer off the shelf, take a calculator and work out the difference between buying bottles and cans. One price may look better, but work out how much supping you are actually getting for your dollar.

But, even when buying beer on special, there was a huge gap between buying beer and brewing your own. Our oily rag researchers paid a visit to the local brewing shop to check out the pricing. They reported that a basic starter kit costs about $100. Each concentrate kit (which they say comes in 21 different beers from East India Pale Ale to Miners Stout) is about $20 and makes two and a half dozen 745ml bottles. This works out at less than 10 cents per 100 ml.

One word of warning about home brew: our researchers did notice that home brewers spend a good deal of time sampling their product! They end up drinking more, having more social events, and attracting more friends who hang around as long as the brew lasts. The trick with home brew seems to be to consume about the same amount, and pocket the savings.

Having mentioned all of these ways to reduce the cost of having a brew, the best way to save money is definitely to cut down on the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Our other suggestion is, don’t make a habit of drinking in bars, where the cost per 100ml is supersonic!
A final suggestion comes from a reader who has a great use for flat beer (or maybe a batch of home brew that didn’t quite go to plan!) – put it in a dish and place it at ground level in your garden. Slugs are so keen on the beer that they drink and drown!

We are on the look out for the Best of the Bargain Websites.  More and more retailers are using the internet to promote specials and there are lots of sites offering heavily discounted stock. Please go to and send in your favourite shopping websites.
* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at . The book is available from bookstores and online at