5 Tips to Save on Beer

Photo (cc) by SteFou!

If your resolution this year is to get healthier, you don’t have to give up drinking. Drink moderately and it might be good for you, according to The New York Times. And you don’t have to spend a lot, either. At least that’s the latest from Consumer Reports, which rated Coors as better than a slew of brews that cost more.

But what neither of those esteemed publications pointed out is the cold, tasty fact that you can use the Internet to save money on beer…

1. Shop around

You’ll find the best deals on beer at nearby stores – and you can search for them online free. Beer search engines like Saveonbrew.com tell you what local spots carry your brand for the cheapest price. It’s not the only one, but the others we found are either regional or even European (check out beerengine.com).

Here’s how Save On Brew works…

  • Go to the site
  • Confirm that you’re over 21 by clicking “Let me in.” (You don’t even have to verify your age, it’s all honor system.)
  • Click the big button that reads “Start Saving Now!”
  • Enter your ZIP code
  • Choose a radius between 5 miles and 100 miles
  • Click “Beer me!”
  • Make your choice

In my neighborhood, I found 87 deals within a 5-mile radius – from Coors Light to Heineken at drug stores and grocery stores. I raised the bar to 20 miles and only got 92 deals – only five more than my first search. Oh well, who really wants to drive far for a cold one?

What are the actual savings? Similar to what I found in far-off Brooklyn – where I got a whopping 270 deals within a 5-mile radius. I also noticed that buying more beer can make it cheaper — as much as 50 cents a bottle/can cheaper. Doesn’t sound like much, but that works out to be a free beer for every two.

Here’s what I found about Heineken, for example…

  • A six-pack went for $8.99, or $1.50 per bottle.
  • A 12-pack ranged from $12.99 to $14.99, or $1.08 per bottle to $1.25 per bottle.
  • A 24-pack went for $24.99, or $1.04 per bottle.

2. Find the best bar deals

If you don’t want to drink at home, you can use the Internet to find the best deals at bars near you. But again, the options aren’t as extensive as you’d think….

Drinkdeal.com gives New York City residents a full menu of bars and their drink deals. Type in your ZIP code on the homepage and then choose your poison – anything from the type of beer you’re looking for to the type of appetizer you’d like to eat with it. I looked up domestic beer specials in Brooklyn on a Saturday night and got 207 results. (Obviously, I need to move to Brooklyn.)

Drinkowl.com is also free and also covers New York City – and 74 other major cities, from Palo Alto to Calgary. If you don’t live in a major city, look up the nearest to you and the results may spill into your town.

I checked out beer specials in Cleveland, Ohio, on a Thursday night and got 17 results. You can go mobile and get the app on your iPhone or Android free. The app asked me for my ZIP code and immediately showed me 14 results for beer specials in Miami (which is close to where I live) on a Thursday night.

Tip: Sometimes these sites don’t tell you the deals are happy-hour only. It might be wise to go old-school and call ahead to make sure when the deals apply.

3. Find the best bars

Cheap beer is great, but sometimes atmosphere and service matter enough to pay for it. So you can use some websites to check out what folks had to say about a bar before going there.

Until bar-specific review sites like BeerMapping.com become popular – and thus more extensive – it’s better to resort to the general review sites that specialize in restaurants.

Sites like Yelp.com let you see customer reviews on almost any location. Each bar gets a star review based on what users had to say, plus their comments are right there. The site also gives you details about the bar, like whether it’s noisy or offers free WiFi. You can also get it on your phone for free.

Urbanspoon.com does the same thing but uses percentages instead of stars for overall scores. It’s famous for its “shake feature” on its mobile version — which you can also get for free. It works like a slot machine. You can lock in the options you’re sure about (like price and location) and shake for the rest, like a specific place.

4. Get it online – if you can

You might have been wondering why I haven’t mentioned the obvious: buying brews online. Can you do that? Yeah, but it’s not cheaper unless you go craft and even then, options are limited.

Rick Boyd, the owner of online beer store Brewforia.com, told craft-beer blog Billybrew.com: “Thanks to the extremely limited brewing capacity of craft brewers and the antiquated laws regulating the sale of alcohol, getting a bottle of some of the rarest and most interesting craft beers is almost impossible.”

If wine can be legally shipped in your state, the odds for beer are better. If that’s not legal, then beer probably isn’t either. Online seller Liquormart.com, for example, only ships beer to Colorado, New Hampshire, Nebraska, and North Dakota. (Also check out The Wine Institute’s database to see what’s allowed in your state.)

You’re out of luck, Boyd says, if you live in these states…

  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts
  • Utah
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Montana
  • Maine
  • South Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • West Virginia

Others that allow it, he said, lay heavy regulation on the shipment, making it less cost-effective. Beer cartons weigh enough to make shipping quite pricey anyway. Expect to pay at least the shelf price, Boyd warned.

But if you want to drink some beer you might not be able to find within driving distance, here’s a list of 45 places that sell beer and wine online.

5. Make it yourself — for the connoisseurs

If quality matters more than price, try making your own beer. The Internet makes it easy, although not cheap.

When you cook at home, you save. But when you brew at home, you don’t. One big reason is the up-front costs. The first thing you’ll need is a rig. Popular Mechanics offers up nine “serious” ones — and the first one costs about $450 to build.

Mrbeer.com will sell you a “starter kit” for anywhere from $40 to $100. Each kit will make 2 gallons of beer in about 14 days. The higher the price, the more’s included in the kit (like glasses and labels).

Homebrewers.com sells kits from $95 to $350. Their kits also produce 2 gallons.

About the only thing that’s free: Beerrecipes.org has almost 2,000 recipes for you to use at no charge. They’re categorized by type of beer, from IPA to malt.

Those 2 homemade gallons equate to about 21 12-ounce bottles – which you can buy for less than $30 at most stores.

For more savings on good times, check out 6 Tips to Tailgate Like an Expert and Throwing a Recession-Buster Cocktail Party.

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