Each month Debtfree DIGI magazine features a section all about how consumers who are under financial pressure or under debt review can still have fun even though they are living on less. The Feb issue of Debtfree looked at the hobby of brewing your own beer.


Here are some highlights from that article:


When the ancient Incas of Peru felt like downing a cool refreshing pint, they fulfilled this basic human desire by means of their local brew – a corn-based concoction called ‘Chicha’. Probably the most interesting thing about Chicha is the list of ingredients, the principle ones being water, corn and human saliva. Which probably makes you wonder, how desperate for a brewski they had to be to drink this stuff. Then again, if it’s a hot Sunday afternoon and the liquor stores are all closed, and even if they were open it’s the end of the month and beer money is scarce, maybe you can relate. But in this day and age, does a shortage of funds for frothies mean that you’d have to resort to drinking a yellowish liquid that you know someone has gobbed in?

No, it doesn’t!

In fact, with a small up-front investment in some basic equipment and a minor sacrifice of time to read up on the method and do the job, you could cut your monthly beer-bill by a substantial amount and still have a ready supply of the golden nectar at your disposal.

In Europe and the US, home-brewing has long been a well-supported activity, catered to by many outlets that supply the necessary tools and ingredients required. It’s taken some time for the concept to gain a similar following here in SA, but in recent years some enterprising home-brewers have opened on-line supply stores that provide all that is needed to get started, and now more and more beer-lovers are finding that it doesn’t take much to produce a delicious, refreshing brew that makes the common shop-bought lagers taste like chicha.

That was what clinched it for me. I love tasty, well-made beer, and I enjoy the different styles – weissbiers, bocks, ales of all kinds – which usually cost a fair amount in local pubs, especially the imported varieties. However, when I tried my hand at home-brewing I was amazed by the quality of the product that can be had right from the start without much skill or knowledge, as well as the flexibility I had in being able to brew the styles that I enjoy.

Most home-brewers start with kit-brews, which are simply tins of malt-extract already prepared to produce the style of beer you want. Kits are available in a wide range of styles, from India Pale-ales to amber Lagers to rich, dark Irish Stouts. For the beginner, all that is required is to follow the instructions on the tin, which usually involves boiling the contents for around an hour in a pot, then pouring it into a 25l plastic bucket (the ‘fermenter’), adding the yeast packet (supplied with the kit), top-up with cold water and leave it for a week to ferment and produce beer. Then siphon the beer into your bottles and leave for another week, then…enjoy. While this is a very simplified description of the basic method, the product is still fantastic. After succeeding with kits, you might be motivated to try partial-mash or all-grain brewing, which allow you a greater degree of control on the end product, but requires a bit more skill.

How much money do you save? Before you get going you’ll need to buy some equipment. For a simple kit-brew, assuming that you already have some basic kitchen utensils (e.g a stove, a boiling pot etc) your initial outlay could be as low as R450 (includes 25L plastic buckets, plastic airlock, siphon hose, plastic bottles, and your kit). This would produce on average 20L of beer, or 10 six-packs. Given the average six-pack price of R40, your first 20L isn’t saving you much. Except that your next 20L won’t cost you nearly as much because you’ve bought the gear, and only need to spend around R120 on the kit – you do the math.

But what if you’re the sort of fellow who makes a hash of scrambled eggs? Don’t let that put you off – as long as you are clean, patient, and can follow simple instructions, a kit-brew is really hard to get wrong. For an easy-to-follow beginner’s course in home-brewing, I highly recommend starting with John Palmers’ excellent ‘How To Brew’ e-book, freely available on the internet from his own website ( Additionally, check out the local home-brew shops and forums (e.g.,, almost all of which are run by keen brewers who are very accommodating and active on the threads.

Get started with these resources and you’ll be brewing your own in less time than it takes to break into a Liquor City. It’s a great hobby, it will save you money and, best of all, you’ll always have a bottle of something to knock back, that doesn’t taste like spit.

Beer 2






This month (March 2013) in LIVING ON LESS we look at the pro’s and cons of commuting via bicycle and how much consumers are saving each month by doing so.


Feel free to visit our LIVING ON LESS page for this article and one readers decision to quit her gym:

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