Homebrewing in Bolivia: Calculating Costs

The main reason I started homebrewing is because it was just plain a cheaper way to drink good beer, and that reason carried over to here as well. How much of a savings is it, though? Here’s my best cost estimate for what a 5 gallon/23 L batch of, say, 4.2% ABV Witbier might cost.

Ingredient

Amount used

Cost per unit (Bs)

Total (Bs)

Total (US $)

Pilsner malt

3.0 kg

5.30 Bs/kg

15.90 Bs

$2.30

Flaked Wheat

1.5 kg

10.00 Bs/kg

15.00 Bs

$2.17

Flaked Oats

0.2 kg

10.00 Bs/kg

2.00 Bs

$0.29

Willamette Hops

20 g

.19 Bs/g

3.80 Bs

$0.55

Yeast

1 packet

17.25 Bs

17.25 Bs

$2.50

Total for 5 ga/23 L

53.95 Bs

$7.81

Assuming that you use the standard 330 mL bottle (that’s about 11 oz) and generously rounding down to compensate for unforeseen inefficiencies, you can easily get 55 bottles out of that at Bs 0.98 / $0.14 per 330 mL bottle. Or, if you use the 625 mL bottle, maybe 32 bottles at Bs 1.69 / $0.24 per 625 mL bottle. Let’s compare that to some standard beers you can buy at the grocery stores here:

Beer

Price for 330 mL

Price for 625 mL

Homebrewed Witbier

Bs 0.98

$0.14

Bs 1.69

$0.24

Paceña Pico de Plata

Bs 7.00

$1.01

Bs 12.00

$1.74

Corsa (Premium Lager)

Bs 15.00

$2.17

N/A

So, all in all, I’d say that homebrewing is a way cheaper option here. Considering that you can just cultivate yeast and pitch it from batch to batch, you can realistically end up spending Bs 0.67 per 330 mL bottle. This is a very accessible hobby here. Granted, you don’t have the HBS to splurge at and go crazy buying everything in one stop, but the DIY nature of it all makes for a more interesting hobby while also forcing you to learn frugality in things like making your hops and yeast supplies last.

Where I got my numbers:

  • Assumes an exchange rate of Bs 6.90 to US $1.00
  • Malt: I paid Bs 265 for a 50 kg bag of pilsner malt from Sureña in Sucre, including the cost of transport. So that comes out to Bs 5.30/kg.
  • Hops: I have to import these, and I think I previously paid around US $6.00 for 8 oz (~224 g) of Willamette hops (I’ll not include shipping costs here because it was spread among a number of other items). $6.00 / 224 g = 2.68 cents/g = .19 Bs/g
  • Yeast: My actual wit yeast is re-pitched and I almost never open a new dry yeast, but for the sake of doing this exercise, let’s assume it’s a new packet of yeast at around US $2.50 (17.25 Bs), which is around what I’ve generally paid.
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