Cheers on the Cheap

Spring is in the air – the flowers are sprouting, people are enjoying bike rides and walks in the park or around their neighborhoods. While some people are able to take that spring break trip to Cancun or Fort Meyers, others are on a tight budget. I am no exception and times have been a little tough. I have to be creative with my cash — eating out less, trips closer to home, getting books from the library instead of Amazon, etc. You get my point. Fortunately for the craft beer industry, business is going pretty well. Whether it’s because more of us are drowning in our sorrows or supporting local microbreweries, it seems as though we see just a few more people hanging out at the pubs on Tuesday afternoons these days.

With that in mind, I decided it was time to get creative with beer AND money. I had heard about one of the many beer events in my area, a beer tasting fundraising event with great food and music.  Unfortunately, this mouthwatering event is not free.  How could I partake in the festivities without breaking the bank?  After a little digging and a few phone calls, I signed up to volunteer for the event as a beer pourer.  How sweet would that be?!

At first my intentions were twofold: to work a few hours in exchange for free admission and to pour beer, which sounded like fun. I had never really been behind a bar officially (unless you count one time in college at Delta Chi), and thought it would be a great idea to experience the perfect pour. I write about my love of beer, and I want to experience it in all aspects. Plus, saving a few bucks would just make it that much sweeter. While there, I met other beer aficionados and knew that I was in the right place at the right time.  Besides pouring and talking about beer with the patrons, I learned more about beer, networked with distributors, and was able to sample some of the fine offerings.

So volunteering isn’t your thing but you still want to sample some beer without spending a lot?  Why not go to some local breweries and sample their stuff?  Some breweries will give you free samples; others will also give you a guided tour – a behind the scenes look at the beer making process at their facility. We’re so accustomed to going to the grocery store and picking up a six-pack.  While that’s what a majority of us do, why not go to a brewery and fill up a growler while you’re there sampling?  Ounce for ounce, filling up a growler of beer is the way to go financially. Plus, it’s fresh and just tastes better!

Breweries aren’t the only places to get free samples.  There are local specialty beer stores in the area that have regular tastings.  Usually a specific brewing company will have a representative set up shop for a few hours and provide you with samples of their product.  It’s a great way to try something you might not otherwise have thought of buying.

Of course there’s the good old happy hour at many bars and restaurants.  This is a great way to get beer at a reduced price and sometimes even free food!  Not sure where to go for happy hour?  The trusty weekly city paper is always available to help you decide.  For those of you who are tech-savvy, there are a few cool apps for your iPhone or Android that tell you which places have specials (such as Beer Cloud, Beer  Cellar, Happy Hours to name a very few).

Speaking of bars, it’s so easy to go to our favorites, our standards; I do that myself so I know how easy it is to go to my own version of “Cheers.”  However, there are so many smaller, local neighborhood bars in every side of town that these places tend to be cheaper.  You can have the same Guinness that you might have paid $6 for in downtown for $4 somewhere down the street.

So you see, even in tough times there are so many ways to save money and still enjoy a pint or two. It’s all about thinking outside the box without thinking too hard!  In my own quest to save a few pennies, I truly got more than I bargained for. I have connected to the community (local and beer), have met and continue to meet amazing people along the way. I have to be frugal these days, but that doesn’t mean I have to compromise quality or enjoyment of the beer drinking experience. I truly look forward to my next volunteering opportunity, regardless of today’s economy or my own financial situation. That’s priceless.

Adapted from Table Hopping, April 2012


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