What is beer soap? Quite simply, it is soap that is made with beer as the liquid instead of water. However, let me say that if you have not made beer soap before, you should be fully prepared. It is not for the faint of heart because you will have to work quickly. You should have quite a few successful batches of cold-processed soap under your belt before attempting this process. In fact, I am not even providing a recipe, only a method. Ok, that’s my disclaimer. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!
After that disclaimer, now let me share WHY you might want to make beer soap. For me, it’s a great marketing hook. I often hear at the market – “Wow! Look at that! Beer soap!” Besides that, beer is also supposed to be a great conditioner for your skin.
Are you ready to get started now? First, you will need to prepare the beer and the oils a full day ahead. Using your regular soap recipe, start by pouring the beer (amount should be 40% of the oils – do NOT discount the liquid) into a plastic pitcher (do NOT use pyrex or glass) and letting it get flat. Really flat. If you have carbon dioxide bubbles, you will have lye bubbles which is really not safe. I do this in the morning, so that by evening I can put the pitcher in the refrigerator to get cold overnight. I also melt all my solid oils and butters and combine them with the liquid oils in my soap pot. Then they can cool down to room temperature overnight. You want to do everything you can to slow down saponification.
The next day you can make soap. Here is my flat beer in the plastic pitcher just waiting for the lye to be added:
Now I add my lye EVER SO SLOWLY into the beer. Notice that I am wearing rubber gloves. Always wear your safety gear!!
It will turn a lighter yellowish color and start to stink pretty bad. That’s why I always make my lye solution under the fan under my microwave WHICH VENTS OUTSIDE. I also learned to cover the back of my stove with a towel. It seems that little bits of lye have eaten away some of the enamel finish. Oops. Back to the lye solution. If you pour the lye too quickly, the beer will heat up and cause a volcano. Ask me how I know! Fortunately, it was contained on my glass stovetop…
As the beer continues to heat up, it will turn back to a darker brown.
Once I have all the lye incorporated, I usually put the pitcher(s) in my sink with cold water and ice to speed up the cooling process. I’ve noticed that with a regular lye and water solution, the stink will eventually go away when all the lye has been fully incorporated. Not so much with the beer. In fact, the plastic pitcher will probably carry the smell even after you run it through the dishwasher too. So don’t think you can use it for lemonade when you’re finished making soap. NOT that you would use your lye pitcher for lemonade anyway!!
When the temperature of the lye solution reaches about 85-90 degrees, you’re ready to make soap. I do use my stick blender for this soap, but you really wouldn’t have to. It will set up just fine with a spoon. I just like the smoothness of soap that’s been blended with the electric blender. Not to mention the adrenaline rush of trying to get the soap made before it becomes a brick in your soap pot…
After about two seconds of stick blending, I add a little bit of wheat bran to this batch.
After stirring the wheat bran with my spoon, I add my essential oil blend. I like to stick blend this too just to be sure it’s all mixed in. Just for a few seconds though. Once it starts to thicken, it will set up fast.
Time to pour!
You can see that by the time I have it completely poured, it is really getting thick. I have a few seconds to smooth the top with my spoon, put plastic wrap over it, and cover it with a towel.
I usually cut this soap the next day. Sometimes I have to wait two. It requires a full 4-6 weeks to cure. And it really does NOT smell like beer when it’s all done. In fact, even by the time I cut it, all I can smell is the essential oil blend. Here’s my finished product:
Many thanks to my darling daughter (who will soon be eight) for taking pictures while I made this soap. I couldn’t have done it without her!
And if you like Patchouli Beer Bars, they are available at Greatcakessoapworks.com.