Friday, April 5, 2013

A Soap by the Home Brewers, for the Home Brewers...

A common theme in most of my blog posts (and conversations, for that matter; pity my friends) is how hobbies lead into one another. For me, gardening led to bees, and then honey led to mead making and beeswax led to soap making. The gardening also led me (and my husband) to grow our own grapes (for wine) and hops (for beer). The result of all this, at the moment, is that now I'm incorporating the home brewing into the soap.

A lot of places carry beer soap. However, some soap makers just substitute beer for the water in a recipe and call that beer soap. In my opinion, that's no fun. The whole point of drinking something more complicated than a Bud Light is that it's interesting. And what makes it interesting? The sugars, the hops, the floral notes, the maltiness... all the nuances that make a craft beer a craft beer. And all of those can be applied to soap! It's so much fun to work out how best to make a soap reflect the qualities of a particular beer. For instance, a honey brown soap will incorporate a really good beer, sure, but also local honey, real hops, and essential oils, while a coffee stout will have some deeper flavors, and an awesome exfoliating texture from finely ground coffee. A good beer soap will have all the aromatics of a craft brew without the boozy alcohol smell. You should appreciate the fragrance of a beer soap the way you'd inhale over a great beer just before that first sip.

Another benefit of a more thorough approach to soap making is that you get the real benefit of the ingredients. It's similar to the difference between raw honey and processed honey (which is a whole different post); you can just have the flavor of honey if you want, but raw honey gives you active ingredients with a whole array of benefits in addition to flavor (which is improved as well). So you can certainly enjoy beer soap that's just been made quickly with beer substituted for water in the recipe, but our style of beer soap is going to be more than just a novelty gift.

In addition to just enjoying the experience of using it, it's good for you! Like many alternative remedies, results aren't guaranteed and will vary from person to person, but hops, for instance, are chock-full of antioxidants and are said to help relieve, to varying degrees, anxiety, sleeplessness, dermatitis, and lots more- everything from psoriasis to menstrual cramps to stress headaches. You can read more about that here and here and here.  Speaking of honey, I'm not going to get started on that right now, but in my experience it's practically a cure-all, particularly when it comes to skin. Additives like coffee in a coffee porter soap are great exfoliants, and oatmeal in an oatmeal stout soap can soothe irritable skin. Essential oils have a wide range of benefits, from digestion to circulation to just plain relaxation; more info on that here and here and here. And just on a tactile level, the sugars in beer soap change the lather- just as some beers have more of a head than others, using candy sugar or honey or malt sugar in a beer soap will result in more bubbly suds.

To sum up, then: beer soap is awesome. It feels good, it smells good, it's good for you, and it makes a good gift for yourself or for the beer connoisseur in your life. Soapzilla beer soap is shortly going to be for sale locally at a craft beer store (ooh, mysterious! We'll make an announcement when it's officially in stock) but these varieties, which have been really fun to test, will be our initial offerings:

Pale Ale: a translucent amber glycerin soap, Pale Ale is extremely moisturizing and smooth, with noticeable hoppiness and citrus notes, especially grapefruit.

Honey Brown: an opaque golden-brown soap, Honey Brown is a mild soap with East Kent Golding hops, essential oils and local raw honey.

Oatmeal Stout: dark-brown and complex, Oatmeal Stout incorporates hops and ground oats to exfoliate and soothe your skin.

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