There are three things everyone knows we love: craft beer, soap, and craft beer soap. However, as the Everly Brothers, Nazareth, and Jim Capaldi sang: Love Hurts! Making beer soap has hurt us, scarred us, wounded and marked us (and several pieces of furniture). Our website is filled with information about the benefits of using beer soap, but today we’re giving you the SUDSy, stinky truth about making beer soap.
Truth #1: It Stinks
Literally. Our craft beer soaps may smell phenomenal when they are ready for use but, the process of making beer soap is not always the most pleasing to the olfactory system. Every step brings a different odor. The unpleasantness of the odor depends on the beer that is being used; in our experience, the darker the beer, the stronger the smells. To prepare the craft beer for use in our beer soap, we boil it. The most pungent scent comes when the beer reacts with the Sodium Hydroxide. It’s unique, powerful, and unpleasant (in our opinion). Luckily this smell dissipates fairly quickly; once the initial reaction is over, the smell only gets weaker. The most disappointing stinky moment, in my humble opinion, is upon cutting the soap. It’s freshly made and looks gorgeous…surely it smells good now, right? Surprisingly, nope! Freshly made beer soap smells weird. Luckily as the soap cures this smell disappears, but it is so disappointing to expect a delicious, juicy scent and instead smell that.
Truth #2: It’s Speedy
One of the troubles with making beer soap is the speed required. The sugar in the beer speeds up the chemical process, which makes it harder to work with. The higher the sugar content in the beer, the greater chance it will accelerate. In fact, when we are working with fruit-heavy beers, we design our beer soaps to allow for a thicker soap batter.
Truth #3: It’s Unpredictable
When making beer soap, you have to be prepared for anything. Every beer is made differently and contains different ingredients, so they all react to the soap-making process differently. Some beers have very little impact on the beer soap, while others require a total change of plans mid-soaping. You’d think that adding a light beer would simply make the soap batter a little bit more beige, and adding a dark beer would turn it darker, correct? You’d be right for the most part…except some beers turn the batter bright orange, others turn an icky-brownish green (it looks as pretty as it smells…which isn’t good!). While adding beer to soap will accelerate the chemical processes occurring within the soap, some beers cause very minor issues, while others react poorly with the soaping process and turn clumpy almost immediately. When making craft beer soap, you can never know exactly how it is going to go.
Truth #4: It’s Dangerous
We have a great time making beer soap, but the truth is that it can be very dangerous, and proper precautions should always be used when working with chemicals. Not only is sodium hydroxide used in making beer soap, but the unpredictability adds an extra risk. The sugar in the beer causes higher temperatures when soaping, which can lead to soap volcanoes or heat tunnels (both of which are bad. They can easily ruin your soap, and involve super hot molten soap escaping from its containment which can be harmful to people as well as the area it happened in).
Ultimately, despite the stinky truth, we think craft beer soap is totally worth the smell. In our experience, when it comes to making beer soap, it is important to be prepared for the SUDS: Smell, Unpredictability, Danger, & Speed.