I learned early on that you have to plan ahead if you want to make a special or seasonal soap, to allow for it to fully cure before you want to use, sell or gift it. I am a huge fan of Oktoberfest and go to as many local beer festivals as I can, so at the end of summer I was already trying to decide which local beer I wanted to use to make my first beer soap for Oktoberfest. I’m fortunate to live in the pacific northwest, where we have dozens of local microbreweries I can easily bus or drive to within less than an hour drive from my house, and if I want to branch out and take a 3 hour trip to Portland I have dozens more to choose from!
My favorite beer of all time is Redhook ESB, a medium-bodied darkish beer made with roasted grains that has a smooth finish. It’s affordable, delicious, and goes with just about everything.
I read through several different beer recipes before I decided which one I wanted to try to mimic – I went with About.com’s candle and soap expert David Fisher’s recipe. For once, I had almost every oil the recipe called for, so this was a first for me! I didn’t have cocoa butter, but I have organic shea butter, so I just made a 1:1 swap for the butters. I ran the new recipe through a lye calculator and saw that making this change didn’t affect the liquid or lye amounts. I also omitted the essential oils and honey in his recipe, and of course had a different beer for my lye solution.
I’ve read a lot about how sugars can heat up your soap batter, so I thought I’d be safe mixing my oils and lye-beer solution at 100 degrees. Even at this low temperature, my mixture still heated up very quickly and started to set while I was still trying to blend it! I got it into the molds before it seized, but it was THICK. I didn’t insulate my molds, and still achieved a full gel.
This soap turned out so soft, I left it in the mold for 2 days before I unmolded it, and then I left it another full day before I sliced it. It was still very gummy when I sliced it, I had to rinse my cutter off every 2nd or 3rd bar to prevent sticky soap buildup from developing on the bars. Next time I make it, I’m going to stick my molds in the freezer for a few hours before I unmold them to ensure I have smooth, fingerprint-free sides, and I’m going to let it sit for at least 2 days before I slice it after that.
Despite my learning experiences, I still ended up with some great finished soap. It is smooth and hard after 4 weeks of curing, and it smells refreshing and beery! It makes big, soft bubbles and my skin is so smooth after I wash with it. I love this soap!
What are your favorite beers to use in your beer soap? Do you add additional fragrances, or let the smell of the beer shine through? Happy Oktoberfest!