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15 Alternative Uses For Beer


It’s been around since Hammurabi kicked back and relaxed with a cold one in Mesopotamia. And, although its varieties and availability have improved, it has held its place as the most popular beverage in the United States for decades. Whether you prefer heady and hoppy IPAs, smooth and drinkable lagers, or sweet citrusy wheat beers, it can be argued that it is the perfect beverage. But despite its popularity, its uses are evolving–it’s not just for drinking anymore. Watch out frat boys, middle-aged lawn-mowing dads, or tailgating sports enthusiasts—beer has a new target demographic. While the delicious, magical nectar has been known to boost moods and enliven parties for centuries over, it’s about time we give the bubbly beverage full credit. For all of its abilities when regarded strictly as a beverage, the carbonation and various ingredients of beer (such as hops and yeast) lend it the ability to solve all sorts of cooking, cleaning, and gardening needs.  Beer enthusiasts beware—this article is not about the assorted drinking purposes of this tasty liquid (for as we know, there are many) but instead the alternative uses for your leftover brew. Maybe your roommate left his stale Natty Ice in your fridge a few weeks too long, or perhaps you just need to get rid of the stash before your wife comes home and realizes that—despite what you promised—you did have poker night last night. Whatever the reason, read on— and revel in the wonder that is beer

15. Kill slugs

Slugs chewing holes in your beloved broccoli plants this summer? Don’t let your garden fall victim to the nibbling monsters. Fill a small container (like an empty tuna can or tiny platter) with some leftover beer. Any kind of brew will work, but keep in mind that although slugs love beer just like us, it’s not the alcohol that attracts them, but instead the yeast and sugars. Make sure the rims of the containers are around 1” above soil level—too low, and the concoction can kill beneficial insects; too high, and you may not reach your target audience. Unfortunately, beer traps will only kill slugs within a close vicinity, so many traps will be needed (roughly one every couple of feet) in order to effectively drown the entire garden population. Sacrificing a few bottles of stale brew for a bountiful harvest? Seems worth it. 

14. Fortify your locks

Catherine Zeta Jones made headlines in 2009 when she announced that she shunned traditional shampoos in favor of washing with a favorite brewski. Bringing new meaning to the phrase “shower beer”? Nevertheless, beauty experts give some credence to Jones’ ritual, arguing that the malt and hops in beer (along with vitamin B and sugars such as sucrose and maltose) provide proteins that can repair split ends and provide both bounce and luster. How do you take advantage of these magical properties? Simply open a can or bottle of beer and let it sit out on the counter overnight. Ideally, you want to wash with the stalest beer possible, as the presence of carbon dioxide in your hair will counteract with the water from the shower, making your hair brittle and tangled. Once you have a flat beer, jump in the shower, wash, rinse, and go! You can use it as a shampoo or conditioner, however—if you already have a favorite shampoo, stick with it, and don’t do a beer treatment every day. Not only does it become an expensive way to enhance your hair, but you also don’t want to start smelling like your freshman year of college.

13. Make frozen treats

Ah, the dog days of summer. Nothing beats a cold one on a hot July day, right? Wrong. Relive the best days of childhood and combine that with the perks of being a grown up with beer popsicles. To make, simply pour whatever kind of beer you prefer into a mold. If you don’t own a mold, you can use small baking trays, paper cups, or ice cube trays. Be sure to pour slowly to prevent foam, and feel free to add any extra ingredients (orange juice gives Blue Moon Belgian Wheat beer a delicious snap). Place a popsicle stick into the center of the brew, and freeze. The result? A decadent dessert that you don’t—and probably shouldn’t—have to share with the kids.

12. Eliminate fruit flies

This one is a bit counter-intuitive. You’ve probably experienced the nausea-inducing moment of waking up the morning after a backyard barbecue and finding small colonies of fruit flies swarming in upon your kitchen like they are storming the beaches of Normandy. Left out on the counter, too much fruit, soda pop, or, yes, beer, combined with the warm summer air equals fruit flies. However, it is possible to fight fire with fire in this case: kill them with beer. To create, fill a mason jar or other small container roughly halfway with any type of beer. Poke several small holes in the lid (you may need to use a drill or hammer and nail for this). Screw the cap on as tightly as possible, and empty the container every few days. Make sure you choose a leak-free container to prevent future families of the little buggers from invading your kitchen in the first place.

11. Soak in a beer bath

Rough day at work? Feel like cracking open a cold one and relaxing? A beer bath combines the relaxing comfort of warm, sudsy water with the stress-relieving qualities of Sam Adams. This tip might seem odd, but Europeans have been enjoying the myriad health benefits of beer-soaking for decades. Beer’s ingredients, including hops and a variety of polyphenols, help with a variety of skin conditions, including eczema, contact dermatitis, and acne. In addition, bathing in it can help prevent wrinkles and improve elasticity. Now, don’t get carried away with this one—bathing in beer is not like taking a dip in the Fountain of Youth. A bathtub full of brew does not guarantee eternal life. All you need for this experience is one bottle, combined with whichever bath time accoutrements you prefer (some like to use Epsom salts or essential oils to counteract the smell of the beer). Then slip on in with a good book and—yes—an ice-cold beverage.  

10. Make a beauty mask

The skin-fortifying benefits of beer cannot be understated. Beer has the power to rehydrate, cleanse, improve elasticity and prevent wrinkles, and maintain appropriate pH levels. When combined with common household ingredients (such as lime or lemon juice), it can also treat other skin issues such as dark spots. To take advantage of beer as a skin treatment, it is recommended that you create a face mask. There isn’t one hard and fast recipe to do so; rather, take a look at whichever leftover ingredients you have kicking around in your refrigerator, and play around with the formula that works best for your skin type. Some common ingredients (besides the obvious….the beer) include lemon, honey, olive oil, egg whites, coconut oil, strawberries, and lime. Just make sure you don’t overdo it on the beer—only a few teaspoons per mask are necessary. 

9. Remove scales from fish

Now, to be fair, this one doesn’t involve the beer itself, but instead bottle caps (although this tip can be combined with another tip we don’t have on this list—making a killer beer batter for frying up fish!). After a day on the lake, attach a few clean, sterilized beer caps to a piece of wood. Nailing or screwing them into the wood is recommended, so that they don’t fall off midway through the job. Any kind of wood will work, but make sure the board is long and narrow so that it can be used like a wand. Brush the homemade scaler over the fish, moving from tail to head, until all of the scales are removed. Since scales are messy and tend to stick wherever they land, it is recommended that you complete this job outside. Once your scaling is done, clean and fillet, then enjoy!

8. Loosen up rust

Where flat beers may have been more useful in the previous tips, for this concept a beer with lots of remaining carbonation will work best. Rust is caused by oxidation, and the carbonic acid in the beer will help to remove the rust and prevent against future bouts. This tip can be modified to suit your specific de-rusting needs. For rust that’s fixed to a location (such as a rusty attached bolt or rust marks on metal lawn chairs), just cover with a rag soaked in beer for up to an hour. You can also drop a loose rusted item in a cup of beer for a more holistic approach. Beer can also be used to season cast iron pans, which is just a fancy way of saying…prevent more rust! Pour some fresh beer (just enough to cover the bottom) into a warm pan and let it sit for ten minutes before wiping clean. The carbonation will help keep the pan spotless, and prevent future rust from rearing its ugly head.

7. Give a boost to dinnertime staples

Although beer is much beloved as a mealtime accompaniment, it can also be the main feature of your dinner party. Think outside the box on this one—it can be used in just about any recipe, from desserts to hors d’oeuvres. Use beer to add flavor to macaroni and cheese (just substitute for half of the milk required), or as a rising agent in beer bread.  Feel free to get creative—beer adds a mellow, nutty flavor to almost any food. Don’t worry about serving the concoctions to minors—virtually all alcohol is cooked off during the heating process.

6. Feign a green thumb

Humans (and slugs, as we’ve established) aren’t alone in their love for beer. Lawns love it too! Full of yeast and carbohydrates, it can help fortify soil and enhance the quality of your plants. Beer can be used to stimulate plant growth and rid your lawn of pesky bare or brown spots. Fermented sugars in the brew help to speed up the growth of most plants, provided that you select a beer that is relatively chemical and additive free for this project. It can also help rid your lawn of most fungi! A note of caution, however, since beer can attract slugs when left in open containers outside. Many gardeners recommend that instead of spraying your yard with beer, instead soak grass seeds in a can of beer before planting. That way, the seeds will reap the benefits of the brew without attracting any more pests. But if you do happen to spill a few during your backyard bonfire, your lawn will still probably thank you. 

5. Marinate meat

Again, a tip that is well-known by many. A porterhouse steak tastes great when soaked in Sam Adams, and beer can chicken has become a household name. But did you know that marinating meat in beer is actually good for you? The antioxidants in beer help reduce levels of cancer-causing compounds, which form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. The best way to reap the benefits of the beer and meat combo is to cook meats to the lowest safe and desirable temperatures (don’t eat raw pork, but don’t scorch your steak, either) and to utilize marinades with high amounts of herbs such as basil, cinnamon, oregano, and rosemary. Dark beers tend to be best in terms of health benefits—which is good news, since they tend to provide a flavorful punch when used as a marinade.

4. Remove that ugly stain

Proceed with caution on this one. Although beer’s fizzy qualities help make it a top-notch stain remover, too much can actually create an even worse mess (and smell!). Make sure you spot-test a small area before beginning your cleaning project, and if the beer works its magic, you’re good to go! Pour small amounts of beer onto the stain and blot with a cloth until the stain disappears. You can also combine small quantities of beer with water and dish detergent for optimal cleaning power. And one need-to-know disclaimer? It usually doesn’t work on stains caused by beer.

3. Get rid of pests

Unfortunately, this tip does not apply to getting rid of unwanted relatives or door-to-door salesmen. However, if you find yourself plagued by mice, wasps, cockroaches, or other small (non-human) entities, you’re in luck. The theory of indoor beer pest-control is similar to that of eliminating garden slugs. Rodents and bugs are attracted to the sugary-sweet smell of beer, and will come running just as quickly as your freeloading neighbor when you crack open a cold one. For mice, pour roughly an inch of brew into a pail, along with a small DIY ramp (a piece of wood or cardboard should do the trick). Make sure it’s not too steep—you want to make sure the mice can get in. Ultimately, they should fall into the pail and drown (or perhaps become too inebriated to crawl back out?) For other pests (such as cockroaches), place either a small, low-rising container of beer on the floor, or soak a piece of bread in a jar. Be sure to place Vaseline or some other oily lubricant around the mouth of the jar, so the bugs can’t crawl back out.

2. Steam seafood

We already know how delicious beer is on it’s own—why not use it to amp up Lenten Fridays? It can be used in conjunction with equal parts water when steaming clams, mussels or scallops. It helps to tenderize and loosen shells of mollusks so that they crack easily when heated. Light beers tend to work best for cooking most types of fish or seafood, but play around! Cooking with beer in any context is very much subject to the tastes of the chef. If you enjoy the taste of a brewski out of the can, chances are you can find a place for it in a recipe that you will love just as much.

1. Make jewelry, pots, and wood furniture sparkle and shine

Last but not least, a tip for the clean-freak in all of us. Beer can be used to clean anything from your grandma’s gold necklace to your favorite oak coffee table. For polishing jewelry, the method is simple. Place your gold jewelry in a dish of brew and let it soak overnight, just as you would with an expensive commercial cleaner. Remove, rinse, and polish with a dry cloth. A similar technique can be applied to brass pots and pans. Lightly rub beer onto dull spots with a rag, let it sit, then dry. Beer’s acidity helps provide a gorgeous shine and luster to most metals. Although you can use beer as a polisher on most wood surfaces, it is not recommended that you try this last tip on light woods, or unvarnished surfaces, as it can stain. As with all stain removers or polishers, make sure you test this on a small, inconspicuous area before broad application! Despite the precautions, beer works well as a polish for dark woods such as oak, especially when combined with small measures of sugar and beeswax to round out the mixture. Dip a rag in the brew, and lightly polish your surfaces until you have achieved the desired glow. Although the best use for beer is, by far, drinking it on a hot summer day, hopefully the tips above will help you make the most of your stale beer blues.

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