Ten Wonderful Uses for Beer (Besides Drinking It)
So perhaps you were adventurous and picked up a six-pack of that esoteric craft brew with the appealing label, only to find you can't stomach the taste. Maybe you bought a seasonal selection and half the beers are so hoppy you're unhappy. Don't pour it out or give it to that annoying neighbor who starts his leaf blower every Sunday morning at five. There are many other uses for beer you don't wish to drink. These are only a few of them.
Beer doesn't just go over well at the baseball games, it also makes a light, crispy, delicious batter for a variety of fried foods. It is also popular for its ease of cooking: you probably have the ingredients on hand already for a perfect beer batter. Beer's foamy, bubbly nature adds bubbles to the batter, resulting in that trademark lightness. Beer-batter fish is arguably the best fried fish you can find, but you can use beer-batter for several other dishes as well. I've used it for zucchini, onion rings, eggplant, chicken and jalapeño poppers as well. If you like fish tacos, you'll love beer-batter fish tacos!˜
Foam for Your Hair
If you're as long in the tooth as I am, you might recall the beer-shampoo craze of the 1970s. It seemed so daring, then, to consider washing your hair with beer. One particular brand, Body on Tap, dominated. The premise was that beer shampoos and conditioners not only gave you clean hair, but that beer was a superior hair-thickening/volumizing ingredient and that it added luster as well. Guess what? It's true. The grain-based ingredients in beer contain proteins, vitamins and minerals that apparently coat the hair shaft and promote glossy, healthy hair.
You can make your own beer hair products, or you can buy a variety of pre-made products. Although some sources insist that you cannot just pour a pint on your head, that's exactly what I do. I shampoo and rinse, then pour a mug of lukewarm beer on my hair and leave it for a couple of minutes. I follow with a conditioner, as some experts claim that the alcohol can strip the oils—and I am a believer that it makes my hair shinier.
Other beer-rinse pundits recommend boiling the beer to remove alcohol (I don't, but I mention it for your consideration); letting it go flat (I'm not sure why, but if you want to avoid being a bubble-head, maybe it's worthy advice); or mixing the beer with various components. My suggestion? Try the beer-dump rinse method first. Complicate it from there if you don't like the results.
Beer brats, anyone? Ubiquitous at Super Bowl parties, beer brats can be served as an entrée, too. You can turn sausages or even good ol' hot dogs into beer brats by boiling or sautéing in an oil and beer mixture. My method is simple: pour the beer into the frying pan with some coconut oil, sauté, and enjoy.
Even Garden Slugs Can't Resist Beer
My Dad loved a cold beer on a hot day. He wouldn't have thought of wasting any—even beer that had gone flat had a purpose. As the capable gardener he was, he knew how to rid the garden of slugs and snails by setting a low dish of stale beer out overnight. You have to give slugs some credit for their taste: they can't resist beer, either. They crawl into the dish, drink themselves silly, and drown in it.
Be careful if you use this garden trick. Other animals enjoy beer, too. Somehow we never suspected that my foxhound, Bonnie, would drink the beer Dad had left out for the snails. Bonnie got a bit tipsy, but she was lucky: alcohol of any sort can easily be fatal to dogs. They're much more sensitive to it than we are. Please keep it out of reach of pets and children!
Chicken of the Beer
Beer and grilling goes together like a horse and carriage . . . oh, wait, that's a different song. Still, there is an uncanny partnership between a guy, a grill, and a beer. Consider beer-can chicken. It's also known as "beer butt chicken" in honor of the special location of the beer can. It's all that makes grilling great: it has a gimmick, a great flavor, and it's just a little bit redneck.
There are plenty of recipes available for your own beer-can chicken. The premise is this: you put a half-finished can of beer inside the whole chicken's nether parts, so that is forms a pedestal of sorts with the chicken perching strangely on the can, and as you're cooking it (either on the grill or the oven) the beer continues to moisturize the chicken from within. That half-can of beer also ensures an even cooking temperature throughout the meat.
Whiskey for My Men, Beer for My Complexion
Beer is fermented using brewer's yeast—and most of us are familiar with the health benefits of consuming brewer's yeast as a supplement, or adding it to the diets of our dogs and horses. High in B vitamins, this same yeast in beer, when applied topically, can help combat acne as well as evening out skin texture. It can also reduce the sebum (oil) produced, so those of you who suffer from oily skin, as I do, might benefit from beer's astringent effect. The slightly acidic beer is also said to maintain the appropriate pH balance of the skin. The hops in beer are considered a medicinal herb (humulus lupulus) that are known to have antibacterial properties as well as having calmative (sedative) effects.
You can now buy complexion products that contain beer, from artisan soap to lip balm, or you can make your own beer mask with simple recipes easily found on the internet. You likely already have all the ingredients you need to make your own. My favorite beer + facial mask is about the easiest you can make: use dry, powdered bentonite green clay as your base, and use beer instead of water to make a thick paste. The beer shouldn't be completely flat for this one. Let the paste dry on your skin until it cracks (the mask, not your skin), and then gently rinse off with warm water. Your face will tingle and glow with clean health. You can also use this on irritated skin, whether from sunburn, exposure to irritants or allergens, or abrasion. (Bentonite green clay is the "healing clay" that promotes wound healing.)
Give Us This Day Our Daily Beer Bread
Beer bread is ridiculously easy to make, even if you have no bread-making experience. It only makes sense: beer contains yeast. Bread contains yeast. Use beer to make your dough, and the yeast is already included. As some recipes will remind you, make sure you sift your flour or you will get a loaf that is too hard and dense.
Remember, brewer's yeast is a superfood. It is high in protein, iron, zinc, selenium, and the B vitamins. Beer bread is filling and nutritious.
Beer Fuels Great Country Music
What would country music be without beer? From Hank Williams Sr. with the classic "There's a Tear in my Beer," to Toby Keith and Willie Nelson's "Beer For My Horses," beer has a long, worthy history as a muse to the musicians. Tom T. Hall's "I Like Beer," is one of the cheeriest of beer songs, while what baby boomer hasn't sung "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," while on the great American roadtrip as a child? In more recent decades, Neal McCoy's rendition of "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On," celebrates the perfect cocktail of beer-drinking men and the alcoholic equivalent of rose-colored glasses, while Billy Currington reminds his fans that God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy—and that he's pretty good at drinking beer. Heck, beer is the best thing that ever happened to some lyricists.
Catch More Flies With Beer Than With Honey
If you are plagued with fruit flies at certain times of year as I am, you'll find it handy to know that you can trap the little devils as easily with beer traps as with the traditional apple cider vinegar traps. I use a small plastic juice bottle, stab holes on the upper half with an ice pick or awl, and fill the bottom with beer. The flies can easily get in through the holes but because the plastic is punched inward, it forms a funnel of sorts that the flies (not being Mensa members) can't escape. They will soon drown in the beer. Set your bottle-trap anywhere the fruit flies congregate and empty it and rinse as necessary. If the flies don't find it right away, shake it every few days to refresh the odor that attracts them. Hey, at least they die happy.
Learn Beer Horseshoes
As a fiction writer, I make a lot of stuff up, but I'm not making this up: after the beer has been drunk or even used in the kitchen, garden, or bathroom, some folks use the leftover beer cans (or bottles) to play beer horseshoes (also known as Polish horseshoes). Played similarly to traditional horseshoes, but relying on PVC pipes for the stakes and a frisbee as the projectile, the can or bottle is placed over the top part of the pole. The goal is to either strike the can or to knock it off the pole; different point allocations are given for strikes versus knock-downs.
Since this is not an Olympic-sanctioned sport, there won't be much outcry if you make up your own rules—if you know horseshoe rules, you'll have no problem applying them to beer horseshoes. For beer horseshoe aficionados, "official" rules are available online. Play to 21 points.
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© 2014 Marcy J. Miller