Beer. It refreshes and relaxes, it fuels sociability and cools the burn of spicy food. It is the most-widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, and the third most common beverage overall. It is the oldest alcoholic beverage produced–and in fact, the oldest known code of laws (the Code of Hammurabi ca 1750 B.C.) called for the death penalty for drinking-house proprietors found guilty of watering down their beer. (Those Babylonians took their suds seriously.)
But aside from the numero uno use for beer–drinking! woohoo!–it is one of the most over-looked components of many a DIY solution to common household conundrums. Here are nine alternative ways to put your brew to good use:
1. Bring on the Butterflies
Although in my perfect world butterflies live on nothing less magical than flower nectar, ambrosia, and an occasional marshmallow, the truth is that many butterflies feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, carrion, urine, and other not-so-pretty, non-nectar sources of nutrients. You can allow fruit from your fruit trees to decay on the ground, leave your pet’s droppings where they drop, or place a bit of raw meat or fish in a discreet part of your garden. Sweet! Or you can use beer to make this awesome butterfly bait to get some flutter-action in your garden
1 pound sugar
1 or 2 cans stale beer
3 mashed overripe banana
1 cup of molasses or syrup
1 cup of fruit juice
1 shot of rum
Mix all ingredients well and splash on trees, fence posts, rocks, or stumps–or soak a sponge in the mixture and hang from a tree-limb. For other ways to invite in the butterflies, try growing some of these plants.
2. Boost Your Bounce
Limp, lifeless hair bringing you down? Drink a beer and maybe you won’t really care, or better yet, use a beer rinse to restore bounce and body. The vitamin B and natural sugars in beer add body and shine, while acting as a natural setting lotion that increases resilience, vitality, and hold. Pour one cup of beer into a glass and allow it to go flat and warm. Shampoo and rinse hair as usual. Pour the flat warm beer on your hair and work it through. Rinse thoroughly with cool water. For extra shine, try this formula.
3. Say Sayonara to Slugs and Snails
I have a hard time snuffing out any creatures in the garden, but truth be told, slugs and snails can wreak all too much havoc on the green growing things. Rather than harsh chemicals or the old sizzle-with-salt method, beer may be the kinder option. Bury a clean container (like an empty juice carton cut length-wise in half) in the area where you’ve seen the pests, so that the the top is about one-half inch higher than ground level, and pour in leftover beer. Slugs and snails will be drawn to it, fall in, and drown. Not pretty, I know, but neither are holes in your spinach. For some non-lethal methods, see this post.
4. Conquer Stubborn Stains
Getting coffee or tea stains out of your rug may seem as feasible as getting water out of a rock, but beer can be a miracle worker in this field. Color test a small non-visible area first and allow to dry. If all looks well, then time to tackle the stain: douse it in beer, blot, repeat. For other types of carpet stains, try some of these tricks.
5. Put Out a Fire
Who needs 9-1-1 when you have beer? Kidding. Although certainly not as effective as a real fire extinguisher, a can or bottle of beer can be used in some cases. Because of the water content and pressure, you can shake a can or bottle and unleash the liquid on the fire. This is not for grease fires or electrical fires, really only for tiny paper fires or grill flare-ups–I’ve also heard of people who carry an emergency can in their car in case of engine fire.
6. Marinate Meat and Mushrooms
Beer is slightly acidic and works as a great on-hand tenderizer that isn’t as acidic in flavor as wine or vinegar based marinades. Use a hearty-flavored beer like a stout or barley wine, poke a few holes in the meat or mushrooms, add any other herbs or spices, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. And tempted as you might be: do not drink the marinade.
7. Polish Pots
In the past, dregs of beer from spent kegs was collected and used to polish the copper vats in breweries. Because of beer’s subtle acidity, it can help boost shine without staining the metal like a higher-acidity liquid would. Try an inconspicuous test spot first–dampen a soft towel with beer, and buff. I also love some of Annie’s formulas for metal polishing.
8. Build a Beer Bottle Bungalow
Seriously? Many handmade houses employ the copious use of empty beer cans and bottles in their walls, like the amazing one pictured here, built by Tito Ingenieri in Quilmes, Argentina. He used 6 million beer bottles, can you imagine? All that newly-produced structural material foregone, all those bottles put to fabulous reuse. So maybe you don’t have 6 million bottles to recycle, or, a house to build? This method can be translated to retaining walls, patio walls, or perhaps a beer-bottle dog house.
9. Trap Fruit Flies
They say you can catch more flies with honey? Maybe they haven’t tried beer. Anyone with an indoor compost bin or worm farm had probably experienced a plague of fruit flies at some point. But guess what, not only do fruit flies dig fermenting organic matter, they love them some beer. Try this: put some beer in a cup; cut the corner off of a sandwich bag and place the cut corner in the cup; folding the rest around the cup and securing with a rubber band. Place the cup in the bin and say good bye to little flying guys. For irksome houseflies, learn how to make an all-natural pest strip here.
So what am I missing? Do you have any clever tips for using old beer? Share in the comments…