Introduction: 9 Unusual Uses for Beer

Picture of 9 Unusual Uses for Beer

Beer. You can do more than just drink it. Trap and kill pests. Marinate meat. Shampoo your hair. Prevent cancer. Build things from the cans and bottles and kegs it's packaged in.

Beer's been around since a handful of Sumerians tried to make their grain more palatable by soaking it in water and then forgetting all about it. Fermentation set in, and they stumbled upon a deliciously inebriating mash. The effect was so good the Sumerians even had a hymn to Ninkasi, beer goddess, that included the recipe. You may recall one of the racier scenes in The Epic of Gilgamesh where Enkidu is civilized by a combination of the solicitation of a prostitute and the consumption of bread and beer. Beer and civilization go hand in hand.

More recently, beer's what made early intercontinental travel possible because regular old water was often contaminated after long periods of storage. Beer, a much waterier version than what we consume today, was part of the standard rations for folks making the transatlantic crossing. In fact, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth largely because they were just about out of beer. It has fans including Plato, Wilhelm II, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, and the inestimable Homer Simpson.

Now a word of warning. The Internet is frothing with myths about the amazing cure-all powers of beer: fertilize your grass, insulate your walls, soothe a tummy ache, and loosen rusty bolts. These are half-true at best. Give them a try, but please be judicious with your beer. The most usual use is often the best one, so drink it before wasting it on your nuts.

Step 1: Marinate Meat (and Possibly Prevent Cancer)

Picture of Marinate Meat (and Possibly Prevent Cancer)

Beer makes an excellent marinade. The acid and flavoring add a wonderful flavor to the surface of meats and veggies.

Alcohol, however, denatures protein molecules and chemically "cooks" the outside of the meat. It doesn't penetrate far, so it can make what would otherwise be a perfect steak into a mushy-surfaced mess that feels like someone prechewed your steak for you. Alcohol marinades are a no-no.

Don't believe me? How about somebody with a pair of 3-star restaurants? Take it away, Thomas Keller:

"If you're marinating anything with alcohol, cook the alcohol off first. Alcohol doesn't tenderize; cooking tenderizes. Alcohol in a marinade in effect cooks the exterior of the meat, preventing the meat from fully absorbing the flavors in the marinade. Raw alcohol itself doesn't do anything good to meat. So put your wine or spirit in a pan, add your aromatics, cook off the alcohol, let it cool, and then pour it over your meat. This way you have the richness of the fruit of the wine or Cognac or whatever you're using, but you don't have the chemical reaction of 'burning' the meat with alcohol or it's harsh raw flavor." (From the French Laundry Cookbook via

It helps to think of marinades as a sauce. If you want some controlled protein denaturing, check out Scoochmaroo's brining Instructable. Marinades are exterior flavor, no matter what the dude at your 4th of July BBQ claims when he pours a brewski into a plastic bag full of dead animal parts and Old Bay to "tenderize" the meat.

Bonus Marinade Material:

There is a slight chance that marinating meats with beer can mitigate some of the cancer risk that comes with two common meat preparation methods: grilling and frying.

Heating meat to high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and the juicy drips that burn and smoke stick to the meat surface as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In laboratory experiments, HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic. For those of you who are not familiar with Professor Charles Xavier's work, mutagenic means that it fundamentally changes DNA. And you're much more likely to catch a bad case of cancer than get superhuman powers from these mutations. (Read more about the risks at

But that's where beer comes in. Intoxicating, antioxidant beer. According to the "Inhibitory Effect of Antioxidant-Rich Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines in Pan-Fried Beef" study performed by Isabel Ferreira and colleagues at the University of Porto in Portugal, an antioxidant-rich marinade can reduce the formation of HCAs in meat, using red wine, beer or green tea marinades.

This was the first time a study had evaluated the effect of a beer marinade, and the results are a good start. For shorter periods of marinade, beer proved to be more efficient in reducing HCAs. Will it mitigate your cancer risk? A little. Did they burn off the alcohol? Someone with access to the full-text article should tell us in the comments.

Step 2: Trap and Kill Slugs

Picture of Trap and Kill Slugs

Slugs are incredibly destructive pests. They'll devour leaves, munch on unripe fruit, leave slime trails that contaminate food, and lay eggs that will turn into root-destroying baby slugs who will grow up before the growing season ends and start an entirely new generation of garden-destroyers. Pretty darn destructive for what is essentially a ball of mucous with a mouth.

Know your enemy:

  • slugs love high-moisture environments
  • slugs are attracted to rotting and fermenting plant material
  • slugs feed at night (or whenever the sun won't dry them out)
  • slugs hide in cracks in the soil or under garden debris

First of all, the best way to control slugs from the outset is to make your garden a poor slug habitat. Use drip lines instead of sprinklers, avoid organic mulches, and water your plants in the morning to give the moisture time to evaporate before the slugs begin feeding at night.

If it's too late and your garden is infested with slugs, you can use beer to create a slug trap.

Here's how:

Place a shallow dish filled with beer in your garden. Use something like a yogurt lid, or bury a jar with the lip at or just above ground level.

They'll be attracted by the fermented yeast, slime their way into the dish, then drown in the beer.

Bonus tip for catching lots of slugs:

Put a piece of wet newspaper (or a board, melon rind, anything that will maintain a moist environment) in your garden overnight. Slugs will really enjoy the damp environment. The next morning, pull up the newspaper and check for slugs. Chances are good that many will have congregated in the temporary home you created for them. What you do with them at that point is up to you. Kill them, salt them, toss them into a neighbor's garden, fake a sneeze and throw them at your children, whatever.

Bonus bonus tip:

If you don't have children or pets who might be inclined to eat it, use metaldehyde or iron phosphate. It is poisonous, so don't put it on your tomatoes. But if your garden is decorative and inedible, they're the pesticides of choice to eliminate slugs.

For lots and lots of slug information, go check out Colorado State University's Slug info page.

Step 3: Beer Conditioner & Foot Soak

Picture of Beer Conditioner & Foot Soak

Beer shampoo. Beer lotion. Beer soap. Beer masks. There are a ton of body care products based on beer. But it's not beer itself that makes the difference. Rather, it is the brewer's yeast that contains all the antioxidants and riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and vitamin B12 that benefit your hair and skin. The hops have an astringent effect, and the acidity can tighten up cuticles to give your hair some extra shine.

Though marinating your steaks with beer is not advised due to its alcohol content, marinating your body with beer is fine. Your skin is a bit better-protected than your muscles (kind of the point, as I understand it), and the alcohol content of the beer isn't high enough to noticeably dry out your skin.

Here's the real problem: you've really got to soak in the stuff to get any of these benefits. Beer on its own is pretty runny (it's a liquid!), but adding some kind of oil and a thickener should keep the suds on your head long enough to benefit from its beautifying properties.

For hair:

1 egg white
1 cup beer
1 tsp. coconut oil

Whisk the yolk to a froth, add the oil and whisk some more, then mix in the beer until you've got a smooth mixture. Apply to hair and scalp, wait 2-5 minutes, and then rinse it out.

Beer pedicure:

Fill a basin with warm water up to your ankles, then add a half bottle of your favorite beer and stir. Soak your feet for about 10 to 15 minutes. When you remove your feet from the mixture, towel off and lotion up. Then clip, snip, file, and paint.

Step 4: Substitute Beer for Water When Preparing Rice

Picture of Substitute Beer for Water When Preparing Rice

Beers, particularly inexpensive American lagers, make for an interesting water substitute when preparing steamed dishes. The beer provides a nutty flavor without being boozy, and you can experiment with anything that isn't too hoppy to modify your rice flavor a bit.

For more information about rice preparation than you ever thought you'd need, check out this project by AttilaTheHungry.

Step 5: Convert Beer Cans to Aluminum Shingles

Picture of Convert Beer Cans to Aluminum Shingles

This might not be the most cost-effective means of shingling a roof, but it sure worked for robbtoberfest's chicken coop.

With some common household tools to turn the cylinders into flat shapes and to make a jig to form the aluminum sheets into shingles, you too can put shingles on a roof.

Step 6: Beer Can Chicken

Picture of Beer Can Chicken

A classic macho chicken dish that may not actually confer many culinary advantages, here's a recipe for preparing roast chicken with a beer inside.

The idea is that the beer evaporates into the meat, making the chicken moist and tender perhaps with a beery note to the flavor. What the folks at Amazing Ribs discovered, however, was that neither was true. The exterior heat doesn't penetrate to the center to the point that the beer gets vaporized, and the inks on the outside of the can aren't necessarily food-safe.

That said, it looks really cool and probably won't kill you.

Step 7: Convert Beer Can to Bowl or Ashtray

Picture of Convert Beer Can to Bowl or Ashtray

Turn a beer can into a work of art with some masking tape, scissors, and a bit of free time. (Bandaids or gloves might be helpful, too.)

Cut along the sides of the can to create a series of strips of aluminum. Then bend each piece down and across its neighbor to create a starburst basket pattern that's perfect for ashes.

Step 8: Make a Can Stove

Picture of Make a Can Stove

A classic from 2006, this project was project of the month way back in the day.

With 2 empty beer cans (and one full one), a razor blade, a ruler, and a book, you can make a compact portable alcohol stove.

When you're schlepping your bindle across the rails, this convenient little number will help you warm up a can of beans (depending on your fuel source.)

Step 9: Make a Dixie Cup Dispenser

Picture of Make a Dixie Cup Dispenser

Dixie cups (or disposable paper cups) were once the solution for kids getting sick from drinking from a communal dish with a tin dipper.

Store yours in fratboy style with a converted tallboy. Just cut off the top, polish it up, and add dabs of silicone to the interior of the opening to catch each cup just enough so they emerge individually.

Check out the patent photo and story of their invention here.


Ethan1023 (author)2016-05-17

Please beer careful.

RichardP69 (author)2016-03-11

DO NOT DO THIS! Beer cans are currently lined with BPA. THe industry is scrambling to find a safe alternative. Until then the last thing you want to do is cook with BPA.

jeanniel1 (author)2016-01-06

Beer instead of water for cooking rice! I'm going to try that!

HueleSnaiL (author)jeanniel12016-01-13

I've been doing that for a while, but always use a Pilsner Lager or similar light beer with low bitterness.

Dwargh (author)jeanniel12016-01-06

me either - great idea!

M. A.G (author)2015-12-24

Everything looks cool except that is not the way to make an alcohol stove. Not even close

The Stranger (author)M. A.G2015-12-24

That is the start and end to it. There was a bunch left out of the stove part. I used that at my army barracks because of lacked fixtures. It is a great use, just really sparse.

M. A.G (author)The Stranger2015-12-28

No I saw the finished product and it was full of holes. You only need to put one hole in it and its near the top on the side for a vent. All those holes and that big yellow flame? No! Bad. Inefficient.

The Stranger (author)M. A.G2015-12-29

Ah I see what you meant. I didn't use as many vent holes either, hadn't noticed how many they had. I mean I had mine set to burn long enough to cook lamb and beef steaks.

DavidB51 (author)2015-12-26


allen.benge (author)2015-12-24

In addition to slugs, a saucer of beer is very effective against bees and wasps. They love the scent and taste, I guess, and it doesn't take too long and they cannot take off again. Our SCA group has an annual event, and a few saucers of beer is all it takes to keep the buzzy beasties at bay.

Random_Canadian (author)2015-12-24

Thanks for this. I have one more for you that might be of interest:

blopez (author)2015-12-24

Melt 1 lb of butter in one bottle of beer, use to baste the Christmas turkey. My husband's recipe that we've done for years. Makes for terrific gravy and a beautiful crisp skin.

kblanchard6 (author)2015-12-24

You had me @ Cures Cancer!

Knoblauch (author)2015-12-24

And here comes the tenth use, the "Sperrtopf" antenna... Take a look down under the link, please:

Knoblauch (author)Knoblauch2015-12-24

Using beer to get the can empty... Cheers!

ReverendN (author)2015-12-24

I can't get past drinking it

Andsetinn (author)2014-11-09

In this case the good folks at Amazing Ribs are not doing their testing under right conditions. :) The beer-can-chicken was invented to be cooked on a bbq-grill with a closed lid, where all the heat comes from below the chicken, directly heating the can causing the beer to evaporate. If cooked properly the beer can should be half (full or empty) when grilling starts but it should be empty when grilling has finished.

As previously stated this way of cooking chicken was invented (in a pure ingenious red neck way) for bbq-grills so no part of the chicken was touching the grill and getting burned. The beer can was left half (filled or emptied) of beer for stability, the added moisture and taste was a bonus.

footfixer (author)Andsetinn2014-11-09

I've often wondered about the beer-can chicken. Don't all cans have a thin plastic coating to prevent the aluminum taste? Does this plastic liner melt, burn, off-gas during the cooking process?? Anyone have any thoughts on this?

scottit (author)footfixer2015-12-24

The cans will tell you on the label if they are lined or not. It's mostly the Coors family of beers that uses the plastic "freshness" liners.

Andsetinn (author)footfixer2014-11-09

Water evaporates around 100 degrees Celsius. Evaporating beer will cool down the can. While there is still beer in the can it should not get hot enough for any coating to burn. Plastic usually melts around 200 degrees Celsius, burns at higher temps and the coating is thin so in my opinion there should not be any noticeable "off-gas". I've never noticed any weird taste from beer can chicken.

ccastro12 (author)Andsetinn2014-11-09

Also, some folks put hot coals on top of the bucket for added heat. Here in Mexico the sell special buckets for that, they have a lid on the bottom (or top?) for the solely purpose of adding hot coals. Here is a picture of them in action:

Also, here in Mexico the are called Raped Chicken (Pollos Violados).

Lorenzojose (author)ccastro122014-11-10

what are those cans called? I use a cast iron Dutch oven for car camping, but it's way too heavy to lug if I'm backpacking. The ones you show might be great for stews and bread also. I'd like to try one.

ccastro12 (author)Lorenzojose2014-11-11

I have no idea if they have a special name, but they are basically a steel bucket with a lid attached to the base for the coals to sit. Sorry if it didn't solve your doubt. I asked arround and everyone kept telling me they were called "Bucket for raped chicken" (Cubeta/Tina para pollos violados).

Lorenzojose (author)ccastro122014-11-11

thanks. I found them here:

Tina para pollo violado worked

Now I get to find out if NAFTA works on the web.

LDM1 (author)2015-12-24

On the beer can chicken thing, not only may the print from the exterior of the can come off but there is a plastic coating inside that may impart some chemicals from from the heat. I found a glass jar that fits nicely in the beer can holder. All in all I don't see much difference in beer can chicken and regular roasted chicken. For moist chicken every time, season your bird up and plop it in a crockpot on high for about 4 hrs, no water or broth needed. I use a couple of small glass ashtrays on the bottom to keep the bird up out of the schmaltz or you can make a ring of aluminum foil too. There will be a 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of schmaltz in the bottom of a 6qt crockpot. Gooooood finger lickin' chickn'!

scottit (author)LDM12015-12-24

Not all cans have the plastic liner. I think it's only the Coors family of beers that uses a liner. Also, there are many products out there that are stainless, all-in-one beer can-style cooking that includes a base that prevents many of the flare-ups. AND, keeps the bird from tipping over.

LDM1 (author)LDM12015-12-24

In addition to my previous post, the only drawback to crockpot chicken is the skin won't crisp up so you can slide that lil' chick in a 375* oven for ten or fifteen minutes to give that baby a tan.

FlorinJ (author)2015-12-24

Before even reading this: there's one single appropriate use for beer. Everything else is waste. Maybe 9 unusual ways to waste beer ...

But now that you reminded me I'll go put a beer to good use ...

Pa1963 (author)2015-12-24

I've never tried this, but supposedly if you pour a can of beer in your mulch container it will jump start the breakdown of organic material.

stargirlthepixie (author)2015-12-24

I bet the Dixie cup one could be used for plastic grocery bags as well.

ronjohnstone (author)2015-12-24

If you make bread, simply use beer instead of water when you prepare the dough. Old or flat beer will be just fine to use. Here is a very easy recipe:

MilenkoK1 (author)2015-12-24

Mmmmmm, HCAs with nice PAHs in mutagenic DNA sauce!!! Extra!!!

ThomF3 (author)2015-12-24

Plus, it makes you stouthearted.

johnwayne.watson.7 (author)2015-12-24

I always prefer to internalize my wine/beer/alcohol merinades first and then let the gently seared meat come into contact with that later. I find this makes the cook and guests much happier at mealtime!

alba100 (author)2014-11-10

If you make your own beer, the residue after you bottle it( the lees)

if an extremely effective attractor of flies.

Dilute the sediment with a similar amount of water, and use as bait in fly traps round your yard. The flies love it and you will attract '00's to the trap, where they perish. Whether it is the yeast residue, or perhaps CO2 given off by the residue, I don't know, I only know it works.. I have been using it for years.

nwonharp (author)alba1002015-09-28

What you have there ( the lees ) is basically " vegemite "

you may need to add other ingredients , see the wiki .

People like to eat it on toast ( mainly Aussies )

Cheers , take care , and have a good day !!.....73

wilgubeast (author)alba1002014-11-10

Nice! Pro membershipped!

holymoses (author)2015-07-29

This Anal-Chicken-Thing is not healthy...

...not for the chicken ... but especially not for the consumer.

The Painting ...!

meteormurat (author)2014-11-21

super idea thank you!

spark master (author)2014-11-19

Hi great compendium

Beer is good for the lawn go to library and read any Jerry Bakers Book on lawn Care, his suggestions work well.

For Alcohol stoves (I have made a few), go to < zenstoves. net > it is the best place, a veritable 1 stop shop for alky related info as well as backer packer stoves.

In "The Mother Earth News" (on line in archives, or as back issues), they SHOW you how to make the tiles for a roof as well use them in concrete walls (or uselog s). They also had an issue where people used the cans to make solar heat collectors Now you can buy welding rods for aluminum and it might be very easy, but it there. Check them out.

I will need to try the beer rice thing!

zowie nice compendium

SophiesFoodieFiles (author)2014-11-13

All really good ides with beer or with beer cans! :) Thanks!

abellefeuille (author)2014-11-12

your recipe calls for an egg white, then the instructions say Whisk the yolk to a froth.

Should we use the yolk the white or the whole egg.

wilgubeast (author)abellefeuille2014-11-12

Go ahead and use the whole egg. The cardiovascular risks of cholesterol absorbed through the head are minimal.

BigAndRed (author)2014-11-11

Made these back in '91 when I was backpacking around Australia. didnt have fancy LED lights back then so had to make do with old tech.

candle holder, reflector and wind deflector. made by slicing 'barn doors' on the side of a beer can, the ring pull can be used to hang up.

wilgubeast (author)BigAndRed2014-11-11

How festive. You're just a touch too late for the White House 3D printed ornament challenge, which is okay. These would have been better for the prior administration anyway.


stringstretcher (author)2014-11-09

beer poured onto the heated rocks in a sauna exudes a delicious aroma of fresh-baked bread. It has an amazing impact on the party. Fresh bread odora have documented therapeutic effects on people, here are some...

That's technically a double-use, but I'm only giving you one pro membership. Thanks!

Thank you! Glad to contribute. Fun instructable, too!

StuNutt (author)2014-11-10

Make a highly compact short-wave antenna!

The somewhat controversial "EH" antenna is an ideal candidate for recycling beer cans. The picture shows my prototype for a 20-meter ham radio band version, but without the coupling/matching coil as that's being redesigned in light of new developments

The "EH" is a new concept in antenna design and, as such, is many "experts" say it cannot work, however mine did - and worked very well!

For more detail, Google "EH Antenna" "Ted Hart".

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an English teacher and former Instructables staff member.
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