Thursday, May 21, 2015

DYI Beer Bottle Centerpieces (Vases and Candle Holders)


Just because you have a lot of beer bottles sitting around your house, doesn't mean you have a drinking problem, it means you appreciate good beer!  But I have to admit that when I take out the recycling, the neighbors know it's the Swihart family from the beautiful noise our beer bottles make when they hit the bin!  And, let me tell you, it's loud! So I thought it would be a great idea to highlight 2  ways to up-cycle beer bottles, so that we don't  disturb the neighbors!!!


1) Take that bouquet of flowers sweet hubby brought home and distribute it,in beer bottles.  Tie the beer bottles up in raffia, lace, or ribbon and voila, a center piece.  Most importantly you've saved yourself about a 6 pack worth of recycling worries.

2) Cut the bottom of a beer bottle off and use the tops as candle holders.  (Tutorial on cutting beer bottles coming soon!)  Again add the fluff and you're set!

Now you can tell your friends and family that you have multiple reasons for drinking as much beer as you do... it's not only for the appreciation of a great homebrew or craft beer, but it's a lifestyle.  You can now decorate with beer!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adventures in Liquid Soap: My Clear Liquid Soap Clouded

I made some pretty rad liquid soap the other day!!!  It came out clear!  I loved the thickness of it.  Not to thick, and not to watery.  It was perfect (according to me!) But a couple days later I noticed clouding!  A ghost-like appearance formed (like a whisp...think of the Disney movie BRAVE, but white, not blue) and eventually the whole jar clouded.  NOOOOOOO! I have sequestered the soap (a recommendation not only from Fallor's Book, but I joined a liquid soapmakers group on Facebook and that was a recommendation as well. ) And as I waited, I continued to consult with the Facebook group. (By the way, it never cleared up... it stayed cloudy.) I learned 3 major reasons liquid soap clouds.
1) Cooking: You didn't cook your paste long enough.  I did the clarity test and it was fine.  I had also separated my soap into three jars and two of the three clouded.
2) Sanitation:  There is bacteria or something yucky growing in your soap.  Well, I sanitized my jars as well as boiled my distilled water before I added it to my paste.  So I didn't think it was that, since it clouded so quickly after I made the soap!
3) Fragrance / Essential Oil:  These oils are added at the cooling phase after you add the boiling distilled water, and as I learned from this group, all FO/EO act differently.  Some may cloud the soap instantly or days after.  Looking at my three jars of soap, all containing the same "clear" liquid soap, the only difference between them was, they all contain different fragrances!  So I think I found the culprit!  I added Brambleberry's Oatmeal Stout FO and all is good.  The second contains a Honey Ale FO and it clouded... As well as the Tobacco Bay FO.

So now what?  The soap is completely fine to use, but I REALLY want clear soap.  Two suggestions I've read are:  1) Mix your FO/EO with a 1:1 ratio with Polysorbate -20. or ethyl alcohol and then 2) add this concoctions while your soap is still hot, but cooling!!!

I'll try this and let you know!  And as always, I'm always open to suggestions!!!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother's Day Brunch: Because She Loves Beer!

We got this great image from
Pink of Perfection
Mother's Day is quickly approaching, and it's time to plan the perfect brunch for that wonderful lady who's favorite thing is beer!  What more could she want than her favorite ice cold beer, but foods whose ingredients include just that, beer! And as a DIY'er yourself, what better way to tell your mom how much she means to you, than creating a brunch around her favorite theme!   But don't worry, it's not as hard as it looks...  I've found some great ideas and easy recipes to share with you!

This image came
from the Cooking Channel 
Decorations:  Beer bottles make beautiful table decorations and if you are a beer lover yourself, you probably have some sitting around!  Simply wrap raffia or lace around them, insert her favorite flowers and viola!  

Beverages: The first go to drink would be her favorite beer.  Or, why not try a beer infused drink such as a beer cocktail? For a light citrus taste using a wheat beer, try a Ginger Rum Shandy.  Or, for a more hardy drink, try a Ruddy Mary that uses a dark ale or stout! Both will be a winner.

A beautiful image
from Draft Magazine
Food:  There are many ways you can go with food.  For the egg lover, you may want to try a Sausage and Pale Ale Fritatta, or a Bacon, Egg and Greens Panini made with a wheat beer. Or go an entirely different route with  Beer Pancakes or Muffins made from her favorite fruit beer!!!

And finally, have fun celebrating your Mom.  She will love spending time together!  And if you want to give her a gift, may I suggest a bar of Handbrewed Soaps?  We have plenty of beer soaps to choose from!  (I had to make the plug... it was so appropriate!  LOL)  Have a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Liquid Soap: Dilution Ratios

(Note:  This post is not a tutorial on liquid soap.  If you are interested in that, please see Humblebee and Me for a great tutorial or 'Making Natural Liquid Soaps' by Catherine Failor.  This post is my notes on the Dilution Ratios of Liquid Soap.  Your comments are greatly appreciated! )

My adventures in soaping have expanded into liquid soap!  I've used Catherine Failor's book as a resources, reading it from cover to cover multiple times (a must have if you are making liquid soap!).  However, I found it confusing when it can to the dilution section.  So...  in order to understand her ratios,  I took my 6 lb. batch of soap and broke it up into six one lb. batches.  Then I used her dilution chart and experimented with 3- one lb. batches.
In batch one, I diluted the paste by 35%, batch #2 by 30%, and batch #3 by 25%. I choose these percentages because I used soft oils and according to the book, the oils are more soluble.  The second reason is that it's always easier to add water than to take it away.  To have watery liquid soap, would be a whole new ball game! So I took lots of notes per batch to understand how the dilution process worked.
Results:  Batch #1:  My soap did not dilute. So I had to add more water.
Batch #2:  My soap was a little more diluted, but I still had to add more water.
Batch #3:  Much better!  There were chucks of soap in the crock pot that stubbornly wouldn't go away (the crock pot might not be hot enough) so I took a stick blender to it.  The soap clumps went away, the soap turned cloudy, but it quickly went away and I was left with clear soap.  I did add more water!
Conclusion:  For the soft oils I used, my recommendation is start off with a 25% dilution ratio.  By the time I added more water to batch 1 and 2, I was at 20%. So,  I found that a 25% ratio makes great shampoo or body gel while the 20% makes a great hand soap!

What have you discovered with your liquid soap?



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Handbrewed Soaps Brew Tips of the Day! April 2015

Did you miss our Handbrewed Tips of the Day?  Well catch up on them here in one post!

Brew Tip #1:  Boiling an Easter Egg:


Brew Tip #2:  Brewing a Great Cup of Coffee!



Brew Tip #3: Using Tea as a Seasoning




Friday, April 24, 2015

Meet the Team behind Handbrewed Soaps

Handbrewed Soaps is a family operation! As we have expanded, we've enlisted more family members and friends to help! As they say, to raise a business, it takes a village!


Beer Brewmaster: Eric Swihart
The talent behind the homebrewed beer.  When he's not brewing, you can find him teaching middle school band and orchestra here in Oakland!   Eric enjoys the outdoors, playing with his kids, and playing in his band Fast and Vengfully. He is also the mastermind behind many of our slogans, video ideas, and other Handbrewed Soaps shenanigans!

Soap Brewmaster: Alyson Swihart
That's me!  I'm the soap maker!! When I'm not making soap or any soap related activity, you can find me hiking, hangin' with the kids, or gardening.

Assistant Brewer: Fred Noel
That's my dad!  He's the brains behind the expansion.  He's always into making things bigger.  For example: he's the dad that when you say you want a dog as a child, he thinks Mastiff or Great Dane when you ment Yorkie. Or as a child you want to decorate the outside of the house for Christmas, he's the Dad that makes a bigger than life size wooden Santa Claus to stand on your lawn, when you were thinking maybe just some lights on the porch? So, he's built bigger soap molds, a soap studio, and now helps make soap as I get bigger in my pregnancy. 

Soap wrapper extraordinaire/ Daytime child overseer: Donna Noel 
That's my Mom!  Without her, soap production would slow WAY down! She watches the kids when soap needs to be made! And she's the person that wraps the majority of the soap! She is such a master of soap wrapping, that she goes into a zen like state reciting the mantra, "Peel, Wrap, Stick."

Soap testers: My kids
They are the ones who are first to wash their hands with a newly made batch of soap! They are also marketing managers as I often find video on my ipad that they have made talking about Handbrewed Soaps: See recent video.

Promotion Guru's: Friends, Family, You!
These are the people that have answered the call when we needed help with running a booth at a festival, needing homebrew because we have run out, mentioned us on social media, walked into stores and have talked to retail owners about our products both here in California and out of state.  Most importantly, it's the users of Handbrewed Soaps that enjoy and give feedback to what we do!! Thanks for all you do!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

DIy Growing Hops Part Two: Preparing the Soil

There are many things to factor in when you are planting your hops including placement, soil, and watering routine. Again, I have left this to the brew master in our family to outline this for you! 

Choosing the location:
South-facing, with 6-8 hours of sunlight per day

What kind of soil and nutrients do hops need?
In his book, “Homegrown Hops,” author and fellow hops-grower David Beach shared his discovery about soil amendments in the famous Willamette Valley hops growing region in Oregon.   This was the ”correct” fertilizer blend used on one particular hop farm:  (blends and supplements will vary, depending on the original soil conditions)
(amounts are in pounds per acre)
Step One:  Dig a hole
Nitrogen - 90
Phosphorous – 200  (organic source:  wood ash)
Potassium – 190  (organic source:  rock phosphate)
sulfur - 50
boron – 3

Based on this information, and various other sources I read, here the custom soil blend I created, using soil mizes from American Soil and Stone in Richmond, CA:
  • ·      3 gallons Ultra-Potting mix (Coconut Coir, Sand, Red Lava, Dolomite Lime, Nitroform 38-0-0, Iron Sulfate, Triple Superphosphate, Calcium Nitrate)
  • ·      3 gallons Ultra-Bedding soil blend  (Coconut Coir, Greenwaste Compost, Rice Hulls, Chicken Manure, Grape Compost, Red Lava, Sandy Loam)
  • ·      2 gallons veggie mix (Sandy Loam, Greenwaste Compost, Rice Hulls, Chicken Manure, Grape Compost, Fir Bark, Cocoa Bean Hulls)
  • ·      1 handful of wood ash (pot ash)
  • ·      1 pinch (1/2 teaspoon) borax
  • ·      straw mulch – a 2-3 inch layer on top, surrounded by ¾” fir bark mulch, to minimize weeds and retain moisture.
Step Two:  Fill hole with soil
The ultra potting mix (nitroform) and veggie mix (chicken manure) are both very high in nitrogen, which hops don’t really need a lot of.  What hops really need are the OTHER 2 elements in the standard N-P-K formula for fertilizers:  phosphorous and potassium.  Two other lesser-known nutrients that the hops also need:  molybdenum, and boron.   In order to get these nutrients in the soil, I added a handful of wood ash to the top of each hop hill, and a pinch (1/2 teaspoon) of borax.  Although, I’m slightly concerned that the Potting soil blend has a mixture of fertilizers in it, and the borax I added to the soil might not even be accessible to the hops.  I won’t be able to tell until the plant starts to grow, and I see what potential issues I have by looking at the leaves and hop cones, and can troubleshoot from there.  But, hopefully, I have created a happy place for my hops plants to start growing and start providing me with free hops for my homebrew for the next 5-10 years!!!

Step Three: Add Ash and Straw
One thing is for sure:  this blend drains VERY well!!!  After creating the “hills” for each rhizome, I poured water from a garden hose directly into each hop hill for 2 solid minutes, and the water disappeared immediately, which is perfect, because the soil need to constantly be damp, but not saturated.  As with most other plants, standing water is not good.  So, at least for drainage and water retention, this blend is outstanding!

Did you know?
In doing my research about growing hops, I discovered how important boron is, not only for growing hops plants but for the human body as well.  Some people swear by the use of boron as a dietary supplement to counteract the effects of arthritis.  Apparently, it either works way too well or is actually toxic, because the major pharmaceutical companies deny that it does anything and won’t allow clinical trials to find out if it actually does what people claim it does.  Either way, boron is an important nutrient for hops AND the human body, and it doesn’t get absorbed effectively in either situation when artifical/synthetic fertilizers are present, which emphasizes the importance of using and consuming organic food and soils that don’t have synthetic fertilizers in them. 

Next step:  Plant the rhizomes and hope they grow!




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