Saturday, November 7, 2015

5 Tips To Successfully Brewing Homebrewed Beer

Today is "Learning to Homebrew Day!" Yes, this is an official holiday in the beer world!! In honor of this awesome holiday, we have presented 5 of the most helpful tips we wish we knew while learning how to make beer. 

1. The key to a successful brewed beer is in the sanitation. You can make the most yummy beer, but if you forget to sanitize, say goodbye to your 'liquid gold.' This happened to us once in the early years. We had sanitized EVERYTHING ( so we had thought.) We bottled our beer, came back two weeks later, and saw floaty-s in the beer. It wasn't just one bottle, it was all of them.  We thought it was yeast that got into the bottles during transfer. To make sure it was ok to drink, we took a bottle to Brewmaster, a local brew supply store, and they confirmed it as bacteria. We had to ditch the beer. We figured out we didn't sanitize the bottles good enough. Something must have been at the bottom of the bottles that we missed while cleaning them. Lesson learned!

2. Don't drink so much beer that you boil over.  You have to drink beer while you brew, it's the law of home brewing! But just watch yourself on brew day! We had a brew day where four different brewers (two had won awards for their beer, the others were just learning) came over, with their equipment and supplies. One of the award winners kept saying through out the day about not boiling over. You can lose a lot of beer when it happens and then your recipe is off. (There are work arounds, it just plain sucks when it happens!) This advice quickly turned into bragging rites, with the more beer he drank. Soon his warnings turned into jokes, "How can you tell a beginner brewer from an expert brewer? If he boils over!!!!!" And guess who was the only one to boil over that day? Yep, the "expert"of the bunch! He will never live this story down!!! 

3. Don't forget to transfer your beer! Always write down your transfer/ bottling schedule on a calendar. We forgot to transfer our beer into secondary in a timely manner ( 2 weeks is the norm, we transferred at 6 weeks!) As a result, the water in the airlock got so low that air got into the carboy and bacteria started to grow. We had to dump 10 gallons of beer. 

4. If you're brewing in California, or a place that is experiencing a drought, make sure to capture your water as you are cooling it with your wort chiller. We run our water into barrels so we can later use the water for hydrating our plants.

5. It's ok to start with an extract for for first time to get the hang of brewing. There is a big learning curve when starting to brew. Start slow and small. A kit is a great way to learn to process and jargon, while successfully creating  a drinkable beer!

So Happy "Learn To Homebrew Day!" We hope you find these tips helpful. We would love to hear any tips you have!  And feel free to learn more about brewing with our article, "Making Beer."


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Soap Makers Guide To Dress For Success!

If you take a hard look at a soap makers fashion, you might mistake them for an illegal drug manufacturer (think Breaking Bad!)  But in actuality, they are dressed for success!  They are dressed to make the best darn soap they can make!  Our attire gives us soap makers a sense of pride and protection as we produce our product. To have a better understanding of our "uniforms," I think a case study is appropriate here.  Let's examine this picture... It is of me (duh!)... Notice my 'essential dress for success.'

 Let face it, splatter happens in soap making.  Whether it be from your lye mixture, or your oils, a soap maker can get splattered at anytime. And boy do I know you need to be protected!  Hence the get-up in the picture above.

1) Face Shield: It is important to have something cover your eyes (a pair of glasses will do just fine!)  However, I use a face shield because I have gotten lye mixture on my face. By accident, I wiped my face with my gloved hand and to my surprise, there was lye solution on it. The face shield may be overboard for some, but it's a way to remind myself not to touch my face!

2) Gloves: These obviously protect your hands from the sodium hydroxide when adding it the your liquid or when you add your lye liquid to your oils.  They are also crucial when pouring your soap into their molds!  Oftentimes you will have to scrape out remaining soap (getting every last bit!) from your mixing container. These gloves will protect your hands from getting oily or burned.

3) Lab Coat: Protects your clothes. I have two different kinds. The first is my standard cloth lab coat. I don't recommend this.  Any splatter goes through the material.  And the wrists often get in the way, getting saponified oils on it.  Eventually the oils soak through the lab cloth and comes in contact with your skin.  The next thing you know, you are feeling a tingling, itching sensation and you know you have come in contact with your lye solution.  So, I suggest a disposable lab coat (I've been using the same one for the past year and it holds up to a machine washing, so who knows why they are considered disposable.)  The coat is made from a non-tearable paper and lined with plastic.  The wrists are elastic, so your coat wrists can't "hang" and get oils on it.  IT'S AWESOME!!!!

4) Closed Toed Shoes:  So the picture doesn't show this, but PLEASE wear closed toed shoes.  I've learned this the hard way in one of my 'cocky' moments.  Thinking I've been doing this for a while and that I was being careful enough, I stupidly wore flip flops while making soap.  The toe of my flip flop got caught underneath itself which caused me to trip.  While saving the lye mixture I was holding, some of it splattered out of it's container and landed on my other, uncovered foot.  Lesson learned!

These are just a few ways soap makers dress for success.  How do you do it?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Best Small Business Advice I Ever Received

The comment came at the end of my first soap show. And it came from my husband.

“If I were you, I never would of done this. You have the basics covered, but there is so much to do…  you need to add signs for your soap… create something that draw people in…”

Anger began to rise.  You’ve got to be kidding me. I retaliated,

“I‘m sorry, what?  We just had our first show.  It was successful. People liked our product. I made my booth fee times 2.  So for “testing out the market,” I think we should really make this a “thing.”  What are you talking about?”

“Slow done cowboy. Let me try this again.” He replied. “If I were you, I never would have done this because it’s not perfect.  I would have waited for the perfect moment or waited for a sign before I would do this.  Which means, I never would have done it. …  What I’m trying to say is, I’m proud of you. You got your first booth, and you did it yourself!  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. Most importantly, you found out you want to do this as a business.”

I often think back to this moment when I’m struggling to do things.  I often put off tasks because it’s not the right time.  But it’s never the right time.  Either you do it or you don’t.  Blogging is a perfect example of that.  I can write and write until I’m blue in the face, but I can’t hit the publish button because it’s not perfect.  Or, I can’t think of anything to write, so that when I finally do write, I don’t think it’s worthy enough to publish.  Either way, the blog doesn’t happen. 

My husband’s comments remind me that there is no perfect moment, and there is no “sign” to tell us when to act. There is just you. And by doing, by takings risks that are ‘good enough’, you learn. You may fall on your face, but you get back up, dust yourself off and revise. Be proud of that imperfect action because it may lead you on a path you least expected. 

And so, this post is good enough.  I’ll push the publish button!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mind If I Put This Wrench In Your Day?

I’ve been so good at managing my time, or shall I say managing me.  To be quiet honest, I’ve felt like a rock star in my own personal soaping world.  I finally have figured out somewhat of a schedule. 

8:30am Drop kids off at school
9:15am Feed baby and handing him over to grandma (life saver babysitter)
9:30am Fill orders / Make Soap (usually only on Mondays from 9:30 – 12pm, Beer is made on the weekends)
10:30am Exercise or Blog
11:30am Feed baby/self
12:30pm Work on Website, order supplies, mastermind
2:45pm- 8pm Pick up kids…  Put on Family Management Hat.
9pm-11pm Continue working on website, blog, orders, masterminding…Netflix.

And as to be expected, once you THINK you have figured out a routine, life comes along and says, “Hi, can I put a couple of wrenches in your day?  Thanks!”  It was pretty humorous, in retrospect.  In the morning I was greeted with a gas leak that took all morning to resolve.  Orders got pushed out into the afternoon.  No exercise, but blogging and masterminding could be salvaged during the evening.  Family time turned into a WWF showdown. My 4 year old got a nice shiner from her 8 -year old sister who kicked her in the eye while doing a cartwheel.  World War 3 broke out, but after an hour, yelling and crying turned into laugher. By the end of the night, my anxiety level was at a ten because today’s agenda was nowhere near complete.  Exhausted, I made myself sit in front of the computer to write a blog post.  Two sentences in, the baby started to cry.  I lifted him up and as I watched him eat, my anxiety eased.  It is then that I realized I am my own worst enemy.  Here I have a precious baby in my arms, and I’m worried about my to-do list. So I didn’t get everything I needed to get done completed.  I did however get the “must-do’s” done. The rest could wait until tomorrow. 

There are always going to be days such as today. It’s learning to let go of the expectations that is the hardest part for me.  Maybe today’s wrenches were there for a reason.  Maybe it was a reminder to slow down.  Maybe it was a reminder that tomorrow’s Girls Night Out is REALLY important.   Whatever the reason for my wrench filled day, I need to stop beating myself up for what didn’t get done. I need to start appreciating what did get done and who I spend my time with.  Most importantly, I need to appreciate this glass of wine! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

True or False Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Beer Soap?

We get a lot of questions about beer soap.  Test your knowledge to see how much you know about Handbrewed Soap's Beer Soap! Answer True or False to each question.  Then check your answers below!  Good luck and have fun!

1) I will smell like beer if I use beer soap.
2) If I get pulled over while driving for intoxicated driving, I can blame it on the beer soap.
3) Beer adds lather the the bar.
4) Beer used in the soap is the wort.
5) If I suck on the soap, I can get drunk.
6) Handbrewed Soaps is made by a wife and husband team that love to homebrew.


1) I will smell like beer if I use beer soap.   False.  The alcohol burns away in the soap making process.  Therefore, there is no alcoholic smell the soap will give you.  (If you are experiencing an alcoholic smell, you might want to remember what you drank last night as it may be coming out in your pores!)  Fragrance Oils and Essentials oils are added to compliment the type of beer used in the soap!

2) If I get pulled over for intoxicated driving, I can blame it on the beer soap. False.  All I can say is that if you blame it on the soap, you will most likely be getting into more trouble....

 3) Beer adds lather to the bar.  True.  Beer (along with the coconut oil) used in the soap adds to the lather.  Handbrewed Soaps have a great lather.

4)  Beer used in the soap is actually the wort.  False.  We ACTUALLY use beer in our soap!  I know many are concerned that we are wasting a good beer.  I promise you that in relationship to how much we brew, it's very little.  We also add our spent grains as an exfoliant in some of our bars!

5) If I suck on the soap, I can get drunk. False.  As stated in number one, the alcohol burns away in the soap making process.  The best you would get is a clean mouth.

6) Handbrewed Soaps is made by a wife and husband team that loves to homebrew. True.  We married our passions together, his for homebrewing and mine for making soap.  Homebrewing has a special place in our hearts as it is a time when friends and family come together to create and share in beer! Read more here to learn about why we homebrew.

So, how did you do?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Time Management Strategies for Small Businesses

I've been asked quiet frequently how I manage a soap business, consult part time for a Bay Area non profit, and manage a household of three kids the ages of 8, 4, and 7 weeks.  My usually response would be... "By screaming, yelling, and pulling my hair out."  Obviously, that hasn't been working. I've turned to time management books, and have implemented their strategies only to feel like crap because I couldn't sustain them for more than a day or two.  I was left feeling anxious and overwhelmed, a feeling that I had that was the motivation for leaving my 9-5 job. And my response to this feeling was, "F%#^ that! I've been down that road of anxiety, and that's why I'm creating my own entrepreneur path!" That's when I realized, it's not about managing time.  It's about managing ourselves with the time we have. How am I doing it? Well, here you go:

Step One: Make a schedule that is realistic!!! Identify when you can work. For example, I'm a morning person, but so are my kids. And though I love my little twerps with all my heart, I can't get anything done. And they deserve my attention. So my work happens during school. On some days, I only get two hours, while other day I get seven. So this brings in step two... My timer is my best friend!

Step Two: Give yourself a time frame to accomplish a task. This idea originated in order to motivate Eric, myself, and the twerps to cleaning up the house. We called it the "Quick Pick Up " time. Our family would pickup the house for 15 minutes as fast as we could. Each of us would have a room (and a super hero name!) and viola, the house appeared clean (good enough for that unexpected guest to stop by!) By focusing for a short amount of time on one task, something that we perceived to take a long time, took us 15 minutes. So I've applied this to Handbrewed Soaps. For example, I give myself 30 minutes to send out wholesale inquiries. 15 minutes to update/ update listings on website, 20 minutes to print packing slips etc.  I may not finish the task, but I can set up another time frame later that day.  Then I reward myself with a break... A walk or a shot of tequila ( I'm sooooo kidding, but what a great idea!) Then I go back to the timer with other tasks. By the way, this is actually a thing. Some guy made a technique called the Pomodoro technique.  I thought I was a genius for coming up with this strategy, but it looks like someone already claimed this geniusness.  There's even apps you can down load... Who knew?

Step Three: Find YOU time. With all the hustle and bustle in life, you have to find a way to wind down.  Whether it's exercising, or drinking a bottle of wine (each) with your friends, it's so important to recharge. And schedule that sh%* in, because it won't happen otherwise. Mine is Thursday nights at 6pm.  I vacate my house to go to yoga, dinner with a friend, or a cafe so that I can blog. Sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom to watch an uninterrupted episode of the Walking Dead on Netflix. Whatever it is, do it because if you don't, your business, family, and your health will suffer.  

So there you have it.. This is what is working for me now... Who knows what will work next week! What works for you?  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why I Started My Own Business

It takes a lot of courage to create your own path in life. Oftentimes the people most closest to us will be the first to call you crazy, "You want to do what? You can't make money doing that! How are you going to support your family?" But that's the thing... Sometimes it's not about the money, sometimes it's about what makes you happy!
I was a classroom teacher in Oakland for 8 years. Then I became a teacher's coach for 4 years before I left my 9-5 job a year ago. Why did I leave a stable, ten-yeared position? Because I was anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed. If the word, "No Child Left Behind," "Common Core,"  "Rubrics," or "Assessment" came up in conversation, my blood pressure would rise to unhealthy levels. I argued with my husband and yelled at my kids all the time.  With the pressures of work, I couldn't think, I was drained. I had nothing to give to my family, let alone myself.  A change had to happen.
 I didn't just quit all of a sudden. I saw this move coming two years earlier, and slowly decreased my hours as an educator in order to increase hours in a more creative endeavor of starting my own soap business. My soap business infused hope into my life. I felt sane while designing and creating soap. I enjoyed hearing instant feedback from customers because I new immediately the impact my soap had on others.  (In my old profession, I never knew the impact on a child's life unless they told me years later.) Eventually, I started to feel motivated when I got up in the mornings, and the relationships with my family improved dramatically.  
In some regards owning my own business is harder than teaching. I don't always know where my next check is coming from. I was not formally trained to own a business like I was becoming a teacher, so I've had to learn about sales tax, city codes, marketing etc. on my own. Finding supports like the Indie Business Network (IBN) have been instrumental in my learning. Most importantly, I am blessed with the support of my husband as he is the main bread winner while I get Handbrewed Soaps up and running.  I still dabble in education by consulting for a music education non profit, but it's at a level that doesn't give me a heart attack. Now I am able to make my own rules, lead the life I want to lead, choosing my own path.  Yes I have times where I think all the odds are against me in this crazy world of entrepreneurship! What I've learned so far on this journey, is that if you are truly passionate about it, if you work hard for it, you'll figure it out. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd be owning my own soap business! 
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