Don’t Just Drink Beer, Bathe in It

There's so much you can do with beer. You can drink it but also put it in bread dough, mustard or cheese. But have you ever thought of bathing in it? Well, now you can. Spas in Germany are offering soaks in beer suds as a way to relax.

Bath beer

The original beer bath can be found about an hour east of Berlin. You just head east through green and rolling countryside. A few kilometers away from the Polish border sits the monastery that helped dream up the idea behind beer baths.

“Neuzelle is one of the oldest breweries in whole of Germany,” says Patrick Fabien, one of the managers at the Neuzeller Kloster-Bräu.

The Neuzeller Kloster-Bräu  was established in 1589. The monks brewed here as early as the 13th century. The monks are gone and now the brewery's owned by the Fritsche family.

“We produce a lot of beers but we are famous because of our black beers like bock beer or black abbot,” Fabien says, adding that women especially like the black beer. “The black beer with sugar (is popular) because it’s sweet. Normally women don't drink beer because it’s too bitter, but they like the sweet character of the cherry beer, the apple beer, the black abbot.”

It's the sugar the brewery adds to its most famous beer, the black abbot, that started the idea behind the beer bath.

The German purity law of 1516 states that beer can only be made with hops, malt, and water. About a decade ago, regulators told the brewery in Neuzelle that the black abbot couldn't be called a beer because of the added sugar. A local TV reporter covering the story said, “Well if you can't drink the beer, why don't you bathe in it?”

That gave the owners of the brewery an idea. “We thought that beer is not just for drinking, you can also use it for your skin,” says Fabien.

The brewery won the right to continue calling “black abbot” beer. But in the meantime, Susanne Taschner-Schmidt, a physiotherapist at Kummerhof Land Hotel, developed a recipe for the first beer bath, using beer from the Neuzeller brewery and some additional ingredients.

You can buy a bottle of the beer bath at the brewery and add it to your bath water at home. But at the Kummerhof Land Hotel you get the full experience.

Guests wrap up in towels and take beer baths in a room lit only by candles. The yeast and hops smell is really potent. There's a big bath tub with a beer tap built next to it. As Ms. Taschner-Schmidt turns on the tap, dark beer runs into the bath and bubbles billow up.

“A beer bath is quite a good wellness act. You can relax in the bath,” Taschner says. “And the bath has a calming action. It's good for your soul and your skin. The skin is after the beer bath very clear.”

After about 20 minutes, Ms. Taschner-Schmidt comes in and pours yeast in the water for guests to rub on their skin. A little after that, she shakes in the secret herbs.

Since the beer bath started in Neuzelle, more have opened in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. “But it's not like our beer bath. In some bath they give a bottle of beer in the bath and that's all,” she says.

The Neuzelle beer bath is getting more popular. About 20 to 40 people come here for baths every week. There's something for everyone. The women like the beer. The men like the baths. It's an intoxicating and lucrative combination.