In the spa world, luxuriating in essential minerals or detoxifying in an aromatic herbal-hodgepodge are par for the course. But, plunging into a tub filled with a couple of kegs worth of beer, not so much. However, the boozy treatment is no mere barstool fantasy – beer baths are offered in a variety of venues throughout Bohemia.
Bathing in beverages is nothing new. Cleopatra enveloped her svelte body in a tub filled with camel’s milk and, at the Yunessun Hot Springs Spa in Japan, there are sake, wine, and tea pools for tourists to splash around in.
Beer’s beauty treatment cred goes back to the late 1970s when Bristol Meyers came up with Body on Tap, a shampoo enriched with brewski that promised women lustrous locks. The barley and hops in the product were said to nourish flat hair and give it extra bounce. A reformulated version of Body on Tap is still carried today in some specialty stores.
At Chodovar’s Beer Wellness Land, a two-hour drive west of Prague, bathtubs are filled with caramel coloured bathing beer. But before you start glugging your bath water, bathing beer isn’t exactly the same stuff that pours out of the taps. “Our original beer bath is a combination of bath beer, hops, yeast and very strong Il-Sano mineral water which includes carbon dioxide,” explains Mojmir Prokes, the spa’s general manager. The exact measurements of the proprietary mixture, which also includes dehydrated crushed herbs, is a guarded company secret. But as Prokes assures, “it is much better than a mineral bath.” The hot tubs of soothing pilsner (baths are warmed to 34°C) are believed to relieve muscle tension, and improve complexion and circulation. The baths are 20 minutes in duration followed by a rest and relaxation session where you can snooze under a fleece quilt. Spring and autumn are the spa’s busiest seasons so, if you are put off by crowds, January or February are the time to schedule your visit.
Beer baths aren’t just a Czech thing. In Franking, Austria’s Moorhof hotel, the signature treatment is a relaxing beer soak in a tub with a barrel motif. Their take on bathing brew calls for a two percent lager from the Schnaitl brewery enriched with extra yeast, malt and hops. After showering-off, bathers are invited to take it easy and chill on a bed made of hay.
While the medicinal value and healing properties of beer baths may not yet be fully researched, some docs have already given it a ringing endorsement. According to Munich University’s Professor Piendl, whom Moorhof’s spa cites in their marketing materials, “The bitter constituents in hops are relaxing and help reduce stress, they can even help to replace sleeping pills and sedatives.”
If merely bathing in beer isn’t enough action, you can actually swim in it at the Starkenberg BierSchwimmbad, just a 55km drive from Austria’s Innsbruck airport.
While you won’t be able to show off your Michael Phelps moves in the brewery’s 4 X 4 metre pools filled with a smorgasbord of vitamin rich sudsy oddments, you could at least try your hand at treading lager.