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Local family brews up organic beer soaps

By Caitlin Rickard [email protected] • Updated Jan 3, 2014 at 11:10 AM

A local family added recently a new kind of soap—beer soap—to their growing business from their Lebanon farm.

James and Eileen Ray, owners of Little Seed Farm, moved from the hustle-and-bustle ways of New York in March 2012 to begin a new lifestyle of dairy farming.

James said their dairy farm includes 25 goats, seven of which are milked, and initially the couple began with goat milk and cheese and soon began creating soap, too, in November 2012.

The goat milk is used to make the Ray’s own brand of soap and everything used by Little Seed Farm is organic.

In only a year, the business has grown with the demand through virtually no marketing besides word-of-mouth. Currently, they’re selling eight different kinds of soaps across eight states through 20 retailers, including local retailers in Nashville and Lebanon, as well as big name retailers like Urban Outfitters.

When the Rays began to think of distinct and unique ways to expand their soap business last year, the couple turned to beer.

James said their first move was reaching out to Jackalope Brewing Co.

“We’ve always been a fan of their beer, so we got in touch with them and basically told them our idea of making this unique kind of soap,” James said. 

James said Jackalope’s CEO Bailey Spaulding then came out and toured their farm and heard their proposal.

“We showed her our soaps and she liked the idea and just let us run with it,” James said. 

Now, partnered with Jackalope, the couple have began producing and selling the beer soap since November, only one year after beginning their initial soap endeavors.

According to James, they take each individual Jackalope brew, Bearwalker, Tunder Ann and Rompo, and incorporate distinct feelings and elements of the brewing process into the soaps.

For instance, Bearwalker is a maple brown flavor brewed with Vermont maple syrup, James said, so for the Bearwalker soap they use vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg oils to give the soap the same feeling as when you drink the beer.

Another example for summer, the Thunder Ann brew is a citrus flavor, so James said they use lemon grass basil.

“It doesn’t smell like beer, but when you use the soap it evokes the same sensation as when you have the beer,” James said. “We’ve found soaps to be really seasonal; in the winter people want rosemary and cinnamon and vanilla, and the same goes for beer, dark beers sell in the winter.”

James also said each brew flavor of each soap had it’s own unique aspect.

“Bearwalker uses grains leftover from the brewing process, like the wheat and malt grains that give the beer its flavor,” James said. “When they’re done brewing, no one uses it so we take a few bags and dehydrate it and put it in the beer soaps.

“With Thunder Ann, we take the hops from brewery and sprinkle on top of the soap and grind them up and use them,” James said.

Along with the different Jackalope brews, the beer soap is also made with raw goat milk from their farm, organic olive and coconut oils, spent grains, milk and lye. Organic oils, like vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, enhance the aroma of the beer and no artificial fragrances are used. 

Though not many other breweries have jumped on the beer soap bandwagon, supporters have said the natural ingredients in the beer help soothe irritated skin and also help to soften skin due to amino acids from the hops. Additionally, beer is full of minerals and vitamins as well, including B5, which improves texture and luster of skin and hair.

“All of our soaps are organic, so they don’t dry you out,” James said. “A lot of people use beer soaps as shampoo or for shaving because it makes a nice lather. It’s also high in B vitamins and the hops are natural antiseptics known to soothe irritated skin.”

James said the learning process for making the soaps, as well as farming in general, was a lot of trial and error.

“It was a lot of speaking to other farmers and reading and trying to do as much research as we could in preparation,” James said. “We moved and got the goats and started milking them and a vast amount of the time was spent observing and deciding what’s working and what’s not.”

Now that the Rays have gotten the soap aspect down pat, James said this year they would be more prepared for growth.

“The feedback was way beyond our expectations, we were really excited by all we got,” James said. “For us, we liked the soaps and our family liked them so once we started doing farmers markets and things it was nice to see frequent and repeat customers who enjoyed the soap, too, and gave it as gifts or to family and friends.

“The soaps have been a really nice addition to the product line and opened the market a bit because now they carry the soaps in the taproom and in home retailers,” James said.

The beer soap can be found online at littleseedfarm.com/shop or the online store for Jackalope at jackalopebrewingcompany.bigcartel.com. The beer soap sells for $7 a bar or can be bought in a set with all three brew flavors for $18.

It can also be found in Nashville at the West End Farmer’s Market on Vine St. Saturdays from 10 a.m. until noon or at Tennessee retailers All Seasons, D. Luxe Home, Green Door Gourmet, Jackalope Brewery and Old Made Good.

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