How to Develop Film With Beer

Mar 14, 2017
4 min read

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, you ran out of B&W developer, all stores are closed down and the only thing you can find is beer.

Nothing worse could happen but don’t worry we have THE solution to develop your roll of film.

Yes, we are going to use beer as developer and not any beer. I’m talking about the most emblematic Irish Stout: GUINNESS!

Before we get started, I just want to apologise for what we are going to do to this poor can of Guinness… It should be treated with care and respect but sometimes sacrifices must be done for the benefit of science!

For this recipe that is also known as “Beerenol”, we’ll need 2 cans of 50cl of Guinness. One for the developer and the other to offer for Saint Patrick.

What you need to make Beerenol

To make the developer work we have to mix one can of Guinness with the following:

– 50g of washing soda (ATTENTION: baking soda won’t work)

– 12g of Vitamin C

Before mixing all the ingredients together, you need to warmup the beer at about 30 degree Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer at hand, let the can sit in warm water for 10-15 min.

When the beer is warm, pour the entire can into a jar. Then add the washing soda and vitamin C. Stir well until the powders are completely dissolved (It took me a good 15 minutes to get it done). These two ingredients combined will activate the developing agents.

Next things you’ll need are:

– Stop bath. It can be done with water but I prefer to use the Ilfostop from Ilford.

– Fixer. This is essential to stop the development process and make the negative light-resistant. I use the Ilford Rapid Fix but any fixer will get the job done.

Developing BW Film With Beerenol

Now that the developer is ready, pour it into the Paterson tank, set the timer for 15 minutes and agitate for 1 minute. Close the lid and tap the tank a few times to avoid air bubbles to stay stuck onto the film. Then you are going to do 4 inversions at the beginning of every minute (and tap the tank every time).

When time is over you can empty the tank and pour in the stop bath. If you go with tap water rinse it for 1 minute otherwise, 10 seconds will be enough with a real stop bath.

Last step is the fixer. I usually let the fixer in for 3 minutes but as we are using an unusual developer I prefer to play on the safe side and let it for 5 minutes. Same thing than with the developer, 1 minutes agitations and 4 inversions at the beginning of each minute.

The film is now light proof and you can open the developing tank to wash the film with tap water. There are several ways to do it but easiest and most economical is to fill the tank with water, do 5 inversions, then replace the water and do 10 inversions, replace the water one more time and do 20 inversions. That should be enough to remove the chemicals from the film.

This step is optional but I like to finish with a Photo-Flo solution. This prevents water to leave marks on the film when it dries.

And voilà…We’ve just developed a roll of black and white film with beer! Now let’s see the result.

Beerenol Sample Images

All these images were captured with my Smena 8M and a roll of Ilford FP4. You can see that some of them are really underexposed but it’s not developer’s fault. It was me we did an attempt at guessing the exposure…it worked for some shots but I still have a long way to go before I can get rid of my light-meter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this unusual developing technique and that it will give you some ideas to try alternative developers. Let me know in the comment what other techniques you’ve tried to develop your film with.

Stay tuned for the next episode and until then…keep shooting!

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