How to Develop Film in Beer: Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps

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Written by Jennifer Stamps

Running out of developer? Want to try something new?

Have a can of beer your friend left over that you don’t like and don’t want to drink?

I’ve got you covered…

I wanted to see what would happen if I developed black and white film film in beer – also known as beerenol. Last year, I shared my results for developing b&w film in coffee (caffenol). So why not beer?

How to Develop Film in Beer - Beerenol Tutorial
How to Develop Film in Beer - Beerenol Tutorial
Medium format b&w image of a vine on a fence - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Fuji GS645 and Kodak Tri-X

I’m certainly not the only one who has developed in beer. But, from my research, most people tend to recommend a certain beer or certain film stock.

I wanted to use what I had. I didn’t want to buy a special beer or shoot on a specific stock that I might not have.

This is usually how my experiments go. Not very scientific. More artistic… just using what I have and throwing caution to the wind.

However, I did take notes so you can mimic my exact experiment or use it more as a guideline for your own!

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Mamiya 645 1000s and Ilford HP5+
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Why Develop Film in Beer?

Some of you might be asking, “but why?”

Why do we do any of the things we do? Why do we pick a certain camera or film stock? Because we want to, we like it, it’s fun, it’s challenging… The list could go on and on.

Developing in beer is all of those things, plus it’s safer and greener.

Medium format b&w image of a child playing - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Fuji GS645 and Kodak Tri-X

What Will You Need to Develop Your Film in Beer?

If you are unfamiliar with developing your own black and white film at home, please reference this article for a complete list of developing supplies.

To develop in beerenol, you’ll need all the regular things (minus the developer) plus:

Sadly, I have a gluten allergy, so I can’t drink regular beer (sad trombone, I know). So for the purpose of this experiment, I used a very large, very cheap can of Miller Lite that’s been sitting in my fridge for a few months.

I encourage you to use whatever you have in your fridge – an IPA, mosaic, hazy IPA, lager, wheat… just go for it!

In fact, grab two – one for your roll, one for you (assuming you are of legal drinking age of course!).

For this experiment, I decided to develop two rolls of medium format film: Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X. I developed them at the same time in the same tank. Since I used such a large tank, I needed a lot of beerenol.

Medium format b&w image of leaves - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Fuji GS645 and Kodak Tri-X

Mixing the Beerenol

  1. Pour the room temperature beer in a large mixing bowl/bucket.
  2. Slowly mix in the washing soda. It will foam and fizz. That’s ok, but try not to let it overflow all over the counter.
  3. Mix gently until most of the washing soda is dissolved (it’s ok if it’s not all dissolved).
  4. Add the Vitamin C powder.
  5. Keep mixing until almost all of the powder and washing soda is dissolved. Again, it likely won’t dissolve all the way – that’s ok!

Developing Steps

Once the beerenol is made, add the negatives to the reel, and place the reel in the tank using a darkroom or film changing bag.

If you pre-soak your negatives in water usually, do this before you add the beerenol.

I used room temperature water and agitated the tank gently for one minute then poured the water out.

Now, we add the beerenol.

Agitate the tank gently for one minute then 10 seconds every minute after that for a total of 18 minutes. Yes, 18 minutes.

When you’re done developing, follow the normal steps for stop, fix, and washing the negatives as you usually would when developing black and white at home.

If you need help with these step, this article outlines the whole developing process.

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Mamiya 645 1000s and Ilford HP5+

Results

You can see the images developed in beer throughout this post. Personally, I tend to like my images slightly overexposed, so I prefer the Ilford HP5+ images.

If I did Kodak Tri-X like this again, I’d adjust my shooting settings or develop for two-three more minutes. But again, that’s my preference.

Medium format b&w image of girl twirling - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Mamiya 645 1000s and Ilford HP5+
Medium format b&w image of vines on a fence - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Fuji GS645 and Kodak Tri-X

Notes on Shooting

The Ilford HP5+ roll was shot on a Mamiya 645 1000s, indoors in a room with one wall of windows behind the camera.

I used an external meter and metered for the entire scene. I shot the roll at 400 ISO.

The Kodak Tri-X roll was shot on a Fuji GS645 indoors with only one window or outdoors during the day.

I used the internal light meter. I shot the roll at 400 ISO.

Medium format b&w image of a room - Develop Film in Beer- Beerenol Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Fuji GS645 and Kodak Tri-X

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like 5 Film Cameras Under $50 and Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial.

You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about developing black and white film in beer below in the comments!

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Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and 5 Film Cameras Under $50.

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Blog Comments

I noticed that vitamin C and washing sofa are used when developing with beer or coffee. What happens if you use just Vitamin C and washing sofa, Does the film get developed?
Also what does coffee or beer ad to the mix that make this work?

Thanks
FW

Hi Frank! You know – I’m not sure on the chemistry behind the beer or coffee. But my guess is that you’d need something with acidity in it to get the chemicals to react and actually develop.

Coffee tends to be more acidic than beer, and the coffee tutorial took about 10 minutes, instead of 18minutes. So maybe the less acidic the liquid, the longer it would take?

A Gluten-free beer to consider.

Red Bridge

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