‘Beer spas’ are becoming big business across the US

Would you take a dip in beer, all in the name of health and wellbeing? The answer appears to be an overwhelming ‘yes,’ with this curious European tradition well and truly arriving in the US and spreading rapidly across the country.

While ‘beer spa’ may sound like a euphemism for a keg party around a hot tub, it’s a fairly recent wellness trend with its roots in the Czech Republic in the 1980s. It’s essentially a spa treatment that involves soaking in a tub that may be filled with beer, or elements of it – in particular, aromatic hops, yeast and barley. While light on robust scientific research, the practice is said to have wide-ranging health benefits, from exfoliation to alleviating inflammation and other skin conditions.

In the US, the traditional ‘European bathhouse’ vibe has been refined to resemble the kind of establishment that would never ordinarily have beer on its premises, nor many clients who drink it. Think private rooms, hand-crafted wooden tubs, soothing lights and music, and plenty of fluffy bathrobes and towels.

Piva Beer Spa in Chicago brings some bar touches to one of the private soaking rooms
Piva Beer Spa in Chicago brings some bar touches to one of the private soaking rooms

Piva Beer Spa

The first US beer spa was actually opened in 2016 in Sisters, Oregon, which in hindsight might have been a few years ahead of its time as it’s since shut down. But like a bubbly, frothy phoenix rising, new treatment houses have sprung up across the country, including My Beer Spa in Orlando, Piva Beer Spa in Chicago, Oakwell Beer Spa in Denver and the tap room-spa mashup of Bierbath in Sykesville, Maryland.

While there’s certain novelty in the name, beer baths are generally not actually, drinkable beer; they’re normally different treatment ‘blends’ of hops, yeast and malt, without the boozy part (most do, however, offer some kind of on-brand drinks to have while soaking).

As for the health benefits, they don’t reinvent the wheel of wellness spa treatment, so any sort of miracle cure for ails with ales should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. Though proponents of the beer spa attest that extracts from hops, barley and brewer’s yeast boast polyphenols with antioxidant properties for skin health, barley’s epidermal growth factor protein can boost skin appearance (and there is some research into this), and an assortment of vitamins in the mix can help hydrate skin and condition hair.

One thing we’d guarantee, though, is the relaxing factor. Hops have been shown to have a mild sedative effect that encourages sleep. While you wouldn’t be eating them, of course, there are relaxing properties to their aroma.

The beer spa experience is also often accompanied with chill-out day beds but instead they’re hay beds – yes, literally made of hay. If you’ve ever been around hay, you’ll know that it’s not a material that evokes ‘blissful relaxing mattress,’ but we won’t knock it till we try it.

Government data from 2021 showed that Americans drink around 6.5 billion gallons of beer each year. While alcohol use in general is falling, it’s still by far the most popular booze in the fridge (wine was second, by a long shot, with 935 million gallons per year).

While an hour-long soak may set you back a little more than a six-pack – most one-person packages start at around $100 – a trip to the beer spa certainly has health benefits in comparison to the more traditional way of indulging.

Sources: My Beer Spa, Piva Beer Spa, Oakwell Beer Spa, Bierbath, Spa Beerland

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