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.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed it! Yes, we are going to use beer as developer and not any beer. I’m talking about the most emblematic in Ireland: GUINNESS!
Before we get started, I just want to apologise for what we are going to do to this 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.
To make the developer work we have to mix one can of Guinness with the following:
– 50g of washing soda (baking soda won’t work)
– 12g of Vitamin C
These ingredients will activate the developing agents.
The 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 Rapid Fix from Ilford but any fixer will get the job done.
There are 5 steps to follow so let’s get started:
1- To prepare the developer, pour the beer into a jar and then mix with the soda and vitamin. Stir well until the powders are completely dissolved (It took me a good 15 minutes to get it done). One thing I forgot to mention is that the beer should be warm, ideally around 30C. If you don’t have a thermometer, let the can sit in warm water for 10-15 min.
2- 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).
3- 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.
4- 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.
5- 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.
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. If you want to see more of these articles, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you informed when I have another brilliant idea like today. :D
Stay tuned for the next episode and until then…keep shooting!
About the Author
Vincent Moschetti is a photographer from France. He has been into photography since 2013 and worked exclusively with digital equipment until recently. While looking for new ways to challenge himself, he got hooked by the beauty of shooting with film cameras. From this discovery, he has decided to sell all his digital cameras and get committed to analog photography for at least one year.