Cheers! Japanese Brewery Produces Space Beer… But What’s the Point?

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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[/caption]For the first time, beer brewed totally from barley grown in space can be enjoyed on terra firma. The Japanese-owned Sapporo Brewery is one of the oldest beer producers in the nation, so it seems fitting that the company would want to diversify into the next frontier. Although the beer wasn’t actually brewed in space, the barley ingredient was grown there. Through a joint program between Sapporo, the Russian Academy of Science and Okayama University in Japan, the small amount of barley was grown on board the ISS as part of a project to research the cultivation of foodstuffs in Earth orbit.

100 litres of Space Beer has been produced as a result of the successful microgravity barley farming effort, and a lucky 60 people will have the exclusive chance to taste the beer in Tokyo next month. Unfortunately, the Space Beer is not yet commercially available, so put that pint glass away…

Back in May, I was very excited to write about the first space beer brewing success, and Sapporo’s plans to manufacture 100 bottles of beer brewed from barley grown in space. However, my excitement quickly dissipated when I realised astronauts wouldn’t actually be drinking a cool one in orbit, and I became even less impressed when it turned out that the vast majority of the world wouldn’t actually have a chance of tasting it (unless, of course, you are in Tokyo and win the Sapporo space beer tasting lottery in January).

On further inspection, the prospect of drinking any carbonated product in microgravity becomes very unappealing. After all, bubbles don’t rise through a beer to form a nice head of foam in space; the bubbles remain suspended in the liquid. When you swallow the weightless mix of beer and CO2 you have the rather antisocial “wet burp” scenario to contend with, making you very uncomfortable and extremely unpopular with your crewmates. Drinking and driving the Shuttle isn’t an option, and that’s not because flying a spaceship whilst intoxicated is a bad idea. It’s because you’d have a hard job keeping beer in your stomach and not all over the cabin. Ewww.

So, space beer is best served at 1-G, on Earth, and the managing director for strategy at Sapporo Breweries is very excited about how special this brewing effort is. “There’s really no beer like it because it uses 100 per cent barley. Our top seller is the Black Label brand, using additional ingredients such as rice. This one doesn’t, and is really a special beer,” said Junichi Ichikawa.

So what’s the point? Is this just a marketing gimmick, or does it have a purpose? I’m sure Sapporo are very impressed with this achievement, but what sets Space Beer apart from the stuff I’ll be drinking down the pub later?

As Ichikawa mentions, the barley used is only space produce, and there are no other ingredients (such as rice). However, I think we should ask whether there are plans to use water samples from the brand new urine recycler STS-126 installed during Space Shuttle Endeavour’s “home improvements” mission in the brewing process. I think this would make Space Beer more complete (besides, recycled wee tastes pretty good. Apparently).

The science behind growing stuff in space is also a great achievement as barley was one of several types of plant to be grown in orbit. Wheat, lettuce and peas were also grown earlier in the year and harvested. There are also plans to grow potatoes in space. All these projects aid the future of manned space travel; once we can sustain ourselves by cultivating our own produce, the dependence on Earth slowly diminishes. The operations on the ISS are a testament to these endeavours, and growing seeds and vegetables in orbit, along with recycling waste water is a tremendous achievement. Also, there appears to be no discernible difference in the DNA of plants grown in space when compared with those grown on Earth (in which case I’d expect no difference in taste between Space Beer and local pub beer anyway).

If you read the last paragraph and linked the future plans to grow potatoes in space with another alcoholic beverage, Cosmonaut Boris Morukov (who spent 11 days on the ISS) has a sobering message for any space man or woman wanting to set up their own distillery to get around the “wet burp” issue: “I think we would try to grow potatoes as food, not for vodka production.”

That said, where mankind goes, alcohol is sure to follow, it’s only a matter of time when we start seeing space bars popping up in orbit, on the Moon and Mars (especially if space tourism becomes a major industry)…

Original source: Telegraph, Sapporo


28 Responses

  1. Ethan Siegel says:

    As long as it isn’t synthehol or some other substitue that won’t kill my brain cells, I’m in.

    Beer in space, golf on the Moon, and Marigolds growing in lunar soil. I’d say “what a world we live in,” but apparently, who needs the world?!

  2. Yael Dragwyla says:

    Novelty items like this can be very useful for promoting space ventures of all kinds, and growing the barley in space proves that we can grow crops in microgravity or gravity-free environments, meaning yes, we can survive in space for extended lengths of time. Marketing the beer to the wealthy just may be a way to help finance space ventures, too, and in times like these, anything that helps should be appreciated. I’m all for it. πŸ™‚

  3. KG6YRA says:

    Mission control: Commander Bradley, could you please take it easy
    on the experimental beer.

    Astronaut: Yes, but in the morning, I shall be sober, and–

    Mission control: Commander, you’re drunk.

    Astronaut: β€œI may be drunk, Houston, but in the morning I will be sober, and you all will still be ugly.”

  4. Astrofiend says:

    “This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption… Beer!”

    -Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Friar Tuck

  5. Really?!?! says:

    hmmm… Japanese Beer??

    Next time let’s give our space-barley to the Belgians.

    Delicious!

  6. Dominion says:

    what if the barley had been exposed to cosmic rays? perhaps the drinkers would gain extraordinary powers. Jackie Chan should get some for his Drunken Boxing style.

  7. Huygens says:

    Regarding that ad, what is it with women with word tatoos these days? Today’s generation thinks it is sexy to look like a wall covered in grafitti?

    Oh, look, Angelina Jolie has tatoos just like in that movie where they can curve bullets, so it must be cool!

  8. Space Cadet (OWL) says:

    “Cheers! Japanese Brewery Produces Space Beer… But What’s the Point?”

    It’s beer! Why does it need to have a point? SALUD!

  9. Ian O'Neill says:

    Hi Jorge, so funny you should mention that! I literally just posted an article on this subject: http://www.astroengine.com/?p=2518

    I agree, this is a huge publicity stunt, but I’m really happy for any company who supports any space research, whether it is seen as a marketing ploy or not. However, i really think Sapporo should have issued some specific advertising posters for space beer, that would have had an even bigger impact.

    Nice to see industry working with space agencies and research institutions πŸ™‚

    Cheers! Ian

  10. Assi says:

    this is so, so unnecessary

  11. Cynthia says:

    How many pounds of barley were actually grown to produce all of this beer? Or was just a token amount of space grain used and diluted with Earth grain?

  12. confused says:

    Hey Huygens, I have tatoos, I think they are cool AND I have been told they look sexy. I dont really see why you have to take issue with this, everyone is into differnt stuff. There is no need to fall off your rocking chair old timer πŸ™‚

  13. Jorge says:

    Heh. Thanks for the chuckles. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, the point is, of course, to have plenty of free advertising from (and to) people all over the world who think the idea of making beer with space crops is cool. I, who had never heard of Sapporo Beer, now know that there are also breweries in Japan. Mission accomplished. Arigato, O’Neillo-san… πŸ˜‰

    Because, you see, we don’t actually need the beer to know we can grow grain in orbit. Therefore the beer is a marketing gimmick and only that.

    Still, if space industry can profit from this kind of advertising, why not? It’s mostly harmless.

  14. formulaterp says:

    word tatoos? Looks a like a fish to me. Maybe she just really likes fish.

  15. Joe says:

    Really?!?! and Jorge:
    I’m not much of a beer fan (I prefer the hard stuff), but I have tried Sopporo (pronounced “soap-poh-roh”) while visiting Japan and it was pretty good (better than most of the American stuff I’ve tried. Which admittedly isn’t very much.) I did prefer it over Asashi and Kirin (two other of Japan’s big beer companies). Still haven’t tried Suntory yet.

  16. Joe says:

    And Huygens must think the Japanese have a writing system that looks like fish. How silly of him.

  17. Huygens says:

    Forgive me if I think today’s tastes in what is considered to be attractive and what passes for music, entertainment, and news appears to be degenerating with each passing year.

    No, don’t forgive me – it is a culture of ugliness and crudeness and it needs to go away.

    Don’t like my views – move to North Korea, where you aren’t allowed any views but the State.

  18. DrNecropolis says:

    Hmmm, how to separate the carbonation from the beverage to drink a beer in space… Now we have a project I can get behind. Specially trained Alconauts, whose sole mission is to figure out a way to brew and drink beer in space. Could you use a specially designed grommet, like in Guinness? It could be attached to the top of the beer pouch, and only releases a tiny amount of the nitrogen when a sip is being taken, to minimize belching.

  19. PaulS says:

    This demonstrates why we need artificial gravity: so we can drink beer (and other carbonated beverages) in space and keep it down!

    Guinness: get busy on that artificial gravity unit!

  20. confused says:

    dont ask for forgiveness Huygens just realise people will like things that you dont. while you might think its a culture of “ugliness and crudeness” that does not mean it needs to go away.

    if you dont like what is on tv dont watch, if you dont like the music dont listen but like YOU said if you really dont like it move to north korea πŸ™‚

  21. Huygens says:

    Gee, thanks, confused. I’ll just hide away from society til things get better. You’ve solved all my problems, you and your tatoos!

    Today’s kids may have more access to information and better technology, but clearly their intellects and taste in things have not improved along with them.

  22. confused says:

    hahaha huygens you are so bitter, maybe it would be better if you did just hide away from society. at least if you did that we would not have to read about you complaining about every story that gets put up on this site.

  23. Huygens says:

    We can’t all live in the Happy Sunshine Valley of Rainbow Bunnies like you do apparently, my dear.

    But I am deeply flattered that you read everything I write. I am not at all bitter about that.

  24. confused says:

    hehe well i am glad i made you happy about something πŸ™‚

    i dont live in any sort of sun-drenched valley and i am not a huge fan of bunnies. i guess i just try and stay optimistic, try and see a good side to any situation and give things a chance even if i dont like them at first or at all……..its more fun than complaining πŸ™‚

  25. Huygens says:

    Ever read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World?

  26. Huygens says:

    Guess not.

  27. confused says:

    yeah but i read it when i was about 16……..i am waiting for some comment about me being an Epsilon or similar πŸ™‚

  28. zen says:

    How ironic that an ex-communist country and the Japanese are out marketing the Capitalist Pig Americans.First it`s the Japanese auto makers that are kicking our butts and now the Russians with their Space tourists at 20 million a pop.Where is Madison Ave. when you need `em.

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