Hold my beer: Budweiser trying to figure out how to brew in space

22 Nov 2017

Image: Nishihama/Shutterstock

Budweiser is taking brewing supplies aboard the International Space Station to be the first to make a cold one in space.

Not content with having a slice of the market here on Earth, Budweiser is eyeing up a future colony on Mars as the next place where someone can enjoy a beer, no doubt to the chagrin of potential craft-beer drinking colonists.

Before it can do that, it is attempting to figure out how to brew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with help from some astronauts.

Budweiser said it would be sending some of its barley aboard the ISS next month under a partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, which manages the ISS’s US national laboratory.

To be launched with the scheduled SpaceX resupply mission on 4 December, the two barley experiments will stay aboard the ISS for approximately one month before being returned to Earth for analysis.

The plan is to see how barley seeds react in a unique microgravity environment, with one of the experiments focusing on barley seed exposure, and the second testing barley germination.

While obviously a promotional move for the beer company, the research could also have benefits for science in general.

Rather than just focusing on beer production, the secondary aim of the mission could also provide valuable information on the production of barley and the larger agricultural community here on Earth.

Not the first brew in space

This isn’t the first time that research has explored whether brewing beer in space is possible. Decades ago, Kirsten Sterrett from the University of Colorado received funding from Coors to study fermentation in space.

As part of her research, Sterrett flew a microbrewing kit aboard one of NASA’s space shuttles, which resulted in a few sips worth of beer being produced. Sadly for beer enthusiasts, she reported that the beverage tasted quite bad.

With colonies on the moon supposedly just a few decades away, beer producers are racing to get the formula right.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic