Space Beer

I’ll get to the beer in a minute. but first, check out the screenshot from my Klout profile on the left. Chances are that if you read my blog, you follow me on Twitter. So, you tell me, am I really influential about football and food? Really? I didn’t post the whole list, but Klout says I’m the least influential about NASA. go figure.

The reason I bring it up, is that for many months last fall Klout kept telling me I was influential about beer. I know I don’t tweet about beer that much, so I was afraid that Klout knows more about how I spend my free time than I would like.

In any case, it seems Klout gets the last laugh, because here I am writing an entire blog post about beer.

You may be thinking, how much cross over between the worlds of beer and spaceflight can there be? It turns out, a lot!

Just last week local Houston micro-brewery Saint Arnold premiered their new double IPA that I just picked up at the store yesterday. It’s named after the space shuttle Endeavour. Endeavour was itself named after Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour which he sailed to the Pacific in the late 1760s.

For the space geeks out there, the beer’s label has a nice picture of Earth – which looks to me like the famous Apollo 8 blue marble – with a tiny space shuttle in orbit. For the beer geeks, this is a delicious 76 IBU offering that I really enjoy.

So right now everyone is thinking, “wow, it’s so cool there’s a beer out there named after one of America’s space shuttles”. You may also be pondering how much the idea of the Space Shuttle has filtered into all aspects of American culture. You would be right, but you would probably also be surprised to find out that the Canadians named a beer after a Space Shuttle 20 years before us.

Spinnakers is one of my favorite microbreweries in Victoria, BC – a Canadian city on Vancouver Island with an absurdly high density of craft beer. If you like beer, you need to take a vacation there at some point. Spinnakers is a beautiful two story building on the water in the Victoria harbour. In the early 90s the crew of STS-42 was training for their Space Lab mission. MS-3 Bill Readdy was a homebrewer and Canadian astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar was also on the crew. Due to Dr. Bondar’s Canadian heritage, the crew were apparently regular customers of Spinnakers so when they launched on January 22nd, 1992, they carried a packet of hops that were later returned to the pub for a limited 2 cask beer that was tapped by the crew.

I was at Spinnakers last summer for the first time with my uncle (who lives in Victoria) and was surprised to see signed astronaut photos on the wall and space shuttle patches. It’s amazing how the space program follows you everywhere, when you keep an eye out for it. This past year Spinnaker started brewing a new version of Discovery Low Gravity Ale (not made from space hops) in celebration of the end of the space program and the 20th anniversary of STS-42.

Personally, I think it would be awesome if one of these breweries continues the tradition and releases more beers to complete the set with Challenger, Columbia, and Atlantis. It would be really cool to consult with astronauts and NASA employees to match the personality of each orbiter with the right type of beer. Which orbiter was more carefree and fun? Make it a hefeweizen. Which orbiter was more cold and quiet? Make it a Guinness style stout. I think this has potential.

As far as I know, there are no confirmed cases of alcohol being consumed in space – everyone seems pretty sure there was vodka on MIR though. JAXA is trying to breach the market, allowing Sapporo to fly barley seeds on the ISS in 2009 and then sell 250 limited release six packs of a brew made from the barley. I think the politics of this are interesting. Should Sapporo really be profiting at $19 a bottle from this gimmick? The ISS is funded by taxpayer money, so you could argue that it shouldn’t be okay. In any case, people the world over like beer. In fact, beer really can bridge cultural differences, so I support the idea. Let’s grow some potatoes and agave on ISS and start selling space vodka and tequila! Clearly nothing can go wrong…

March 5, 2012 10:48 pm

One Response to “Space Beer”

Leave a Reply