Space beer is here, and it’s outta this world.
In a gimmicky but irresistibly fun collaboration, Ninkasi Brewing Co., of Eugene, Oregon, went where no brewer has gone before by teaming with amateur rocketeers to send yeast to space—and then brew with it. The result, Ground Control Imperial Stout, launched May 1 at Mandalay Bay.
Flavored by star anise, hazelnuts and cocoa nibs from Theo Chocolate of Seattle, the bittersweet 10 percent-ABV brew’s star ingredient is the well-traveled fermenting agent. Although the yeast’s flavor wasn’t noticeably altered, its cells microscopically elongated during the interstellar journey.
“This is all about exploring the future of brewing,” Jamie Floyd, Ninkasi's founding brewer and co-founder, says. “While these groups are working to push the boundaries of access to space, we are hoping that our missions will help propel the brewing industry forward—well into the future.”
In collaboration with amateur rocket scientists from Portland, Oregon, the brewers first launched a canister of yeast into space from Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. A video cam strapped to the rocket shows the small vessel soaring toward the stratosphere at 3,850 miles per hour, turning trails in the dry lake bed into swirling kaleidoscopic lines. The launch was successful, but the recovery was not; It took 27 days to find the fallen container, and by then its contents were no longer viable.
“It became a quest,” says Ninkasi marketing director James Book. So in October 2014, the team headed down to Truth and Consequences, New Mexico, to try again—this time with success. Six vials of active yeast traveled 77.3 miles into the atmosphere and returned to be tested and propagated in a Eugene lab.
Book says he’s looking forward to more space exploration locally and hyper-locally. “The Earth is what it is,” he says. “It’s time to look outward.”