The Planet

Craft Brewery Launches Yeast Into Space and Creates “Ground Control” Beer

by Dana Driskill

March 20, 2015
Ground Control Beer, photo by Ninkasi Brewing Company

“Space, the final frontier, let’s make some craft beer,” cheers the catchy new theme song for a soon to be released beer from Ninkasi Brewing Company, an independent craft brewery out of Eugene, Oregon. Ninkasi decided the sky was not the limit for its potential, and sought to create a “space beer” using yeast that had traveled into outer orbit.

The optimistic and bold adventures of Ninkasi are well documented on their website, beginning with the disheartening failure of Mission One. After consulting scientists and building a rocket, the mission was launched in July 2014 by the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) and Team Hybriddyne, carrying 16 vials of brewer’s yeast. The flight up went smoothly but the return back to Earth was less successful; the rocket landed 9 miles from its intended target, and it took the rescue team 27 days to find it, by which time the yeast was no longer viable for brewing.

However, the dreamers were not deterred by the defeat, and instead, were more renewed in their resolve to make space beer a reality. They wrote:

To preserve and protect yeast as it travelled out beyond the Earth is the goal of the Ninkasi Space Program. This is an extension of human history in terms of creating a potable life-sustaining source of nourishment that allows us to live in inhospitable conditions while bringing joy and happiness. We were invigorated with the idea of another launch and excited about working alongside the professional rocketeers from UP Aerospace. Most importantly, we were determined to fulfill our true mission: brew a tasty space beer.

The team regrouped their efforts, and in October 2014 they launched Mission Two with private spaceflight corporation UP Aerospace Inc. In this launch, six vials of yeast climbed 77.3 miles in altitude aboard rocket SpaceLoft 9, and were weightless for four minutes before safely returning to Earth.

The yeast was cold-transported back to Ninkasi’s lab in Eugene, and reviewed to determine its viability. Once cleared, Ninkasi began fermenting its first space beer, Ground Control.

“This is all about exploring the future of brewing,” Jamie Floyd, Ninkasi brewer and co-founder, said in the press release. “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.”

Here are the specifics of this intergalactic beer, courtesy of Ninkasi Brewing Company’s website:

Ground Control Stats
Ground Control boldly combines local and out-of-this-world ingredients. This rich, complex Imperial Stout is brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs, and fermented with an ale yeast that survived a trip to space and back. Mankind will enjoy the sweet finesse of this beer that only fares better with time.

Style: Imperial Stout Brewed with Oregon Hazelnuts, Star Anise, Cocoa Nibs, and Ale Yeast Sent Into Space
Available: April 13, 2015
ABV (Alcohol by Volume): 10.0%
IBU (International Bittering Units): 80
OG (Original Gravity): 1100
Malt: 2-Row Pale, Black, Chocolate, Munich, Crystal, Honey, Special Roast, Peated
Hops: Apollo, Bravo, Comet
Packaging: 22oz. Bottles
Distribution: Alaska; Alberta; Arizona; California; Colorado; Idaho; Nevada; Oregon; Washington; Vancouver, British Columbia; and select retailers across the country. 

Ground Control is part of an elite group of alcohols that have left Earth’s orbit. According to Popular Science, in 2008, Japanese brewery Sapporo brewed a very small batch of beer from barley that spent time on the International Space Station. They also report that in 2014 a sample of Scotch was aged on the space station for two years before returning to Earth.

This time, man’s reach did not exceed his grasp, and somewhere out there Major Tom is celebrating. You can watch the video of the Ninkasi Space Program below:

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Craft Brewery Launches Yeast Into Space and Creates “Ground Control” Beer