In space no one can hear you drink. Up until recently, even the thought of being able to drink a cold brew in space was ridiculous. Not only because there is no beer in space, but because there are only a handful of people up there and beer has not been at the forefront of their minds. But, with multiple private companies developing space tourism plans and others actively working towards colonizing the moon and Mars, the idea of relaxing with a beer in space is becoming more and more attractive.
In a recent Q&A at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk quipped, “Mars should have really great bars.” The remark was in response to a question about creating culture on Mars. But, with his company, SpaceX, planning on beginning short trips back and forth to Mars in early 2019, his plan of colonizing the Red Planet with 1 million people is starting to fall into place.
That’s where an enterprising Australian company comes in. 4 Pines Brewing company of Brookvale, New South Wales has created a beer that is attuned to the extreme demands of space both on how beer tastes and how it reacts in the human body.
In 2010, the quest for a beer that was suited to zero gravity began. The brewers at 4 Pines developed a boldly flavored Irish-style stout that was made with seven different malts. The beer had to exhibit a very strong flavor because in space body fluids tend to move up into the head causing the tongue to swell along with sinus tissues and other soft tissues. The swelling results in a decreased ability to taste foods.
Another important issue the brewers had to overcome was that of the beer burp. On Earth, after you drink a beer, the carbon dioxide or nitrogen that provide carbonation often causes a drinker to belch. Because of gravity, the liquid causing the burb stays in the drinker’s stomach. But, in space there is no gravity to hold the liquid, so a burp, well, it can get messy. To combat a sticky situation, the brewers carefully measured the carbonation in the beer to leave the sensation in the mouth, but not cause excess gas in the stomach.
With the brewing issues resolved, the challenge of how to make a bottle that would allow future space traveler drink a beer in the same way someone on Earth would had to be addressed. To drink a beer on the ground, you just pick the bottle up, put it to your lips and tilt it. Beer flows from the bottle through the neck and into your mouth thanks to Newton’s law. In space, liquids do not pour. Instead, they collect in blobs that float around. So, a bottle that wicks the liquid from the bottom up through the neck and then out the top was developed. There’s a lot of high-tech science involved in the bottle, but the end result is that astronauts, space travelers and Mars explorers will be able to enjoy cold beer while they are rocketing around the universe.
With Musk speculating that SpaceX may be able to put man on Mars as early as 2024, the ability to arrive refreshed is certainly, “One giant leap for man.”