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Space Beer Ready for Taste Testing

It’s probably no surprise that today’s astronauts are discouraged from drinking on the job. Space tourists, however, may have different expectations.

Enter Australia’s 4 Pines Brewing Company, which this Saturday will be conducting human experiments in Florida—taste testing space beer. (Related: “‘Global Warming Beer’ Taps Melted Arctic Ice.”)

According to ABC Melbourne, the brewery has made its first batch of suds designed to be drunk on commercial space flights.

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Astronaut Karl Henize enjoys a Pepsi on the space shuttle Challenger in 1985. Guess he wasn’t a fan of New Coke, either.

—Picture courtesy NASA

What’s the big deal, you may ask? Why can’t I just get a Bud Light or a Heineken? You certainly could, 4 Pines might reply, but it wouldn’t taste very good.

One of the enduring problems with eating or drinking in space is related to what’s called space adaptation syndrome.

In orbit, the fluids in your body are no longer being pushed by gravity into your lower half. But your body is still trying to pump things around as if you were standing on Earth.

This leads to excess fluids in the upper body and head, which in turn causes nausea, vomiting, and swelling.

Yum.

Aside from the nausea, eating becomes less enjoyable, because the swelling also applies to your taste buds, and this dampens down flavor in a very noticeable way.

“Astronauts have been known for years to throw handfuls of salt and bottles on Tabasco sauce on their meals,” 4 Pines brewer Jaron Mitchell told ABC Melbourne.

The new space beer is a “big, full-bodied” stout that brewers hope will taste great and be less filling, even in microgravity.

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A drop of carbonated soft drink floats on the space shuttle Challenger in 1985.

—Picture courtesy NASA/Johnson Space Center

At the same time, brewers made the space beer less carbonated than Earth beer, to counteract so-called wet burps.

“On Earth when you burp, due to the gravity that’s acting on your stomach, the gas and the liquid separate,” Mitchell said.

“However, in space … the gas and the liquid can both come up during a burp.”

Yum x 2.

Of course, NASA was evaluating the challenges of bringing bubbly beverages to space long before the days of Virgin Galactic.

Space shuttle experiments conducted almost a decade ago brewed a small amount of beer in space and tested a device for dispensing carbonated drinks in zero-G.

Plus, in a twist on the concept, Japanese brewer Sapporo last year made a limited edition space beer with barley grown from seeds that spent five months in Russia’s Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station.

The company sold 250 six-packs for the equivalent of $110 each—but only in Japan.