A new type of beer is being marketed to a very select demographic: space tourists. The special beer is about to undergo testing in a near-weightless environment to qualify it for drinking in space.
Astronauts4Hire, a non-profit space research corporation, will conduct the tests on an Australian beer that has been brewed specifically for easy drinking in both microgravity environments, as well as here on Earth.
The beer was produced as a joint venture between Saber Astronautics Australia, a new space engineering firm, and the Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company, located in Manly, a suburb of northern Sydney.
The development of space beer is intended to coincide with the burgeoning space tourism industry, and as the market expands, industry leaders are anticipating a demand for such products.
So how do you test space beer without a rocket? Drink it, of course.
Testing for the new space beer is set to begin in November on board Zero Gravity Corporation’s modified Boeing aircraft, which flies a series of parabolic arcs that simulate environments of weightlessness.
An Astronauts4Hire flight member will act as the primary flight operator. The researcher will perform various experiments such as sample the beer during weightless parabolas and record biometric data on body temperature, heart rate and blood alcohol content.
Data will also be collected on the taste of the beverage and its drinkability during weightlessness.
This will be the first in a series of similar test flights that will be required to qualify the brew for consumption in space. The project is funded in part by 4 Pines Brewing Company’s sales on Earth.
This isn’t the first time that beer and space have met.
In 2006, the Japanese brewery Sapporo teamed up with Okayama University in Okayama, Japan, and the Russian Academy of Sciences, headquartered in Moscow, to create a special brand of limited space beer.
The brew, called Space Barley, was prepared using barley grown from seeds that had flown for five months on the International Space Station.
In the past, NASA has also sponsored studies on space beer, and whether or not the popular beverage can be brewed in space. Under current policies, however, alcohol remains forbidden on the International Space Station.
One study, done in conjunction with the University of Colorado, found some puzzling results about how yeast ferments in microgravity environments. The researchers, who announced their findings in 2001, discovered that yeast fermented with greater efficiency in their sample of space beer, making it more alcoholic.
Other studies have examined the type of container that would be needed to maintain the drink’s carbonation in spite of the extreme pressure and temperature changes that accompany a ride into space.