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Researchers Test Space Beer 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the rocket-of-suds dept.
With space tourism becoming a real possibility in the near future, brewers are trying to figure out how to provide a good beer in space. To this end, a non-profit space research corporation Astronauts4Hire will begin testing an Australian brew created to be enjoyed in microgravity. From the article: "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."
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Researchers Test Space Beer

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  • What do the bubbles do in zero-g?
  • by Dthief (1700318) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:13PM (#33741480)
    I want to get free zero-g flights AND drink beer for my job
  • Abbey beer (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Lord Lode (1290856)

    It better be some good abbey beer from Belgium.

  • Fermenting in space? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:17PM (#33741510)

    I thought the article would be about how to formulate a beer that drinks well in space. Instead it seems to be about actually brewing in space.

    I really don't see why you would want to do that. Even a simple brewing setup involves several bulky pieces of equipment. And five gallons of beer fermenting will release somewhere around 200 liters of CO2 (number pulled from the depths of my memory, could be wrong) which is obviously not something you want an excess of in space.

    However, the observation that the yeast seemed to be more "efficient" in space makes sense to me. Fermentation in beer basically consists of three phases. During the first phase, the yeast consumes oxygen (aerobic respiration) as it reproduces in the wort. Once the yeast population gets high enough, they switch their metabolism to anaerobic and commence the fermentation proper. Finally, the yeast begin to aggregate together (it's called "flocculation") and form large globules which drop out of suspension and form a "cake" on the bottom of the fermenter. In a zero-G environment, these globules will instead stay in suspension and the yeast will remain in an active state for a longer period of time.

    • Typical slashdotter here and haven't RTFA but I would guess that they are interested in using yeast for vitamin synthesis on long missions.

    • In a zero-G environment, these globules will instead stay in suspension and the yeast will remain in an active state for a longer period of time.

      Centrifuges are wonderful appliances.

      Not sure about the other issues, maybe starting with more yeast and figuring out a way to deplete the mash of oxygen?

    • by compro01 (777531) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:37PM (#33741728)

      200L of CO2 wouldn't be a huge problem. An average human produces more than twice that every day.

    • And five gallons of beer fermenting will release somewhere around 200 liters of CO2 (number pulled from the depths of my memory, could be wrong) which is obviously not something you want an excess of in space.

      It isn't the fact that it's exuding CO2, although that's probably a big thing; it's the fact that it has to consume a corresponding amount of oxygen to get there. Spaceships are VERY sensitive to weight and power consumption. If you have to bring extra supplies of oxygen for your brewing process, or one or more CO2 scrubbers per batch, you are going to seriously screw with that. I mean, okay, it's not a mission to mars, but every gram you send up--solid, liquid, or gas--has to be paid for in rocket fuel,

      • by mysidia (191772)

        , but every gram you send up--solid, liquid, or gas--has to be paid for in rocket fuel, and rocket fuel's expensive.

        This is why we need a way to hang a pressurized straw from the surface of the earth up into the atmosphere where the shuttle is.

        And once it's in place, pump CO2 or Oxygen up to the shuttle through the gigantic straw, as needed.

      • by eclectus (209883)

        Fermentation is pretty much an anaerobic reaction - No oxygen required. The C02 is a byproduct of turning sugars into alcohol.

        • by dwywit (1109409)
          Beer brewing starts off as an aerobic process - the yeast consumes all the dissolved oxygen, then it switches to the anaerobic phase, producing CO2 and alchohol from the fermentable sugars in the wort. So it does consume oxygen and generate CO2, and it all has to be accounted for - as well as the methane produced at the tail-end.
          • by dlgeek (1065796)
            Keep in mind you're just removing the dissolved oxygen, not atmospheric oxygen, so it's not like you're taking it out of the air tanks. If you could find a way to extract that prior the the fermentation process, it could even be a net gain. The excess CO2 isn't atmospheric, so it wouldn't be a safety threat - you could either scrub it or find a way to utilize it - some kind of pressurized thruster or something or even just vent it into space. Eventually, we'll probably have full ecospheres in zero-g habitat
            • by volkerdi (9854)

              Keep in mind you're just removing the dissolved oxygen, not atmospheric oxygen, so it's not like you're taking it out of the air tanks. If you could find a way to extract that prior the the fermentation process, it could even be a net gain.

              You need that initial dissolved oxygen, as the aerobic phase is when the yeast cells multiply. Without it, you're liable to get a stuck batch.

            • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @10:54PM (#33743158)

              Keep in mind you're just removing the dissolved oxygen, not atmospheric oxygen, so it's not like you're taking it out of the air tanks. If you could find a way to extract that prior the the fermentation process, it could even be a net gain.

              If there was no dissolved oxygen at the outset, you would have to pitch a LOT more yeast. In my experience the volume of yeast increases by a factor of 10 or more during the reproduction phase (although this is based on measuring the primary yeast cake, which admittedly isn't entirely composed of yeast).

              I do like the idea of using it to grow plants. Perhaps barley? ;-)

            • Keep in mind that the dissolved oxygen is not naturally present in the post-boil wort. It WAS atmospheric prior to being dissolved.
    • Easy: you have to brew in space to keep the bubbles. Can you imagine how flat your beer would be after being subjected to 3 g's of acceleration? You're not even supposed to shake the can; launching it into low earth orbit can't be good for it.

      • by atamido (1020905)

        If you let the beer sit after shaking it, won't the liquid reabsorb the CO2 again because of the pressure it is under?

    • by Cadallin (863437)
      Um, because beer is water, and water is HEAVY? Therefore its enormously easier if you can recycle water you already HAVE rather than shipping the stuff from sea level. Which also is another major problem for beer in space. Beer is unquestionably affected by water quality. And you're going to be producing the equivalent of beer made with distilled water. Which would probably be quite disappointing. To put it another way, Does anyone really think beer produced with last weeks urine that's been run thro
      • by jonwil (467024)

        Stuff Vodka, I wanana see someone try Whisky in space.

        Although I dont know you would put the barrels whilst the whisky ages for a few years.

      • To put it another way, Does anyone really think beer produced with last weeks urine that's been run through reverse osmosis or other adequate purification is going to be remotely drinkable?

        I'm not sure I follow. Would it taste worse or better than Budweiser? Their process is essentially the same.

    • by vegiVamp (518171)
      My understanding is that flocculation occurs as the yeast goes into what is basically an alcohol-induced coma; thus flocculation would still occur and the yeast would stop fermenting, but it wouldn't settle on the bottom of the bottle. Space brewing would require extra filtering equipment.
    • by dargaud (518470)

      I really don't see why you would want to do that

      Because it would be a LOT cheaper to use recycled water to make beer than to bring it out of the gravity well. I've drunk recycled water for a year and by itself it's not that great. Turning it to beer is a great improvement.

      In a zero-G environment, these globules will instead stay in suspension and the yeast will remain in an active state for a longer period of time.

      Yes, and how do you filter it out then ? It's supposed to occur slowly thanks to gravity, either towards the bottom [wikimedia.org] or the top [wikimedia.org]. So we'd at least need a new name for it! And if they need anybody up there for trials, I'm available. [and I just brewed some stout yesterday]

    • Well, liquids are heavy and a pain in the ass to transport into space. Suppose that one day a commercial company (like Bigelow) actually does establish an on-orbit space hotel type thing. If they do that, what makes more sense? Keep ferrying hundreds of lbs of liquid to the hotel weekly? Or would it be better to lug a few bulky pieces of equipment up to space once and then brew the beer there? The added bonus is that most of the ingredients, besides water which the hotel needs anyways, for beer are actually
    • by BraksDad (963908)
      Perhaps the excess CO2 could be used in stabalizing thrusters on the ship, station, or other satalites maintenanced? Didn't they serve wine on the 2001 a space odyssey?
  • by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@nOSPAM.digitalfreaks.org> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:20PM (#33741544)
    The question is, if you brew a beer in microgravity, where there isn't really a sense of what's "up" and what's "down", how do you know if you've brewed an ale or a lager?
    • Just call it an American cream ale and call it a day.

    • by ExploHD (888637)

      how do you know if you've brewed an ale or a lager?

      Depends if lager yeast or ale yeast are used. From there you determine the proper fermenting time and temp.

      • Depends if lager yeast or ale yeast are used.

        Actually this isn't as important as you think. You can make ale with a lager yeast and lager with an ale yeast, it will just take longer and probably won't taste right. The temperature, however, is very important, because different yeasts prefer different temperatures. As it was explained to me, if the wrong temperature for the yeast is chosen either they won't multiply quickly enough and bacteria will overwhelm them, or they will start to consume the wrong su

        • by moeluv (1785142)
          You don't make lager with ale yeast or vice versa. They are different strainis of yeast and produce significantly different flavors in your beer. Lager yeasts do usually do better at low temps and ale slightly warmer. There are types of beer that ferment ale at lager temps but not usually the other way around because lager yeasts tend to produce very off flavor at higher temps.
    • by moeluv (1785142)
      You can tell by what strain of yeast you started with.
  • I want to be the guy who gets a space DUI. Totally worth it. "But occifer I warrz just going to the neerest lagraaange points derp."
  • Typical Aussies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by muphin (842524)
    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.
    Typical aussies :) i live near Manly and never seen or heard of Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company... publicity stunt?
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      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. Typical aussies :) i live near Manly and never seen or heard of Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company... publicity stunt?

      Is Manly in space? Maybe 4 Pines Brewing has all it's production already contracted by space tourism cruise operators?

    • by mollusc (746594)
      It's a rather nice small pub/brewery near the ferry wharf.
  • by countSudoku() (1047544) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:46PM (#33741800) Homepage

    NASA Scientists also mention that "Space Brownies were invented in the '60s by Earth-bound hippies and no further research is needed in this area. Thank you."

  • Shouldn't we be spending our time developing Synthehol?
    • in the 50's until the 80's the CIA tried and they failed.. or they kept all the good stuff for them self

      to learn more about this, search for MK Ultra. The experiment on mental hospital patients conducted by Donald Ewen Cameron [wikipedia.org] were utterly disgusting.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:52PM (#33741864) Homepage

    I found Mary Roach's Packing for Mars to be fascinating, informative, and it made me ROFLMAO about every third page.

    On page 296 she writes "Beer is a no-fly, because without gravity, carbonation bubbles don't rise to the surface. 'You just get a foamy froth,' says Bourland. He says Coke spent $450,000 developing a zero-gravity dispenser, only to be undone by biology. Since bubbles also don't rise to the top of a stomach, the astronauts had trouble burping. 'Often a burp is accompanied by a liquid spray,' Bourland adds."

    So we must assume that Astronauts4Hire have either not read the book, or didn't want to let the facts spoil their publicity ploy.

    Mary Roach described herself on NPR as "having the mind of a twelve-year-old boy." The book is indescribably marvelous to those of us who are similarly gifted with youthful imagination.

    • Centrifuge.

      Might not be so 'human-friendly,' but it might do the trick.

    • This is why I only pack whiskey for microgravity trips.

    • by mollusc (746594)

      OK, I'm good mates with the guy who's behind this beer. Let me assure you that they have actually thought about the whole bubbles-in-zero-G thing. And the whole reduced-sense-of-taste-in-zero-G thing. The current version of the beer is a very low carbonation, strongly flavoured Irish stout.

    • by gagol (583737)
      What is ROFLMAO? si possible in french....
    • Carbonated drinks I can see being a problem in a micro-gravity environment. Burping could be very uncool. But this is why they invented Whisky!

      Oooo and Vodka. Vodka and Tang isn't so bad, Tang was invented for the space program, wasn't it?

  • IwonderifIcangetNASAtotestminetoo,itseemstobebroken.

    Oooooh, space *beer*. Nevermind.

  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @08:38PM (#33742266)

    To this end, a non-profit space research corporation Astronauts4Hire will begin testing an Australian brew created to be enjoyed in microgravity. From the article: "In the past, NASA has also sponsored studies on space beer, and whether or not the popular beverage can be brewed in space.

    Why does that make me feel that we're getting closer to this?:

    "Clevon is lucky to be alive. He attempted to jump a jet ski from a lake into a swimming pool and impaled his crotch on an iron gate. But thanks to advances in stem cell research and the fine work of Doctors Krinsky and Altschuler, he should regain full reproductive function again."

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      That sounds like it would be worthy of at least an honorable mention for a Darwin Award.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I feel for that Clevon.... there goes his chance to receive a Darwin award without having to die for it!

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      Unrelated to OP in content, but title of the post is applicable:

      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.

      WTF? Are they going to store the beer cans close to the rocket nozzle?
      Because otherwise, what happens to the beer would be the smallest problem to the aforementioned "space riders".

  • How many of the astronauts would be considered flight crew? So long as they're "flying", it would seem they'd be covered by 14 CFR 91.17, which is the 0.04% and 8 hour bottle-to-throttle rule. Oh, IANAL, but IAAP and wondering how many of the FAA regulations apply.

  • by Stormie (708) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @09:50PM (#33742776) Homepage
    As a distinguished space captain once said, "All I need from a crew is their complete loyalty. If I had that then they could drink beer in their underpants for all I care."
  • Just make sure you don't invite those muthafuckers that try and weasel their way out of their round.

  • ...they start testing 'space blackjack' and 'space hookers'.
  • ...no one can hear you barf.

  • How sad when there's this many comments and not one mention of either the Vomit Comet OR Fizzy Lifting Drinks.
  • They call the plane that does the 0g roller coaster the Vomit Comet. This is where they want to test the beer for drinkability? Will they use Ale or Lager yeast and how will they decant it? It will need a filter and wont be very clear. A couple cans of Foster's 5.1% will make the trip to Mars go faster.
  • Microbrew (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest (469614)

    Wouldn't any microbrew be compatible with microgravity?

  • So are we gonna start hearing about micro(g)brewing now?

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