Ninkasi Brewing Company of Eugene, Oregon teamed up with the Civilian Space eXploration Team and Team Hybriddyne to launch some live yeast to space, bring it back to Earth, and then brew beer with it…

…A truly successful space beer in their minds would taste no different from beer on Earth. While it is fun to imagine that exposure to radiation in space could result in some mutations in the yeast that would lead to some truly extraterrestrial beer, the challenge that interests Ninkasi is protecting the yeast from the perils of a space mission.

“Our biggest concern with the yeast was radiation. On Earth we’re protected from the sun’s radiation, and up in space you don’t have that atmosphere to protect you,” Ninkasi’s lab technician Dana Garves said.

– “The Quest to Brew Beer With Space Yeast” by Betsy Mason for wired.com

To be honest, tasting beer made with yeast that has been to space isn’t a huge deal to me. It seems like more of gimmick. Unless there is a notable, taste-altering mutation. The part that really grabs me is the idea of using the beer-making process to produce a safe, potable beverage in harsh, alien environments, as has been done throughout human history. That is fascinating.

Barley has already been grown on the International Space Station. Sapporo made a beer from that barley in 2008. On his WordPress, Dr. Ian O’Neill, a Senior Producer at Discovery News, takes the point a little further…

This is another step in the direction of a reduced dependence on Earth for the supply of food. If a Japanese brewery can produce 100 litres of beer from ingredients grown in space, we’ve made an important leap into the production of other consumables from ingredients grown in space. Imagine what this means for the future of mankind when we begin setting up colonies on the Moon and, eventually (in my lifetime I hope!) on Mars. The vision of cultivating food on other planets becomes one step closer to reality.

Mission One was ultimately unsuccessful in that the location systems on the rocket failed and it couldn’t be found for 27 days. The yeast had a viability lifespan of only 8 hours. Thus, it couldn’t be used for brewing once the brewery got their box back. However, it still has lessons for the lab scientists to learn, regardless of it being viable for beer production.

Mission Two will take flight in October.

More information can be found on the project website at http://nsp.ninkasibrewing.com