Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Space Beer" a Galactic Disappointment

You might have heard that Japanese beer giant Sapporo recently brewed a beer which, it seemed, was brewed with barley grown in space. That's how BBC reported it, anyway:

"Japanese beer brewed from barley which was grown on the international space station orbiting the Earth, has finally been tasted. "
I was super stoked. Beer brewed from ingredients grown in space! Think of the possibilities! We'd never again have a grain or hop shortage. We could have breweries orbiting the earth. Hell, we could build entire brewing colonies on the moon! Mars, even! Space beer was here, and never mind beer; the world would never be the same.

Then I did a little more research.

According to the International Herald Tribune (a subdivision of the New York Times, whoever they are), the barley used to create the beer was actually terrestrial. In fact, the parent plants to the barley used to create Space Beer were terrestrial. It was the seeds of the grandparent plants that were cultivated in space for a grand total of five months. Which means not only is this beer not extra-terrestrial, it's three generations removed from space.

Here's the kicker, again from the IHT:

"Sapporo planted 0.14 ounce of the barley grains that returned from space at its
research farm northeast of Tokyo in March 2007."

0.14 ounces?! I've flicked boogers bigger than that! So much for bountiful space harvests. Here I thought they were hauling barley off the space shuttle by the 30-lbs. bag, and all I get is barely a handful of space kernels.

And for the record, what kind of beer can you produce with 0.14 oz. of barley? An incredibly light-bodied, barely yellow kind of piss-water that barely resembles anything remotely like beer.

Like Sapporo.

And I'm sure this quote is taken out of context, but if you watch the video, one of the big-wigs at Sapporo is quoted as saying, "There's really no beer like it, because it uses 100% barley." Say what now? Even the gigantic American macrobreweries make beer from 100% barley.

I'm sure what Mr. Morimoto (I assume that's his name; Reuters fails to name the man in the suit) meant was that there is really no Sapporo-made beer like it, as it is free of adjuncts such as rice. Unfortunately it took a five-month stay on the International Space Station and two years of harvesting to convince Sapporo that this no-rice thing is actually a pretty good idea.

I'm sure Jim Koch would have spurred a similar revelation for the price of an international phone call.

Well, maybe it's not as big a leap forward as we hoped. But it will at least be fun to try and get my hands on a bottle of the comically named "Space Barley: Special Brewing Beer".

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