A Sydney-based brewing company owned by a group of West Australians has joined forces with astronautical experts to create the world's first craft beer for space.
Yallingup-raised Jaron Mitchell, the general manager of 4 Pines Brewing Company in Manly, NSW, said a casual conversation with customer and Saber Astronautics director Jason Held sparked the brewing team's interest in creating a beer that would taste great in space.
"One day while chatting with Jason, the simple question came up: 'Why don't we put some beers into space?'. So I said, 'Why the hell not'," Mr Mitchell said.
"That was over two years ago and now we have a recipe that we know works."
Mr Mitchell said the concept for creating beer that was out of this world was not far-fetched - it was about recognising that in the future, space travel would be within the reach of more people and it was important to tap into that niche market.
"About 550 people have gone into space," the 30-year-old said.
"In the next 12 months, more people are expected to go into space - tourists, not astronauts - than we've had in the 51 years of humans in space.
"No matter where man has ventured, the most important things on his list have always been food, water, clothing and shelter.
"And then it's like, 'Oh, what about the beer?'."
Mr Mitchell said a Russian company planned to build a space station hotel for civilians and tourists that was expected to be completed by 2016.
"We're just getting our ducks in a row now for that space bar and hotel," he said.
That meant not only did the beer need to taste great, but it also needed to be served in something that would befit a wealthy traveller who enjoyed the finer things in life - not in a squeeze tube used by astronauts.
"To a wealthy space tourist paying $200,000 to travel, you can't give them just anything. You've got to give them a bottle that looks and feels like it does on Earth," Mr Mitchell said.
For those of us unlikely to ever see a space station bar in this lifetime, the question remains: what does 4 Pines' Vostok space beer taste like?
The Earth equivalent is 4 Pines' award-winning stout, which is described as having a "full creamy head (and) a rich deep body of chocolate and caramel".
"In space, your tongue swells, so you need a big full-bodied beer to cut through the lack of sensitivity of the tongue," Mr Mitchell said.
Space beer needed to be high in flavour and low in carbonation, but most importantly it would definitely be cold, the University of WA commerce graduate said.
The effect of zero gravity on the beer's flavour and carbonation has been tested on prototypes at a variety of facilities in Australia and in trial flights in the United States, but more testing is needed.
"Space beer will be ready, hopefully, in about six months," Mr Mitchell said.
"We're the first and only ones doing it at this point, the simple reason being that there's such a small market - and testing is expensive, so this is not being done for commercial gain."
The beer has enabled the passionate, internationally experienced brewers to unleash their creativity and "show the world how good beer can be".
Space beer is a giant leap forward for 4 Pines, which was established in 2008 by Mr Mitchell, his partner Sheree Kelly, his brother Adam, their Yallingup-based parents Terri and Steve and friend Nick d'Espeissis, who runs Eagle Bay Brewing in WA with his siblings.
What started as a brewery in Sydney's beachside suburb of Manly has grown into a popular venue where customers are promised good food and "handcrafted beer brewed naturally".
"The entire plant can punch out 100,000 litres of beer in a year," Mr Mitchell said.
The brewing team produces more than 30 types of beers - many of which are stocked in venues and bottleshops throughout Australia.
To cater to a growing demand for the popular product, 4 Pines Brewing Company will build a second brewery/bar/restaurant in Sydney's Brookvale, which will produce 1.5 million litres of beer a year.
Mr Mitchell said 4 Pines was the second-biggest, 100 per cent independently owned brewery in the nation after family-owned Coopers Brewery.
Space beer would ensure 4 Pines Brewing Company would play a historic part in a new era in travel.
"It's cool to be part of a world first. We'll be part of that story for ever," he said.
"By doing this now, we've raised the bar so high for brewers."To a wealthy space tourist paying $200,000 to travel, you've got to give them a bottle that looks and feels like it does on Earth." Jaron Mitchell
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