Aussies' latest contribution to space program: beer

Australia is well known for its space program, which includes… Uh… Okay, so Australia doesn't really have much of a space program. But it does have is specially-designed suds to get other space programs drunk, which is pretty awesome in itself. Making the beer wasn't easy, though.

Vostok, the world's first and quite possibly only certified space beer, was created in partnership between Sydney-based space engineering company Saber Astronautics and the 4-Pines Brewing Company. It underwent testing in simulated zero gravity using what's called a "drop tower," or a 75-foot-tall shaft that affords whatever is released into it two seconds of gravity. ''Zero gravity affects the taste of the beer and the bubbles, and the tests were about looking for the right carbonation levels, among other things,'' said Dr. Martin Costello of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, where the drop tower is located. Dr. Costello is the technical director of the tower.

Certifying a special kind of space beer is necessary in the first place because carbonated beverages can cause issues in microgravity. And by issues, I mean epic grossness. Here on Earth, you can vent the excess carbon dioxide from beer by burping, which works because gravity keeps liquid at the bottom of your stomach while allowing gas to escape upwards. In space, however, there is no "upwards," and what apparently happens is that when you burp, it's more like puking, as the gas carries along everything else that happens to be in your stomach with it. Ew. To help solve (or at least mitigate) this issue, which is really pretty serious considering how many pieces of life-supporting electronic equipment tend to not react well to projectile vomit, Vostok has had its carbonation content lowered enough to make it more or less safe to drink in orbit.

The other problem with space beer, and indeed all space foods, is that in zero-g your tongue swells, which changes how you taste things, so in order to taste like real beer in space, Vostok has also been brewed so that its flavors are significantly stronger.

The end result is a concentrated, reduced carbon dioxide stout that has been officially certified by someone besides NASA as drinkable space beer. Unfortunately, the mere fact that this beer exists isn't likely to change the no alcohol policy on the ISS, which sucks, since as we all know, they're ain't no party like a zero-g party 'cause a zero-g party is in zero-g.

If you can't wait for your trip to orbit, Vostok is available for purchase next time you're in Australia. A six-pack is $20.

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that Vostok 4 Pines Stout was created by the Queensland University of Technology along with the 4-Pines Brewing Company, both in Australia. Instead, it was developed by Saber Astronautics as well as 4-Pines Brewing Company, using a ''drop tower'' at the university.

Vostok, via The Age

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