Lab sources brewing yeast from space

We’ve had yeast sent to space and beer brewed with moondust, but Mainiacal Yeast Labs has gone one step further, managing to isolate brewing yeast from an air sample collected in space by two NASA research pilots.

The NASA planes used to capture the yeast. Image: Lanikai Brewing Co.

The US company, which specialises in sourcing “unique yeast and bacteria” for home and professional brewers, recently teamed up with Lanikai Brewing Co. in Hawaii to help source space yeast for the brewer’s Interplanetary Ale, created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

According to reports by Forbes, Lanikai Brewing Company co-founder, CEO, and brewmaster, Steve Haumschild, befriended two NASA research pilots who were able to collect yeast samples in a petri dish. Flying in a NASA ER2 plan, they were able to collect the yeast while flying at 70,000 feet from air coming through the intake vent.

Justin Amaral, co-owner and head of lab services at Mainiacal Yeast then worked to isolate the yeast strains, eventually finding two different strains in the petri dish. One proved viable for brewing, though needed to be combined with another strain in order for it consume enough sugar to make good quality beer.

The resulting beer went on sale at the Lanikai Brewing taproom on 20 July.

Haumschild told the publication: “I’m excited to share what I’ve found with other brewers. We didn’t know what we were going to get, and to be honest I truly didn’t think it was going to work, but in the spirit of exploration, I figured, let’s try it. That’s what NASA is about, that’s what [Lanikai Brewing] is about.”

Mainiacal Yeast Labs has reportedly cultured around 3,500 different yeast strains, and before working with the ‘space yeast’, had previously isolated samples from a couple of thousand feet in the air.

Amaral, however, told Forbes that this was the first time he’d “seen something this extreme”.

The beer space race has been heating up in recent years. Global beer brand Budweiser has sent barley seeds into space and has also pledged to send beer to Mars, aiming to produce a microgravity brew that can be enjoyed on the Red Planet.

In 2017, a team of science and engineering students in California pitched a research project to see if beer could be brewed on the moon. Last year, Oregon brewery BridgePort launched its flagship IPA into space using a specially-designed helium balloon, while space engineer Dr Jason Held created a bottle designed for drinking beer in zero-gravity. 

In 2015, Ninkasi Brewing Company released a beer made from brewers’ yeast sent into space, called Ground Control. And in 2013, Dogfish Head brewed a beer called Celest-jewel-ale that was made with moondust.

The 20 July 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, after Apollo 11’s lunar module called Eagle touched down on the Moon on 20 July 1969.

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