Space Beer Splashes Down in Japan

ReutersA barley-growing experiment aboard the international space station.
Space beer, the result of a five-month mission to boldly grow where almost no one has grown barley before, has landed in Japan with some help from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The beverage, brewed from barley cultivated in the international space station in 2006, has splashed down courtesy of the academy, a Japanese university and beer giant Sapporo.

But the 100 liters of the 5.5 percent alcoholic brew are not for sale, although tastings are being offered to some earthlings as Sapporo tries to push its brand into a new orbit.

"There's really no beer like it because it uses 100 percent barley. Our top seller is the Black Label brand, using additional ingredients such as rice. This one doesn't and is really a special beer," Junichi Ichikawa, managing director for strategy at Sapporo breweries, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Cosmonaut Boris Morukov, who spent 11 days in space himself, said barley joins wheat, lettuce and peas as space-station produce, noting that potatoes may take root in future studies, although not for the purpose of brewing an equally famous Russian beverage.

"I think we would try to grow potatoes as food, not for vodka production," Morukov said.

Beer sales have been falling in Japan, and beer has generally been off space menus because of its alcohol and gas content.

With explorers now eyeing longer trips to Mars, that menu may change, as Japan's Okayama University Professor Manabu Sugimoto advised astronauts not to rule out space-rice wine in the future.