Despite the superficial appearance of MONTAG being a well-oiled machine that spits out a strategically-ordered series of carefully-chosen articles which groan with the weight of all the in-depth academic research we absolutely always undertake, sometimes a topic for a feature just falls out the sky and interrupts our well-laid plans with a loud crash.

Such was the case with BEER IN SPACE: a suggestion belatedly discovered on MONTAG’s “Editorial Strategy” document - a chaotic Google spreadsheet which reads like a stream-of-consciousness brain-dump from someone who has recently suffered a head injury.

Kathryn thinks an idea as dumb as BEER IN SPACE must mean that I added to it the list. I think something this clever-stupid could only have come from Kathryn. (Maybe it was actually MONTAG’s Benevolent Supreme Leader, Thom, playing with our minds.)

Still, some headlines are so pertinent that they demand an article to be written, simply to allow it to live. And so, here it is: BEER IN SPACE.

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Is there BEER IN SPACE?

There is currently no beer in space.

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Has there been BEER IN SPACE?

No. But lots of people - or, more specifically, #brands - have tried to make it a reality, unable to resist the allure of combining the two things which capture the attention of human beings like few other things: 1) Beer and 2) Space.

In 2011, in an early-ish example of a viral #content land-grab, and after an ad agency #brainstorm which resulted in backslapping so hard that everyone was medically treated for chapped palms, Natural Light Beer tried to launch some of its beer into space.

This #brand-gasm was also one of the earlier examples of the strap-a-thing-to-a-weather-balloon-and-film-it-with-a-GoPro marketing videos. It’s peppered with the kind of banter-tastic text that truly captures the spirit of soaring into the upper atmosphere, and witnessing the splendour of our planet carpeting out beneath you: “What up aliens! We brought the beer, where’s the party at?”

Natural Light claim that this was the first beer in space. It was not. The beer reached a hight of about 30 kilometres above the earth - and space begins at a lofty 100km. Nice try though.

Theirs is only one of a multitude of instances where booze #brands, groping for new ways to spend their unwieldy marketing budgets, have tried to tie space exploration to their alcoholic drink. Vintner Mumm makes “Champagne for space”. Budweiser wants to be the “first beer on Mars”. And the Ninkasi Brewing Company has created a Space Beer that is “brewed with space yeast.”

Yes, Space Yeast - the company fired vials of yeast 113Km into the sky - a real, honest-to-goodness space distance - before recovering it and brewing beer with it. And yes, of course the beer is comically expensive - the RRP of a 22oz bottle was $20.

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Do people even want BEER IN SPACE?

Absolutely yes.

But even if beer could be in space, the spoil-sport pen-pushers at NASA wouldn’t even let the act of drinking it happen.

“Alcohol is not permitted onboard the International Space Station for consumption,” says Daniel G Huot, joyless spokesperson for Nasa’s Johnson Space Center.

Boooooo to NASA. And yet, I suspect no-one is truly alarmed by their stringent ban - because if humans are good at one thing, it’s breaking rules that stop them from getting sloshed. In fact, they have already done it.

Despite the suspicion that if there was one man who would sneak a six-pack of PBR onto the Saturn 5 and pop a celebratory tinny at Tranquility Base it would be Buzz Aldrin, it turns out that while he was indeed the guilty party, the first booze drunk on the moon was actually Jesus Juice. Yes, eternal kudos should be reserved for Buzz, because he did indeed take holy communion on the moon with a thimbleful of actual wine drunk from an actual silver cup.

Other missed opportunities to chug a cold one in orbit include cosmonaut Alexander Lazutkin and his colleagues aboard the Mir space station (RIP), who all swigged from a bottle of cognac that - I dunno, just happened to be up there - to calm their nerves after a fire on the rickety old space station in 1997. Apparently, “the cognac is brought aboard on unmanned supply ships and sipped through straws.”

Expect hip-hop artists the world over, envious that someone has found a way to make drinking brandy more complicated and expensive, to start demanding this serving technique in expensive nightclubs immediately.

In fact, Lazutkin even opened up the tempting possibility that boozing amongst the stars could be considered medically beneficial: “the doctors recommended cognac for use. We used it to stimulate our immune system and on the whole to keep our organisms in tone.” I too will bookmark this excuse for future use when in need of strong liquor.

It turns out that even straight-laced NASA is actually flexible on occasion. In 2007, a NASA report noted, "two specific instances… where astronauts had been so intoxicated prior to flight that flight surgeons and-or fellow astronauts raised concerns to local on-scene leadership regarding flight safety… However, the individuals were still permitted to fly.”

Fair enough, we reckon - the prospect of being strapped to an enormous tube filled with explosive fuel and being pinged into the least habitable environment possible would have me reaching for a stiffener too. And NASA’s tolerance stands to reason: in the vastness of space, which is hardly cluttered with other spaceships to bump into, the margin of error for drunk-driving is a little more spacious than down here on earth.

The lust for BEER IN SPACE has even drifted into the minds of our greatest filmmakers. If you think that watching the tortuously camp 1980s sci-fi low-fi comedy movie “Beer Drinkers in Space” - a movie with characters named things like Captain Slosh - is a good use of your time, please feel free to investigate further, but a drinking game is recommended to make it through the whole thing.

Finally, some insight into human nature. Whilst discussing the important topic of BEER IN SPACE, MONTAG scribe Kathryn immediately pointed out that while the movie The Martian was praised for its realistic representation of life on Mars, if it was truly realistic, then the first thing Matt Damon would have done after growing potatoes in his poop would be to turn those spuds into neat space vodka.

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Can there be BEER IN SPACE?

Yes! And no.

There are, according to an unintentionally funny Forbes article, a couple of major issues that would be unavoidably broached when drinking a pint of the old gold ’n’ cold in space. Firstly, because gasses and liquids don’t separate in the stomach in zero-gravity conditions, drinkers would experience some major internal discomfort, along with a condition that is described non-euphemistically as “wet burp.”

Secondly, in space, due to the lack of gravity, your head swells up like a blood-balloon and your tongue gets fat with blood so you can’t taste stuff so well. LOL.

Still, Forbes revealed, it hasn’t stopped one brewer, determined for that sweet, sweet marketing buzz, from blowing $1M on trying to make space-beer, which includes designing a special sippy-nozzle for the bottle that allows you to drink the brewski in space-ski.

A simpler, and cheaper, solution might be to fire a few kegs of British mild ale into space, which, notoriously, is not fizzy, is not too boozy, and does not need to be chilled - or even be cold to be drunk.

via GIPHY

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Can we brew BEER IN SPACE?

Yes!

And who else appears to be subtly constructing the correct conditions to brew beer in space than the ever-contradictory NASA, an entity which has a history of creating tasty drinks for astronauts - famously creating the tooth-tooth-shrinkingly sweet just-add-water childhood favourite Tang.

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I’m being told that NASA did not actually invent Tang after all. Plus, noted space-drinker Buzz Aldrin is on record saying that Tang “sucks.” And while we’re on the topic, that thing about NASA spending a million dollars to invent a pen that works in space - while the Russians just used pencils - isn’t true either.

But, either way, things are looking up for fully space-brewed beer: not only is fermentation possible, but yeast and wheat have both been cultivated in space.

An experiment on the Space Shuttle - sponsored, with staggering inevitability, by a major brewer, Coors - mixed a tiny sample of wort and yeast whilst orbiting the earth, and it turns out that fermentation in microgravity is indeed possible. Hooray!

And did someone drink the almost-space-beer? Of course they did. Although, "it didn't taste very good", according to researcher Kirsten Sterrett, although this appears to be a small price to pay for being the first person to get battered off space booze

The only sticking point for space-brewin’ right now is the cost of firing water into space. Shooting one litre (i.e. 1kg) of water into the ether is stratospherically expensive - with prices starting at around $1700 per kg.

The good news it that there is a “significant amount” of water on the moon, and while some small-time thinkers claim that its best use would be to turn it into hydrogen and use the Moon as a fuelling station for Mars trips, I’m fairly sure that a quick poll of humanity would reveal that MOON BEER would be the preferred option.

Until then, NASA is ready, and has thoroughly investigated growing wheat in space, as this research paper documents in mind-numbing detail. It appears that wheat - and in fact, any plant - can theoretically be transported and grown in low or zero-gravity conditions with very few problems worth space-phoning home about.

NASA has even grown wheat in the micro-gravity of the International Space Station, and it looks like… normal wheat.

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So will we need to wait long until we have BEER IN SPACE?

That’s a big yes-with-a-but or a no-with-an-if.

Yes - it’ll take ages, because we either need to fire cans of lager into space, or water to brew it up there - and it’s just so staggering expensive. As every hardened drinker knows, you get more drunken value for money with strong potables like whiskey.

And the "no" alternative? Here's where MONTAG’s favourite Human Wildcard appears. Yes, it’s Elon Musk, and if there is one man who’d consider spending hundreds of thousands of dollars making beer in space happen, it’s the man who fired his own car towards Mars.

MONTAG feels conflicted about Elon: on one hand he furious tweets unwise things about cave-rescue heroes and initiates bewildering, unwinnable beefs with hip-hop artists, but on the other he’s making outlandish statements about wanting to die on Mars and that humans will assume the role of “house cats to advanced AI.”

However, he has an opportunity to unequivocally win over the whole of humanity in one fell swoop. And that opportunity is spelled B-E-E-R-I-N-S-P-A-C-E. Make it so, Elon.

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