Japanese brewery to make beer from space-grown barley

The Associated Press

Japanese beer lovers can anticipate an out-of-this-world brew: suds made with barley descended from grains that traveled in outer space.

The "space beer," to be test-brewed by Sapporo Breweries Ltd., will come in a pilot edition of 100 bottles to be ready in November, said company spokeswoman Momoko Matsumura.

The beer will be made with barley — to be harvested this weekend — descended from seeds that spent five months in 2006 aboard the International Space Station.

"We're really looking forward to tasting it when it's ready," Matsumura said.

The barley project started when Sapporo teamed up with Okayama University biologists working with the Russian space team. The team took barley into space for storage inside the space station from April to September 2006.

The project is part of biological studies of the adaptability of plants to environmental changes and the impact from stresses such as space travel.

Sapporo planted some of the barley grains that returned from space at its research farm northeast of Tokyo in March 2007.

The seedlings were harvested last November. The company expects to harvest 90 kilograms of the third-generation grains on Saturday for use in the space beer.

Sapporo isn't planning to sell the special brew, at least for now, and hasn't decided how it will distribute the planned 100 bottles, Matsumura said.

So far, scientists have not found any difference between space barley and the Earth-confined version, she said.