Budweiser has set its sights on brewing the first beer on Mars.
"The King of Beers" announced its "Bud on Mars" initiative - including a partnership that could lead to flying malt and other experiments on the International Space Station - on Saturday (March 11) at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
"This takes the Budweiser experience to the future, where colonization and socialization might go," Valerie Toothman, Anheuser-Busch's Vice President of Marketing Innovation, said during a panel discussion devoted to brewing beer on the Red Planet.
"We know that travel to Mars might still be a decade or two away, but this is the first step in the journey in a long-term commitment by the company to make sure that when we get there and we achieve that American dream, Budweiser is the beer people will be toasting with and will be enjoying there on Mars," said Toothman.
The early evening event, which included a happy hour with specially-labeled "Bud on Mars" beer, also featured former astronaut Clayton Anderson and Patrick O'Neill, marketing and communications manager for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory at CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. Actress Kate Mara, who played an astronaut in the 2015 movie The Martian, moderated the panel.
"I'm so flattered to be here, but I don't at all feel qualified," said Mara. "That said, I will just go with it and do what I did when I made the movie The Martian and pretend like I am a genius when it comes to space."
Burps, pops and hops
A mission to send humans to the Red Planet is well-within NASA's long-range plans, said Anderson, who is a veteran of two space missions, including spending 152 days on the space station. "A successful mission will include many key components, including the need to provide crew members with commodities that remind them of home."
"Popping the top on a cold Budweiser mid-mission could very well be one of those things," he wrote in an email sent to collectSPACE.com after the panel.
"While the idea poses considerable technical challenges, the concept - which may lend itself to some valuable initial test ideas and experiments on the space station - is valid and potentially worthy of consideration with respect to a commercial partnership," Anderson added.
Beyond the possible issue of "wet burps" ("you just tumble a few times and all the liquid in your stomach will separate from the air; then you burp a solid dry burp," Anderson told the panel to laughter), there are also container concerns. Astronauts during the space shuttle-era experimented with non-alcoholic carbonated beverages in the 1980s, but the cans, cups and dispensers were unsuccessful.
"When you have a Budweiser and you pop the top [of the bottle], the pressure inside is higher than outside, so things will happen. As soon as the lid is popped on Earth, you let it 'fizz' and you enjoy. In space, it 'pops,' and then maybe you'd need to clean everything," described Anderson, who wrote about his experience with alcohol in orbit in his book, The Ordinary Spaceman (Univ. of Nebraska Press). "That would be an interesting dilemma to solve for the engineers at Anheuser-Busch."
The pull of gravity on Mars, which is about one-third of that on Earth, may help with bottle designs, but the distance to the Red Planet from our home planet may mean having to grow and source the main ingredients to brew Budweiser on Mars.
The American-style pale lager is made of two- and six-row malt, rice and hops and is propagated from the original strain of yeast as was first used by Adolphus Busch in 1876. And that is just 10 percent of the recipe.
"Beer at its core is 90 percent water," said Toothman. "And does everyone know what doesn't exist on Mars' surface? Water. There is ice and [other sources] like that, so we are going to learn about that."