NASA pilots helped nab yeast from 70,000 feet in the air.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 01, 2019

Plenty of breweries created beers to tie into the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing earlier this month. For instance, Schlafly simply opted for some space-themed names like Lunar Lager. Budweiser went a bit further, reviving a recipe from the time of launch. And Blue Moon even created a full on “Lunar Lander Keg.” But the Bangor Daily News recently profiled a company that went farther than any of that — literally — culturing yeast from the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere to help create a beer made with “space yeast.”

The Maine-based Mainiacal Yeast Labs — which according to their website specialize in providing “unique yeast and bacteria” to brewers — was part of a project with Hawaii’s Lanikai Brewing Company to harvest yeast from the stratosphere 70,000 feet above the ground. According to Forbes, Steve Haumschild — the brewery’s co-founder, CEO, and brewmaster — befriended a couple customers who happened to also be NASA research pilots, and eventually convinced them to capture air from one of their flights into a petri dish. That dish was then sent to Mainiacal where Justin Amaral, who is co-owner and head of lab services, went to work. “They captured air coming in the intake vent,” he told the Daily News. “We found one that worked in beer.”

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The resulting beer from Lanikai — called Interplanetary Ale — was released on the actual moon landing anniversary, July 20, on draft exclusively at the Hawaii brewery. However, Amaral said that he kept some of this “space yeast” for himself and plans to use it when Mainiacal opens its own brewery and taproom in Vassalboro this October — though he said he doesn’t plan to call these new brews “space yeast” beers since the whole project was originally Haumschild’s idea.

Still, if you eventually visit the taproom, you could always ask if any of the beers available were made with “space yeast.” However, the odds might be pretty low. Mainiacal has reportedly cultured about 3,500 different strains of yeast. With that many choices, hopefully there will be something else interesting to try — whether it came from space or not.