What would go good with an order of french fries on Mars? Ketchup? No. Beer.
Budweiser announced plans to take its brand to Mars at the South By Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. Digital Trends has highlights of the event, which was hosted by Kate Mara, who starred in the movie The Martian, and featured former astronaut Clayton Anderson, Budweiser VP Richardo Marques, and Anheuser-Busch’s Vice President of Innovation, Valerie Toothman. The panel discussed the possibilities of not only taking Budweiser into space, but also brewing it on the red planet.
At first glance, one might think it was just a crazy PR event to promote the Budweiser brand. However, the discussions were serious and thoughtful.
According to NASA, Clayton Anderson is a retired astronaut with extensive experience working in space. In 2007, Anderson was aboard STS-117 serving as a flight engineer. That mission dropped him off at the International Space Station (ISS) where he spent five months as the station’s Science Officer. Clayton was also a crewmember on STS-131 in 2010 and has orbited the Earth 238 times. He has participated in a total of six spacewalks and has logged almost 40 hours in extravehicular activity (EVA).
“Anytime you go from a gravity-based environment like we have every day, and then you go into a zero-gravity environment, and you put carbonation in a beverage, it’s going to cause issues,” said Anderson responding to a question about taking beer to space. “So having things like a Budweiser while you are sailing through open space; that’s a big idea.”
Budweiser’s plans do not just involve astronauts cracking open a cold one after a long day of EVAs and scientific work. The company sees itself potentially producing its product on Mars.
“This takes the Budweiser experience to the future of where colonization and socialization might go,” Valerie Toothman said.
A Budweiser brewing facility on Mars sounds like a great idea from a marketing perspective. After all, who else would be able to say they exclusively service Mars? However, the reality might not be so simple.
One problem presented when considering brewing beer on Mars is the difference in atmospheric pressure. According to Universe Today, Earth’s atmosphere is about 100 times as dense as Mars’. The effect this has on beer is that the carbon dioxide trapped in the beer cannot escape as readily. The result being a Budweiser that is nothing but a “foamy slop.” Perhaps this problem could be solved by brewing and serving the beverage in artificially pressurized environments. However, there are much more challenging hurdles than foamy beer to overcome.
If Budweiser wants to produce beer on Mars, it had better figure out a way to get water there. While water has been discovered on the planet, it is still very scarce, and if they do figure out a way to harvest it, it is highly unlikely that the colonists will want to waste it on making beer; or maybe they would. In any case, water would be very hard to come by, and unless an unlimited or renewable source of water is found, even a small brewery seems unlikely. On Mars, water is liquid gold.
Budweiser would also have to figure out a way to grow hops on Mars. Researchers have already discovered a technique to grow potatoes under Martian conditions, so maybe brewmasters can figure out a way to grow hops under the same restraints. However, there are several issues when considering how to grow hops on Mars.
One issue is sunlight. Hops require plenty of sunlight to flourish. The problem is that the sun on Mars appears about half the size as it does on Earth. The amount of light produced is not enough to nourish the plant.
The next problem is the climate. Summer days on Mars may reach around 70 degrees, which is perfect for growing hops. However, at night the temperature plummets to -100 degrees or lower. Potatoes seem to be able to bear this frigid cold since they grow beneath the soil.
“Wherever the hops are planted, a minimum of 120 frost-free days are needed for hop vines to produce flowers,” according to MoreBeer.
Hops would not last a day on Mars unprotected.
The third problem with growing hops brings us full-circle back to water. While the plants do not require a lot of water, especially when young, they do need deep watering after the root system has been established. Once again, brewmasters would be faced with throwing away Mars’ liquid gold before they even have a chance to turn it into Budweiser’s liquid gold.
For now, saying that Budweiser is going to Mars sounds cool, and is probably perfect for an advertising strategy, but we will have to wait to see if Budweiser engineers can find solutions to these problems.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]