I've just had the closest thing to an off-world Star Trek Romulan ale I will likely ever drink. Samuel Adams' Space Craft IPA is a brew with a twist: It's made with "orbited hops."
When the private astronauts on SpaceX's Crew Dragon Inspiration4 mission circled Earth in September, they weren't alone. The payload included 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of Citra and Mosaic hops (two classic choices for IPAs). In exchange for the hops, Samuel Adams pledged $100,000 to St. Jude Children's Hospital as part of the mission's fundraiser.
The special-release Space Craft is only available through Samuel Adams' Boston brewery and taproom.
I'm a craft beer aficionado, frequenting my local breweries and willing to try everything from pickle beers to French's Mustard Beer. I've tasted a lot of IPAs, but it's not my favorite style, so I called in the most experienced (and toughest) IPA critic I know, my mother.
Samuel Adams gives this description of the West Coast-style Space Craft: "Firm bitterness, with generous tropical notes of grapefruit, guava and passionfruit co-pilot classic piney and resiny hop aromatics." Our verdict? That's pretty accurate.
The IPA pours a lightly hazy golden honey color and offers a gentle nose my mother describes as "diffuse honeysuckle." The grapefruit notes stand out and it rolls to a dry finish. My mother calls it "a very decent IPA" that's "typical of West Coast," a style that tends toward bold bitterness and pine. At 50 IBUs, Space Craft is more soft-spoken than some of the super-bitter IPA options.
But you really want to know if we can taste the space. We can't. I would never guess the hops in Space Craft had been in orbit.
We've already seen space Scotch whisky, which the experts said tasted quite different than its Earth-matured counterpart. But ale is another animal. Hops is just one ingredient in a recipe that also calls for yeast, malt and water.
As commercial opportunities continue to open up in space, we can expect more food and drink products that prominently feature a space-related component. Sometimes, the orbital journey might make a difference in the flavor. Sometimes, it will mostly be a marketing hook.
If Samuel Adam's Space Craft is just marketing, I'm OK with that. There's still something soul-stirring about holding a can in my hand and knowing a little piece of its contents circled the planet far, far above me.
From fiery launch to sweeping orbit to thrilling landing, those IPA hops lived a life I will probably never experience. With my feet on Earth and a glass in my hand, I'm a little more connected to human space exploration. Cheers.