Three years ago, Ninkasi Brewing Co., an independent craft brewery based in Eugene, Ore., set its sights on a beer launch like no other and in July 2014, the Ninkasi Space Program (NSP) took flight. The mission: Send brewer’s yeast to space and return it to earth to brew a deliciously out-of-this-world beer. The result: an imperial stout fermented with spacefaring yeast. Back for its third year and available in time for the holiday season, Ground Control Imperial Stout returns this November to 22-ounce bottles, limited draft and an exclusive cask strength edition.
Brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise, cocoa nibs and fermented with a space-traveled yeast, Ninkasi Brewing released the first edition of Ground Control in April 2015. Since then, the beer has gained a following of space and beer enthusiasts alike.
“The Ground Control legacy continues to evolve as we discover new ways to play with the nuances of this beer,” said Jamie Floyd, Ninkasi co-founder and founding brewer. “This year, we aged the beer in Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrels and blended it with 10 percent fresh Ground Control to enhance the characteristics of the cocoa nibs, hazel nuts and star anise.”
The story of Ground Control’s creation began July 2014, with Mission One of NSP. In partnership with the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) and Team Hybriddyne, Ninkasi loaded a rocket with 16 vials of brewer’s yeast. A series of unexpected circumstances led to tracking issues, leaving the payload lost on the floor of the Black Rock Desert for 27 days. Due to the extreme desert heat, the yeast was not viable for brewing. An opportunity for Mission Two presented itself with UP Aerospace Inc., a private spaceflight corporation, and in October 2014, six vials of brewer’s yeast traveled above earth’s atmosphere from Spaceport America on an SL-9 rocket. Reaching a maximum height of 77.3 miles above earth, the payload containing the yeast touched back down and was immediately transported to Ninkasi’s lab to begin propagation and brewing.
“Whether it’s fellow brewers, beer drinkers or space enthusiasts, Ground Control sparks conversations around human exploration and creativity,” said Floyd. “Each year we release this beer we are thrilled to see what new discussions take place and how fans choose to enjoy this Ground Control with others.”