In early 2008, a Japanese visionary set out to create what promised to be the first outer space beer, aimed at the small niche known as “astronauts.”
The brewer Sapporo planned the beer, using offspring of barley once stored on the International Space Station. The project made use of the third generation of barley grains that had spent five months in space in 2006.
“It will be the first space beer,” Sapporo executive Junichi Ichikawa told reporters at the time. He said the company hoped to have enough space grain to produce about 100 bottles of beer but had no immediate plans then to make it a commercial venture.
Managu Sugimoto, a biologist at Okayama University, was the lead scientist on the project. He also had been part of a Russian venture looking into ways to grow edible plants in space.Barley can grow in relatively tough environments, such as high and low temperatures, and is rich in fiber and nutrients, making it ideal for space agriculture, Sugimoto said.
Very quickly, commercialism reared its head and research continued as Sapporo used the space grain to propagate larger quantities. And now, Sapporo has gone to market with Sapporo Space Barley on a limited commercical basis. The beer is selling for about $100 U.S. per six-pack, and only by lottery. Industry analysts say as soon as Sapporo can create a large enough grain yield from the space barley, it will begin developing a more widesperad marketing push.
That’s one of the few upbeat bits of news in the world beer market these days, however. In a very down-to-earth conflict, unionized workers for Anheuser-Busch InBev have been barricading the brewery giant’s Leuven, Belgium, facility where Stella Artois and other brands are made. The aim is to prevent beer from being shipped out as a response to the world’s largest brewer announced plans to cut 800 or more jobs in the face of declining sales.
U.S. wine and spirits maker Constellation Brands Inc. reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday as it cut costs, but it continues having difficulties with its joint venture with Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s leading brewer and distributor and maker of such brands a Corona and Modelo. Constellation said beer sales have fallen in North America and the company’s sales and profit margins have suffered.
Meanwhile, to make up for loss of sales, Ireland’s iconic Guinness has instituted a fresh round of price increases.
Those moves are merely the tip of the iceberg, as beer prices are rising globally. In some instances, consumers are being hit with a double whammy of higher taxes on alcoholic beverages imposed by cash-strapped government treasuries on top of higher prices being charged by manufacturers fighting sales declines.