Monday, December 11, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Drink of the Week: Ninkasi Ground Control beer

Oregon's Ninkasi Brewing Company is a staple on the West Coast, and with its distribution range now expanded to Florida, expect to see a few of the brewery's aggressively hopped brews on the shelves of your local retailer. (Total Wine seems to be the place to find them at the moment.)

One of the more ambitious beers in Ninkasi's profile is Ground Control, an imperial stout brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise and cacao nibs. Oh, and yeast that has traveled to outer space and back.

After a failed mission involving yeast stranded in the Nevada desert following its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, Ninkasi succeeded in sending some more yeast 77 miles into the sky, which is about 15 miles above the Kármán line, generally acknowledged as the divider between Earth and outer space.

Does it taste different than regular yeast? Not really, but the story is cool and the beer is outstanding: space-black and viscous, with hazelnuts in the nose, followed by prominent cocoa and anise flavors with a touch of plum and raisin. It's 10 percent alcohol by volume, so you'll want to sip it slow.

There is liquid water on Mars, we just experienced a rare Blood Moon eclipse, astronaut Scott Kelly's yearlong stay on the International Space Station has crossed the halfway point — why shouldn't we be drinking space beer down on Earth?

Ninkasi's partner in the yeast launch was UP Aerospace, a private spaceflight company. In 50 years, space tourism may be viable for some people. In the meantime, Ground Control is as close as you're going to get.

Justin Grant, Times correspondent

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