Eleven-year-old Michal Bodzianowski is too young to drink the stuff, but the Colorado sixth-grader will be the first person to experiment with making beer in space.
"My dad posted this joke on Facebook, that this is the world's first microbrewery in space," Michal said. "Then he had to explain it to me."
Michal, who said he reads Popular Science magazine to "find out what's trending now in the science world," is more likely to know about spacecraft landing systems than Colorado's latest craft beers.
But when his class at STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colo., entered a national science competition — with the hope of getting their microgravity experiment flown to the International Space Station — beer came to mind.
Michal's prize-winning entry — "What Are the Effects of Creation of Beer in Microgravity and Is It Possible?" — will launch into space in December.
The competition is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, launched in 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education to spark interest in a new generation of students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM.
The 11 experiments that won the competition this year included entries from two fifth-graders, a middle-school team, one seventh-grader — and sixth-grader Michal, who came up with his idea after reading a book called "Gruesome Facts" that explained why beer was so popular in the Middle Ages.
"It was a punishment for crimes, that you couldn't drink beer," he said, "and most people didn't survive (that) because the water was contaminated."
Pondering how alcohol killed bacteria in the water, Michal thought this might also work for future space colonies.
Beer, he wrote in his design proposal, is "an important factor in future civilization as an emergency backup hydration and medical source."
In space, if a project exploded, wounded people and polluted most of the water, he theorized, "the fermentation process could be used to make beer, which can then be used as a disinfectant and a clean drinking source."
Michal's experiment, when launched, will be in a silicon tube about 6-inches long. Clasps on the tube will segregate hops, malted barley, yeast and water. When the tube arrives at the space station, astronauts will remove the clamps then shake the ingredients to determine whether beer can be made in space.
"We're just trying to get the yeast to react with the ingredients of beer," said Michal. "If it doesn't react at all, this tells you it won't work."
Among those awaiting the result is Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo.
"The history of beer goes back thousands and thousands of years," she said, with a nod to its origins among ancient Egyptians. "Why not expand beer to another element of our universe — space?"