Breweries Commemorate 50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing

courtesy Schafly

courtesy Schafly

That’s one small step for man…. one giant beer for mankind

I’ve been fascinated by U.S. space program ever since growing up Long Island, N.Y. in the late 1960s and early 1970s, just down the road from Grumman Corp., the aerospace company that built the lunar module that landed men on the Moon.

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flew their Apollo 11 lunar module to the Sea of Tranquility, and a date (July 20, 1969) with destiny. The hype for the milestone has been building for months, first with the release last winter of the movie First Man, the biopic of Neil Armstrong, and with the PBS documentary movie Apollo 11.

It was against this backdrop that I was happily handed a Liftoff Lager from St. Louis-based Schlafly Brewery during a dinner party near Washington D.C. The beer is one of four commemorative lagers Schlafly made this spring to mark the anniversary of the historic moon landing. The beer went down much easier than how Armstrong and crewmate Buzz Aldrin must have bounced along the moon’s surface. I was immediately drawn to the bottle depicting the Apollo rocket ship during its liftoff phase.

Why would a St. Louis brewery do a moon-landing brew?

Then it hit me: Grumman in the 1990s became part of St. Louis-based Northrup-Grumman.

I assumed of course, that the St. Louis brewery chose to do a moon landing themed beer because it shares the same hometown as Northrup-Grumman. Schlafly spokeswoman Caiti Carrow said its more of a case that there’s a bunch of “space nerds at the brewery.” Two years ago, she noted the brewery made a special edition of Helles Lager and renamed it Path of Totality that included a new bottle design and pair of solar glasses to watch the eclipse.

Carrow said the brewery is always looking to try new beers or packaging that will be “topically interesting.”  Some folks have had fun with the new Schlafly moon landing six-packs, such as turning the box into a space helmet [seen here on the brewery’s instagram],” she said. 

Schlafly is one of several breweries across the United States remembering the historic mission of Apollo 11, which accomplished the goal set for by President John F. Kennedy  to land men on the moon before the end of the decade. It was the first of six manned moon landings between 1969 and 1972.

courtesy Moeller Brew Barn

courtesy Moeller Brew Barn

A few miles from Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, Moeller Brew Barn has released its First on the Moon Pale Ale, which is being sold across western Ohio. “I wanted to bring attention to this national historic moment,” said Nick Moeller, owner of the Maria Stein, OH brewery and native of the region. The light copper-colored pale ale is brewed fittingly with Apollo hops that give it a punch of aroma and a hint of grapefruit citrus and resinous notes, but surprisingly little bitterness. The beer will be on hand at many events in Wapakoneta this summer.  “This feels like the epicenter of the  Apollo 11 celebrations,” he said. Armstrong learned to fly in the small town at age 15, even before he has a driver’s license and today the Armstrong Air & Space Museum chronicles his achievements.”

The beer-related Apollo 11 nostalgia is not limited to western Ohio

In Columbus, Land-Grant Brewing Company released an Apollo 11 branded black IPA—Tranquility Base—in February as part of its Space-Grant series.  “This year we’re raising a toast on behalf of all mankind, to those intrepid adventurers who took us to the Moon and back,” said co-founder Walt Keys.

Last year, San Jose’s Clandestine Brewing released its Apollo-11 double IPA, which includes a double dry hop addition of Apollo hops. In December, Dallas-based Celestial Beerworks debuted its Apollo 11 New England-style IPA in honor of the forthcoming anniversary.

Its not just smaller craft breweries getting in on the moon-landing themed beers.

Budweiser has a limited-edition Discovery Reserve American Red Lager made with medium-roast Voyager barley malt that is inspired by an old recipe from the time of the Apollo missions. The package design includes an image of an eagle landing on the moon. That is a nod to Anheuser-Busch’s corporate logo, which has long included an eagle, as well as Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “The eagle has landed,” which he said as the lunar module touched the moon.

“This Bud’s for those who challenged the odds and made the impossible possible,” Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch.

Schlafly, though, is the only brewery to release multiple beers to mark the moon landing. “Apollo 11 is one of the most exciting feats for humankind, in our nation and beyond, and its impact clearly lives on to 2019,” says founding brewer Stephen Hale. “We thought that the 50th anniversary of such a cultural phenomenon deserved a special beer to celebrate so we are releasing four.”

In addition to Lift-Off Lager, Schlafly made Apollo’s Orbit Black Lager, Moon Walk Dunkel and The Eagle Has Landed American Lager. The packaging showcases a few of the most memorable moments from the historic moon landing through the different lager styles.

Cheers to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and everyone who made the 1969 moon landing possible!