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APSU sent hops to near space, now it’s in the Stratobeer at Strawberry Alley Ale Works


Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – On a sunny but chilly January afternoon, Austin Peay State University (APSU) physics students sent a high-altitude balloon 93,000 feet into the stratosphere.

The balloon carried an important student experiment, but the payload also included two special guests: two containers that contained Cascade hops.

Strawberry Alley Ale Works’ brew Stratobeer is made from hops Austin Peay State University launched into the near space. (APSU)

Strawberry Alley Ale Works’ brew Stratobeer is made from hops Austin Peay State University launched into the near space. (APSU)

Bryan Gaither – Austin Peay State University’s professional mad scientist and lab manager for the APSU Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy – came up with the idea to send beer hops to near space then handing over the hops to Strawberry Alley Ale Works to craft a special space-themed brew.

That brew – Stratobeer – hit the downtown restaurant’s menu on June 20th.

Strawberry Alley Ale Works last month introduced Stratobeer – “our out-of-this-world black IPA.”

“Introducing Stratobeer, our out-of-this-world black IPA,” Strawberry Alley Ale Works announced on its Facebook page.

After describing the January balloon launch, the post reads, “The successful experiment yielded important data for APSU, and a tasty brew for you!”

Stratobeer features hints of roasted malt and chocolate balanced by healthy additions of Cascade, Summit, Amarillo and Azacca hops lending a soft bitterness with faint citrus undertones, according to Strawberry Alley Ale Works.

The Student Experiment 

A jar of Cascade hops before the January launch. (APSU)

A jar of Cascade hops before the January launch. (APSU)

Last June, APSU physics student Zach Hill, along with fellow student Zach Givens, attended Rocket Week at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where he helped send Austin Peay State University’s first payload into space.

Seven months later, on that chilly but clear January morning in Downtown Commons, Hill made a final check of his equipment before sending it into the stratosphere. 

Launching beer hops into near space makes for a fun story around the bar, but Hill’s work – the main reason for that day’s balloon launch – may put APSU one step closer to one day having an actual satellite in space.



For the project, he used a wireless technology called Zigbee to test the ability for different payload boxes to send data to each other during a flight.

“Zigbee is a wireless protocol similar in some ways to Bluetooth,” Hill said. 

“Essentially it’s just a way for two devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. What I have been working on is a way to connect different balloon payloads running different experiments together wirelessly so that we can break a large experiment up into multiple parts. My payloads recorded things like temperature, pressure and acceleration and communicated that using Zigbee to a device which recorded the data.” 

To learn more

To read more about the balloon launch, visit




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