South Pole suds: A glimpse into Antarctica’s unlikely beer culture

Mount Jackson in Antarctica // Photo by euphro, flickr, cc2.0

Mount Jackson in Antarctica // Photo by euphro, flickr, cc2.0

The ice-covered continent of Antarctica is a frozen desert with no indigenous human population. And understandably so: With winds gusting up to 200 miles per hour, temperatures capable of dropping to record lows (the coldest recorded temperature was minus 128.56 degrees Fahrenheit on July 21, 1983), and frequent blizzards, Antarctica is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.

Still humankind has carved out a foothold of habitation on the continent, with 30 countries operating 40 year-round research stations and a range of a seasonal stations. Provisions are shipped in to support the researcher population, which peaks at more than 4,000 in the summer months and falls to around 1,000 in the winter. Perhaps surprisingly, for some stations these provisions include beer and homebrewing supplies.

For researchers at many Australian research stations, brewing their own beer has long been a part of life on base. Casey Station has the largest homebrewing program of the Australian bases, and the “Casey Brew Club” enjoys the fruits of their brewing labors at the station bar, Splinters.

Casey Station Homebrewing Equipment // Photo by Steve Black

Casey Station Homebrewing Equipment // Photo by Steve Black

Stu celebrates with a taste of the local brew // Photo by Peter Hargreaves

Stu celebrates with a taste of the local brew // Photo by Peter Hargreaves

American researchers looking to get in on the homebrewing pastime are out of luck, however, as U.S. Antarctic Program Code of Conduct prohibits the production of alcoholic beverages. That didn’t stop at least one researcher at the South Pole Station, who was caught in July 2015 with large quantities of bottled homebrew stored under a desk and in the station’s refrigerator.

Gallagher's Pub, McMurdo Station, Antarctica // Photo by Eli Duke

Gallagher’s Pub, McMurdo Station, Antarctica // Photo by Eli Duke

Americans aren’t totally at a loss when it comes to enjoying a beer on the ice, though. Beer is available for purchase in the bars at McMurdo Station, the logistics hub for the U.S. Antarctic Program, located on Ross Island. Though once a year, when the annual cargo ship and refueling ship arrive in McMurdo, the bars close for the duration of “ship operations” and McMurdo becomes a dry town, according to U.S. Antarctic Program spokesperson Peter West.

Curious to learn more about craft beer’s impact around the world? Follow The Growler as we globe-trot in search of craft beer in 7 Continents of Beer.

 
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About Brian Kaufenberg

Brian Kaufenberg is the managing editor, writer, and photographer at The Growler Magazine. His column "Now Open (Or Damn Close) keeps you up to date on the newest breweries in Minnesota.