NASA and McFleshman’s, yep, there’s a connection

Astrophysicist turned brewer? It’s more common than you might think! Well, it’s common for someone with a science or engineering background to dive into brewing for a career given the amount of technical skills you need to brew. Our founder, visionary, and leader, Bobby Fleshman (also my husband) has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Oklahoma and worked at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in Boulder for many years. His focus was on a tiny moon of Saturn named Enceladus whose water geysers made a big splash several years ago when the Cassini space craft took images and data of them.

An artist rendering of the Cassini spaceraft, Saturn and Titan. Cassini is near and dear to our hearts (we even named our daughter Jade Cassini!)

Bobby’s love for the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) spawned from science fiction tales told by Arthur C. Clark. Funny enough, Bobby didn’t start out on the science path. His parents, Bob and Jacque Fleshman (also owners of McF) helped him run a company building houses in Elk City, OK (while they ran a real estate and land brokerage co.) when Bobby was in his early 20s. When a friend gave him a book on quantum physics, Bobby decided to sell his company and return to school–he was 24. Finishing his undergraduate in physics, then diving into graduate school (and picking up a wife along the way) he brewed as a hobby to clear his mind of the stress of writing his thesis. The beer was pretty good, and as he started to learn the science of fermentation, the beer became better and better!

Images of the geysers on Enceladus. Bobby’s thesis modelled the different chemistry of the water interacting with the magnetic field of Saturn.

So how does NASA come in? Well, Bobby won a NASA fellowship to work on his PhD partially in Boulder, CO. His advisor, Fran Bagenal, let him live at her house but only if he would brew British ales as rent. She and her husband are both from England and have strong opinions about beer. It was here he perfected the British recipes you enjoy at McFleshman’s. Fran was and is a huge inspiration to Bobby. She has worked on spacecraft missions Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, Juno, New Horizons (that just went to Pluto) and many more. A recent documentary The Farthest features her and other folks who helped make the Voyager mission possible. NEXT TUESDAY! (Nov 5 at 6:30) Fran will be here to introduce the film at UW-Fox Valley. Click here for details!. If you like science films about space exploration you don’t want to miss this free showing! AND after the film, we’ll be heading back to McF for some pints if you’d like to ask Fran (and Bobby) questions about working on these missions.

Hooray Science!


115 South State Street - Appleton, Wisconsin
Tap Room Hours:
Tuesday - Friday: 3pm to 10pm
Saturday: 12pm to 10pm
Sunday: 1pm to 6pm