Mars Borough Is Mission Control For A Refreshingly Out-Of-This-World Party

Stick City Brewing Company cans Water from Mars to raise funds the Mars New Year Festival.


You’d be hard-pressed to find potable water on the Red Planet, but there’s plenty of it under Mars Borough.

The tiny Butler County town with an astronomical name partnered with Stick City Brewing Company to can and sell purified, non-carbonated H20 for the Mars New Year Festival scheduled for June 9-10, 2023.

The bi-annual bash focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics and coincides with our neighboring planet’s completion of one full revolution around the sun, which happens every 687 Earth days.

“Even though it may be a novelty to have still water in a can, it is indeed high-quality water ready to drink,” brewer Nick Salkeld says. “For the initial run, we did close to 3,000 cans. This would be typical for any future batch. What makes the process more challenging and unique is that we literally package the water uncarbonated.”

Martians seem to enjoy the cosmic kitsch factor of their town. Paintings of little green men adorn nearly every storefront window, the high school sports teams are known as the Fightin’ Planets and there is a flying saucer parked along Pittsburgh Street. 

Officials figured adding an out-of-this-world festival with its own official beverage would attract more tourists. (Planet Mars is approximately 188,324,000 miles away from Downtown Pittsburgh; Mars Borough is only a 25-mile journey.) 

But, it was crystal clear from the start that getting Water from Mars in a can involved a lot more than turning on a faucet. The liquid comes from four wells 50 to 80 feet beneath the borough that supplies more than 600 residents and businesses. 

Just as they do when prepping water for beer-making purposes, Stick City brewers used a catalytic carbon filter, much like a home refrigerator water filter, to remove chlorine and any other subtle smells and flavors.

Water from Mars is available in limited quantities at the Irvine Street brewery that donates 1% of all sales to local and national environmental nonprofits that work to improve, restore and increase access to natural areas and waterways.

In addition to keeping festivalgoers hydrated, the project team wants to get Water from Mars in local convenience stores. Salkeld says if demand is high enough it may become a yearlong offering. 

Until then, his business and others are working with borough leaders on ways to get the Mars New Year Foundation’s party plans, along with a major NASA collaboration, into orbit. 

Last month, guests at a festival fundraising dinner got a chance to sip the space-age refreshments and brainstorm science project ideas. This year’s virtual Mars STEAM Challenge, which is open to all students in grades 3-12, asks kids to share ways they could not only survive, but thrive on Mars. Cash prizes will be awarded.

Longtime mayor and space enthusiast Glenn Hartung reached out to NASA in 2014 to discuss possible collaborations based on the town’s name. The space agency was go for launch. 

In 2019, the borough received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to help fund the creation of a Mars Discovery Center within the municipal borders. 

Hartung says they’re searching for more funding sources and discussing whether the facility, which would boast science labs and educational exhibits, could suit the town better as a single building or multiple ones spread out in more of a campus-style environment.

Representatives from NASA, Blue Origin, Carnegie Science Center and Pittsburgh-based lunar logistics company Astrobotic will be at the festival to educate and entertain attendees. 

Beer drinkers will be over-the-moon to learn that Stick City is also planning to release space-themed libations for the festival, including Moon & Mars Pale Ale. It was the first beer the company brewed on-site and its creation aligned with the rise of the Super Blue Blood Moon on Jan. 31, 2018. If you can’t make it to the Mars New Year party, Mars Brew Fest is scheduled for June 17, 2023. 

Since opening, Stick City has collaborated on fundraising beers with numerous local environmental nonprofits such as Glade Run Lake Conservancy, Pennsylvania Parks & Forest Foundation and the Penn’s Woods West Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Twenty percent of all sales from those specific beers is donated directly to the organizations.

Stick City cares about human and celestial bodies.

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