by Zoe Bain
In the 1950s, the U.S. military was concerned about nuclear war. But, as it turns out, the military was also concerned about the drinkability of beer and soda should a nuclear war occur.
According to The Drinks Business, the military conducted experiments on carbonated beverages in 1955 as a part of Operation Teapot. Aptly titled “Project 32.2a: The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages,” the test was run to figure out what survivors could drink if an atomic bomb was dropped.
Operation Teapot was originally just supposed to research exposed packaged food products. The project introduction stated that, “it was expanded to cover representative commercially packaged soft drinks and beer, in glass bottles and metal cans.” Beer and soda were considered ubiquitous and possible “important sources of fluids” should an attack occur.
Documentation from the project shows that the drinks placed in positions anywhere from 0.2 to two miles way from the bombsite had radiation levels, “within the permissible limits for emergency use.” Some of the closer bottles were destroyed, but the taste was hardly altered. Bottles placed further away retained carbonation as well as their seals.
The beverages were sent away for further, more official, taste tests. While some off the soft drinks were dubbed “definitely off,” it was decided that, “the beer could unquestionably be used as an emergency source of potable beverages.” The project documentation did concede that beyond “emergency utility” the beverages would have to be officially taste tested before they could be returned to “commercial distribution.” Interestingly, there’s no mention of testing radiation levels, it seems that flavor was all that mattered in the potential aftermath of an atomic bomb.