While the term “old beer” may not sound very appetizing to most people, researchers in Australia are buzzing about a new ale brewed with yeast grown from the remains of a 220-year-old beer bottle found in a shipwreck off the southern coast of Australia.
The bottle was one of 26 found in the hold of the Sydney Cove wreck during excavations by marine archaeologists in the 1990s The ship wrecked in 1797 on Preservation Island, north of Tasmania, during a commercial voyage from Calcutta to Port Jackson, then a prison colony (now modern Sydney).
The bottles are believed to have contained a premium beer export from England for military officers at Port Jackson, and were also accompanied by bottles of wine, brandy, gin and several wooden casks of beer, likely intended for mass consumption, according to Live Science.
Named Preservation Ale in honor of the small island where it met its former demise, the re-brewed beer was resurrected by an international team of researchers led by David Thurrowgood, a conservator and chemist at the Queen Victoria Museum at Launceston in Tasmania.
According to Live Science, Thurrowgood and his team recovered yeast microbes from the beer bottle, then used it to ferment a beer brewed with an 18th-century beer recipe that may have been similar to that recovered from the wreck.
The yeast microbes showed in DNA tests that they might be related to species used in Trappist ales, brewed in European monasteries at the time.
The scientists involved in the project have described the beer as “mild-tasting” with a “distinct flavor.” Thurrowgood told Live Science, "It's got quite a sweet taste — some people have described it as almost a cider or fresh taste — which has come from the yeast.”
The team also uncovered a historical account of an English beer known for its sweet, cider-like flavor, reaffirming their recipe’s outcome. "That was quite a surprise, but having found that reference, and to have that particular taste come out in the beer … it showed that the beer did actually have a distinctive taste at the time that we're only rediscovering now," Thurrowgood told Live Science. Although Preservation Ale won’t be earning Untappd ratings just yet—according to Thurrowgood, despite several breweries interest in marketing the beer, it will only exist for research purposes for the time being — beer nerds can view an unopened bottle from the Sydney Cove wreck at the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, where it is labeled the world’s oldest bottle of beer. In other old beer news, in 2015, Stanford researchers reconstructed a 5,000-year-old beer recipe from residues on prehistoric pots at the Mijiaya archaeological site in China.
Additionally, a 133-year-old bottle of lager was recently recovered at Carlsberg brewery in Denmark. The lager was recreated by the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, debuting in Copenhagen in May; it will also debut stateside at the Brooklyn Brewery on November 16.
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