Australian researchers find and drink beer from 220-year old shipwreck

What would you do if, in the process of discovering an important 18th-century shipwreck, you uncover 220-year-old bottles of what you assume could be beer? Brew it, then drink it, of course.

The ship Sydney Cove sank in 1797, with its wreck not being found until the 1970s. A number of bottles were found on the wreck, including what turned out to be two stubbies of beer. And despite the impressive 220-year vintage, the yeast in the beer was found to be still alive.

While the findings were stored away for a few decades, the possibility to sample a centuries-old brew became too much for some Australian scientists. Indeed, when the existence of the beer was brought to the attention of historian and chemist David Thurrowgood, he did what any other beer lover would do when they found ancient beer – find a way to drink it.

Old alcohol and other relics

The yeast is unlike any modern yeast, meaning there could be a number of remarkable and tasty results.

As Sandy Guy (yes that’s his real name) reports for Australian Geographic – probably from the beach – the yeast has been well preserved in the cool temperature at the bottom of the sea.

“Using DNA technology, the team discovered that the 220-year-old beverage still contained live yeast – Brettanomyces, a yeast strain used in older brewing styles, and Saccharomyces, commonly known as brewer’s or baker’s yeast”.

The brewers researched 18th-century beer recipes to try and make the brew as authentic as possible. But what will a beer brewed from 220-year old yeast taste like? The creators said it’s “light and fresh, a taste that has not been sipped for two centuries.”

The Queen Victoria Museum said they are considering selling batches of the beer under the moniker Preservation Ale, although it’s unlikely to reach the mass market.

But forget mass production, just brew a small batch and sell it at auction Seinfeld style.

And the beer wasn’t the only booze found at the bottom of the sea. An intact bottle of wine was also found in the wreck, and the brewers are similarly hoping to crack that one soon.

Who said being a scientific researcher was boring?