Australian brewery recreates the world's oldest beer using 220-year-old yeast discovered in the depths of Sydney Cove – Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck.
In a groundbreaking partnership between the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, the Australian Wine Research Institute and James Squire Brewery, the world’s oldest beer has been resurrected. The beer, appropriately named The Wreck – Preservation Ale, will go on sale for a limited time only in June.
The Sydney Cove left Calcutta, India, in 1796 for a fledgling penal colony in Sydney, Australia – but before it could reach its final destination, the ship sank. It was not discovered until 200 years later when a team of amateur divers stumbled upon the long lost wreck. Ceramics, leather shoes, cannons and anchors were brought to the surface, but the greatest treasure was found inside sealed glass bottles.
Oldest bottled alcohol
Twenty-two of those vessels remained sealed, contents untouched, according to the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, which keeps the artifacts in its permanent collection. In 1993, experts from the Australian Wine Research Institute took samples from some of the sealed bottles and determined they were grapes, port wine and beer, making it world’s oldest bottled alcohol on record. The secure corkage and cool ocean temperatures had preserved the contents and this one-of-a-kind find was carefully stored at the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston.
Now, 20 years later, brewers are hoping to bring some of this old beer back to life using some of the yeast found on the ship.
“I thought we might be able to culture yeast and recreate a beer that hasn’t been on the planet for 220 years," David Thurrowgood, museum conservator and chemist, said in a statement.
I thought we might be able to culture yeast and recreate a beer that hasn’t been on the planet for 220 years
To resurrect this 18th-century beverage, the team re-examined the contents of the bottles and isolated the yeast. Analysis of the genetic make-up revealed that it was a rare hybrid strain worlds away from the types used to make modern beer.
Taming this historic yeast wasn’t easy, according to brewer Stu Korch. “Particular care has been taken to extract and grow this yeast into a brew that enhances its unique characteristics.” But, through a process of trial and error, the impossible was achieved.
Dark and stormy
After a lot of different recipes, we decided it was perfect for a porter style, says Haydon Morgan, the brewery’s head brewer. ´The Wreck Preservation Ale has been described as ”dark, malty, and stormy with hints of blackcurrant and spices”