recovered bottles
Photo by Austrlain National Shipwreck Database

‘World’s oldest beer’ brewed with yeast salvaged from shipwreck bottle

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Ever wonder what beer tasted like hundreds of years ago?

A group of researchers at Australia’s Queen Victoria Museum revived the world’s oldest-known beer recipe, and said it’s surprisingly “light and fresh.”

The 220-year-old bottle of beer comes from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, a small trading ship that sank off the coast of Australia in 1797. The bottle was recovered in the early 90s by divers, who also retrieved other well-preserved goods, including tobacco, ink, textiles, wine, and spirits.

Just last week, the museum announced that they salvaged live yeast from the bottle, and used it to recreate an old brew, giving researchers a taste of what it was like to drink hundreds of years ago.

“It virtually sealed everything in, there was no oxygen getting in, and it was completely intact,” marine archaeologist Mike Nash told ABC News.

Photo by Australian National Shipwreck Database

The researchers analyzed and cultured the yeast with the help of the Australian Wine Research Institute and the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. The researchers brewed the beer based on an 18th-century recipe that was recovered with the bottles. They dubbed it Preservation Ale.

“The yeast is an unusual three-way hybrid with links to bakers, brewers, and wine yeast,” museum conservator David Thurrowgood said in a news release.

According to reports, this is the first time that yeast of this age has been observed in a live condition. Researchers hope to study it further, so they can explore the possibility of recreating other historic brews.

If they’re able to secure enough funding, they also plan to study molecules of the wine salvaged from the shipwreck “to see if they are different to modern red wine and its reported health benefits, and to study other possible dietary microorganisms from 220 years ago.”

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