The sea yields amazing treasures, and some enterprising explorers in Australia have found a particularly good use for some recent underwater finds. A team of research scientists discovered a few bottles in the wreckage of a 1797 shipwreck off the Tasmanian coast… and have begun brewing beer from their contents. The explorers detailed their findings and efforts with the experiment in a recent interview with Mashable Australia. Their beers, both a lager and ale, are reportedly brewed from the oldest known living samples of yeast in existence.
The Sydney Cove was on a journey from Kolkata, India to Port Jackson, Australia at the end of the 18th century when it sank off the coast of its destination in the Bass Strait. The cargo it carried included food, livestock, and textiles. What the team from the Queen Victoria Museum in Tasmania discovered with the wreckage was that there were also a lot of bottles on board that had survived intact.
David Thurrowgood, a conservator at the museum, and Anthony Borneman, a researcher with the Australian Wine Research Institute, worked together to get samples from a number of the recovered bottles and to see what they could do with them. The samples were put into a nutrient broth and left to see what would grow. They successfully grew two samples that they then brewed into beer. The other samples came from bottles that contained liquids other than beer.
Borneman explained to Mashable that they weren’t absolutely positive that the yeast they had grown was actually from beer: “The yeast that we pulled out, and there were a few different species, are all involved with beer brewing. They all fall on the family tree with beer yeast … Our two conflicting ideas are that they really are from the beer, or that we had a very rare, specific containment effect.”
While the two brews that they were able to make from the samples tasted pretty good, they are pretty unsophisticated recipes. Borneman equated them to a home brew level in the interview. That said, it’s pretty cool to think that these scientists drank a beverage that hasn’t been tasted in centuries. Would you do the same if given the opportunity?
The researchers are now raising funds to retrieve more artifacts from the wreckage in hopes of finding more bottles that will help them verify their brew as actual beer from the 18th century rather than a unique contaminant that happened to work. If they are able to retrieve more, the samples will all be moved to a clean room so that they can extract and confirm in a pure environment. Borneman has also expressed interest in pursuing the recovery of more shipwreck artifacts so that he might brew other shipwreck beers. I’m imagining a whole new level of hipster obsession that will surpass even old school coffee preparation.
How about it? Are you eager to head out to a bar and order your very own shipwreck ale with your friends? Tell us what you think in the comments below so we know we should provide a list of appropriate bar recommendations once this really takes off!
Featured Image: Australian National Shipwreck Database