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In July 2010, salvage divers in the Baltic Sea discovered what could be the world’s oldest bottles of beer. Since the early 1800s when a two-mast ship sank near Finland’s Åland Islands, the beer sat undisturbed in a near-perfect setting for aging, out of the sunlight in under 164 feet of water and at a near-constant temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we reported on the story in September, Åland island officials were planning on working with a local brewer to reconstruct the beer’s recipe and brew a modern-day version. BBC News reported yesterday that the Åland island government has commissioned the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) for a forensic study of the 200-year-old brew.
According to the VTT’s Annika Wilhelmson, beer experts who tasted the beer said it was acidic and had burnt flavors. Those who have had the misfortune of cellaring a beer too long know that these are common descriptions of an over-aged beer that tastes completely different from when it was fresh.
In the discovered beer’s current state, it will be difficult to determine what the beer tasted like originally, but Wilhelmson and her team are using microscopes to learn as much as they can. They have found yeast and microbial cells but have not yet determined if the cells are alive. If they cannot find and use living yeast cells to re-create the beer, the researchers will compare the yeast’s DNA to that of modern yeast to find the best match.
There is no news yet about who will brew the beer, how much of it will be produced, and where and when it will be available. Y&H will keep you posted.
Photo by Flickr user Jeff Keyzer using an Attribution 2.0 Creative Commons license