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Get a Taste of 170-Year-Old Shipwreck Beer

Mar 06, 2015 01:06 PM EST
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Usually when a shipwreck is discovered, people are excited at the prospect of finding ancient buried treasure, but beer? Recently a team of scientists diving off the coast of Finland found a shipwreck dating back to the 19th century, and is getting a taste of 170-year-old beer preserved inside.

The old schooner, discovered in 2010, sank in the Baltic Sea off the coast of the Åland Islands, Finland back in the 1840s. Among the wreckage was loot that included 150 bottles of champagne and some beer. While the beer was diluted with salt water, it still contained enough of the original ingredients so that scientists could determine what the initial recipe might have been.

The findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

So how did beer from 170 years ago taste? Actually drinking the old beers didn't tell the researchers anything. High levels or organic acids, produced by bacteria growing in the bottles for years, gave the samples a vinegary, "goaty," and soured milk flavor, which overpowered the original fruity, malt or hop profiles.

But while the scientists couldn't experience the same aromas the sailors on board might have enjoyed, they did analyze the chemical components of two beers to determine the long-lost brew.

They found that these shipwreck beers were not too different from today's modern ales. The yeast-derived flavor compounds were similar, though the beers from the wreckage had higher than usual content of rose-like phenylethanol. They also think the two bottles contained different beers, with one more hopped (and thus more bitter) than the other.

Unfortunately, beer connoisseurs cannot get a taste of this 19th century brew. However, according to The Telegraphthe Finnish brewery Stalhagen has created a modern version with the old, replicated recipes, allowing people to quench their thirst with the days of old.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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