Archaeology – check. Beer – check. Cool chemistry – check. Shipwreck – check. What more could you ask for, seriously?
Produced at least as far back as 7000 years ago, in 5000 BC, beer has been with us for a long time, and we’re thankful for that. It’s done a lot for us (for better or worse), and it’s about time we did something for it. Being surpassed only by water and tea in terms of worldwide popularity, a beer’s typical lifespan varies in the days usually. But if your beer is in the Baltic Sea in a shipwreck, then it could stay conserved for… say, 170 years. This is the case with five bottles of beer, which are amongst the oldest preserved beers in the world.
They were salvaged in 2010 from a shipwreck that is believed to have sunk southwest of Finland in the 1840s. They settled 50 meters below sea level, and the conditions were just right – from the temperature, which was just low enough, to the low lighting conditions and the pressure inside the bottles that kept the salt water from leaking in.
Thankfully, the salvage crew didn’t crack the load (which also included a few bottles of champagne. This gave the team at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland the opportunity to analyze the beer and chemically recreate the recipe, virtually reproducing this ancient beer. But here comes the good stuff.
The findings belong to the Government of Åland, an autonomous region of Finland (who also funded the salvage), and the Stallhagen brewery of Åland will now use the recipe to produce the beer – with the biggest part of the profits going to charity, which include marine archaeological work and environmental measures to improve the water quality of the seas.
The shipwreck beer, who hasn’t yet received a name from what I can find, will go into production late this year, and it will be available for consumption in 2014.