Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of…beer? It might not be the first thing you’d expect to find in a 220-year-old shipwreck, but that’s what divers pulled from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, one of the first merchant ships to journey to the newly formed colony of Sydney in 1797.
For nearly two centuries, bottles of the ancient ale lay buried under sand and seagrass – conditions that effectively sealed them, preserving the beer inside – until they were plucked from their resting place in 1990.
Then, in June this year, chemist and museum conservator David Thurrowgood revealed that he’d successfully resurrected the two hundred year old tipple, recreating it using the original yeasts recovered from the submerged stubbies. After a first attempt to extract yeast from a sealed bottle revealed it contained castor oil rather than beer, scientist turned to two bottles that had been decanted 20 years earlier. This time, they struck (XXXX) gold, and were able to extract two brewer’s yeasts that are not in use today – Brettanomyces and an ancient strain of Saccharomyces.
David then set about brewing the beer based on an old English ale recipe, and has named it Preservation Ale after Preservation Island, where the Sydney Cove sank. He describes the taste as “distinctly light and fresh” and still Fosters the hope that he’ll be able to market the beer commercially. Altogether now…CHEERS!
Science isn’t always serious. The Weird Science series, collated by the Australian Science Media Centre, serves up the most quirky, curious and downright bizarre science stories of 2016.