After deciphering the ingredients in what is thought to be the world’s oldest beer, Finnish scientists say they may be able to determine its recipe and brew it again.
In 2010, a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea yielded a small collection of bottled beer believed to be 170 years old.
Rainer Juslin, a spokesman for the local government of Aaland, said in a statement on September 3, 2010, "At the moment, we believe that these are by far the world's oldest bottles of beer."
"It seems that we have not only salvaged the oldest champagne in the world, but also the oldest still drinkable beer. The culture in the beer is still living."
The salvaging operation had also uncovered 145 champagne bottles including vintages from Heidseck, Veuve Clicquot and Juglar. Two bottles of the ancient bubbly were reportedly auctioned for $78,400 in 2011.
The sunken beer was a beautiful pale golden liquid and contained malt sugars, aromatic compounds and hops typical of the beverage.
In order to get to the bottom of the sunken beer's recipe, VTT was commissioned by the Government of Aland to study the composition of the beverage found.
The focus was to look for living yeast or other microbial cells because that would be vital in reproducing the age-old beer.
The brew was first sampled by professional beer tasters. This was followed by a chemical analysis, microbiological and DNA of the beer, bottle and cork.
The researchers isolated four different species of live lactic acid bacteria from the sunken beer.
The beer was a beautiful pale golden liquid and contained malt sugars, aromatic compounds and hops typical of the beverage. The chemical analysis hinted at the presence of rose, almond and cloves.
However, the brew in the bottles had not stood the test of time well.
"Based on the chemical analysis we made of the beer and with help from a master brewer it would be possible to try to make beer that would resemble it as much as possible," said Annika Wilhelmson from VTT technical research centre of Finland.
Shipwreck dated back to 1840
The cargo on the ship is believed to have been transported sometime in 1840. The haul was discovered at a depth of approximately 50 meters in between the Aland island chain and Finland.
Experts theorize the cold sea water provided the perfect foil to store the spirits. With the temperature bordering a near-constant 4-5 degrees Celsius and no light to accelerate the spoiling process, the cargo was found intact.
"The constant temperature and light levels have provided optimal conditions for storage, and the pressure in the bottles has prevented any seawater from seeping in through the corks," the researchers said.
Not much is known about the destination of the sunken ship or what caused the wreckage. However, it is speculated that the cargo was heading from Copenhagen, Denmark, to the Russian Imperial Court in St Petersburg.