Produced at least as far back as 5,000 BC, beer has been with us for a long time. But coming third only to water and tea in terms of worldwide popularity means that the lifespan of individual beers is more likely to be measured in days or weeks rather than years or decades. The exception is if they’re preserved at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a shipwreck. One such shipwrecked beer that is about 170 years old has been salvaged and analyzed and will be reproduced using modern industrial techniques.
The five bottles of beer, which are amongst the oldest preserved beers in the world, were salvaged in 2010 from a shipwreck that is believed to have sunk in the Åland archipelago southwest of Finland in the 1840s. The darkness inside the wreck and the low temperatures found on the seabed 50 m (164 ft) below the surface provided the perfect storage conditions, while the pressure inside the bottles kept the salt water from leaking in through the cork.
Thankfully, the salvage team didn’t crack open the beers to toast their find, which also included old bottles of champagne. This gave a team at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland the chance to analyze the beer and recreate the original recipe for modern industrial production methods. The Stallhagen brewery of Åland will now use the recipe to reproduce the historic beer.
All finds from the shipwreck belong to the Government of Åland, an autonomous region of Finland, which has decided that part of the profits from sales of the beer will go to charitable causes. These include marine archeological work and environmental measures to improve the water quality of the seas.
The shipwreck beer is set to go into production later this year with beer connoisseurs able to try it in June 2014.