Whether it’s worthless maritime junk or ancient, priceless treasure, if it’s been on the seafloor long enough, it’s probably up for grabs. Just make sure you’ve studied your Laws of Salvage and your Laws of Finds. That’s our advice. Then, when you find a small merchant vessel that went down off the coast of Tasmania, Australia, in the treacherous Bass Strait in 1797, you can keep all the precious preserved beer you find inside — to drink like some ridiculous king or (better yet) remake that old timey brewski.
Does that sound like a new Peter Benchley novel you’d read?
It’s also sort of the story of the Sydney Cove shipwreck, a ship that was traveling from Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, to Port Jackson, Australia, with a cargo of food, textiles, livestock and (fist pump) booze. In fact, some of the bottles (which included beer) survived for centuries on the seafloor until they were retrieved in the 1990s. Now, some folks at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Tasmania, which also hosts an exhibit about the wreck, decided they would try to capture live yeast from some 200-plus-year-old bottles of beer.
According to Mashable.com, it could be the world’s only known pre-industrial revolution brewing yeast.
Unfortunately, the team can’t say with complete certainty the yeast came directly from the old beer and is not instead an unusual contaminant effect. After being taken from the wreck, the bottle was decanted into two different samples for fear the cork would deteriorate.
Nevertheless, it’s the answer that would make the most sense. “The yeast that we pulled out, and there were a few different species, are all involved with beer brewing,” [David Thurrowgood, a conservator at the museum] explained. “They all fall on the family tree with beer yeast … Our two conflicting ideas are that they really are from the beer, or that we had a very rare, specific containment effect.”
The experiment wasn’t perfect, but that’s just the start. Anthony Borneman, a principal research scientist at the Australian Wine Research Institute, who was a big part of the project, has plans to make beer from bottles found in other wrecks around Australia (like some craft Jacques Cousteau). Now those sound like cool craft beers I’d share with my mates.