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article imageNew beer developed, based on an 1840 shipwreck recipe

By Tim Sandle     Oct 7, 2014 in Food
From an analysis of bottles of beer salvaged from the 1840s shipwreck found near the Åland Islands in 2010, food technologists are trying to re-create the original beer. To achieve this, they are studying some bacteria isolated from the bottles.
Craft beers are proving very popular these days and are a sign of a growing interest in new beer flavors and a reaction against the bland lagers mass produced from corporate breweries. However, to find new taste sensations new yeast cultures are required. For example, for standard lager, the yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus is used.
Part of the process where new taste profiles are created rests on the way in which yeasts turn sugar into alcohol. Certain bacteria can also play a role in this process, and combinations of different bacteria with yeast can also influence the taste, smell and body of the beer.
At the Åland-based brewery Stallhagen, food scientists are attempting to recreate a 170-year-old recipe and to start reproducing the beer. The process of making the old-but-new beer is based on physico-chemical and microbiological research. This was been undertaken at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.
This process has involved the isolation of living lactic acid bacteria from beer bottles recovered from a shipwreck from the 1840s. The find was, in fact, the oldest still drinkable beer. The wreck was about 164 feet deep in between the Aland island chain and Finland. The cargo was aboard a ship believed to be heading from Copenhagen, Denmark, to St Petersburg, Russia. It is thought that the cold sea water was a perfect way to store the beer, with the temperature remaining around the freezing temperature in Fahrenheit and there was no light to accelerate the spoiling process.
Using the isolated bacteria, the production process was developed in collaboration with Stallhagen and the Belgian university KU Leuven. These bacteria are arguably the oldest living non-spore forming bacteria ever found in beer. It is unclear why these particular bacteria survived, and further studies are being undertaken to determine why this is through genetic studies.
The reason why this is so interesting is that older beer making processes regularly used different bacteria in conjunction with yeasts. Although some modern beer production does the same, no one is entirely sure what the actual bacteria used were.
The new beer should be rolling off the production line sometime in 2015.
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