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article imageRemaking the world’s oldest beers from lost recipes

By Tim Sandle     Mar 10, 2015 in Odd News
Helsinki - Brewers and scientists are reviewing beer recipes from clues that archaeologists have uncovered from an 1840’s-era shipwreck. The aim is to recreate an enticing beer from yesteryear.
In 2014 Digital Journal reported that researchers were analysing beer salvaged from the 1840s shipwreck found near the Åland Islands in 2010. Here, divers discovered an old schooner at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The ship was transporting cargo from Copenhagen, Denmark, to St Petersburg, Russia.
When the shipwreck was explored, it was found to contain a crate of well-preserved beer (the beer was preserved due to the cold temperature.) The aim is to re-create the original beer. To achieve this, an analysis of the bacteria isolated from the bottles was underway. As well as yeast, 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. With yeast, by fermentation, the yeast species like Saccharomyces cerevisiae convert carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. Such yeast is also very rich in essential minerals and the B vitamins.
Following the recovery of the bottles, scientists working at the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland have analyzed the bacteria and have an idea about the oldest preserved beer samples ever found. Although the beer was diluted with salt water, the bottles contained enough of the original ingredients to allow for chemical testing. The chemical tests have provided sufficient information about the recipe, yeast and bacteria.
The analysis has shown that some of the bottles of beer are different, composed of varying hop content. The research also discovered that the yeast-derived flavor compounds were similar to those of modern beers with one difference. The key difference is that the shipwreck recovered beer had a higher content of rose-like phenylethanol compared with comparable modern beers.
Perhaps, one day, the original recipe will be re-created and a modification of the 170-year-old beer will roll off the production lines to create a novel craft ale.
The investigation has been reported to the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. The paper is called “Analysis of Beers from an 1840s’ Shipwreck.”
In related news, having fallen behind the craft beer movement, it could be time for tired old lager to be revitalized. Food technologists have been developing new hybrid yeasts for lager in an attempt to revitalize this less celebrated form of beer.
More about Beer, Shipwreck, Yeast, brewing
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