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19th Century Shipwreck Beer Could Be Recreated

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Beer discovered two years ago onboard a shipwreck from the mid-1800s could possibly be recreated using living bacteria discovered in the brew, Finnish researchers announced last Thursday.

According to Terhi Kinnunen of Reuters, Annika Wilhelmson from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland said that chemical analysis of the beer, which was recovered from a sunken ship near Aland islands in the Baltic Sea, has shown that it would be possible to make an alcoholic beverage similar to the original with the help of a master brewer.

The shipwreck, which was found in 2010, also housed the world’s oldest drinkable champagne, which was since been auctioned off, Kinnunen said. As for the beer, which researchers told Reuters that it “had not stood the test of time well,” that it nonetheless had maintained, in Kinnunen’s words, “a pale golden color and could originally have had hints of rose, almond and cloves.”

The VTT Research Centre was commissioned by the Aland government in order to study the composition of the beer and identify the yeast used in order to brew it, they said in a May 10 press release.

“The aim of the project was to study what early 19th-century beer was like and whether its production process could be reverse-engineered and the beer replicated,” they added. “The study involved an analysis of the physico-chemical properties of the beer and microbiological and DNA analyses of the beer, bottle and cork. In particular, the aim was to isolate any living microbes.”

“Lactic acid bacteria derived from the old beer have interesting potential applications, especially in the food and beverage industry. They are stress tolerant and potentially very stable in food and non-food matrixes. Live cultures offer opportunities for modifying the structure, taste, healthiness and safety of the products. The isolated bacteria provide interesting model organisms to understand and improve long-term survival of non-spore-forming bacteria,” Wilhelmson said, according to the VTT media advisory.
 
 

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