The world's oldest beer, recovered from a 220-year-old trading ship that had sunk on its way from India to Australia, has been recreated by scientists using the yeast of the 18th-century brew.
The yeast was grown from the contents of a bottle of beer recovered from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, a British trading ship that got caught in a storm near the island of Tasmania, off Australia's coast, in 1797 while on its way from Calcutta to the prison colony at Port Jackson, now the city of Sydney.
The crew of the Sydney Cove survived by grounding the sinking ship on a tiny island off northern Tasmania, now called Preservation Island, which is part of the inspiration for the name of the recreated beer: Preservation Ale.
"It's got quite a sweet taste - some people have described it as almost a cider or fresh taste - which has come from the yeast," said project leader David Thurrowgood from the Queen Victoria Museum in Australia.
Researchers also found a historical account of an English beer from the time that was known for its sweet, cider-like flavour, similar to the beer brewed from the reanimated yeast. "That was quite a surprise, but having found that reference, and to have that particular taste come out in the beer. It showed that the beer did actually have a distinctive taste at the time that we're only rediscovering now,"
DNA tests show the shipwrecked yeast are related to species used in Trappist ales brewed in European monasteries. The bottles may have contained a premium beer exported from England for military officers at Port Jackson, according to Thurrowgood.