Oldest beer may surrender its recipe

Feb. 8, 2011 at 7:56 PM   |   0 comments

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HELSINKI, Finland, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Samples of the world's oldest beer have been examined in Finland to determine its recipe, with plans to brew the historic beverage again, researchers say.

A Baltic Sea shipwreck from between 1800 and 1830 was discovered in July 2010 and yielded many bottles of champagne and five bottles of what proved to be the oldest drinkable beer yet found.

The local government of the Aland island chain where the wreck was found has commissioned a scientific study to unlock the secret of the beer's original recipe, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Four professional beer tasters have already sampled the brew.

"They said that it did taste very old, which is no surprise, with some burnt notes," Annika Wilhelmson of the Technical Research Centre of Finland said.

"But it was quite acidic -- which could mean there's been some fermenting going on in the bottle and with time it's become acid," she said.

The research center has been commissioned to tease out the details of the sunken beer's recipe.

"So far we have seen under microscopes that there are yeast and bacterial cells, but we don't know if they're dead or alive yet," Wilhelmson said.

"If we can't find living microbes, we will look at the DNA and try to compare it to brewing yeasts that we know today."

Determining which hops have been used may be harder, Wilhelmson said, so reviving the 200-year-old brew for modern drinkers may prove difficult.

"Whatever we analyze, we're going to have to do a lot of interpreting," she said. "We need to analyze what it is today and start thinking about what it was like when it was made -- when it was fresh, because it clearly isn't fresh now."

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