It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit floral, and it goes down a treat.
It’s the kind of ale that would satisfy many a craft beer drinker, but there’s a twist.
QVMAG’s Preservation Ale has been produced using 220-year-old yeast extracted from a beer bottle salvaged from the merchant ship Sydney Cove, which was wrecked at Tasmania’s Preservation Island in 1797.
In what is believed to be a world first, researchers have isolated live yeast from the bottle’s contents and used it to brew the ale using period recipes.
QVMAG conservator David Thurrowgood said the extracted yeast possessed genetic qualities different to other existing yeasts in the world.
“It has quite a different flavour from a modern beer, so we’re pretty sure the flavour has come through from the yeast,” Mr Thurrowgood said.
“From what we can tell from the old beer (found in the wreck) is a very basic beer. It hasn’t got any of the natural or additional additives that we have in many modern craft beers, it’s quite a basic beer so we’ve reproduced quite a basic beer as well.
“The literature from the time refers to beer being sort of slightly sweet tasting, slightly light tasting, and in fact we were very interested to find out the beer we made had exactly those qualities.”
Mr Thurrowgood said the science of recovering microorganisms – such as yeast – was relatively new, with just one report of microorganisms being recovered from a 30,000-year-old glacier, and another report of yeast recovered from a 140-year-old sample.
It might be a while before samples of the beer are available to taste, with only 40 bottles of beer brewed in the first batch, but Mr Thurrowgood has high hopes for the future.
“The yeast that we have prepared we now have frozen at -80 degrees, and we can actually grow that up very successfully,” he said.
“It grows in a similar way now to how a modern commercial yeast would grow.
“There’s also the possibility that it could be used for other products, such as champagne or bread.”
QVMAG director Richard Mulvaney said the museum plans to continue its research into the yeast and bacteria recovered from the bottles, including wine and spirits.