World’s oldest surviving beer revived from 220-year-old shipwreck

Picture: QVMAG
Picture: QVMAG

Yeast from a ship wrecked off the coast of Tasmania more than two centuries ago has been used to develop the world’s oldest beer.

The Sydney Cove was travelling to Port Jackson from Calcutta when it found its end at Preservation Island.

Following the excavation of the shipwreck between 1977 and the 1990s, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery uncovered objects, including beer bottles, for its collection.

Many of these objects are currently on display in its Sydney Cove collection.

The contents of the beer bottles were later examined.

QVMAG worked with scientists at the Australian Wine Research Institute to isolate the yeast from the year. AWRI then identified its genetic makeup and found it was a rare hybrid strain, which differed from modern ale strains.

QVMAG and James Squire then partnered to produce a limited edition beer made from the 220-year-old yeast.

The beer is called The Wreck – Preservation Ale.

The beer will be officially launched at the Great Australian Beer Spectacular in Melbourne and Sydney. 

It will also be available on-tap at James Squire brew houses across Australia from June.

Brewers at James Squires’ Malt Shovel Brewery created a Porter-style beer with “hints of blackcurrant and spices, giving it a rich and smooth taste”.

Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said a percentage of the profits would fund further research into the Sydney Cove collection at QVMAG.

"This exciting commercial opportunity wouldn't have been possible without our staff's meticulous conservation of the Sydney Cove collection, which we hope to now build upon,” he said.

"Congratulations to QVMAG, the AWRI and James Squire on bringing a 220 year-old ale back to life for beer-lovers across the country to enjoy.

“This collaborative effort is sure to add a new, intriguing chapter to the nation's history of beer."

More to come.