World’s oldest beer

Search “Aland Islands” in Google maps and you’ll see the little group separating the northern Baltic Sea from the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland – at the same latitude as Helsinki.

Normally the islands mean nothing to beer drinkers. But the recent discovery nearby of what is believed to be the world’s oldest surviving beer puts it firmly in brewing’s history book.

The beer was discovered by divers attempting to salvage Champagne from a ship wrecked in the Baltic Sea some time between 1800 and 1830.

Rainer Juslin, from the Aland Islands’ ministry of education, science and culture, reportedly told CNN that the “culture in the beer is still living”.

Whether that statement’s based on science or guesswork isn’t clear. But Lion Nathan head brewer, Bill Taylor, believes that if there are viable cells in the beer, they’re unlikely to be what the brewer started with two hundred years ago, though it might be fascinating to grow a culture from it.

Taylors say he’s tried century-old beer, and “I’m not in a hurry to taste another one”. He said tasting the King’s Ale, brewed in February1902 at Bass Brewery, Burton-on-Trent, was fascinating and interesting. The Baltic find is likely to be in the same category.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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