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A beer brewed from a 200-year-old Tasmanian shipwreck (bbc.com)
46 points by MiriamWeiner 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments





I've read a dozen or so articles on this (It's been a somewhat popular discussion on several homebrewing communities focused on using interesting/rare/"alternative" yeasts), and the beer that's been brewed so far has only used a subset of the yeast cultured from the bottles.

If they were trying to more faithfully reproduce the beer they found, they'd need to use all of the yeast cultures they recovered. (They commercial beer listed here was not actually attempting to reproduce the beer - just use the yeast)

There's some debate as to whether or not the yeast they're using is a contaminate, as well. Sacch strains do not seem to live long enough in fermented beer to make it 200+ years (though there's evidence that Brett strains will do just fine), and the samples were taken from bottles that had been decanted 20 years prior. The characteristics reported of the yeast are also similar to what many people find when using wild yeast. That might be due to them being wild yeast contaminates, or due to the selective "breeding" pressure of commercial yeasts having not yet eliminated these traits.

I wish they would sequence the yeast and release the results.


I'm forced to wonder whether the same strain of yeast also survived on the surface near the original brewery location, and this revival is just a very expensive equivalent of making San Francisco sourdough in a different locale, from a starter culture packet received through the mail.

Except in this case, the starter is from a message in a bottle, lost at sea for 200 years.


>I'm forced to wonder whether the same strain of yeast also survived on the surface near the original brewery location

Maybe something similar to it. Commercial breweries were selective in reusing batches of yeast even back then. House strains were refined over time to reuse batches that had fermented the most reliably, produced the fewest off flavors, etc. The yeast they used might also not have been local in origin.

But the wild ancestor might still be around, somewhere. (It's also possible the yeast they have is a wild yeast contaminate, as noted in one of my other comments in here)


And also believing SF sourdough is actually a thing not born out of over engineering and OCD? I think bread could become a bit like wine. People can't actually taste the difference but enjoy being a bit snobby.

Location matters to food and drink. You can taste the difference. You can even taste the difference in ordinary tap water. I don't care all that much about SF sourdough starter, specifically--it was the only one I ever noticed as being sold commercially.

There is also a hobbyist network of people that trade their local sourdough starter to people in distant lands, as dried-up blobs on index cards, through the mail. People also trade kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, and vinegar starters. They wouldn't go to the trouble if it didn't make a difference.

The local ambient microbiome certainly contributes to the texture and flavor of fermented and aged foods, and it can be transplanted successfully for a few months, but then the locals usually overwhelm the foreigners. When you find a commercially significant one, you have to take great care to preserve it and keep it pure.


I wish I could try some of the beer, but it seems only to exist down under.

As an Aussie I just tried looking for it and it seems difficult to find even here. Might have to head to the brewery itself. The usual suspect of Dan Murphys is out of stock https://www.danmurphys.com.au/product/DM_700183/james-squire...

When I first saw the headline, I thought it sounded disgusting. After reading the article, I think my curiosity might win out over revulsion, given the opportunity.

I had two things in my mind when I read this: where the hell can get my hands on one and is it very smart to release a bacteria that obviously can survive 200 years in alcohol?

Some microorganisms that produce a particular chemical as a metabolite are more resistant to its toxicity. So they use that to competitive advantage. It's the microbiological equivalent of pooping in the pool, so everyone else gets out, and you can then swim in it by yourself.

Yeasts do this with alcohol. Acetobacters do it with acetic acid. Lactobacilli with lactic acid. Other varieties exist, but their metabolites have less culinary importance.

But they probably didn't "survive" 200 years. In order to last that long, anything in the cold, dark, ethanol-contaminated bottles probably formed spores, going into deep biological stasis to await more clement environmental conditions. Not all microbes can do it, but the ones that can are considered very hardy. Yeasts tend to switch from asexual reproduction to sexual reproduction in nutrient-poor environments, and the resulting diploid cells can sporify.

The question is analogous to questioning whether a human embryo that had been frozen solid and stored in liquid nitrogen for 20 years is safe to thaw out and implant in a live uterus. It's just not a big deal for us. Sporing up and waiting a few centuries before thawing out the embryos is not a big deal for yeast.


While not preserved in alcohol, there is this old story [1] about using yeast preserved in amber ala Jurassic Park (except it's Eocene).

[1] http://www.fossilfuelsbeer.com/thestory/


Talk about a ship in a bottle!

Now that the pun's out of the way, normal discourse can commence...

[edit] oh wait, all the comments are just other puns




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