Sydney Cove left India in 1796, headed for Sydney, Australia. It subsequently sunk in the waters surrounding Tasmania’s Preservation Island. The wreck wasn’t found until 1977, when divers discovered its remains. In the ‘90s, the wreck was salvaged, but left in storage in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The cargo of the ship included 31,500 litres of alcohol. Recently, David Thurrowgood, a chemist-turned-curator, noticed that one of the barrels was still intact and, thanks to its red wax seal, was uncontaminated with seawater. Thurrowgood found that the barrel contained a yeast that was still viable. That yeast has been used to recreate the beer.
“We are just thrilled that everyone in Australia will be able to try a beer from the late 1790s,” says Thurrowgood.
“But this is a story that goes beyond beer. Almost everything from the 1790s is gone. Now we have a beer that tells us about the diets of people who lived 200 years ago. It’s a piece of living history. It’s the oldest bottled beer in the world, so it’s of tremendous scientific and cultural significance.”
Haydon Morgan, the head brewer at James Squire’s Malt Shovel Brewery, explains that the beer has spicy characteristics with chocolate notes and goes well with chocolate desserts and char-grilled sirloins. He recommends drinking it slowly to savour its strong flavour.
If you’re in the Land Down Under, don’t pass up the chance to try this piece of history.