World’s oldest beer.
First there was the discovery of dozens of bottles of 200-year-old champagne, but last fall salvage divers recovered what is believed to be the world's oldest beer, taking advertisers' notion of "drinkability" to another level.
Though the effort to lift the reserve of champagne had just ended, researchers continued to uncover a small collection of bottled beer from the same shipwreck south of Åland in the Baltic Sea.
"At the moment, we believe that these are by far the world's oldest bottles of beer," said Rainer Juslin, permanent secretary of Åland's ministry of education, science and culture. "It seems that we have not only salvaged the oldest champagne in the world, but also the oldest still drinkable beer. The culture in the beer is still living."
Juslin said officials had talked to a local brewer about whether the newfound beer might be able to yield its recipe after experts decipher the brew's ingredients. The newest find came as divers unearthed bottles separate from the champagne discovery. While lifting a few to the surface, one exploded from pressure. A dark fluid seeped from the broken bottle, which they realized was beer.
At 160 feet for 200 years
All the cargo on the ship―including the beer and champagne―is believed to have been transported sometime between 1800 and 1830, according to Juslin. He says the wreck was about 50 meters deep (around 164 feet) between the Åland island chain and Finland. The cargo was aboard a ship believed to be heading from Copenhagen, Denmark, to St. Petersburg, Russia. It was possibly sent by France's King Louis XVI to the Russian Imperial Court.
"Champagne of this kind was popular in high levels [of society] and was exclusive to rich groups; it was not a drink for common people then," Juslin says. The market value of the champagne bottles has been assessed by experts to be equivalent to SEK hundreds of thousands (100 000 SEK equals $13,819) per bottle. About 70 bottles of champagne were found, and the economic value of the beer bottles is still unclear. It is also unknown whether the beer went flat while sitting at the bottom of the Baltic for such a long time. Some of the bottles of champagne were originally produced by Juglar, a premium champagne house no longer in existence, according to Juslin. He says the cold sea water was perfect for storing the spirits, with the temperature remaining a near-constant four to five degrees Celsius (around freezing temperature in Fahrenheit, or 32 degrees) and no light to expedite the spoiling process.
Investigators and historians have not yet unraveled the mystery surrounding the exact origin of the ship or the date when the ship went down. Juslin says other artifacts were still lying in the shipwreck, but it would take several months to lift them from the wreck.