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World’s oldest beer to be brought back to life

James Squire is set to resurrect the world’s oldest surviving beer when it launches The Wreck – Preservation Ale.

The beer has been created using 220 year-old yeast discovered in Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck – Sydney Cove – which ran aground in the waters surrounding Tasmania’s Preservation Island in 1797.

James Squire has created the beer in partnership with the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide.

It was QVMAG’s chemist-turned conservator David Thurrowgood who discovered the yeast in 2016 from beer bottles that had been salvaged from the wreck years earlier.

“As a chemist and conservator, this is a very special and important project for me,” says Thurrowgood. “After QVMAG and AWRI had worked together to isolate the year, I created an experimental brew in the QVMAG lab. Working alongside James Squire and the AWRI to bring it to life has meant that Australian beer drinkers will now be able to enjoy a taste of 220 year-old Australian history and become part of the history of the beer.”

“Applying skills honed working with wine yeast, we were able to successfully isolate and grow the yeast from the salvaged beer bottles and reveal its genetic make-up,” adds Dr Dan Johnson, managing director of the AWRI. “The revived yeast was found to be a rare hybrid strain which differs from modern ale strains.”

“It was important for us to respect the yeast’s rich history and keep its integrity while using modern-day brewing techniques that we have at the brewery to produce something that everyone would enjoy,” says Haydon Morgan, head brewer at James Squire. “This particular yeast was very temperamental and had a thirst for life, so it took a lot of trial and error to find the right balance.

“After creating a lot of different recipes, we decided that it was perfect for creating a porter style. The Wreck – Preservation Ale has chocolate and pale malts paired with bramling cross and porter hops that contain hints of blackcurrant and spices, giving it a really rich and smooth taste.”

The new beer will be launched at GABS Craft Beer Festival in Melbourne (18-20 May) and Sydney (2 June) and will be on tap at James Squire’s new flagship Brewhouse on Circular Quay in Sydney.

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