James Squire is resurrecting the world’s oldest surviving beer, with the launch of The Wreck – Preservation Ale, which has been created using 220 year-old yeast discovered on a shipwreck from 1797.
The beer will be available at the GABS Craft Beer Festival in Melbourne, 18-20 May and Sydney on 2 June, and will also be on tap at the new James Squire Brewhouse, which is due to open on Circular Quay in Sydney in late May.
James Squire has created the new beer in partnership with the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide.
The yeast for The Wreck, was discovered by QVMAG chemist-turned-conservator, David Thurrowgood, who found it in beer bottles that had been recovered from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, which ran aground in the icy waters surrounding Tasmania’s Preservation Island in 1797.
“As a chemist and conservator, this is a very special and important project for me. After QVMAG and the AWRI had worked together to isolate the yeast, I created an experimental brew in the QVMAG lab,” Thurrowgood said.
“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,” he added.
Even though the yeast was there to be used, it still presented challenges for James Squire’s Head Brewer, Haydon Morgan, whose team went through a number of experimental brews before settling on the Porter style that is The Wreck.
“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,” said:
“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 Squire’s Landing, the name of the new Circular Quay brewhouse, will open at Campbells Cove later this month, the cove is named after one of the ‘Campbell and Clark’ traders who owned the Sydney Cove before it was wrecked in 1797.
Morgan said this added a nice element of symmetry to the beer’s story, saying: “Two centuries ago, this beer never reached its final destination. Today, we like to think The Wreck has finally made its way home.”