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Shipwreck Beer: 1886 Yeast Wrecks

  • A new infusion uses yeast found in beer bottles extracted from a 131-year-old wreck
  • Divers dug in the bottom of the sea to access the dining room of the ship
  • The yeast was then grown in test tubes, but it took two years of experimentation to obtain the desired taste.

Albany, NY – The most distinctive feature of Jamie Adams' new beer is not his hop bite, but his compelling background: brewed from yeast into bottles of beer dropped into a steamer steamer. sea ​​for 131 years.

Some who lined up for a sip of the new Deep Ascent beer at a craft beer festival last weekend said it gave them a refreshing taste of another era.

"The concept that they could bring out a bottle of beer from the bottom of the ocean and then extract the yeast, this kind of chemistry is fascinating," said beer lover Peter Bowe of Schenectady. "And the beer is absolutely fantastic."

Adams, a former Wall Street trader who opened the Saint James brewery on Long Island nearly two decades ago, said his beer was born from his love for scuba diving. It was brewed with yeast extracted from bottles that he and other divers have salvaged from SS Oregon, a luxury liner connecting Liverpool to New York, which collided with a schooner and sank off Fire Island in 1886.

It is 135 feet deep in an underwater cemetery known to local divers like Wreck Valley. "It's a wonderful shipwreck, it's wonderful to dive," says Adams, 44. "I had the idea to make beer if we had bottles intact."

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In 2015, he recruited a team of divers to search for bottles, but only touched the ground in 2017, after the storms moved the sand and made the first-class dining room accessible. They dug 15 feet in the bottom of the sea to access it, then another six feet inside the ship to find half a dozen bottles upside down, the cork stoppers intact. The dives later found 20 more bottles.

Adams cultivated the yeast in test tubes with the help of a microbiologist friend, and then spent the next two years preparing test batches to get the proper taste.

With hops and malted barley, yeast is a key factor in producing the flavor and character of beer. During fermentation, the microorganism eats sugar and creates alcohol, as well as chemical compounds called esters, which confer distinct fruity and floral aromas.

Adams thinks the yeast from the Oregon SS comes from the lineage used by British Brew Brewers to make a brand called King's Ale, which is no longer produced.

His new beer, which has a slightly fruity taste with a hopping finish, is a "replica of what would have been served on this ship in 1886. We want people to have a little taste of what life was like. passenger "this ship. "

"Taste of history"

It may seem like a lot of effort is being made to find a new beer, but shipwrecks have always fascinated craft brewers eager to recreate a taste of history. In 1991, a British brewer used yeast from a barge cast in 1825 in the Channel to create Original Flag Porter. Last summer, Australian artisanal brewer James Squire launched the Wreck-Preservation Ale, made from yeast from the merchant ship Sydney Cove, which went aground in Tasmania in 1797.

For some craft beer lovers, the real appeal of sinking beer is the tale more than the taste. "I spoke to the brewer and he told me that it was he who had been diving," Calvin MacDowell said, tasting Adams' beer at the New York Craft Brewers Festival. in Albany. "Knowing it goes back so long and tasting the story, it's exciting."

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