Australia’s first brewer, James Squire is set to release perhaps its most rare and special beer to date – a resurrection of the world’s oldest surviving beer, The Wreck – Preservation Ale.
And the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) has played a key role in the important brew.
The Wreck – Preservation Ale has been crafted using 220-year-old yeast discovered in the depths of Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck – Sydney Cove – which ran aground in the icy waters surrounding Tasmania’s Preservation Island in 1797.
Created in partnership with the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide, the concept to revive the world’s oldest surviving beer started with QVMAG’s own 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. 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.”
Managing director of the AWRI, Dr Dan Johnson said wine scientists at the AWRI enjoyed their role in the creation of this unique 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. The revived yeast was found to be a rare hybrid strain which differs from modern ale strains,” he said.
Working with the yeast was a journey in itself for Haydon Morgan, head brewer at the Malt Shovel Brewery, whose team rose to the challenge of creating a beer from yeast that had a mind of its own.
“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,” Haydon, 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 Wreck – Preservation Ale will be launched in limited supply at GABS Craft Beer Festival in Melbourne (18-20 May) and Sydney (2 June) and will also be on tap at James Squire’s new flagship Brewhouse on Circular Quay Sydney – The Squire’s Landing, which opens its doors in late May.
The Squire’s Landing sits astride Campbells Cove – named aptly after one of the very traders Campbell of “Campbell and Clark” whose merchant vessel turned shipwreck Sydney Cove has led to this rare brew.
Haydon sums up the journey: “Two centuries ago, this beer never reached its final destination. Today, we like to think The Wreck has finally made its way home.”
• Photo: James Squire website.