'For the sake of science': Researchers taste 125-year-old beer

After being found at the bottom of the Halifax Harbour last year, scientists have cracked open a 125-year-old bottle of Alexander Keith's -- but so far reviews about its contents have been mixed.

See Full Article

Amateur treasure hunter and scuba diver Jon Crouse pulled the half-filled, green glass bottle, with its cork still intact, from the silt in three-metre deep water in November.

Crouse, who works at a Halifax-area warehouse, had found plenty of bottles while combing the depths of the Harbour, but nothing like this.

"The buzz it created was kind of unprecedented," he told CTV Atlantic. "I didn't expect that."

Naturally, Crouse was curious about the bottle's contents, and wondered if the more-than-century-old Keith's was still drinkable.

While the treasure hunter was adamant that he didn't want to taste its contents, he and local bar owner Chris Reynolds sought the help of scientists at Dalhousie University to analyze the cloudy, straw-coloured liquid.

Professor Andrew Macintosh, who specializes in fermentation research, said that the team looked at its density, colour, bitterness and pH levels, and the tests indicated the bottle was still filled with beer -- an India pale ale -- and not seawater.

Macintosh said the beer shared similar characteristics with modern Keith's, including a 4.3 on the pH scale (beers typically range between four and five).

It also registered a 15 on the International Bitterness Units scale, which Macintosh said is higher than what is found in many industrial, large-scale production lagers.

With all scientific research out of the way, there was only one thing left to do: Cheers and drink up.

Reynolds, who is the co-owner of the local craft beer bar Stillwell, was impressed.

"It tasted surprisingly good, and surprisingly like beer," he said.

Reynolds described the vintage brew as acidic and bitter, with some hints of cherry and oak.

Meanwhile, Macintosh offered a starkly different assessment after he tried the ancient beer "for the sake of science."

"You wouldn't want to drink any of it," he said. “It's terrible for a sample that's been sitting on the bottom of the Halifax Harbour for 100 years."

He added that the brew had an "odd, meaty" flavour, with lighter tree fruit notes and a distinct bitterness. Macintosh also said it had a "very strong odour," that "wasn't altogether pleasant," like a burnt barrel with sulphur in it.

Despite spending more than a century on the ocean floor, Reynolds said he wasn't concerned the beer would make him sick.

"As any homebrewer that has brewed some really bad stuff can tell you: Just because it tastes and smells kind of bad doesn't mean it is going to kill you," he told CTV News Channel.

"Basically, there's alcohol and a low enough pH that pathogens are kind of kept at bay."

And while the 125-year-old Keith's may not have aged like fine wine, Reynolds is still happy he had a chance to taste it.

"(It was) super, super cool -- just really great," he said.

"I'll never get another chance to drink a beer quite this rare."

With a report from CTV Atlantic's Matt Woodman and files from The Canadian Press



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Syria government, rebel groups meet in Kazakhstan for ceasefire talks

    World News CBC News
    Syria talks brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran and aimed at bolstering a shaky ceasefire in place since last month opened on Monday in Kazakhstan, marking the first face-to-face meeting between the Damascus government representatives and rebel factions trying to overthrow it. Source
  • Mexico gasoline protests affect border crossings in California, Arizona

    World News CBC News
    Protesters took control of vehicle lanes at one of the busiest crossings on the U.S. border Sunday to oppose Mexican gasoline price hikes, waving through motorists into Mexico after Mexican authorities abandoned their posts. Motorists headed to Mexico zipped by about 50 demonstrators at the Otay Mesa port of entry connecting San Diego and Tijuana, many of them honking to show support. Source
  • Panel to issue report supporting Emperor abdication plan

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO - A Japanese government panel studying a possible abdication of Emperor Akihito is set to release Monday an interim report that supports enacting special legislation that is applicable only to him. The six-member panel is looking at how to accommodate Akihito's apparent abdication wish expressed last August when he cited concerns that his age and health conditions may start limiting his ability to fulfil his duties. Source
  • Search crews find 4 more bodies in Tehran building collapse

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's official news agency says search teams have found four more bodies of victims from last week's deadly building collapse in Tehran. IRNA's report on Monday quotes Jalal Maleki, spokesman for the fire department, as saying the four bodies do not belong to any of the firefighters still missing and believed buried under the rubble. Source
  • U.S. lawmakers demand action on food corruption in Venezuela

    World News CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan officials may face U.S. sanctions for profiting from food shortages that have exacerbated hunger in the South American country. The calls by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle come in response to an Associated Press investigation that found trafficking in hard-to-find food has become big business in Venezuela, with the military at the heart of the graft. Source
  • Protesters take control of Mexican border crossing with U.S.

    World News CTV News
    TIJUANA, Mexico -- Protesters took control of vehicle lanes at one of the busiest crossings on the U.S. border Sunday to oppose Mexican gasoline price hikes, waving through motorists into Mexico after Mexican authorities abandoned their posts. Source
  • MH370 search crews return to port after fruitless hunt ends

    World News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, Australia — The ship involved in the recently halted hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 returned to port in western Australia on Monday, where officials from the countries that funded the fruitless search gathered to thank them and to defend their decision to end the hunt despite recommendations from investigators that it continue. Source
  • Ship involved in failed search for MH370 returns home

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY -- The ship involved in the recently halted hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has returned to port in western Australia for the final time. Officials from Malaysia, Australia and China gathered in Perth on Monday to thank the crew of the Fugro Equator. Source
  • Canadian chefs take 2nd at international ice sculpture competition

    Canada News CBC News
    A pair of chefs representing Canada won second place in one of the world's largest ice carving competitions, which takes place each year in northeastern China. Rusty Cox, of Cranbrook, B.C., and Steve Buzak, from Edmonton, Alta. Source
  • 18 dead amid reported tornadoes, other storms in the South

    World News Toronto Sun
    ATLANTA — A weekend of deadly weather in the Southeast killed 15 people and injured dozens more, authorities said Sunday, while residents along the Georgia-Florida line were bracing for more intense, fast-moving storms — including unusually strong “long track” twisters. Source