'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

  • Indonesia raises ferry death toll to 166

    World News CTV News
    TIGARAS PORT, Indonesia - Indonesian officials said that 166 people are missing from a ferry sinking early this week at a popular lake on Sumatra, a much higher number than previously believed, as distraught and angry relatives pleaded Wednesday for a bigger search effort. Source
  • North Korea thanks China for support with Trump summit

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his support in last week's groundbreaking summit with President Donald Trump, the North's official media reported Wednesday. Kim is in Beijing on his third visit to China this year, underscoring the major improvement in relations between the communist neighbours. Source
  • Federal, Indigenous officials begin finalizing proposed languages act

    Canada News CBC News
    The federal government is one step closer to creating a national Indigenous Languages Revitalization Act after government and Indigenous officials met in Yellowknife on Tuesday. The legislation is currently being co-developed between the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of culture and heritage and the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation. Source
  • Toddler migrants held in at least 3 shelters in Texas

    World News CBC News
    Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three "tender age" shelters in south Texas, The Associated Press has learned. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. Source
  • Sunken boat found, three fishermen still missing near Tofino, B.C.

    Canada News CTV News
    TOFINO, B.C. -- A boat that went down off Vancouver Island has been found, but police say the search continues for three missing fishermen. RCMP say in a news release that an underwater dive team has recovered the vessel from waters near Tofino, B.C. Source
  • Youngest child migrants held in 'tender age' shelters in Texas

    World News CTV News
    In this Sunday, June 17, 2018, file photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas. Source
  • Lawyer claims young Toronto black man beaten into coma by officers, but police say it never happened

    Canada News CBC News
    An alleged case of police brutality making waves on social media — involving a 23-year-old black man whose lawyer says he was "beaten into a coma"— isn't what it's made out to be, say Toronto police. Toronto lawyer and mayoral candidate Saron Ghebresellassi took to Twitter on Monday night claiming Musie Ghebremichael, was "beaten almost to death by 14 Division" along with a photo of her client in critical care unit at Toronto Western Hospital breathing through a tube. Source
  • B.C. judge approves Victoria's plastic bag bylaw going into effect in July

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- The mayor of Victoria is hailing a court victory allowing the city to enact a bylaw that will prohibit grocery stores from offering or selling plastic bags to shoppers. Lisa Helps says in a news release that the B.C. Source
  • Senate passes pot bill, paving way for legal weed in 8 to 12 weeks

    Canada News CBC News
    Senators have voted to pass the federal government's bill legalizing recreational marijuana by a vote of 52 to 29, with two abstentions, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight to 12 weeks. "I'm feeling just great," said Sen. Source
  • Senate passes pot bill, paving way for legal cannabis in 8 to 12 weeks

    Canada News CBC News
    Senators have voted to pass the federal government's bill legalizing recreational marijuana by a vote of 52 to 29, with two abstentions, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight to 12 weeks. "I'm feeling just great," said Sen. Source