'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

  • Brexit deal cleared by EU Parliament; U.K. set to leave Friday

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- Britain's departure from the European Union was backed by European lawmakers Wednesday, after a debate that mixed warm words of love with hard-headed warnings to the country not to seek too many concessions during upcoming trade talks on a future relationship. Source
  • This Ontario teen was 12 when she became a caregiver. She's not alone

    Canada News CBC News
    Samiha Rahman became a young caregiver at the age of 12 after her mom was diagnosed with ALS. The 2011 life-changing prognosis meant Raham had to begin preparing meals, feeding her mom and keep her moving, while passing up on fun with her friends. Source
  • Chinese Canadians, health officials taking stand against 'unfair stigmatization' during coronavirus outbreak

    Canada News CBC News
    Amid growing fears around an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Chinese Canadians and public health officials in Toronto say more must be done to avoid a recurrence of the racism and xenophobia experienced during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Source
  • 'A little anxious': Expat family expecting baby hopes to get out of China

    Canada News CTV News
    A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak is hoping to get out of the country on a British flight. Source
  • Independent panel report calls for more Canadian streaming content and an ad-free CBC

    Canada News CBC News
    A sweeping new report on Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications sector is calling for widespread regulatory reform — including mandated Canadian content on streaming services and an ad-free CBC. The report, commissioned by the federal government and released today, was drafted by a seven-member panel led by Janet Yale, a broadcasting and telecommunications industry veteran. Source
  • Caregiver failed to provide 'necessaries of life' to B.C. woman with developmental disability: RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- A Metro Vancouver caregiver has been charged following an investigation into the death of a woman with a developmental disability. The woman was found dead in a private home on Oct. 13, 2018, Mounties in Coquitlam said Wednesday. Source
  • France, EU raise cautions about U.S. peace plan for Middle East, as U.K. welcomes it

    World News CBC News
    Days before it leaves the European Union, Britain put itself at odds with European allies on Wednesday in warmly welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan while France and the wider EU warned that it must respect international law. Source
  • BBC to cut hundreds of newsroom jobs in cost-cutting drive

    World News CBC News
    The BBC said on Wednesday it will axe 450 jobs from its news division in a cost-saving plan that will result in cuts at the World Service and its 5Live radio station and in fewer reports being made by analysis show Newsnight. Source
  • 536 fishermen rescued in Russia after being stranded on giant ice floe

    World News CBC News
    In a nearly seven-hour operation, Russia's emergency services rescued 536 ice fishermen after they got stranded on a giant ice floe that broke off the island of Sakhalin in eastern Siberia, officials said. Around 60 more people were able to get back on the shore on their own Tuesday evening, emergency officials said. Source
  • 206 Japanese evacuees return home from Wuhan

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, a dozen of them with cough and fever including two who were later diagnosed with pneumonia. Five of the 206 evacuees were taken to designated Tokyo hospitals specializing in treating infectious diseases, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session, adding that they were still checking if any passengers were ill with the virus. Source