'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

  • New trial ordered for man in child bride case

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for James Oler, who was acquitted of taking a 15-year-old girl across the border for a sexual purpose. The Crown appealed the verdict in the case of the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bountiful, B.C. Source
  • Ontario will move ahead with council cut despite city's court challenge

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - The Ontario government says it will move ahead with a plan to cut Toronto city council nearly in half despite local politicians deciding to mount a court challenge against the province over the issue. Source
  • Jury in Manafort trial: What if we can't agree on 1 count?

    World News CTV News
    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The jury in the financial fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asked the judge Tuesday what it should do if it cannot reach a consensus for a single count in the case. Source
  • Jurors in Paul Manafort trial struggle to reach consensus on 1 count

    World News CBC News
    Jurors in the fraud trial of Paul Manafort asked the judge Tuesday how to fill out a verdict form if they were unable to reach a consensus on one of the 18 counts faced by the former campaign chair for Donald Trump. Source
  • Jurors in Paul Manafort trial struggle reach consensus on one count

    World News CBC News
    Jurors in the fraud trial of Paul Manafort asked the judge Tuesday how to fill out a verdict form if they were unable to reach a consensus on one of the 18 counts faced by the former campaign chair for Donald Trump. Source
  • Scheer going to India to 'repair' relationship after 'disastrous' Trudeau trip

    Canada News CBC News
    Six months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's foreign policy prowess was pummelled by a disorganized state visit to India, his chief opponent is heading to New Delhi to try to "repair and strengthen" Canada-India relations. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will take his team to India for nine days in October. Source
  • Truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash sees case adjourned until October

    Canada News CTV News
    MELFORT, Sask. -- The case of a Calgary truck driver charged in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been adjourned until October. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, who is 29, is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury. Source
  • Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

    Canada News CTV News
    MELFORT, Sask. -- The case of a truck driver charged in the fatal Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been adjourned until October. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury. Source
  • Trump plan rolls back Obama-era regulations on power plants

    World News CBC News
    The Trump administration on Tuesday came out with new rules scaling back Obama-era constraints on coal-fired power plants, striking at one of the former administration's legacy programs to rein in climate-changing fossil-fuel emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency called the Obama-era regulations on coal power plants "overly prescriptive and burdensome. Source
  • Court adjourns case for accused in Humboldt Broncos crash

    Canada News CBC News
    The court case of the man facing 29 charges stemming from the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been adjourned until this fall. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, is charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury. Source