Previously, we had talked about how loss of beer production might have reduced the influence of liquor-loving Vikings. Well, this time around, scientists were actually able to get hold of old beer specimens, though not from the early middle ages, but rather dating from the 19th century Finland. These 170-year old beers were discovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea – and as expected the beverages didn’t ‘date well’. However, in spite of their time-fueled ‘goaty’ flavor (that pertains to a combination of soured milk and burnt rubber), the intrinsic essence of these beers were found to be pretty close to their modern-day counterparts.
In terms of the archaeology, the shipwreck believed to be of a schooner from 1840’s, was discovered in close proximity to Finland’s Aland Islands. Additionally, the divers also found a an impressive cache of 150 bottles of champagne from the lost cargo. And, as for the aforementioned unpalatable flavor of the beverages (examined from two bottles), it was forced by decades of seawater and bacterial intrusion into the not-so-well sealed bottles. According to the researchers at Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT), the flurry of odors comes from a mixture of chemical compounds, like dimethyl sulfide (with cabbage-like smell), Bakelite (with old plastic like essence) and sulfur.
Interestingly, beyond their state of decay, the scientists found that these ole specimens were originally quite similar to the beer flavors we are used to in our contemporary times. To that end, the two bottles actually contained two different types of beer – with one boasting of being bitter than the other. The other less ‘hoppier’ variant was found to have high levels of phenylethanol – which might have endowed it with ‘rosy’ essence. The chemical analysis further revealed the beers to have surprisingly low levels of 3-methylbutyl acetate, a compound which pertains to the flavor of bananas and pears.