By now I am sure the entire  beer blogosphere has published an article tittering with excitement centering on a recent discovery of intact bottles of beer from the 19th century pulled from the depths of a Baltic Sea ship wreck.  I don’t blame them.  As I read the article I myself began to titter with excitement.  There’s no point in re-writing the stories (I counted 180+ through google news), but I do want to point out what struck me from this discovery.

1)  The press is describing this as an “Ancient” discovery.  Ancient?  Are you kidding me?  I hardly think of the early 1800′s as ancient.  What’s mind boggling, is that this is being haled as the “one of the world’s oldest preserved beers.”  It got me excited to realize that there has to be an older beer out there and that inevitably it will be found.  Then again, the oldest beer in my collection is 30 years old, so the Finn’s have me beat as 200.

2)  Yeast.  What an amazing organism!  My Homebrewing hobby has and continues to elicit profound respect for the tiny asexual fungi that are responsible for converting sugar into booze.  In fact, the other author of this blog, Mike, and I frequently talk about the amazing character and adaptability of yeast.  To think that after 200 years at the bottom of the sea, yeast were found by scientist in those aged bottles that are still intact.  I would love to get my hands on a copy of the strain should Finnish scientists be able to revive them.  Additionally, as one of the articles states, at the time that the discovered beer was brewed, little was known about yeast and how it worked.  I am pent up with excitement to hear what type of strain was the predominant strain in the batch.

Sam Calagioni of Dogfish Head no longer has a handle on the market of analysis and reproduction of ancient brews.  If scientists are able to grow and ferment using the strain, they’d seem to have a one-up on authenticity.  BUT, will they?  All this thought on ancient yeast actually reminded me of Weihenstephan Abbey Brewery, known as the world’s oldest continually operating brewery.   The oldest known record of Weihenstephan producing beer is 768.  One has to wonder…are there any elements of the original yeast used still present in its offspring the brewery uses today?  Each time we touch a glass of Weihenstephan to our lips, we may be ingesting yeast cells that are of a much more ancient lineage than that of the cells discovered in the Baltic Sea.

Which brings me to the fulcrum of my excitement:  Each sip of beer makes the ancient past as relevant as the next day, whether it be salty acidic brew from a sunken ship, a Weihenstephan, o a beer born in my kitchen.