When Europeans wanted to splurge on luxury beer in the early 1800s, they reached for a Champagne-like brew that tasted a lot like sweet wine. Now you can taste the same one—modeled after the world’s oldest surviving beer—in a Finnish microbrewery.
In 2010 divers discovered five bottles of ancient beer when excavating a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. The 170-year-old beer had been preserved underwater since 1842. A research facility in Finland analyzed the samples and discovered lactic acid bacteria still living inside. They were able to pinpoint the beer’s yeast and alcohol content, color and bitterness. Next Belgium’s University of Leuven took the beer torch, where the Brewing Technology Research Group reconstructed it from scratch.
Four years later, Finland’s Stallhagen brewery is mass-producing an authentic replica, exactly to spec. Because of the way the malt is produced, the 4.7-percent ABV beer tastes sweet, and more like wine than beer.
Jan Wennström, CEO of Stallhagen, calls it “a sophisticated beer with refined and subtle character that gives a notion how a luxury beer tasted in early 1800s. It’s very Champagne-like with soft bubbles because of the way it has been made to replicate the original, which used very little hops; so it’s golden-yellow with none of the typical bitterness or hops aroma.”
Stallhagen is selling two versions of the historic beer: a high-end version known as 1842 for about $140 per bottle, and a commercial replica known as 1843 for about $7 per bottle. Profits will help support further archeological research in the Baltic Sea.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep