When the diver pushed himself into the hatch in the submerged catch, he found a timeless treasure. Not one torn chest full of coins and treasures, but hundreds of glass beer bottles, partially buried in silt. The beers were down there for over 100 years, all lined up together. This was reported by the BBC which, during its search, reconstructed the movements of the explorer in question, Steve Hickman, a diving technician and amateur diver. As soon as he removed the first bottle from where he had put it, the sediment washed away in huge clouds. With visibility down to zero, Hickman continued to search for other bottles in the dark.
The wreck in question is the Wallachia, a cargo ship that sank in 1895 off the coast of Scotland in fog after a collision with another ship. Wallachia had just emerged from Glasgow and was filled with various wells in use at the time, including large containers of a chemical called tin chloride. But there were also thousands of bottles of wine in the ship. Many of them have apparently been preserved in the cold waters where the ship lay at sea for more than a century.
Since he began diving into Wallachia in the 1980s, Hickman has also recovered dozens of bottles containing whiskey, gin, and beer. The recovered beer bottles were handed over to scientists at a research company called BrewLab, who, together with colleagues from the University of Sunderland, were able to extract live yeast from the liquid inside the three bottles. He then used that yeast in an attempt to recreate the original beer. The unusual yeast could have applications in modern brewing and “make today’s beers even better.”
This is just one example of a growing area of research among brewers and other liquid fermenters looking to forgotten strains of yeast in the hope that they can be put to good use. Although the beer Hickman found, by his own admission, “smells ferocious, a kind of salty, foul-smelling odour.”
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