In 1796, a merchant vessel called the Sydney Cove set sail for Sydney, Australia but ultimately sank before reaching the colony. Almost 200 years later, in 1977, that shipwreck was discovered near Preservation Island and declared a historic site. As salvaging began in the 1990s, the ship was found to contain almost 31,500 liters of alcohol and because of the combination of tightly sealed bottling and frigid water temperatures, the alcohol was well preserved. Through a partnership between Australian brewery James Squire and the Queen Victorian Museum And Art Gallery, yeast has been extracted from the ship and grown to recreate a new spin on the almost 220-year-old beer.
The Wreck Preservation Ale is a recreation inspired by the Sydney Cove shipwreck findings and aside from the yeast taken from the ship, it is also inspired by other porters, ales and IPAs found when the ship was salvaged. Wreck Preservation Ale is a porter, using bramling cross and fuggle hops and pale, chocolate, abbey, melanoidin and carafe malts. James Squire’s creation is 6% alcohol by volume and an International Bitterness Unit amount of 30. This IBU rating puts it five points below Samuel Adams’ Boston Lager, to compare it to a popular American-based beer and, for further comparison, Beer Advocate lists the average American Porter with an ABV of somewhere between 4% and 7.5%.
James Squire advertises the taste of this special production as “dark, spicy and stormy” with a mild bitterness and earthy taste. Wreck Preservation Ale will be available on tap at the James Squire Stand at GABS Melbourne and GABS Sydney but it will also be in Sydney at “The Squire’s Landing” James Squire Brewhouse. Additionally, in June, there will be a very limited supply at James Squire brewhouses nationally throughout Australia.
As Americans with a growing taste for flavorful brews, we may not be able to get my hands on this unique brew but we look forward to our alternative options, such as the upcoming Budweiser Freedom Reserve Red Lager – which is also based on a centuries old recipe. With continuing advancements in science, and the right amount of luck, we may even get to recreate other old recipes and in the end, we the beer drinking consumers might be the real winners here, getting to try all of these creations.