This Ale Is Brewed From 133-Year-Old Shipwrecked Yeast

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
©. Saint James Brewery – Intact beer bottles brought up from the S.S. Oregon (used with permission)

A New York brewer recovered beer bottles from an 1886 shipwreck and transformed it into a delicious new ale.

Saint James Brewery in Long Island, New York, has just released a new ale that will give you a literal 'taste of history.' Called Deep Ascent, the ale is fermented entirely with yeast that was extracted from bottles of beer that sank on the S.S. Oregon in 1886. The doomed steamship went down off the coast of Fire Island and ended up 135 feet down in a region known to divers as Wreck Valley.

The brewery's owner is Jamie Adams, a former Wall Street trader who switched professions after 9/11. He is an avid scuba diver who had spent a decade diving the Oregon wreck before realizing that perhaps there were intact beer bottles with yeast that could be salvaged. The Associated Press reported,

"He enlisted a team of divers in 2015 to search for bottles but didn’t hit pay dirt until 2017, after storms shifted sands and made the first-class dining room accessible. They dug down 15 feet in the sea bed to gain access, and then another six feet inside the ship to find a half-dozen bottles upside-down, corks intact. Later dives found 20 more bottles."
beer bottles brought up from the SS Oregon

© Saint James Brewery – Bottles and other treasures brought up from the S.S. Oregon (used with permission)

It took two years to extract the 'good' yeast from the bad and to experiment with getting the right taste. The result is a fruity, floral ale with a hoppy finish that Adams believes is descended from a lineage once used by Bass Brewers in England, although, as CraftBeer explained, more information could be revealed in time:

"Until they recover the ship’s manifest, they can only make educated guesses [as to] the brewery origin of the three yeast strains they have isolated, based on the shape, size and pictorial references of beer bottles from the time period."

Deep Ascent debuted at the New York Craft Brewers Festival in Albany, New York, this past weekend and was well-received by taste-testers. Adams is pleased:

"Deep Ascent represents a true miracle of evolution, evidenced through the longevity and durability of one single cell, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. It represents a window into the Gilded Age and a taste of life for a transatlantic passenger during the 1880s."

Right now customers can sign up to pre-order Deep Ascent on the brewery's website; it will become available locally this summer. If successful, it will be distributed more widely by the end of 2019. I imagine it will be. Who can turn down an offer of shipwreck ale?