James Squire brings world's oldest surviving beer back to life! »

The Wreck – Preservation Ale crafted using 220 year old yeast

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The Wreck Diver salvages beer bottle from the Sydney Cove at Preservation Island

The Wreck Diver salvages beer bottle from the Sydney Cove at Preservation Island [©The Wreck]

The Wreck Preservation Ale
Haydon Morgan, The Wreck Brewer
Salvaged beer bottles from the Sydney Cove, The Wreck


Keeping true to the flavourful and story-inspired beers produced by Australia’s first brewer, James Squire is set to release perhaps its most rare and special beer to date – a resurrection of the world’s oldest surviving beer, ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’.

A testament to its origin and history, ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’ has been crafted using 220-year-old yeast discovered in the depths of Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck – Sydney Cove – in the icy waters surrounding Tasmania’s Preservation Island.

Crafted in partnership with the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide, James Squire has created a beer inspired by Australian history but crafted for today.

The concept to revive the world’s oldest surviving beer started in 2016 with the discovery by QVMAG of yeast in beer bottles that had been salvaged from the Sydney Cove shipwreck, off Tasmania’s Preservation Island years earlier.

QVMAG worked with yeast scientists at the AWRI who applied skills honed in working with wine yeast to isolate and grow the long dormant yeast from the salvaged bottles.

Experimental brews showed that the revived yeast could successfully brew beer. From there, The Wreck project was born with James Squire joining the partnership and bringing to the table its dedication to quality and desire to pioneer the best of flavours with a team of experienced brewers.

As Australia’s first brewer and also a convict on the First Fleet, James Squire’s history is steeped in colonial Australia and provides an authentic link to The Wreck – Preservation Ale.

Head Brewer at Malt Shovel Brewery in Camperdown, Haydon Morgan, was then given the exciting task of taming a 220-year-old yeast and creating a beer that would showcase its unique properties.

“It’s not often you get to play around with yeast that is more than 220 years-old – as a brewer this is a once-in-a-career kind of opportunity,” said Morgan. “It was important for us to respect the yeast’s rich history and keep its integrity while using modern-day brewing techniques that we have at the Brewery to produce something that everyone would enjoy,” Morgan said. “This particular yeast was very temperamental and had a thirst for life so it took a lot of trial and error to find the right balance.”

When deciding what style of beer, the brewers at James Squire started out taking inspiration from the wreck itself – the styles recorded at the time – porter, small ales, IPAs.

“After creating a lot of different recipes we decided that the Porter Style worked best for this occasion - we wanted to create a beer to savour/respect and the Porter style was perfect for this. ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’ has chocolate and pale malts paired with bramling cross and porter hops that contain hints of blackcurrant and spices giving it a really rich and smooth taste,” added Morgan.

The world’s oldest surviving beer, ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’ has been produced as a very special limited edition run. It was officially launched at renowned Craft Beer Festival – GABS Melbourne from 18-20th May, with limited beer at the event.

Following GABS Melbourne launch, ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’ makes its way to Sydney as a key feature at James Squire’s “The Squire’s Landing” new brewhouse launch on Sydney harbour late May and GABS festival Sydney 2nd June.

The Squire’s Landing sits astide Campbells Cove – named aptly after one of the very traders Campbell of “Campbell and Clark” whose merchant vessel turned shipwreck ‘Sydney Cove’ has led to this very rare brew. Brewer Haydon sums up the journey nicely 

“Two centuries ago, this beer never reached its final destination. Today, we like to think The Wreck has finally made its way home”.

About the ‘Sydney Cove Wreck”

In 1796 the Sydney Cove set sail from Calcutta India, her intended destination the young colony of NSW, Australia. A merchant vessel, her holds were crammed with a speculative cargo of tea, ceramics, rice, tobacco, and more than 31,500 litres of alcohol.

Alcohol was the unofficial currency in Sydney and the young colony was hungry for it. But the precious liquid cargo didn't reach its destination: in February 1797 the Sydney Cove became wrecked off the coast of Tasmania’s Preservation Island. The crew survived the wreck, setting up a survivor's camp on the island enabling them to salvage a considerable amount of cargo.

Fast forward more than 200 years and the ship sat on the seabed until the wreck was salvaged in the 1990s following its rediscovery (note: explorer George Bass had noted the wreck site on an 1804 map) by divers.

Old bottles were recovered from the wreck, which still contained precious liquid. It was back at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery that chemist-turned-conservator David Thurrowgood discovered this liquid and the journey to revive the world’s oldest beer began.

About Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) – Sydney Cove Exhibition

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) is a major destination for art, history and natural sciences in Northern Tasmania. QVMAG is owned and operated by the City of Launceston with ongoing support from the Tasmanian Government. QVMAG includes two sites in Launceston: the Art Gallery at Royal Park and Museum at Inveresk.

The museum has been involved in numerous research projects over many years, and museum staff were part of numerous excavation of the Sydney Cove Shipwreck in the early 1990s. The ship Sydney Cove was run aground in 1797 on Preservation Island in Bass Strait, en route from Calcutta in India to Port Jackson in New South Wales.

The Sydney Cove collection is now in the care of the QVMAG, and represents significant examples of all excavated material from the wreck. This includes parts of the ship, material used on board by the officers and crew, and importantly, examples of most of the cargo carried on board. This cargo includes Chinese pottery, salted meat, leather, shoes, spices and other luxury goods and very large quantities of bottles and barrels. Due to the way the alcohol was bottled, some original beer or wine has survived 220 years under the sea.

In addition to the material from the ship itself, the collection also includes material excavated from the survivors' camp on the island. Fascinating material from the collection is on display at the Museum at Inveresk.

About the AWRI

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) is the Australian grape and wine industry’s own research organisation. It supports a sustainable and successful grape and wine industry through world class research, practical solutions and knowledge transfer. The AWRI is a world leader in fermentation research and wine yeast genetics.

About James Squire The Wreck – Preservation Ale (6% Porter)

The World’s oldest surviving beer – made new! Resurrected from Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck in the icy waters of Tasmania. The James Squire brewers have tamed a 220-year-old yeast and crafted it into a dark, malty, spicy and stormy brew that’s truly a once in a lifetime taste.

Two centuries in the making, The Wreck is available in scarce and limited supply at premiere craft beer festival GABS 2018 (Melbourne 18-21st May, Sydney 2nd June) and on tap at James Squire’s new flagship Sydney brewhouse – The Squire’s Landing, Circular Quay that opens its doors late May.

About James Squire

James Squire’s beers are ‘Full of Character’ and have won countless awards, trophies and medals for its flavoursome beers. In 2012, James Squire received four awards at the Australian International Beer Awards for The Chancer Golden Ale, Sundown Australian Lager, Mad Brewers Hoppy Hefe, & Nine Tales Amber Ale.

In 2016, James Squire was awarded a gold medal at the World Beer Cup for The Swindler Summer Ale. In 2017, James Squire again picked up a few medals at the Australian International Beer Awards for Jack of Spades Porter, Four Wives Pilsner, The Swindler Summer Ale, Nine Tales Amber Ale and The Malt Shovel Brewers Interceptor Black IPA.



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May 24th, 2018
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