Alexander Keith's brew nearly as old as Canada found in ocean tastes 'pretty good'

Researchers at Dalhousie University and a Halifax beer bar owner have tested the liquid found inside a historic bottle of Alexander Keith's beer found off the coast of Halifax, confirmed it was beer, and tasted it.

Beer nearly as old as Canada tasted of tree fruit, cherry and rotten eggs

Researchers at Dalhousie University tested the liquid found inside a historic bottle of Alexander Keith's beer found off the coast of Halifax, confirmed it was beer, and tasted it. They kept the bottle's cork intact by extracting the beer through a syringe.

Researchers at Dalhousie University and a Halifax beer bar owner have tested the liquid found inside a historic bottle of Alexander Keith's beer found off the coast of Halifax, confirmed it was beer, and tasted it.

Jon Crouse was scuba diving in the Northwest Arm near Halifax in late November when he discovered the bottle, containing nearly a full beer. From the markings on the bottle, Crouse estimated the bottle was likely manufactured between 1872 and 1890.

Chris Reynolds, co-owner of Stillwell Bar in Halifax, holds a vial of Alexander Keith's beer estimated to be at least 120 years old. (Chris Reynolds)

Crouse had planned to let the liquid evaporate over time, leaving the corked bottle as a relic. But when local brewer and Stillwell Bar co-owner Chris Reynolds heard about the find, he asked Crouse to save the brew for testing.

Reynolds said Dr. Andrew MacIntosh of Dalhousie University volunteered to test the contents for free. 

They were able to extract the liquid with a syringe and after several tests, determine it was, in fact, beer. 

"We were all very giddy, there was a lot of energy in the lab, we were really excited," said Reynolds. "And then once we got to a stage where we were pretty sure there was a good amount of alcohol and a low enough pH that there wasn't going to be anything in there that would necessarily kill us, we had a little toast."

Upon hearing the results, Crouse posted to Facebook: "It was a great day/experience! And I'm really happy it's beer and not pee."

Insight into Canada's 1st beers

Reynolds said the brew tasted "pretty good" and was likely similar to what brews were intended to taste like in in 1870.

"It tasted, actually, just how it smelled, which I was surprised by," said Reynolds. "We got like a little tree fruit note, a cherry note in there somehow — certainly a lot of sulphur, kind of rotten egg stuff going on." 

Reynolds said tasting the historic brew was a once in a lifetime experience he won't soon forget. He said researchers plan to continue testing the liquid in a lab at Dalhousie University, and at another lab in Scotland. 

"Once we've finished analyzing the liquid as thoroughly as possible, we can use that and dovetail that with brewers notes of the era, like brewer's logs, and have basically the most complete picture yet of what some of Canada's first beers may have been like," said Reynolds. 

The testing at Dalhousie University was documented by a film crew from the Discovery Channel's Daily Planet and will air in an upcoming television episode.

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