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Some Canadian Dudes Sampled a 140-Year-Old Beer

They said it wasn't bad, and had hints of sulphur, oak, cherry, and a "meaty funk." One person reportedly said it smelled "like canned ham."

Socialable! Photo courtesy Chris Reynolds

Ever wanted to taste beer that's been floating around in the ocean for more than a century? Me neither, but apparently it's a big deal to beer aficionados in Halifax who this week got the chance to do just that with a 140-year-old bottle of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale.

Local scuba diver Jon Crouse found the historic booze while on a dive in a part of Halifax Harbour called the Northwest Arm in late November. He told the media he planned to have the old-as-balls brew evaporated so he could preserve the bottle as a keepsake.


When Chris Reynolds, co-owner of Stillwell Bar, heard about that plan, he more or less freaked out, he told IVCE.

"I was like, 'Oh shit, no, no, no, no, no, don't do that. It's probably beer that's in there and if it is, it should definitely be analyzed in lab cause it's super, super old and of a lot of interest to beer historians, brewers, beer freaks in general.'"

Reynolds got in touch with Crouse and hatched a plan to have Dalhousie University test the substance inside the bottle, which in fact, turned out to be beer.

Yesterday Reynolds and a Dal researcher tested a few milliliters of the Keith's after extracting it with a syringe. The reviews were positive, all things considered.

"We poured it into two test tubes and gave it a good smell and then drank it. It was awesome," he said. "It smelled like what we were hoping it would smell like—like really old beer."

As for the taste itself, there were hints of sulphur, oak, cherry, and a "meaty funk."

"One person was like, 'Yo, this smells like canned ham,'" Reynolds noted.

Reynolds said he didn't think pathogens would've been able to survive in the century-old brew, rendering it harmless, but to be safe he didn't actually swallow it.

"We did swish and spit."

Crouse, on Facebook, said he was "really happy it's beer and not pee."

A sample of the beer is being sent to a lab in Scotland and a thorough report will follow, Reynolds said. The idea is to gather "the most complete picture we've had yet of what the drink was like of the day."

The beer is believed to have been bottled between the early 1870s and 1890.

While a lot of beer companies, Keith's included, claim to use old timey brewing methods, Reynolds said that's mostly guesswork and "marketing bullshit."

The fate of the bottle remains uncertain, though Reynolds said there is talk of it being donated to Alexander Keith's.

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