Postcard from... Aland, Finland


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The Independent Online


The Finns are celebrating! There's a new beer in town! Well, sort of. The latest offering from the Stallhagen brewery is actually almost 200 years old. The ancient ale was discovered in a shipwreck off the Aland archipelago, a semi-autonomous province of Finland. Wreck divers came across five perfectly preserved bottles of beer amongst the remains of a Nordic schooner, believed to have sunk in the Baltic sometime between 1825 and 1830.

One brave soul volunteered to try the salvaged beer and found it surprisingly drinkable – preserved beautifully by the salty water, low currents, cool temperature, pressure from the sea and total darkness. Having established that a shipwreck makes an excellent giant beer fridge, the Fins decided to try to find out the ancient brewers' secret recipe.

Scientists at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland ran DNA tests, looked at the beer's microbes and employed chemical analyses to determine the raw materials used in the brewing. The final verdict? "It's a pale ale and resembles contemporary beer," said VTT researcher Annika Wilhelmson.

Local brewers, Stallhagen, decided that this was too good an opportunity to pass up and requested the rights to recreate the beer. Stallhagen's CEO Jan Wennstroem made a plea to the local government of Aland, who owned the shipwreck. Officials agreed, on the proviso that some of the profits would go to funding marine archaeological work.

A delighted Wennstroem and his team have gone into production and hope to begin selling "one of the oldest existing beers in the world" next year.