Lab, taste tests confirm liquid inside century-old beer bottle is ‘Victorian’ ale

Dr. Andrew MacIntosh and members of his lab perform a test on the liquid inside a century-old Alexander Keith's bottle found at the bottom of the Northwest Arm by diver Jon Crouse. Jon Crouse/Global News

HALIFAX – Can you imagine what a sip of 120-year-old beer might taste like? Maybe kind of musty? Maybe flat?

One beer lover from Halifax got to have a taste of just that this week, after getting a rare sample of beer from a century-old bottle found by Jon Crouse in the Northwest Arm back in November.

READ MORE: Century-old Alexander Keith’s bottle ‘highlight’ of Halifax diver’s collection

The bottle, believed to be an Alexander Keith’s bottle, was found by Crouse while he was diving in the Arm.

“It’s the highlight of my collection,” he told Global News shortly after his discovery.

Close up of the cork in the old Alexander Keith’s beer bottle.
Close up of the cork in the old Alexander Keith’s beer bottle. Jon Crouse

Crouse planned to evaporate the mystery liquid out of the bottle and add it to his collection of unique finds in his home.

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When Christopher Reynolds of Stillwell Bar heard that, he said alarm bells went off and he had to stop him – he wanted to test that mystery liquid.

“I said ‘don’t evaporate that liquid! That is as valuable, or more, than the artifact,'” Reynolds said.

He added that beer enthusiasts, historians and lovers would be able to learn a lot about how beer was created in historical times.

The liquid was analyzed by Dr. Andrew MacIntosh in his lab Dalhousie University and it was quickly determined that it was in fact beer.

It was taken out of the bottle through the cork, using a large syringe.

Better than expected

Christopher Reynolds and Dr. Andrew MacIntosh take a swig of the beer from the century-old beer bottle found in the Northwest Arm in Halifax. Jon Crouse/Facebook

“We were worried that it was just seawater, or perhaps, just you know, Victorian urine, whatever it might have been,” Reynolds said.

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But after ruling out anything unsafe, he and Dr. MacIntosh did the almost unthinkable – they took a swig.

“We couldn’t pass it up,” he said. “It tasted better than we expected, but also kind of how we expected.”

He said it had hints of things you’d expect from an old beer, with an “acidic twang,” there were hints of cherry and oak, along with some salinity which likely came from some sea water that did seep in.

“It kind of tasted a bit terrible but also kind of exciting, because it tasted like beer.”

WATCH BELOW: The taste testers of the age-old beer sit down with Global’s The Morning News

Click to play video 'What does a 100 year old beer taste like?' What does a 100 year old beer taste like?
What does a 100 year old beer taste like? – Jan 7, 2016

Some of the beer has also been sent to a labratory in Scotland, which has more advanced technology to get some more tests and gather more information.

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Reynolds hopes the tests will inspire a local brewer to craft a beer that models this “Victorian ale.”

“Brewers will also take this information, once we gather it all and make it public, brewers can look at that and brew Canadian-Victorian beer.”

Crouse says he plans to donate the bottle to the Keith’s brewery once the cork is preserved. He’s using polyethylene glycol solution to preserve the cork, which he says will take about a month and a half to complete.