133-Year-Old Shipwreck Beer To Make US Debut In March

A Long Island, N.Y., brewery has been working on a formula to recreate a beer that was discovered at the dive site of the SS Oregon, which sank off Fire Island in 1886. Saint-James Brewery owner and brewer Jamie Adams took yeast from the bottles and is mixing it with modern yeast to create the beer, which will debut at the New York State Brewers Fest on March 9 in Albany, N.Y.

“We’ve been holding off on announcing this publicly until we had the yeast working so we could make a beer exclusively with it,” Adams told Syracuse.com. “Now it’s ready.”

The shipwreck beer made headlines after another brewing company announced its plans to make a beer out of the same yeast. Bill Felter of Serious Brewing Co. in Howe’s Cave, N.Y. revealed he was working with students at SUNY Cobleskill to recreate the concoction. He changed his mind after hearing that Adams had already completed the task.

“I am personally not going to brew any beer with that yeast, out of respect for him (Adams) being a fellow New York farm brewer,” Felter said. “I don’t want to step on their toes.”

Adams has been diving on the Oregon wreck for two decades with a group of divers who divvy up the artifacts they recover. One member of the group gave one of the bottles of beer they uncovered to Felter without his knowledge.

The dive team found the bottles lying top down in the First-Class dining room of the ship. They were unlabeled and sealed with corks. According to Adams, there were at least three different kinds of yeast in the bottles, suggesting they came from different breweries. Two may have been English ale yeasts.

The Oregon collided with a schooner near Fire Island on March 6, 1886. Interestingly, engineer Nikola Tesla, who worked for inventor Thomas Edison’s company, had once performed engine repairs on the ship.

Long Island divers routinely visit the shipwreck, which lies approximately 140 feet below the surface. Some sections of the ship are buried under 20-30 feet of sand. Adams and his team found the beer bottles after part of the wreck were exposed due to a shift in the current.

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