VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland was commissioned to analyse the
bottles of beer salvaged from the 1840s shipwreck found near the Åland Islands
in 2010. Living bacteria found in the bottles were subject to further tests to
find out how the cells had survived for so long in the wreck. VTT also
develops new brewery processes and beers. VTT was founded in 1942, and beer
and brewery research is one of the institute’s oldest research areas.
Both beer lovers and breweries are always looking for new taste sensations.
New beer flavours can be created by developing new yeast cultures and by
making use of naturally occurring yeast and bacteria. New kinds of yeast are
needed, for instance, in the manufacture of non-alcoholic beers. The lager
yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus is a natural hybrid of two yeast strains. One
of VTT’s most recently introduced research areas relates to the development of
new hybrid yeast strains that have new kinds of taste profiles or a better
ability to turn sugar into alcohol than the currently available lager yeasts.
Lactic acid bacteria found in shipwreck beer bottles subject to further
The Åland-based brewery Stallhagen has embarked on a quest to recreate the
170-year-old recipe and start reproducing the beer. Both the product
development process and the brewing technique were selected based on the
thorough physico-chemical and microbiological analyses carried out at VTT
Technical Research Centre of Finland.
One of VTT’s triumphs was isolating living lactic acid bacteria from the
bottles. This type of bacteria plays an important role in the brewing of the
recreated beer. The production process was developed in collaboration with
Stallhagen and the Belgian university KU Leuven, a frontrunner in yeast and
“We are probably talking about the oldest living non-spore forming bacteria
ever found in beer. The beer brewing techniques used in the old days typically
caused these kinds of bacteria to grow alongside yeast”, explains Key Account
Manager Annika Wilhelmson from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
What scientists now want to know is how the lactic acid bacteria differ from
“modern” organisms of the same kind and how they survived in such extreme
conditions. VTT and the University of Saskatchewan are studying the DNA of the
bacteria to find some answers to these questions. Bacterial strains isolated
from the bottles could prove useful to the food and drinks industry in the