2008 Beer Mysteries


On a Tuesday night in August at Barley Island Brewing Co., while having a beer, I overheard a conversation about old beer bottles found under a fire-pit. Brian, who works at BI, found 4 old beer 22 oz. bottles while cleaning up a old burn pile at his new home. The bottles were found buried in the dirt, had no labels and …..they were full! He had opened one at home and said “it wasn’t so bad”. We opened a bottle for trial at the pub. The beer was still carbonated! Aroma was floral and sweet. Taste was acidic and oxidized. However these off flavors dissipated after 10-20 minutes and the beer was drinkable!


What the hell did we just drink?


Without any labels or markings on the bottle all we had was the old rusted bottle cap. It looked familiar but I could not remember who’s beer this was. I research the cap and found that the brew was – Evansville Brewing Company’s “Santa Claus Christmas Amber”. The company ceased operations in 1997 so the beer had to be at least 11 years old,  but the Christmas Amber is probably about 14 years old! I have chased down old beers before but this is first time they were consumed with this kind of, outside fire-pit over a decade, storage. We, those persons who consumed this beer on Tuesday night are presently still alive and drinking.




The bottle cap at Barley Island The beer .Researched bottle cap






The Great Au Sable Beer Mystery.
An Exercise in Curiosity and Stupidity


Remnants of beer have been found as old as 9000 years . Several years ago a man found a full can of beer that was 50 years old in the desert (it wasn't drinkable when opened). Last month, during an excavation, an eight grader found a full bottle of beer 100 years old. There are many reports of old beer being found that was drinkable. With this in mind the Great Au Sable Beer Mystery was started.

After you enter Mac's Island from the covered wooden bridge, the road continues through the island to the "cement bridge" which leads to another property and the Huron Nat'l Forest. The last bit of the North branch of the AuSable river narrows underneath the bridge before becoming the mainstream. The current is quite swift.

During the Summer of 2004, we heard a lot of commotions and headed to the cement bridge. Two canoes had "gone sideways" and hit one side of the bridge. The current capsized the canoes spilling the crews and contents. The canoers were carried swiftly downstream while trying to gather their belongings. No one seemed injured and they appeared to have collected most of their stuff before continuing downstream. Left behind were dozens of beer cans in the water near the cement bridge.

Each year since, we would return and see these bright shiny beer cans still in the water near the bridge. Could it be that the cool clear waters of the AuSable had preserved these brews? What condition would they be in? I imagined retrieving these cans and then opening them and finding out.

This year, I made plans to get the beer cans and find out. First I must let you know that the current flow or velocity of the river under the bridge is great. It is impossible to stand or even hold straight a paddle towards the bottom - a depth of 4-5 feet. The bottom of the river is large smooth rocks - slippery. Shoes and clothing can be remove from oneself by the river embarrassing quickly. An anchored  boat doesn't hold and is not steady enough to work from. My plan was to rope myself to a sturdy tree and then while in the mercy of the current try to dive a scoop up the cans. This was going to be caught on film but I didn't want the possible embarrassment to make it's way to the internet and I think there was too much concern for my safety to spend time with the camcorder.

I tied my shorts extra tight and grabbed the free end of the rope and went into the water. It became apparent that I could not hold on to the rope and be able to get close to the bottom where the cans were. I returned to the shore and placed a loop in the rope that I could put my arm into and returned to the river. After about 45minutes to an hour,  I was able to push a couple of cans closer to shore were I was able to dive and scoop them up. I got them to shore, exhausted, cold and with a sprained finger and a sore shoulder.

The results - Mystery solved.

Beer cans were  Busch Light cans and they were is excellent shape. However the cans were empty. The cans were bowed out like a barrel indicating that they had frozen at one time. Winters are tough up here - the river does freeze and there is lots of snow. Why does someone who, buys, drinks and makes good beer do something like this? See sub-title above.

On the cement bridge looking towards Mac's Island before retrieving the cans

It's difficult to see the beer cans in the water in this photo - but they are there!

The tree that held the rope that held me in the river.

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