Divers steal beer being aged by sunken ship off Argentina

Thieves took 700 litres of dark ale at abandoned Soviet-era ship 66 feet underwater

An undated photo provided by the Kronomether Project of barrels of beer being loaded onto a ship to take out to sea. Photograph: Kronomether Project via The New York Times

An undated photo provided by the Kronomether Project of barrels of beer being loaded onto a ship to take out to sea. Photograph: Kronomether Project via The New York Times

 

A team of divers in Argentina has stolen 700 litres, or 185 gallons, of artisanal beer that had been left by three local breweries to age, attached to a sunken ship, on the ocean floor.

The owners of the three breweries in Mar del Plata, which had teamed up with a diving school for what they described as a first-of-its-kind months-long experiment in deep-water beermaking, were left mystified, and heartbroken, upon discovering Tuesday that the barrels were gone.

“I started crying,” said Carlos Brelles, who runs the Thalassa Diving School in Mar del Plata, a coastal city five miles from the sunken ship. “Three or four people without morals destroyed the work of so many people who put in so much effort.”

Mr Brelles and the brewery owners said they have no clues that could shed light on the disappearance of the barrels, but they haven’t ruled out an act of sabotage. They asked prosecutors to open a criminal investigation. It was a bitter end to an idea years in the making that was hatched over casual chats at the diving school.

Mr Brelles (52), having read news reports about beer that had been aged underwater in other countries, pitched the idea back in 2018 to a friend, Eduardo Ricardo (40), one of the owners of Heller Brewery. And as the notion spread among beer enthusiasts in Mar del Plata, several took to the idea – but had a twist.

Previous experiments had involved shallower depths, so they wanted to test beers made under greater pressure. They spent months securing permits to affix the barrels to the Kronomether, an abandoned Soviet-era ship 66 feet underwater that sank in 2014 and had become a favourite spot of recreational divers.

“No one had ever done this before,” said Juan Pablo Vincent (43), master brewer at Baum brewery, who was involved in the effort. The brewers settled on a dark, strong ale with an alcohol level of between 11 per cent and 12 per cent.

It took more than a year to obtain the necessary permits, and then coronavirus quarantine measures slowed down the endeavor, so the team was only able to lower the seven barrels of beer into the ocean on November 22nd.

The intention was to blend the content in the barrels with another beer. If all went according to plan, the brewers expected to be left with 1,000 litres, or 264 gallons, of a custom-made brew that would fill some 2,000 bottles and sell under the name Kronomether. The breweries intended to donate the proceeds to a local natural science museum.

Mr Brelles dove to check on the barrels on January 19th, and everything looked fine. He returned this Tuesday, a day before the barrels were going to be brought back to land, to find the barrels were all gone.

Mr Vincent said the contents of the barrels would be useless in the hands of people who lack sophisticated beer-making skills, since the purpose of the brew was to mix it with another beer. “If they stole it for their own consumption, they’re going to have to throw it away,” he said. “It was a lukewarm, gasless liquor that would be very difficult to drink.”

Mr Vincent said he suspects vandals broke the barrels loose. “I think they broke everything so the barrels would drift away,” Mr Brelles said. “It was malice for malice’s sake.” Despite the disappointment, the men are determined to try again. – New York Times