Extreme Brewing

Written by Steven Bertoni for Forbes.com

Christopher Bowen is making a 4,000-mile beer run. This July the 43-year-old financial planner will ride a BMW motorcycle from his house in Bethlehem, Pa. up to the Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic. Once there, he’ll set up camp and brew 100 gallons of beer using a 158-year-old recipe.

No, this wasn’t a plan dreamed up after a few too many cold ones. In 2007 Bowen watched a sealed 1852 bottle of Allsopp’s Arctic Ale sell for $500,000 on Ebay. The final bid turned out to be bogus (Bowen thinks the bottle was worth $300,000), but the auction inspired him to find out more.

For more than two years Bowen researched the history of this rare beer. Commissioned by Queen Victoria for the aptly named Sir Edward Belcher’s 1852 Arctic expedition, Allsopp’s boasted a 12% alcohol content to resist freezing and was packed with 700 calories to nourish sailors. In 1854, when four of Belcher’s five ships became trapped in the Arctic ice, he was forced to abandon the expedition, along with hundreds of bottles of beer. Now, having reconstructed the recipe, Bowen aims to brew the ale in the same region where Belcher’s expedition came to a disastrous end.
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