If Jon Crouse wants to taste his 125-year-old ale, he'd better do it soon.
The Nova Scotia government hopes to analyze the beer bottle, which could be deemed a heritage object.
Crouse was scuba diving in Halifax this week when he discovered the beer bottle. It has markings that date it between 1872 and 1890, and a cork that indicates it was bottled by the Alexander Keith's brewery.
"I'd like to keep it for myself," Crouse said.
But the finders keepers rule doesn't apply.
'A heritage object'
"The Special Places Protection Act protects all archeological sites, known and unknown, both on land in Nova Scotia and in the water," said Sean Wesley McKeane with the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
"The province of Nova Scotia can seize a heritage object. But what we like is for people to recognize that these are important things, not just for a collector, but for all of the people of Nova Scotia."
This might have to be settled over a beer.
"If they asked me, I would engage them in a conversation," Crouse said. "I'd want to see what their intentions would be and what would happen to the bottle.
"I want to preserve it myself. But they probably have better knowledge than me."
Crouse said if he had to give it up, he would be interested in having the bottle placed in a museum and shared with the public.
"I don't want to go to court over a bottle," he said.
The law in Nova Scotia is similar to other jurisdictions. The public is not permitted to expressly search for historic objects. If one is discovered accidentally, the finders are supposed to cease excavation and notify government officials.
"If one finds an object and removes the object from its context, we lose all the context and most of the information that is most valuable historically," McKeane said.
Property developers and historians are required to obtain a permit to dig in archaeological sites. McKeane says they have issued approximately 100 permits in the past year as more construction begins in the downtown core.
"Objects that are found here are the property of Nova Scotia," McKeane said.