Tsunami of Beer Kills Nine

by Steven Doyle

A few years back we discussed the tragic and curious Boston Molasses Flood  that killed 21 and injured over 150, demolishing buildings and drowning livestock, causing millions of dollars in damages. There was another industrial accident that wreaked havoc on a city, killing many and causing damage that is equally as curious.

Like all tragic stories such as these a certain element of hubris rides high, not too unlike the massive container of molasses that exploded in Boston all those years ago, or even the supposedly unsinkable Titanic.   

Word spread of  “a cask now building at Messrs. Meux & Co.’s brewery… the size of which exceeds all credibility, being designed to hold 20,000 barrels of porter; the whole expense attending the same will be upwards of £10,000.”

Bragging rights be damned, on October 17, 1814, 100 years before the Boston Molasses Flood , a huge vat containing 135,000 gallons of fermenting beer at the Meux’s Brewery in London exploded releasing a force that tore apart the factory’s 25-foots wall releasing the brew to adjoining homes causing equal damage, killing 8 people.

Some of the victims drowned, other sustained fatal injuries in the swelling flood that scurried through the streets.

Survivors attempted to save the beer by scooping it up with any means they had, including cupping the muddied brew and lapping it up as quickly as they could. One additional victim was claimed by alcohol poisoning as he attempted to consume as much of the unstowed beer as possible.

The stench of beer lasted for months in the impoverished section of London, but the law suits continued well over three years with the final verdict being that the tragedy was a mere act of God with no one to blame or pay damages. Funeral expenses were paid by vistors that laid coins on the coffins.

The brewery was demolished in 1922, but the legend of the Great Beer Flood continues to live on.

 

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Filed under beer, London, Steven Doyle, Travel

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