October 17, 1814, over 100 years before the Boston Molasses Flood, a very unfortunate beer-related incident occurred in London. A huge vat which held over 135,000 gallons of fermenting beer succumbed to the wounds of age, and let its bounty loose with explosive force. The impact caused several other vats in the same building to rupture, and almost instantly the combined 323,000+ gallons of ale crashed through the brick structure and poured into the London parish of St. Giles, a slum area.
The impact of this massive wave of beer was disastrous. Men and women were caught in the wave, tossed against walls and buried in debris. The beer completely destroyed two homes, and flooded many others. A wall at a nearby pub crumbled under the force, burying a barmaid there for several hours. Nine people were killed by the drink that day, all but one due to drowning. The ninth died of alcohol poisoning. Most of the victims were poor individuals who either lost their lives, or everything they owned.
Soon after the flood, survivors rushed in to save what they could of the precious ale, collecting it in pots, cans, and kettles. Some simply used their cupped hands to lap up the tepid pools of dirty beer.
It took weeks for the stink of beer to completely fade from the area. The brewery was later taken to court over the accident, but the entire event was determined to be an “Act of God” by the judge and jury, leaving no one responsible.
by Arthur Furrowfield