Saturday, October 17, 2015

The London Beer Flood

A beer tsunami sounds like one of Homer Simpson's wildest fantasies but this one was real and ended tragically.

On this day in 1814 a three-storey high vat holding one million pints of beer ruptured at the Henry Meux and Co. brewery in a poor area of London that was home to many Irish immigrants. The explosion caused a chain reaction, tipping the other vats in the brewery and spilling about 610,000 litres of maturing porter that created a 15-foot black beer tsunami that roared through the streets, destroying two houses and killing eight people, five of whom were attending a wake for a child that had died the previous day. Decrepit hovels flanking the brewery crumbled under the deluge.

Two days later a jury convened to investigate the accident and rendered its verdict that the incident had been an “Act of God”, leaving no one responsible. Not only did the brewery escape paying damages to the destitute victims, it received a waiver from the British Parliament for excise taxes it had already paid on the thousands of barrels of beer it lost.

In 2012, a local tavern, the "Holborn Whippet, started to mark this event with a vat of porter brewed especially for the day.

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