Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The London Beer Flood


occurred on October 17, 1814 in London, England.

The Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road had several huge vats to hold the product of their enterprise. A vat containing 135,000 imperial gallons of beer ruptured, causing several other vats to burst releasing a total of over 300,000 gallons. The beer ran into the streets. Two houses were destroyed and a wall of a nearby pub succumbed. Worse, in this poor neighborhood many families lived in basement rooms that filled with beer. Eight people lost their lives in the torrent.  A ninth person succumbed to alcohol poisoning. Yes, the survivors literally drank ale in their cupped hands from the muddy puddles in the streets, or recovered vessels in which to take and partake of the boon. Waste not, want not. 

 The foul odor remained for weeks.

Ultimately the company who owned the brewery was sued in court, but the court ruled that the accident was “an act of God.” No responsibility was imputed to the proprietors.*
The company itself, though, was facing extreme difficulty because of the financial loss due to the loss of product and sales; and that was exacerbated by the fact that they had already paid the duty on the beer.  But, Government to the rescue! Parliament allowed the management to recover the duty, which allowed them to continue operations.

The brewery no longer exists.  Meux was eventually bought out by others.

*I think it might have been an act of fermentation within the confines of an inadequately banded wooden vat.  Or it might have been an act of God.

6 comments:

Shelly said...

Death by beer- good grief!

Secondary Roads said...

Beer smells bad enough, but that much stale beer must have been dreadful.

Vee said...

I'm always amazed that people can put that foul smelling stuff under their noses and drink. At a Royals game one evening someone behind our group (who had obviously had too much) spilled a cup of the stuff on my friend. Ruined the game for her!

Grace said...

I trust it wasn't pumpkin flavored beer...

vanilla said...

Shelly, it is my guess that those are not the only beer-related deaths in history.

Chuck, it does that; “dreadful” is probably and understatement.

Vee, I should think that that would spoil an evening!

Grace, I’m guessing here that 19th century Londoners had better sense than that. Maybe.

Sharkbytes said...

Almost as good as the story of the attack of the kegs in the Rev War.