Last night, the Night Owl spread its wings over the Great Molasses Flood of Boston. It is famous for good reason; nothing of its like has ever happened in America.
The year was 1814, almost a hundred years before the Molasses incident. The place was St. Giles Rookery, a London slum. And from Historic U.K.:
The Horse Shoe Brewery stood at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. In 1810 the brewery, Meux and Company, had had a 22 foot high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises. Held together with massive iron rings, this huge vat held the equivalent of over 3,500 barrels of brown porter ale, a beer not unlike stout.
The vat was not required to hold beer; they had the capacity to store the beer in standard barrels. Rather, many breweries at the time kept giant vats visible to the public as an attraction. Visitors would stop by to see the giant vat, and often decided to sample the wares of the brewery. It was not only storage, it was free advertising.
Then the unexpected happened.
On October 17, one of the binding rings failed, snapping away from the vat. A short time later, the vat ruptured, sending the beer (some historians believe the number was closer to 7,500 barrels than 3,500) out into the streets.
The force of the explosion sent bricks raining over the tops of houses on Great Russell Street and collapsed the brick wall that towered over Eleanor Cooper, killing her instantly. A torrent of porter rushed through the narrow lanes of the surrounding neighborhood and swept away everything in its path. With no drainage on the city streets, the wave of black liquid had nowhere to go except straight into the neighboring homes. Residents scaled tables and furniture to save themselves from drowning as the beer inundated the houses. Decrepit hovels flanking the brewery crumbled under the deluge.
The flood was waist-high… but this was a London slum, where many homes were made in the basements of buildings. Walls were destroyed, homes flooded, and people were drowned. Eight people lost their lives. The only reason the death toll was not much higher was that the rupture happened in the middle of the day, when most men and boys of working age were at their jobs and many women and children were out addressing the day’s tasks.
There absolutely is such a thing as too much beer. Remember, drink responsibly.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite alcoholic drink, or do you never partake?