At the time of the great Beer Flood, giant porter vats were a tourist draw at London breweries.
“It is thought that one of the most spectacular sights, certainly at the major London porter breweries, was the sheer size of the storage vats, much kudos being attached to the brewer in possession of the largest example,” writes author Ian S. Hornsey in A History of Beer and Brewing.
The Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery was twenty-two feet tall and sixty feet wide.
It was so huge that its owners supposedly celebrated its build by hosting 200 dinner guests within the beer tank!
On Monday afternoon, 17 October 1814, one of the belts supporting the tank separated.
The other twenty-eight support straps quickly snapped.
The titanic vat ruptured, losing over a million pounds of beer.
Horse Shoe Brewery was located in the slum of St. Giles Rookery.
Soaked in poverty, the St. Giles neighborhood was now saturated in beer.
“Some of the inhabitants survived by clambering onto pieces of furniture. Others were not so lucky,” writes Rory Tingle for The Independent.
In all, eight people were killed due to “drowning, injury, poisoning by the porter fumes, or drunkenness.”
Their coffins were lined up in a yard, where passersby could leave coins to help pay for the funerals.
Relatives of the drowned started exhibiting their families’ corpses in their homes and charging a fee for the show.
In one house, though, too many people crowded in and the floor gave out, plunging them all into a cellar half full of beer.
Jurors declared the beer flood an “unavoidable act of God”.
Survivors received nothing from the government or the company.
Henry Meux & Co., however, received a refund for the excise duty they had paid to produce the lost beer.
A local pub – The Holborn Whippet – brews a special anniversary ale each year.
Happy International Beer Day. (4th August)