A History Lesson With Booze

The Great London Beer Flood

This week back in 1814, enormous vats of ale at London’s Meux Brewery burst, letting loose a tsunami of beer. Sound awesome? Not for the people it killed. Hear the sobering tale, and chase it with a cocktail that won’t help you dry out.

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Warrick Page/Getty Images
Warrick Page/Getty Images

The British love their beer – but in 1814, they realized love has its limits.

Back then one of the biggest brewers in town was a company called Meux. Their prized facility housed some of the biggest beer vats of the era. One of them stood 22 feet tall. That monster was full of porter ale. After a while, the pressure on the barrel got to be too much. One of the iron hoops holding it together developed a crack, and on October 17th, it snapped.

The barrel burst and the force of it busted open the surrounding vats. Soon a tidal wave of over 323,000 gallons of beer smashed through the brewhouse wall and into the poor slum outside.

Some folks ran out with pots to scoop up free booze, but for others it wasn’t much of a party. The beer tsunami flattened two houses and killed nine people, some drowned in beer-flooded basements.

Even so, in court, Meux was held blameless. In fact, Parliment later reimbursed them for the tax they had paid on all that lost beer.

 

 

“The Last Call to Porter”

Created by bartender Katie Rose of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in beer-soaked Milwaukee, WI

  • 1 oz. Knob Creek Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • Porter beer

Shake up the hard liquor until it’s fit to burst. Strain into a coup glass, then flood the mix with your favorite porter beer (Katie recommends Milwaukee’s own Mudpuppy Porter). Don’t drink it in a basement.