As far as drowning goes, drowning in a tidal wave of free booze probably isn’t the worst way to go, but only the seven victims of the London Beer Flood could tell us for sure.
On October 17, 1814, about 610,000 liters of beer flooded out of the Meux and company brewery in a 15-foot high wave of porter. The wave roared through the streets of Tottenham Court Road, flooding cellars and dragging debris, leaving a path of foamy destruction in its wake. The flood was caused by a ruptured vat which created a deadly domino effect that tipped the other vats into spilling their contents and creating a beer wave of death.
The flood destroyed two houses and claimed seven lives, five of whom were attending a wake for a child that had died the previous day. While there are rumors, there were no written records of the citizens taking advantage of the free drinks, and subsequently, no recorded deaths of alcohol poisoning on the account of the flood. It’s assumed when a 15-foot high wave of anything is rolling down the street, there’s not really enough time to weigh the pros and cons of taking advantage or getting to higher ground.
The brewery has been demolished, and the Dominion Theater now stands in its place. While there is no plaque or memorial to signify the beer flood, a local tavern, the Holborn Whippet, serves a special porter that commemorates the beer flood once a year, on the anniversary of the event.
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