When Did Beer Flood the Streets of London?

did-beer-flood-streets-london Credit: Adermark Media/Moment/Getty Images

Floods are no laughing matter, but they can be even more of a shock when they’re completely unexpected. The London Beer Flood occurred on October 17, 1814, when a brewery’s 22-foot-tall vat of beer exploded in London’s St. Giles neighborhood.

During the afternoon of October 17, a worker at the Meux and Company brewery noticed that one of the large iron hoops on the fermentation tank had slipped and was no longer holding the vat. Although the tank was practically full—holding the equivalent of about 1 million pints of beer—the worker was told that nothing would happen and to leave a note for someone to fix the hoop later.

The tank, full of brown porter ale and pressure due to the fermentation process, burst about an hour later. A 15-foot-high wave of 320,000 gallons of beer rushed out of the brewery and into the neighborhood streets, flooding homes and collapsing brick walls along the way. People rushed to save themselves and others amid the deluge of alcohol, yet the flood took the lives of eight people. The brewery was never held responsible for the accident, as a jury ruled it was an Act of God.