October 17

1814 — London Beer Flood


In 1814, eight people died from a flood of beer.  One large vat burst and overturned, tumbled into others at the Horse Shoe Brewery, until the entire inventory spilled out the building and into the surrounding neighborhood.

A poor and overcrowded street, with weakly constructed houses too close together…and the rushing liquid breached thin walls, while residents climbed on chairs to escape an unexpected, intoxicating flood.

Too much of a good thing.  Almost the stuff of comedy, if a beer-battered tavern wall hadn’t fallen over and crushed a barmaid…if two children having a tea party weren’t washed away by adult beverages…if five more people hadn’t been drowned with spirits during a funeral gathering.

You think about past moments of pain, so many of them seasoned with absurdity, and decide that history is a grotesque pageant that, like the adage says, is doomed to repeat itself.

With small variations.  The liquid flowing outside your home isn’t rain or ocean water, but neither is it hops and malted barley.  Its alcohol content is zero.  Its sugar content is zero, also, and some scientists and health experts had warned about possible side effects.

But those experts had warned about effects on a person’s metabolism.  Nobody had foreseen the possibility of dangerous flooding.

Carbonated waters rise in the streets of your city, fizzing and foaming as they roar past your home, and a sticky, non-caloric liquid begins to surge up from your basement, pooling beneath your door and spreading into the hallway.

There’s no plausible explanation, except how prevalent these drinks have become in your country, then marketed throughout the world, practically saturating the planet’s atmosphere (in a metaphorical sense), until some freak downpour spit it all back in literal torrents.

The worst irony, as your front windows shatter and a flood of diet cola rushes into your living room, is that you never drank an ounce of the stuff.

It’s a ridiculous way for the world to end.  This whole flood leaves a bitter aftertaste.