The Great Beer Flood

London faced a surreal emergency on Oct. 17, 1814, when a giant beer vat ruptured in a St. Giles brewery. The resulting wave collapsed the neighboring vats, and 323,000 golden gallons poured into the West End.

“All at once, I found myself borne onward with great velocity by a torrent, which burst upon me so suddenly as almost to deprive me of breath,” wrote a correspondent to the London Knickerbocker. “A roar, as of falling buildings at a distance, and suffocating fumes, were in my ears and nostrils.”

The flood filled neighboring basements and causing several tenements to collapse. In all, eight people were killed — “by drowning, injury, poisoning by porter fumes, or drunkenness.”

American disasters are sweeter but less stimulating.