History lesson.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re correct. I am in no way, shape or form qualified to give anyone a history lesson. Literally, I learned that the 80s cartoon, “Dino Riders”, wasn’t a documentary just last week. To say that I’m a little slow is an understatement, or perhaps it’s just self evident.

Anyway, as many of you no doubt know, I do a fair bit of reading to learn more about distilling, home brewing, wooing women, etc. The other day I stumbled on a story that’s relatively interesting, and I thought I’d pass it along.

It turns out that on the fifteenth of January in the year of our lord 1919 21 people died and 150 people were injured in Boston, MA. Was it by a crazed killer, or a horse and buggy pile up, perhaps? Nope. the casualties were caused by a…wait for it…a tidal wave of molasses from a ruptured vat at the Purity Distilling Company. It turns out that when a tank containing over 2 million gallons of molasses pops, it pops big. It’s estimated that the tidal wave was approximately 30 feet high. Those of you out there who have worked with the sticky substance (either for distillation or for a less nefarious purpose) have to share my shock and awe. Molasses is heavy. Correction. Molasses is heavy as hell. Can you imagine the devastation caused by a 30 foot wave of molasses?

Now you’re thinking, “hey, I don’t have an imagination. Don’t you have any pictures or something?”. I don’t…but, as always, the internet provides.


In true 1919 style, the distillery was quick to blame anarchists for the destruction. Apparently they didn’t understand the deep and abiding love most anarchists have for liquor, and after years of testimony and investigation it turns out that the tank was poorly built and poorly maintained. As many or all of you understand, fermentation will increase pressure on the container (hooray for airlocks). The temperature increase that comes with spring and the natural expansion of fermentation were just too much for the tank.

What’s your take away? Well, funny you should ask. No post of mine would be complete without a list:

  1. Watch your fermenters. You should check all of your equipment before you use it. Also, full means full. While I doubt anything or anyone will drown if you have a rupture, I don’t envy envy the mess you’ll be cleaning.
  2. Should you ever see a 30 foot wave of molasses, you’ll probably die.
  3. No, you can’t surf it.

You can watch this video if you’re interested. If you’re not interested then you’re making bad life decisions.

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