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July 19, 1900: Death lurks in a keg of beer

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: July 19, 2010 - 3:57 PM
The Minneapolis Tribune published this wire account of a “death-dealing draught” that felled four young Iowans whose sense of taste or smell must have been impaired, perhaps by a previous keg. Or two.

DEATH LURKS IN THE BEER

Three Men Die in Agony After Drinking Lager.
 
By Wire From Fort Dodge, Ia., July 19.
 
Four young men living in Cerro Gordo county, near the Minnesota line, purchased and drank a keg of Eastern-brewed beer some days ago, and as a result three of them have died and the fourth is now in terrible agony, and is reported to be on the point of death.
 
The day was warm and the beer was consumed hurriedly by the friends, who little realized that they were sipping a death-dealing draught. They were all taken sick immediately, and although a physician was soon summoned, the taking off of three of the young bibbers could not be prevented.
 
To ascertain, if possible, the strange cause of the sickness, the keg was broken into and the decomposed remains of a genuine rattlesnake was found. Improbable as the story sounds, it is true; and is rendered plausible by the fact that empty kegs are often left lying around for weeks before being shipped back to the breweries. It is thus easy for reptiles and insects to crawl into the kegs as cool resorts.
 
The scalding out of the kegs upon their return to the brewery would naturally kill any living organism, which would remain right in the keg. It was only a few years ago that a man here became sick from drinking keg beer and an investigation showed that a dead toad occupied the keg with the beer.
 
Seeing double: The hazards of overindulging are clear in this doctored photo of a man somehow serving himself a beer from a wooden keg in about 1900. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
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