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Death By Rattlesnake Beer

Continuing my unintentional theme of dead animals and beer, here’s an odd one from the archives of Minnesota news, as highlighted in Yesterday’s News, 140 Years of Minnesota News by Ben Welter. Although reported in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1900, July 19 to be exact, the incident actually occurred in Iowa. The report assures us, however, that it was near the Minnesota border. Since it’s archival, here’s the original news report in its entirety:


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.

I’m certainly glad sanitation standards in breweries have improved markedly over the last 110 years.

This mug, believe it or not, is available for purchase at What on Earth.

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