On a warm summer’s day, some say you can smell the faint scent of molasses wafting through the North End. While Boston has had no shortage of historic happenings, from Paul Revere’s midnight ride to the OG Tea Party, there’s also the tragic tale of the Great Molasses Flood. On Jan. 15, 1919, a 50-foot molasses tank collapsed and the sticky stuff swept through the neighborhood, killing 21 people and injuring another 150. On its centennial, this stranger-than-fiction occurrence is being honored with a collection of molasses-centric events and eats in the city, including a reading by local historian Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide. “I hope people are able to relate to the real-life characters and their compelling stories,” Puleo says. “Ultimately, this is a very human story and human disaster.”
Aeronaut brewery honors the past with its Molasses Flood Benefit Concert ($10-$20, suggested donation) on Feb. 2. Featuring molasses-brewed beer, hands-on activities and live music from Alex Fam, ZepenG and Hot Molasses, all proceeds from the event will go to Cosecha, a movement aiding undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “We get stupid excited whenever we have a chance to throw wild events that celebrate significant moments of weird local history,” says Jason McCool, the brewery’s arts and culture liaison.
14 Tyler St., Somerville (617-987-4236) aeronautbrewing.com
Brush up on local lore during a free reading of Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo at the Boston Public Library on Jan. 15. Puleo recounts the event in all its gooey glory and sheds light on its positive implications for future generations. “Despite its tragic consequences, some good came from the story and the flood itself,” Puleo says. “Just about everything we take for granted today in the area of building construction comes from regulations that were put into place in Boston, and then nationally, after the Great Boston Molasses Flood.”
700 Boylston St., Boston (617-536-5400) bpl.org
On Jan. 18 at Great Scott, overflow with laughter at the Great Boston Molasses Comedy Disaster Show ($12), featuring sketch, video and stand-up acts by nine local comedians. “This falls under the old tragedy-plus-time-equals-comedy axiom,” event host and performer Nate Johnson says. “It happened so long ago, and it sounds so mythic when people first hear about it, that it naturally lends itself to comedy.”
1222 Comm. Ave., Boston (617-566-9014) greatscottboston.com
Roxbury newcomer Backlash Beer Co. brews a tribute with its Great Molasses Disaster Imperial Stout ($3.75, 12-ounce can), available for purchase at the brewery. Infused with a healthy dose of molasses, the beer boasts notes of roasted barley and chocolate, with a whisper of smoke rounding out the suds’ sweetness.
152 Hampden St., Boston (617-708-8017) backlashbeer.com
Get into a sticky situation with Moon Bar’s Sweet ’n’ Hot popcorn ($4)—a bar snack-inspired dessert featuring kernels coated with cayenne, honey and molasses. “Honey alone can be very sweet,” says pastry chef Katie Hamilburg. “The molasses deepens the flavor and adds another dimension.”
304 Stuart St., Boston (617-917-5193) moonbarboston.com
Paying homage to the nearby North End, Bodega Canal combines a hearty helping of molasses with ingredients like nuts, fruit, chocolate and eight varietals of pepper for its mole. The sauce currently dresses the restaurant’s quinoa- and queso-stuffed chili rellenos ($14), to which chef Eric Buonagurio says the molasses adds “a unique back note of New England sweetness.”
57 Canal St., Boston (617-833-4885) bodegacanal.com