Apponaug Brewing Company
Annie Edson - Russian Imperial Stout
Niagara Falls has long been the home of some of the world’s wildest daredevil stunts. Recent examples include Erendira Wallenda hanging from a helicopter by her teeth over the falls in 2017, her husband, Nik, who walked across the falls on a tightrope in 2012, and Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken who climbed the frozen falls in 2005. In 1876, long before these modern daredevils made their mark, Italian Maria Spelterini also walked across the falls on a tightrope (a feat she later repeated while shackled, and then again while blindfolded, and then again with peach baskets on her feet) while Sam Patch dove 125 feet into the Niagara River near the base of the falls as far back as 1829. All of these daredevils survived, as did Annie Edson Taylor, whose incredible feat in 1901 has become one of the most famous daredevil stunts in American history.
Annie Edson (1838-1921) was born in Auburn, NY. She became a schoolteacher, married David Taylor and settled into a comfortable life until both her infant son and husband unexpectedly died. Taylor suddenly found herself in need of money and she took whatever jobs she could find. She moved to Bay City, MI and opened up a dance school, taught music in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and even tried to find work in Mexico City but nothing ever flourished. She was never destitute but instead concerned about having enough savings for her future and after relocating back to Bay City, Taylor devised a get-rich-quick scheme like no other.
Many things had gone over Niagara Falls before including ships, animals and even people (usually suicides) but before Annie Edson Taylor, no person had ever made an attempt to ride over the falls with the hope of surviving. A new trend had developed near Niagara Falls with people riding the rapids in barrels, but no one ever dared to actually go over the falls in one. Taylor developed the high-risk idea as a way to make some extra money, hopefully enough to secure her for the rest of her life, and she had a special barrel made specifically for the occasion. It was 4.5-feet tall, 3-feet in diameter and surrounded on the inside with a padded mattress. A 200-pound anvil was attached to the bottom to keep the barrel upright and she had to be lifted in and out of the contraption by a team of people. Emergency air holes were also drilled into the top of the barrel and filled with corks.
To test the barrel, a cat was placed inside and sent over the falls. Reports vary, but it seems that the cat likely survived as a picture was taken on that day showing Taylor next to a very wet and angry feline. Two days later, on October 24, 1901 ,Taylor’s 63rd birthday, at about 4:00 pm, Taylor climbed into the barrel and was pushed away from the shore on the American side of the falls, just south of Goat Island. As she drifted along the Niagara River, the current pulled her towards Canada and Taylor and her barrel ended up tumbling over the Canadian side of Horseshoe Falls, a total drop of 158 feet.
The entire event took about 20 minutes but it was another hour until the barrel was opened as the top needed to be sawed off. Thousands of onlookers waited in anticipation and, after watching Taylor emerge with only a small gash on her head, began simultaneous sighs of relief and uproarious applause. Upon returning to shore, she addressed the press by saying, “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat…. I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall”.
Unfortunately, Taylor’s hopes of financial redemption did not pan out. She received a great deal of celebrity but it was short lived. She made a few paid speeches but later resorted to selling postcards of herself at Niagara Falls’ gift shops. Taylor spent the rest of her life attempting to make ends meet and died in poverty. Her friends took up a collection after her passing so that the “Queen of the Falls” could be buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY, specifically in the “Stunters” section, where visitors will now find the resting place of many of Niagara Falls’ greatest daredevils.
Annie Edson certainly spent some memorable time inside of a barrel, and so does Annie Edson Russian Imperial Stout, a barrel-aged brew from Apponaug Brewing Company in Warwick, RI.
From the Brewer: Annie Edson was the first woman to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901 on her 63rd birthday. After spending a portion of its life split between Kentucky bourbon and Port wine barrels before being blended back together, this decadent beer contains a pleasing subtle heat, and notes of roasted coffee, chocolate, cherry and plum. At 10.2%, this beer is sure to inspire daredevils.
Tamara McKenney - BrewEO & Founder, Kristin Waugh - Co-Founder