On December 15, 1914, a gas explosion at the Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine in Kyūshū, Japan; killed 687 people. This was the worst coal mine disaster in Japanese history.
Initially, Mitsubishi was a shipping firm, in 1834. It started to purchase coal mines in 1881, to provide coal for their extensive steamship fleet. Eventually, the coal mines outgrew the shipping industry, and was the main provider of income for the company, up through World War 1. When WW1 started, the company profited more from ship-building, and that turned the company into a more industrial one.
Mitsubishi's coal mines were manned primarily with prison laborers, with little to no salary, this gave the company huge profits. During wartime, Mitsubishi "employed" POW's to work in their factories and mines.
As to the beer:
Ridgeway Brewery produces 14 beers, but is probably best known for its winter lineup. Bad Elf, Criminally Bad Elf, Pickled Santa, Lump of Coal, Santa's Butt, Seriously Bad Elf, and Very Bad Elf, are some of their winter offerings.
So, for the unhappy forced laborers who died in a Japanese coal mine; drink your lump of coal, you've probably earned it.
Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.
The handiwork of vastly talented (but altogether too cheery) master brewer Peter Scholey, Lump of Coal is the perfect stocking stuffer for the beer lover or manic depressive in your family.
Lump of Coal is available at Crane Alley and Friar Tucks.