BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
When the tour guide at the chocolate factory was asked, “What kind of beer pairs well with dark chocolate?” I half-expected him to laugh. To the tour group’s surprise, he answered without skipping a beat and went on with the presentation.
Belgium, despite what the Germans may say, is the land of beer. A land of wheats, blondes, ales, and spiced varieties that aren’t beholden to a purity law. A visitor can tour the entire country on a golden river that flows from one local brewery to another. So if there was ever any doubt of Belgium’s beer supremacy, in September 2016, the fairy-tale city of Bruges has given the world its first beer pipeline in order to preserve its heritage.
De Halve Maan Brewery has been making beer in the city of Bruges since 1564 and is responsible for this bit of innovation which is expected to carry enough beer to fill 12,000 bottles an hour. The pipeline, crafted from food-grade plastic, was dreamt up by brewer Xavier Vanneste in order to avoid having to transport the beer from his brewery in Bruges’ historic centre to a bottling plant outside the city limits.
As one of the most well preserved medieval towns in Europe, Bruges’ city centre is considered a UNESCO world heritage site by the United Nations. However, its picturesque cobblestone streets are better suited to a horse and buggy than beer-lugging transport trucks.
For Vanneste, the brewery’s location meant expansion wasn’t an option and left him with the choice of moving the oldest brewery in Bruges outside of the city, or getting creative in order to preserve its culture.
“For me, UNESCO heritage is not only about bricks and material things, but having a living brewery here,” He told the Guardian. “That is a part of the immaterial heritage.”
Gathering inspiration from a group of construction workers installing broadband internet cables, Vanneste decided that his beer might be able to travel underground too. His idea is also expected to relieved the city’s congested streets by eliminating the traffic created by beer-trucks.
According to Wired the brewery hired professional oil and gas pipeline builders to bring the $4.5 million project to life. The result was two miles of pipeline which run under the city’s historic streets and have inspired locals to consider digging for their own private taps.
The project was funded in part by De Halve Maan’s crowdfunding efforts which raised over $300,000 and offered its “gold member” ($8,400) donors 18 personalized glasses, a VIP invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony and a bottle of the brewery’s Brugse Zot Blond every day for the rest of their lives.