Belgian brewery's pipe dream brings relief to medieval Bruges

Fri Sep 16, 2016 3:36am EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUGES, Belgium (Reuters) - A Belgian brewery is turning on the taps of a pipeline buried beneath the medieval city of Bruges to transport its beer to a bottling plant some 3 km (2 miles) away.

Four years in planning and five months in construction, the Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery will officially open a pipe that will rid the historic city center and its tight cobbled lanes of beer-laden trucks weighing more than 40 tonnes.

The brewery bid farewell on Thursday to the last of those trucks, one of between 10 and 15 per week, from streets designed for a horse and cart and now packed with tourists.

Half Maan's managing director, Xavier Vanneste, said the idea of a pipe had seemed crazy until he saw local workmen laying underground cables and started looking into it.

The brew master, five generational lines down from founder Henri Maes, said he could have moved the brewing to beside the bottling plant built in 2010 and kept the old site as a museum. But he wanted to retain the beers as products of the old city.

"People want to see something that is alive and not just some dusty museum," he said.

Before World War Two, the city had some 30 beer makers, but Halve Maan is the last of the old guard left and on a site where an earlier "Halve Maan" brewery operated 575 years ago.

The current site still brews the staple blond and brown Brugse Zot and the maltier and stronger Straffe Hendrik, but also welcomes visitors to its bar and more than 100,000 to its museum, both clear adverts for the brands for Belgians and foreigners.   Continued...

An employee controls the beer-making process at the Halve Maan brewery in Bruges, Belgium, September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal