Culinary Journeys

In Bruges, beer to flow underground

Joshua Berlinger and Erin McLaughlin, CNNUpdated 16th May 2016
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Bruges, Belgium (CNN) — Under the streets of the medieval Belgian city of Bruges, a full two-mile pipeline is being built -- exclusively for beer.
The pipeline, which is expected to be completed this summer, will pump beer at a speed of 4,000 liters (about 1,057 gallons) an hour from De Halve Maan Brewery in the center of Brussels to its bottling plant outside the city.
"I think we are the very first ones to do this ever in the world," says Xavier Vanneste, whose family has run the brewery for 160 years.

Mainline beer?

It sounds like a beer-lover's dream -- beer on tap, 24 hours a day. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of support around town for the project.
"We received a lot of people spontaneously offering us to pass alongside their house," he said. "They just had one condition -- they wanted a tap-in point."
But sadly for the famously beer-loving Belgians, the pipeline wasn't built so that people could have personal taps inside their homes.
It's instead solving a logistical problem.
In 2010, the brewery moved their bottling plant outside of the city. Being an older place with small, cobblestone streets, it's hard for tankers to get into Bruges to pick up beer and deliver it to the bottling plant.
The other option was to move the brewery outside Bruges.
"We want to keep this last remaining brewery in Bruges, and therefore we need a pipeline," Vanneste said.

Tapping in to crowdfunding

After the move, Vanneste came up with the pipeline idea. And while thirsty residents won't be able to siphon suds directly from the main line, the brewery owner came up with another way for people in Bruges to partake.
He started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for the estimated $4.5 million pipeline -- offering amber rewards to those who've contributed to its construction.
One of the top donors is Philippe Le Loup, who runs the Poules Moules Restaurant. He's donated $11,000 -- and now gets free beer for life.
"I like the beer," he said. "I drink it every day." But he also says he donated out of "friendship."
For those thinking about breaking in to the pipe, probably best not to try. Vanneste says he's pretty sure it's not even technically possible to just tap in.