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I ALREADY KNEW BRUGES had the prettiest girls in Belgium. See formosis Bruga puellis here at SimanaitisSays. New, however, is a 2-mile underground pipeline of beer, a 21st-century approach to maintaining the cobbled streets and gothic houses of this charming medieval city. What’s more, its installation came about, in part, through crowd funding with acknowledgements of a unique sort.
De Halve Maan, The Half Moon, is the oldest continuously operating brewery in Bruges, a city that was the commercial capital of Northern Europe’s Hanseatic League during its height in the late 14th century. The brewery dates from 1564, with the current family of proprietors since 1856.
Bruges is a medieval collection of narrow streets bounded by canals. Since the 16th century, De Halve Maan Brewery has occupied a rabbit warren of rooms in its southern quarter. However, with time and growth, the company added a bottling plant across town in a northwest suburb.
Brewery tankers navigating the narrow streets grew to be a real challenge, especially with Bruges becoming a tourist destination. Moving De Halve Maan to the suburbs was considered, but then the brand would no longer be made in Bruges.
The Guardian newspaper quotes Xavier Vanneste, director and heir to De Halve Maan on the matter of heritage: “We want to brew every single litre here… right where it has been brewed for so many centuries….” A video from The New York Times tells the tale as well.
Vanneste cites inspiration when he saw workmen laying broadband cables outside his house. “When I started talking to those guys,” he said, “I realized it was possible, it was feasible.” Laying the polyethylene pipeline required tunneling experts from the oil and gas industry. Computer-guided drilling minimized the street excavation, which pleased city planners, but increased costs.
Costs of the pipeline were partly covered through a 2015 crowd funding with an interesting deal: A full Gold Membership of €7500 (about $8400) got the participant a bottle of blond Brugse Zot (the Bruges Fool) beer each day—for life!—with a set of 18 personalized glasses. Silver Membership (€800/about $890) included a case of Brugse Zot a year for life and six personalized glasses. Bronze members (€220/$245) got a presentation bottle of Brugse Zot once a year for life and a personalized glass.
Total cost of the pipeline came to €4 million (around $4.6 million); crowd funding accounted for €300,000 (around $335,000) of it. Now in operation, the pipeline pumps 1000 gallons of beer per hour, enough to produce 12,000 bottles hourly, around the clock.
I must look for blond Bruges Zot here in southern California. It’ll be fun to share a brew, figuratively, with the prettiest girls in Belgium. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016