A Belgian brewery is building its own two-mile-long beer pipeline

In Bruges

A Belgian brewery is building its own two-mile-long beer pipeline

As the world responds to the aftereffects of Brexit, or Britain leaving the European Union (EU), markets are down, British Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned, and the future of the EU is unclear—we bring some lighter news from the EU headquarters country, Belgium. A Bruges-based family-run beer company, De Halve Maan (The Half Moon), has finished building a 2-mile long pipeline underneath Bruges’ cobblestone streets for transporting beer from its brewery at the center of Bruges to a bottling plant outside the city.

The medieval Bruges center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for is narrow, curving streets, became too small and traffic clogged for the annual 500 tanker trucks required to shuttle the De Halve Maan beer from the brewery to the bottling plant (that moved outside the city in 2010). Rather than move the brewery closer to the bottling plant, De Halve Maan brewery owner, Xavier Vanneste, had a different idea. After seeing the city install utility cables outside his home in Bruges, he realized De Halve Maan could create a beer pipeline.

In September 2014, Bruges city officials approved the beer pipeline.

The engineering firm, Depys, used a computer-aided drill to create an approximately 1.3 foot wide hole for the extra strong food grade polyethylene pipeline. (Intrepid beer enthusiasts will not be able to create a private tap.) The pipeline has a diameter of around a foot, and runs from 6 feet to over 100 feet below the city streets. The engineers used the city’s canals to assemble the 650 foot long pieces.

The pipeline will carry 1,060 gallons of beer at 12 miles per hour, a pace that will help prevent over-aeration. It will also undergo a regular sanitation process.

“The biggest challenge was to make the technical requirements meet the non-legal framework,” said Xavier Vanneste. This project is a first for Bruges (and Belgium), with no prior legal framework in place. Permits and registration required early planning.

According to De Halve Maan, the pipeline is finalized but not operational yet. It will need to undergo a battery of tests for the cabling, connections, software, and automation system. The brewery says if everything goes according to plan, the pipeline will start carrying beer by the end of August, and at the latest, the beginning of September.

The pipeline costs approximately $4.5 million. To help raise funds, De Halve Maan started a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $330,000. The highest donation level (at around $8,400) gives funders an 11-ounce beer for life plus 18 personalized glasses.

While a first for Belgium, there are a few other beer pipelines in the world, including one in Germany. In Denmark, the Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, lived next to the Carlsberg brewery and reportedly had beer piped into his home.

What’s next in Bruges? While the EU’s future is uncertain—see our report on the outlook for European and U.K. architects—the mayor of Bruges, Renaat Landuyt, supports pipelines for other uses, including chocolate. “Everyone who proposes alternative means of transport is welcome here,” Landuyt said this early May.