Just over a year ago I was fortunate to visit the De Halve Maan Brewery (the Half Moon Brewery), in the historic city of Bruges. I was there with a group of beer bloggers and writers, on the last day of the European Beer Bloggers post-conference tour. We had spent the night in Bruges, after a packed day touring round East Flanders, and the following morning had been treated to a walking tour of the city.
After the final part of the walk, which was through the city’s peaceful and historic Begijnhof community, our guide deposited us at the entrance to the Halve Mann Brewery, where we were expected, as guests, for lunch and a brewery tour. We soon became aware that a new brew house has been installed and shoe-horned into the rather cramped city-centre the site and now occupies much of the downstairs area.
Of more interest was the old brewery, which is constructed on a traditional tower principle. The old equipment has been left in situ, and gives a fascinating insight into days gone by. It is open to the public as a museum, but with the help of our attractive and knowledgeable guide we were given access right to the top of the tower, and out into the open, from where we had an amazing view over the rooftops of Bruges. From the rooftop we could see towards De Halve Maan’s modern bottling plant on the edge of the city, and it is the story associated with this facility that I now want to concentrate on.
Whilst we were at the brewery, we were informed of the company’s innovative and ambitious plan to run a pipeline from the brewery, to the bottling plant. This would enable them to remove, at a stroke, the 40 tonne tankers which run daily, back and forth between the two facilities. If you have ever been to Bruges you will at once realise that the city’s narrow streets, many of which date back to the Middle Ages, were not designed with modern transportation in mind, so De Halve Maan were really keen to turn this pipe dream (if you’ll pardon the pun), into reality; not just for their own convenience, but because they desired to give something back to the city.
|Old original mash-tun|
I was therefore extremely pleased last Friday, to see the story which appeared on several news sites, that the pipeline is now complete and that beer is flowing from the brewery to the bottling plant. So the previous day the brewery finally bid farewell to the trucks, which had been running at between 10 and 15 per week, through streets designed for a horse and cart and now packed with tourists. The pipeline can pump 4,000 litres of beer an hour, equivalent to 12,000 bottles, all under the streets as you’re walking over them, totally unaware of what is happening below.
pipe. The bottleneck has been the trucks.”
As a scientist I’m bound to ask a few awkward questions, such as how is the pipeline cleaned, and what happens if here’s a leak? But having said that, pipelines are used to convey commodities such as water, oil and gas over vast distances, without any problems, so transporting beer over a few kilometres shouldn’t be too much trouble.