Historic Brewery Opens World’s First Beer Pipeline

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

It takes a lot for just about anyone to get drunk.

By "a lot," I don't mean alcohol quantities. I mean resources and time. Unless you're drinking beer, wine, or spirits cultivated locally, that beverage has to be produced, transported, bottled, and shipped again before it hits your lips.

But one of the world's oldest breweries just cut out one of those steps with an innovative idea: a beer pipeline.

"Actually I was seeing some construction workers who were bulding other pipelines for utilities, drinking water," said Xavier Vanneste, the director of Belgian brewery De Halve Maan, or The Half Moon in English. "And, as I was speaking with these guys, I was realizing that, in fact, building a beer pipeline would be feasible and was actually something that was not just a dream but that would be possible."

There is record of the Bruges brewery exisiting all the way back in 1564. Vanneste's ancestors began operating it in 1856.

And no, this isn't a fantasy beer pipeline that leads directly to every beer drinker's house or taps in local pubs. Constructed out of thick polyethylene tubes buried as deep as 100 feet in the ground, the two-mile pipeline transports the brew two miles to a bottling facility outside the city center, which is historic and not ideal for large vehicles.

“We wanted to avoid running big expensive tanker trucks back and forth transporting our beer,” Mr. Vanneste told the New York Times. “So we constructed a direct pipeline from the brewery to the bottle room.”

This is what inspired Mayor Renaat Landuyt to sign off on the project.

“It was so important to find that solution for our mobility problem, because if we want to work in a modern way, from time to time we need to let trucks enter the historical city,” Landuyt told Euronews.

But lest you think that the beer pipeline's destination being just a location for bottling the hoppy beverage puts a damper on the dreams of true beer lovers that thought the words "beer pipeline" meant an endless supply of beer, for some, that dream still came true thanks to De Halve Maan's outside-the-box thinking: Donors who helped raise the $4.5 million needed for the project will get free beer for life, "in proportion to their contribution,” said Vanneste.

“For example, someone that only made a small investment will get maybe a pack of beer every year on his birthday. But someone who paid the maximum amount may receive up to one bottle of beer a day for the rest of his or her life.”

The pipeline opened on Friday, and is expected to pump 1,000 gallons of beer—12,000 bottles—per hour, 24 hours a day.