Belgium’s first beer pipeline opens, backers get free beer for life

Free beer for life, a frat boy’s dream, is literally flowing under the streets of Bruges, Belgium, today for more than 500 people who had the foresight — and the euros — to invest in a pie-in-the-sky way to move the suds from the brewery to the bottling plant.

A newly crafted group of pipes disappears into a wall in the cellar of the Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges, Belgium on Thursday, May 26, 2016. The brewery has recently created a beer pipeline which will ship beer straight from the brewery to the bottling plant, two kilometers away, through underground pipes running between the two sources. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

A newly crafted group of pipes disappears into a wall in the cellar of the Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges, Belgium on Thursday, May 26, 2016. The brewery has recently created a beer pipeline which will ship beer straight from the brewery to the bottling plant, two kilometers away, through underground pipes running between the two sources. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo) (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

The De Halve Maan (The Half Moon), a brewery in the heart of Bruges, faced having to shut down after half a millennium in business because of the increasingly onerous cost of transporting its beer in tanker trucks through the medieval city’s narrow cobblestone streets to its bottling plant two miles away on the outskirts of town. So management came up with a clever solution:

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

“We got the idea from looking at other life provisions that run through pipes. Water pipes, electricity pipes, cable distribution, etc. So why wouldn’t that be possible for beer?”

One reason might have been the cost: about $4.5 million. But what’s a few million bucks in an age of online crowdsourcing — especially when you can dangle free beer as bait?

If you build it, people will come. And the more than 500 who came will now be getting “free beer for life in proportion to their contribution,” Vanneste said.

“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.”

And that’s how a pipe dream became a dream pipeline. The brewery faced some red tape, but it finally got the city’s approval, and the pipeline was buried under the streets of Bruges. And after one last truck made one last run on Thursday, the brewery opened the tap on Friday, sending over 1,000 gallons, or 12,000 bottles of beer, through the pipeline every hour of every day.

Now, if they could just extend that pipeline across the Atlantic.