Pipeline from the Gods

by John Delach

Most people consider the need for underground pipelines to be somewhere between necessary or unnecessary evils. Something we need but: “Not in my backyard.”


They’re dirty, transport oil, gas, chemicals and other icky things and they can and do leak. Their only defense is being damn-well less dangerous than transporting that icky stuff by rail, truck or barge. Still, they arouse the wrath of environmentalists, ranchers, farmers, Native Americans and Uncle. The Obama administration has spent most of its time in office employing procedural mumbo-jumbo to stall the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux, neighboring tribes and activists have practically gone to battle to stop construction of the North Dakota Pipeline.


There is considerable pipeline hostility out there.


But there is an exception, a pipeline from the gods, applauded by all save a silly few, that moves 1,000 gallons of beer an hour two miles from the brewery to the bottling plant cleanly and safely. This magnificent “miracle” of engineering opened last month in the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium.


Bruges is a beautiful city celebrated by its advocates:


Gorgeous Bruges is a tourist’s dream. This is Belgium’s most perfectly preserved medieval town, and its jaw-dropping, beautiful architecture attracts more than two million visitors every year. If you’re short of time on your Belgium travels, Bruges should be your number one stop. With its wealth of interesting old buildings and its canals, Bruges still retains a distinct medieval air.


 Anyone taking a walk through the narrow streets or a boat trip on the canals falls

Immediately under its spell, charmed by the atmosphere of what is for many the most delightful of all the cities of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium). Because the center of Bruges is comparatively small, even those with only a day to spend sightseeing can expect to take away a good idea of all the major attractions. Essential viewing should definitely include at least the main square with the belfry, the Burg with the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and a trip on the canals.


Located within its “warren of narrow streets” sits the 500-year-old De Halve Maan (The Half Moon) brewery. This ancient plant is surrounded by historical buildings making expansion impossible. The brewery was forced to locate its modern bottling plant on the city’s outskirts. Tanker trucks operated a shuttle service clogging the tight city streets. Brewery president, Xavier Vanneste thought up the idea of a pipeline and four years later it is a reality.


Engineering and construction were not easily accomplished. The pipeline material could not contaminate the beer possibly ruining the taste or, worst case, poisoning the customers. It had to snake under ancient streets and buildings dug by a computer-guided drill “to create a 1.3-foot wide hole.”


Some buildings are so fragile that engineers had to drill deep underground so as not to disturb them. To thread the pipe through these depths, the engineers assembled 650-foot sections before inserting them whole under the ground. Since Bruges’ winding lanes and alleys couldn’t accommodate this length of pipe, the engineers assembled these sections by floating them on the city’s canals.


While the bulk of $4.5 million pipeline was paid for by the brewery, Mr. Vanneste successfully raised a total of $325,000 from more than 500 subscribers over the internet by offering beer in return.


Top tier donations of $8,500 brought one 33cl bottle of Brugse Zot Blond every day for the rest of the subscriber’s life.


$1,000 bought one 24 bottle case of beer a year for life.


The cheapest category, $300, comes with one presentation bottle of 75cl of Brugse Zot Blond each year on the subscriber’s birthday.


Truly a pipeline to love and in case you are wondering, the builders swear that it is tamper proof, but only time will tell…