"It all started out as a joke in 2010," says Xavier Vanneste, heir to a dynasty of beer brewers in the ancient city of Bruges, Belgium. Now six years later, laughter is turning to smiles as the De Halve Mann brewery is about to begin shipping 6,000 liters of beer per hour through a 3-km polyethylene pipeline from the brewery in the city center to the company's bottling plant outside of town.
Bruges is a medieval city that has very narrow streets. The popular brewery's trucks often clog up the roads. According to the Wall Street Journal, the owner of the brewery got the idea to create a pipeline after seeing some workmen dig up the street to lay cable.
The citywide attention gave Mr. Vanneste another idea. He’d partly fund the €4 million ($4.5 million) investment by offering lifetime supplies of beer. Attracted by the liquid returns, brew-lovers sank some €300,000 into the project.
They were offered three options. The most expensive “gold” membership, which costs €7,500, entitles the holder to an 11-ounce bottle of Brugse Zot beer (retail price, €1.70) every day for life, along with 18 personalized glasses.
One of the 21 people who signed up for that was Philippe Le Loup, who runs a restaurant on the scenic Simon Stevin square, a few hundred yards from the pipeline. Mr. Le Loup, whose establishment serves about 1,850 gallons of Brugse Zot a year, said he would have preferred a direct tap into the pipeline. “It would have saved me a lot of keg-dragging,” he said.