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Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-09-28 10:59:53
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Belgium likes underground beer. No, literally

The De Halve Maan Brewery prides itself on its family origins, its classic recipe, and the history of its beer, crafted carefully since 1856. But there's change brewing (pun intended) on the horizon: In 2015, its owners hope to open a pipeline of beer beneath the city streets of Bruges. "We thought, 'It's a crazy idea to do this,' " Xavier Vanneste, managing director and a member of the fifth generation of the brewing family, tells The Salt.”But you start thinking about it, and you start investigating and talking to other engineers from other businesses," and suddenly, it's not such a crazy idea after all. The brewery has won principal approval from city authorities for the pipeline, but the technical challenges of breaking open the streets to place the plumbing still need to be worked out. The veritable duct of drinks will traverse the 2 miles from brewery to bottling plant in 15 minutes, carrying 600 to 700 cases' worth of beer per hour. The beer pipe will help De Halve Maan stay in its current location, the city centre of Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the brewery grew, so too did the pressure of being located in Bruges, a quaint city not looking for the heavy traffic of an expanding brewery.

"The economic solution would be just to move the brewery outside the historical plant," says Vanneste. The pipe, on the other hand, is "more a sustainability project," he says, adding, "It is part of our authenticity, to keep the brewery on its original premises. And we are ready to fight for this." With the pipeline in, both parties win. Bruges gets to keep its picturesque cobblestone streets, and the brewery stays in its historic location. The idea was bolstered by advances in pipelines for oil and gas, ensuring the beer that reaches the other end is just as good as what went in. The pipe will be made from a high-end plastic, says Vanneste. "We did many tests to be sure this would not affect the quality, not the taste, not the foam, not the colour of the beer." They'll also have to clean the pipe after every batch to prevent contamination.

De Halve Maan hopes once the debates with the local government are finished, the pipe will be installed in three to four months' time. "We think beer is a traditional and an emotional project," says Vanneste. "People care more and more about where it is brewed." So much, in fact, they'll undertake a pipe dream to keep it there.


There’s now a Bitcoin ATM in Belgium

Someday, bitcoin ATMs are likely to be ubiquitous. Until then, we’re having fund counting firsts, and today, we’re learning that there’s now a bitcoin ATM in Belgium. Located in the Flemish region of the country in the city of Ghent, the ATM is installed at the Gameswap HQ store — and if you haven’t already guessed by the name, the store sells video games.

Filip Roose of Orillia — a bitcoin services company in the country — says the idea behind the ATM is to bring bitcoin out from obscurity. “To bring it out of the obscure world, we’re trying something here with a machine so you can actually see and touch it, and it’s in the shop. Imagine that something goes wrong, all our contact details are here, so you can always get in touch the people that are behind the system.”

The machine, rather simple looking, does as one would expect. Cash is inserted, and the user is prompted to scan his/her mobile device to specify which wallet address the bitcoins should be deposited into. From there, the transaction is completed. Bitcoin ATMs have seemingly taken over the cryptocurrency world by storm over the past year, as users seek easier and more convenient ways to get their hands on the digital currency. That convenience comes at a price, however. ATM operators make money by charging fees on each transaction, would could turn out to be a costly affair for the end user.


Belgium opens Europe's first capsule hotel

Europe is about to get its first capsule hostel in Belgium, inspired by Japan’s famous capsule hotels in which guests crawl into individual self-contained pods. At the Antwerp Student Hostel, guests have the option of booking a traditional shared room with bunk beds or, for added privacy, reserving a capsule bed, a pod-like space that’s soundproof and comes with private ventilation. The concept borrows from capsule hotels in Japan, which serve as alternatives to traditional accommodations for those in need of a cheap, basic, no-frills place to sleep, be they commuters, budget travellers or drunken businessmen.

Compact, built side by side and one on top of the other, capsule hotels have been -- morbidly -- compared to corpse drawers in morgues. They could also be described as futuristic pod capsules not unlike those seen in the Bruce Willis film “The Fifth Element” on the intergalactic cruise ship. At the Antwerp hostel, meanwhile, capsule beds are pitched as a premium alternative to bunk beds for offering increased privacy in a shared room.

The hostel opens officially October 9. Rates start at €24 a night.  Capsule hotel beds also exist at airports in Amsterdam and London, and in cities like New York, Singapore and Moscow.


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