Blog: Brewery De Koninck revisited

The City has just acquired another tourist attraction. Since September, Brewery De Koninck has started opening its doors to the public. Culinary blogger Marlies Beckers went out to explore this multimedia, interactive museum. 

 

The many faces of the city

Founded as brewery De Hand in 1833, the site is hip and trendy in 2015. This is immediately evident from the bright-red lettering that has been artistically applied to the walls, windows and doors. The entrance, disguised as a red container, is a friendly nod to the port, one of Antwerp’s other assets. And that’s not all. Different film clips from Antwerp’s unknown locals or visitors recount the highlights of our biscuit city (even though biscuits and chocolate are the very things that are not discussed this time round). Synonymous with culture, creativity, the diamond trade and the port, Antwerp draws in students, shoppers and city trippers alike. The intent is obvious. Brewery De Koninck is inextricably linked with the city.
 

Educational

From here, I ventured deeper into the brewery. The red corporate style is a recurring theme throughout the building. As each room has been decorated totally differently and tells its own story, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. After a video clip about the brewery’s history, I tumble into a Bolleke glass, no less. The room is filled with spherical mirrors, the ceiling is covered with inverse Bolleke glass panelling. On a large screen, beer expert Ray Cokes spews his knowledge about the different types of beer glasses, while at the same time, the brewery’s top beers are being paraded one after the other. For make no mistake, Brewery De Koninck is much more than the Bolleke alone.
 
Clicking on one of the TV screens conveniently located in replicas of maturation tanks, I can choose between Dutch, French, English or German. A pleasant ginger-haired man – Coincidence? I think not! – tells me everything there is to know about the beer process. Thanks to the cartoon-like explanation, I now finally understand the difference between malt, barley and wort.
 
The pulsing rhythm gives away the fact that I am about to enter the bottling room. Thanks to a film clip that takes you through the different stages, I learn how dirty bottles are cleaned, labelled and re-filled. Long live the deposit money! 
 
Ready and bottled, the beer can now be delivered. An old van is already purring away. I get behind the wheel and push the red button. The vehicle starts moving and it feels like I’m really racing through the city. The image reel on the windshield takes me from Zurenborg to the heart of Antwerp.
 
Time for a drink, or not just yet. In an authentic 200-year-old cafe, emotions run high between all the brewery’s former owners, including current manager Michel Moortgat. Every character, however, is safely contained in his, or her, painting.  This is reminiscent of a Harry Potter scene, without being juvenile. There are cards and empty glasses on the round wooden tables and the piano plays De Lichtjes van de Schelde. You’d smile for less.
 
On the way to the tasting room, I get a glimpse behind the scenes of the Van Tricht Cheese Ripeners. I can literally peer down into their masterful ripening cubicles. The craft of cheese ripeners is stylishly interwoven with the brewery. In the windows, there are tips for pairing cheese with beer. I’m now walking through the brewery’s very nerve centre, with fermentation and maturation tanks left and right. A mock-up explains the different steps.
 
After the film clip Moving Antwerp, I am overwhelmed by the brewery’s many different products, as well as the older propaganda.
 

Cheers! And fill them up again!

Time to quench my thirst. I discover my favourite beer with the ‘Beer me!’ app : Triple d’Anvers. So that’s what I order in exchange for my entrance ticket. Fresh and tart. While I quietly reminisce on a great visit in the tasting room, which is only accessible to museum visitors, I pimp my #brewfie. And yes, the word really exists. I can also upload the photo on a website and print it in the shop. The shop is a bazaar of cool brewery-themed goodies, ranging from skateboards to onesies for babies. Ideal gift material.
 
Thanks to the fresh style, the easily accessible information and diverse decoration, a visit to the brewery has particular educational value. This is a perfect outing for businesses and schools.
 
Since its opening, Brewery De Koninck has received an average of 100 visitors per week day. During the weekend, this number goes up to 400 a day. The visitors are a mix of old and young, companies, individuals and students.
 
The compound is hoping to become a small-scale culinary precinct. You can already taste from chocolatier Jitsk’s chocolates; but for the cheese shop of Van Tricht Cheese Ripeners, the butcher’s shop De Laet & Van Haver and restaurant The Butcher’s Son, you’ll have to exercise a little more patience. 
 

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October 2015

Marlies Beckers

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