ANTWERP - The new interactive De Koninck brewery tour will completely immerse you in the world of the Antwerp City Brewery. In exchange for just €12 you can find out everything there is to know about the Antwerp and its beers, the world of Belgian brewing, and discover the ins and outs of the brewing process.
You will enjoy a total 360° immersive experience complete with numerous interactive displays and audio-visual effects.
The brand new De Koninck Experience Centre opened its doors to visitors on 1st September and you are welcome to pop in every day, (except Mondays), between 10am and 6pm.
Simply follow the visitors’ trail and round off your tour with a tasting of several De Koninck beers in a cosy bar that oozes local atmosphere.
The brewery does however recommend that large groups book their visit in advance.
So, what to expect from a tour of the experience centre? The Welcome to Antwerp section introduces you to the inhabitants of this historic city: the dock worker, the diamantaires who work in the city’s historic diamond businesses, the fashionistas...
Antwerp is a port city, and to underline this the tour starts off in a shipping container painted in blazing red. In the Café de Historie (the History Café) you will breathe in the atmosphere of a typical Antwerp street.
A large screen displays images, streamed from a café window, bringing 180 years of Antwerp’s history to life.
Needless to say, the foundation of the De Koninck brewery in 1833 is an absolute highlight.
Other landmark events include the World’s Fair of 1885 and the 1920 Olympic Games hosted by the city, the city’s year, in 1993, as European Capital of Culture, and of course the two World Wars.
The Handjes-kamer display (the “Room of the Little Hands”) focuses on the symbolic role played by the hand in the brewery’s logo.
Fact or fable, we all love a good story and many great cities of the world have a myth surrounding them; the beautiful city of Antwerp is no exception to this.
You’ll discover everything about the origin of the hand and its significance for De Koninck and for the city of Antwerp – you can even leave your own handprint in the room.
In the 'Bollekes-ruimte' (the Bollekes Room) you find yourself right inside a glass in which this beer is served. Here, the former MTV veejay Ray Cokes highlights an important aspect of Belgian beer culture: each beer has its own glass.
You’ll soon understand why a Belgian will refuse a Duvel served in a Liefmans glass and a citizen of Antwerp will turn down a De Koninck if it is poured into a pils glass.
The Virtual Brewing Hall provides an overview of the brewing process. It turns out that brewing and cooking have plenty in common.
In the maltings you can see the grains of barley sprouting almost at the speed of light.
And the brewer, when he explains the filtering process, uses a humble coffee filter to prove his point.
He almost makes brewing look like a child’s game.
In the Virtuele Bottelarij (the virtual bottling plant) armies of empty beer bottles march speedily across the conveyor belt.
The used bottles are sorted, rinsed, filled and labelled… The noise is deafening and the floor starts shaking underneath your feet.
And now it is time for a selfie with the eye-catching buildings of Antwerp in the background: the cathedral, the railway station, the MAS museum. A print of your ‘brewfie’ will be waiting for you in the shop at the end of your visit.
In the Besteldienst, or delivery service area, you take up your seat in a vintage brewery delivery van and help to deliver beer to several Antwerp cafés.
The Plaisante Hof café seems to come straight out of the world of Harry Potter.
This is the café where it all began for De Koninck, with large portraits of the current and former owners of the brewery on the wall.
All of a sudden they start talking to each other across the generations. And Michel Moortgat, Managing Director of Duvel Moortgat, shines a light on the future for the company.
This vantage point also affords a view of the melancholy Galgenveld, or Gallows’ Field, on which the current brewery was built.
The trail finally takes you past a glass wall that gives a view into the workshop where Van Tricht, cheese affineurs, ply their trade. These refrigeration chambers are home to dozens of cheeses that are slowly, patiently maturing.
In the workshops skilled hands cut and package the finished product. The glass wall also gives some wonderful advice on how to pair the right beer with the right cheese.
We have now reached the modern Brouwzaal (the brewing hall) where the beer is now made, by means of a four-metre tall covered walkway that takes us into the heart of the brewery.
We peer through the windows to see the brewers at work in the control room, at the brewing kettle, managing the filtering process…
We can taste the fresh wort, smell and taste the malt, the hops and the yeast.
The Merkenkamer (brand hall) is an introduction into the extensive portfolio of Belgian beers now produced by Duvel Moortgat, the owner of De Koninck: Duvel, Liefmans, Maredsous and d'Achouffe.
Then there is a halt to admire the imposing drawing room of this former brewer’s home, now given over to the staging of events and conferences.
Authentic historic brewery documents are on display in glass cases.
The tour concludes with a visit to the Kamer van De Koninck (the De Koninck room), where we are shown the highlights of this brewery’s history.
A bridge takes us to the former brewhall. To your left are two vintage brewing kettles, to your right is the comfortable Duvelbar lounge where all of the Duvel Moortgat beers are served.
Just a little further on from the Duvelbar is the De Koninck Bar, the final destination of our tour, where we will sample three different De Koninck beers.
However, the De Koninck experience centre is not all about beer.
This site is also home to a number of food stores: Van Tricht cheese affineurs, De Laet-Van Haver butchers, Jitsk chocolatiers, and a bakery offering fresh bread baked on the premises.
All of these stores are unique and have only one focus: artisan crafts.
You will see the chocolatier mould his pralines in his workshop, the butcher will prepare a cut of meat to your exact specification, and the bakery is fragrant with the smell of freshly baked bread.
You can tuck into all these artisan products in the brand new restaurant and pick a Duvel Moortgat beer to go with them. This is a tour with plenty to chew on.
De Koninck Antwerp City Brewery
Facebook: De Koninck