Thursday, February 29, 2024

This Belgian church has been transformed into a microbrewery

This Belgian church has been transformed into a microbrewery - Travel  Tomorrow

With church attendance falling across Belgium, many buildings now find themselves in search of a new purpose. 

In the 1950s, more than 80% of Belgium’s population was Catholic, but the proportion dropped to about 50% by 2022, so instead of letting historic buildings fall into ruin, Belgium is repurposing them for activities maybe a little less holier-than-thou.

In Mechelen, the early 20th century Sint Jozef church has been repurposed for a local microbrewery, Batteliek. 

Opened in 2022, the bar and resto-bar, fitted with large metal tanks, encompasses the entire brewery and distillery process, so guests can see and smell the entire production of beer right there on the spot.

Besides being a bar and brewery, Batteliek is also a “lemonade factory” and resto-bar. The menu features “experimental cuisine and drinks, developing innovative tastes, [that] are sure to excite your senses”. 

From finger food to different sized burgers, pizzas and even tacos, there is a wide selection for vegetarians and meet lovers alike to fill their stomachs while trying out the home-made beer.

For those who are curious about how beer is made, Batteliek also hosts brewing workshops every first Friday of the month for groups of 10 to 15 people and every first Saturday of the month for individuals. 

Alternatively, gin making workshops are also available.

To maintain part of the building’s original purpose from its days of functioning as a church, Batteliek is still open as a community gathering place. 

Everyone is welcome to come and sit down inside or in the garden during the summer, drinking beer or not, to just relax, meet other people or “gaze round in wonder”.

“Seen from a Catholic viewpoint, it’s sad that so many churches are desecrated now and that they are used for something else, but, on the other hand, they keep maintain the buildings instead of demolishing them”, Marc, a Belgian who has been living in Mechelen since he was born, told DW.

This is far from the only example. 

In Brussels, 2022 saw the opening of a climbing wall inside the Saint-Antoine church, while one of the capital’s most famous night clubs, Spirito, has claimed the grounds of an abandoned Anglican church in 2009 and has been hosting parties till the morning hours ever since under the motto “What happens in the church stays in the church”.

In Flanders, two ministers are taking things to another level, proposing a governmental policy to force municipalities to present plans for repurposing unused churches. 

“With respect for the past, but with an eye to the future. We have to give these buildings a second life. This decree makes that a lot easier and we are also providing the necessary financial support”, minister of Home Affairs Bart Somers and minister of Immovable Heritage Matthias Diependaele have said, mentioning the plan would also foresee the allocation of subsidies for the repurposing of churches.