A bar in Bruges has been forced to fit an alarm system after light-fingered tourists stole 4,000 of their iconic Belgian beer glasses in just one year.
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Each of the roughly 1,600 Belgian beers should be served in its own unique glass, which double up as advertising. They come in all shapes and sizes, from an Abbey-style goblet to an imitation half coconut shell.
Visitors to The Beer Wall, a canalside pub serving 60 different beers, risk more than a ringing hangover if they decide to slip a glass in their bags.
Sensors on the bottom of the glasses will trip an alarm as they leave, leading to even redder faces among drinkers of the famously powerful Belgian beers.
Owner Philip Maes admitted the alarm system, which cost £3,550 was a dramatic measure but he was left with no choice.
Tourists regularly ignore the warnings in four languages on the bar’s beer mats, which also explain all the glasses are for sale in The Beer Wall shop next door.
“Every year we lose at least 4,000 glasses,” Mr Maes said, “The tourists in particular like to walk away with them.”
“In hotels people steal towels, in restaurants salt shakers and in a beer bar they steal glasses. For some reason, some customers think that when they pay for something to drink, they get the glass as a gift,” he said.
Beer is an extremely serious matter in Belgium. Belgians frown disapprovingly when their favoured beer, revered in the country as a national patrimony, is served in the wrong glass.
Stealing a glass from a pub is a major breach of Belgian drinking etiquette with the culprits invariably thought to be drunk students or tourists.
“They just take it with them without too much embarrassment,” Mr Maes told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
The most popular target for thieves is the long-stemmed Brugse Zot glass. Brugse Zot, which means Bruges Fool, is a quaffable 6 percent blond beer made by the only brewery remaining in the historical town centre.
“Every six months we have to ask this brewery for a new pallet of 400 glasses,” Mr Maes, who said the thieving had hit profits at The Beer Wall shop, said.
Other popular glasses to find their way into tourists’ handbags include the Mongozo Coconut beer’s half shell and the long curved glass for Kwak, which comes in a wooden holder and is not free-standing.
The holder for the 8 percent amber beer was designed to prevent thirsty mail coach drivers from spilling their drink while moving and stop them from having to leave their horse and cargo unattended.