Brouwershuis – water for beer


(Gilbert Van Schoonbeke)

Antwerp, Adriaan Brouwerstraat 20



One of Gilbert Van Schoonbeke’s many projects was the Nieuwstad (New City). A large piece of land that was added to the city in 1542 as a fifth urban expansion. It was not very successful. So he decided to set up breweries, because a lot of profit could be made from beer taxes. Breweries need water and that is why they have built a water house, now known as the ‘Brouwershuis’ (Brewer’s house).


When the first breweries settled here, the waterhouse was not yet finished. Van Schoonbeke came up with a solution for the temporary water shortage: water was supplied from the Rupel-river with boats.


In 1581 the building was put into use as a sort of guild house, where the brewers held festivities and meetings. The spaces on the floors were luxuriously furnished, including gold leather wallpaper and various works of art. The Mechelen leather wallpaper from the 17th century is still there.

Brewer’s Tube

The water that was pumped into the brewer’s house had already come a long way. It came from the Schijn-river, where it entered the Herentalse Vaart in Wommelgem and thus reached the city. There was a tube that transported the water, intended for the brewers, along the wall to a cellar in the north of the city. From that cellar it was further guided through an underground brewer’s tube to the cellar of the brewer’s house.


From the basement the water was raised 20 meters by a wheel with buckets. The energy needed to turn the wheel was provided by a horse. The buckets brought the water into an elevated basin from which the water could be distributed to the 16 breweries that were located around the Brewer’s House. In 1856, the entire installation was modernized: pumps were replaced and the wooden boxes of the wheel were replaced by metals.


The brewery house continued to do its work until 1930. Three years later the museum opened here. In 1992 it was closed again and you could only visit it with a group. Since 2003 they stopped group visits due to stabilization problems. It is still possible on a few rare moments, for example on an Open Monumentendag.



(Gilbert van Schoonebeke)

Antwerp, Adriaan Brouwerstraat 20


This article first appeared on my other site about architecture in and around Antwerp: archiplore.