Travels

500 years of Flemish and Spanish history at the Gruuthuse Museum in Bruges

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With beer, Humanity has a millenary debt for the friendships it has forged, the thirst it has quenched and the smiles that have sprouted from encounters in front of a glass. Also in Bruges we owe beer the existence of one of the best museums in Belgium, the Gruuthuse Museum, which ironically has nothing to do with beer.

Go to the fridge, open a bottle of ocher and bitter liquid to accompany the reading of this post. And if you have a lambic beer, better, for that it is spontaneous fermentation and Belgian local creation.

How did you make beer to provide Bruges with a first-class museum such as the Gruuthuse Museum? The answer is simple, old and gives taxpayers cold sweats: taxes.

For a long time the recipe for Central European beers included a mixture of aromatic herbs called “gruit”, “gruyt” or “gruut” (I bet that now you will not get out of your head when you see “Guardians of the Galaxy”, although I don't know if any of the writers are fond of this type of beer).

The "gruut" contributed to the beer bitterness and flavor, but being the artisanal production, it was a well-kept secret the proportion of each ingredient and the number and variety of them. In those times, really, every beer tasted different.

What has not changed since the thirteenth century is that if a product could be taxed, the state would go there, although it did not always benefit directly from it. The collection of certain taxes was an additional way by which kings rewarded individuals or families for their loyalty to the Crown, civil merits or in battle.

And the tax collection of almost all the beer that was produced or arrived in Bruges was granted to the family in which Lodewijk van Brugge or Luis de Gruuthuse would be born (for the product tax) in the first quarter of the fifteenth century, during the Golden Age of maximum prosperity in Bruges.

With about 45,000 people living in the old town and an average consumption of 1 liter a day you can imagine the wealth that brought the family the collection of that tax.

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