(Brussels) Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and national pride, Belgian beer now has its own dedicated museum in the center of Brussels, with a tasting area, and the aim of becoming an essential stopover for tourists.

Belgian Beer World opens Saturday inside the high 19th-century walls of the renovated former stock exchange. The ambition of its promoters is actually twofold.

They intend to make the place a major tourist attraction in the Belgian capital, a stone’s throw from the Grand-Place and the Manneken Pis.

“It’s also a way to support a large economic sector,” admitted the mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, presenting the place to the press.

Belgium, a country of 11.5 million inhabitants, boasts the presence of 430 breweries on its soil, generating nearly 6,900 direct and 50,000 indirect jobs.

The sector weighs 1% of national wealth, with international influence since 70% of production is exported, according to the Federation of Belgian Brewers.

The professional organization was closely associated with the museum project, where the entry ticket will entitle you to a beer tasting on a roof terrace presented as the highlight of the visit.

White, brown, amber, organic beer, light pils or “triple fermentation”: around a hundred references are offered at the Sky bar among the “1600 types of beer” listed in Belgium.

Before this stage, the exhibition offers a broad panorama of the history of the beverage born in the Middle Ages, recalling its basic ingredients (water, malt, yeast, hops) and the multiple brewing techniques.

Everything is designed in a playful and interactive spirit, with a lot of touch screens and other “sensory experiences”. Like that of immersion in what is intended to be the reproduction of a fermentation tank, where bubbles emerge from the walls to evoke gasification.

“We made a fun museum,” summarizes for AFP Charles Leclef, who chairs the autonomous municipal authority responsible for operating Beer World.

“It’s not about encouraging the consumption of beer, but about showing that this product is part of our daily lives in Belgium and telling about it,” he says.

“We are not the largest producer in the world, far from it, but we are perhaps the most creative, with beers of great diversity, with their different flavors, their complexity,” continues this entrepreneur, who has also been the owner of a well-known brewery in Mechelen in Flanders for 30 years.

In the brewing sector, the museum has already attracted criticism from small producers who see it above all as an ideal showcase for large groups.

Belgium is home to the head office of the world number one AB InBeV, whose flagship brands are necessarily present.

“Of course there were greater financial contributions by the biggest (in the sector), but no brewery has a privileged place here,” defends Mr. Leclef.

The opening of Beer World on the floors of the stock exchange is part of the vast renovation project of this historic building, emptied of its last occupants (Euronext) in 2014 and whose through gallery on the ground floor will now be open to the public during the day. A way to also please those who don’t like beer, quipped a Brussels elected official.