Beer has always been one of Belgium's biggest money-spinners but now Brussels is going a step further, announcing plans Thursday to open a temple to the amber nectar in its old stock exchange building.

The "Temple of Belgian Beer" project finds a use for the grand 19th century building near the Belgian capital's famed Grand Place, which is fronted by corinthian columns and resembles a classical temple.

The Brussels Bourse was abandoned by stockbrokers in 1996 after the computerisation of the financial markets and then became a site for temporary exhibitions.

But the building has fallen into disuse since municipal authorities took it over in 2012.

After a 15-month study Brussels authorities gave the green light to a plan to make a temple to Belgian beer, the country's most prized export, in partnership with the Belgian Brewers' Federation, officials said Thursday.

Philippe Close, the deputy Brussels mayor responsible for tourism, said he hoped the "temple" could be open by 2018 and attract 400,000 visitors a year,

"Beer is to Belgium what wine is to France, it gives our small country a real identity," Sven Gatz, the president of the brewers' federation, told AFP.

Belgium has around 150 breweries turning out anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 different beers ranging from red to golden ales and sour cherry froth, lagers to stouts and lambic beers.

Exports have soared 70 percent over the last decade, with 62 percent of the beer produced last year now shipped abroad.