UNESCO is known for classifying certain places on the globe as worthy of World Heritage status, but the organisation also has a second category for what it calls “Intangible Cultural Heritage”, and Belgium is asking the UN body to give that status to its famous brewing and drinking culture.
“These breweries have created around them a beer culture. We have our pubs, we have our museums, we have feasts, we have the ritual of how to serve beer,” says Brewers’ Federation President Jean-Louis Van de Perre.
UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Committee meets next week in Addis Ababa, when it will consider 37 practices in all, including Indian Yoga and Czech and Slovak puppetry. As these meetings can be thirsty work, Belgium’s beer culture should be in with a shout.
“Belgian beer is part of Belgian culture. You see it is now 6.30 pm and the bar is jam-packed. Everybody drinks beer to have a good time and unwind. I really think that to gather around a beer in a Belgian cafe is part of this culture,” said one young man in Brussels.
Belgium has some 200 breweries which turn out at least 1,500 different tipples, beer-based recipes, and 30 brewing museums. In a country with three languages and communities often in dispute, beer may be the great unifier.