Unesco recognises Belgian beer as cultural heritage


The United Nations organisations has kept Belgium waiting awhile, but has finally approved beer culture on its prestigious list of intangible heritage

‘A really fine accolade’

Belgian beer culture in all of its aspects has been approved by Unesco for inclusion on its list of the world's intangible heritage, the organisation announced yesterday. “Belgium has won the world cup for beer culture,” said Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz, formerly director of the Belgian Brewers federation. “This is a really fine accolade for everyone in this country who is working with beer.”

Unesco, the United Nations educational, social and cultural organisation, keep a register of invaluable and protected cultural heritage – not buildings or artefacts, but rituals and traditions such as polyphonic singing in southern Portugal, Momoeria New Year celebrations in the Kozani region of Greece and the making of kimchi in South Korea.

Flanders features on the list several time, with carnival celebrations in Aalst, carillon culture, the Holy Blood Procession in Bruges, traditional games in Flanders and horseback shrimp-fishing off the coast of Oostduinkerke.

Unesco’s newest entry cites 1,500 types of beers produced in Belgium, as well as the growth of craft beer and beer gastronomy and the increasing use of sustainable practices in the industry. “Making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage of a range of communities throughout Belgium. It plays a role in daily life, as well as festive occasions.”

“We have a suitable beer for every occasion,” Gatz said. “We drink beer as a thirst-quencher after an exhilarating walk, during a friendly evening in the local pub, or as part of our gastronomy. In Belgium, beer does not have to give way to wine or other drinks in terms of quality and diversity. We love our beer and appreciate its endless diversity, something that cannot be equalled anywhere else in the world.”

The application for inclusion on the list of intangible heritage was made jointly by the three communities – Flemish, French-speaking and German.

“The Unesco recognition is the pinnacle of the work done by countless beer brewers, beer lovers, beer promoters and zythologists who have lifted our beer culture to such a level that it is worth protecting,” said Isabelle Weykmans, culture minister for the German community. “This recognition will give Belgian beer culture even more gloss and attitude around the world.”

Photo: milo-profi.be/Visit Flanders