Liquid Cultural Heritage

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UNESCO cited Belgians’ affinity for a wide range of beer in its official recognition of the beer culture of Belgium as a treasure of human culture that should be protected. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

We might have assumed that yoga had already been recognized as intangible patrimony worthy of UNESCO status. But, surprisingly, that is just happening now, according to the Guardian. Speaking of surprises, beer culture–specifically that of Belgium–makes the cut as well. We are impressed with variety within this brewing heritage and hope the classification helps preserve the knowledge for all of us to get to sample all those styles. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this story:

UNESCO Deems Belgium’s Beer Culture A Treasure Of Humanity

BILL CHAPPELL

Citing Belgian beer’s integral role in social and culinary life, UNESCO is putting the country’s rich brewing scene (with nearly 1,500 styles) on its list representing the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Belgium’s beer culture is one of 16 new additions that were announced Thursday.

Other honorees include the making of flatbread in Iran, Turkey, and elsewhere; Cuba’s Rumba music, Egypt’s Tahteeb stick game, and long-observed festivals in Japan, France, Spain and Greece.

When Belgium’s beer culture was nominated for UNESCO recognition and protection back in 2014, beer expert Erik Verdonck explained the reasoning to NPR’s Rachel Martin:

“Well, I think, thanks to the fact that we still have 150 breweries and many of these are still family owned. So it’s not only a lot of more industrial type of beer tradition, we also keep to our typical traditions like sour beers, for instance, lambic beers close to Brussels and of course, the famous Trappist and abbey beers. This is all part of our liquid heritage, if you want.”

In its note recognizing Belgium’s beer scene, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) wrote that while the country drinks a wide variety of beer, it’s also famous for cooking with it — making everything form flavorful sauces to beer-washed cheese.

The agency also noted the beer experts — zythologists — who study and discuss the country’s complex and often experimental brews. And it acknowledged efforts to make brewing more sustainable — including agreements between some breweries and neighboring farms that no pesticides or chemicals will be used that could pollute the groundwater…

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