If you've ever visited Belgium, a large portion of your travel time was likely devoted to eating and drinking. The small European country is famous for its culinary offerings (frites, waffles, and chocolate, anyone?), but even more so for its beer culture. Now, The Guardian reports, Belgium's storied suds have been officially added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Launched in 2006, the list identifies traditional occurrences, observances, and social activities around the world that help define citizens' national identity.
According to Reuters, the Belgian Brewers trade association petitioned the specialized United Nations agency to add beer drinking and brewing to the list. This past week, UNESCO's Intergovernmental for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa, to debate whether beer (and other proposed cultural additions, including Indian yoga and Czech and Slovak puppetry) should make the cut.
Beer production and consumption might not sound high-brow enough to warrant a vaunted status, but Belgium takes both activities pretty seriously. The country is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, yet it boasts nearly 200 breweries and 1500 varieties of beer, according to the Belgian Brewers. Not surprisingly, beer is even one of the nation's national dishes.
Plus, the trade organization argues, beer helps the local economy, promotes camaraderie among citizens, and is historic, to boot. Rudi Vervoort, a mayor and member of the Brussels Parliament, agrees: Earlier this week, he commented to The Guardian that the beverage "has been a part of our society since time immemorial." We'll toast to that.