Belgium’s beer culture is pretty rad…you know, simply put. Some of the best beers in the world consistently come from their many cobbled streets. (Make sure to checkout Aubrey’s first hand account of seeking out the world famous “Westy 12.”)
Well, now the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), agrees Belgian beer is pretty damn special too. They agree so much they have deemed the country’s approximately 1,500 styles to be worth of inclusion on their Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. I just searched the list by “Beer” and it appears Belgium’s beer is, fittingly, the first listing to include “beer.”
UNESCO is the organization that also establishes it’s famed World Heritage Sites, that include the Great Barrier Reef, The Great Wall of China and all those beautiful French cathedrals.
Belgium’s beer was actually nominated for protection back in 2014. Here’s the reasoning for inclusion from UNESCO
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. Almost 1,500 types of beer are produced in the country using different fermentation methods. Since the 80s, craft beer has become especially popular. There are certain regions, which are known for their particular varieties while some Trappist communities have also been involved in beer production giving profits to charity. In addition, beer is used for cooking including in the creation of products like beer-washed cheese and, as in the case of wine, can be paired with foods to compliment flavours.
Several organizations of brewers exist who work with communities on a broad level to advocate responsible beer consumption. Sustainable practice has also become part of the culture with recyclable packaging encouraged and new technologies to reduce water usage in production processes. Besides being transmitted in the home and social circles, knowledge and skills are also passed down by master brewers who run classes in breweries, specialized university courses that target those involved in the field and hospitality in general, public training programmes for entrepreneurs and small test breweries for amateur brewers.
Listen to the NPR piece here