Beer culture in Belgium was inscribed yesterday (30 November) on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Following an extremely strict procedure which took one and a half years, Belgian beer is finally part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. Belgium’s German community proposed adding Belgian beer to the list, in order to avoid a battle between the Walloon and Flemish community over the merit of the selection.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel used the occasion to invite tourists to visit the country, and breweries to advertise for their brands.
The Belgian press reports that the application dossier was carefully prepared. In particular, the accompanying video avoided overly presenting scenes of cheerfulness and respected the balance between men and women.
Intangible cultural heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage.
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Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is promoted by UNESCO as a counterpart to world heritage and focuses mainly on intangible aspects of culture. In 2001, UNESCO carried out a survey among states and NGOs to try to agree on a definition, and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion.
On its website, UNESCO recognises that making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage of a range of communities throughout Belgium, playing a role in daily life, as well as festive occasions. UNESCO acknowledges that almost 1,500 types of beer are produced in Belgium using different fermentation methods.
There are certain regions in Belgium that are known for their particular varieties while some Trappist communities have also been involved in beer production giving profits to charity, the UNESCO website says further. Several brewer organisations were recognised for their work with communities on a broad level to advocate responsible beer consumption.
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“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, specialised 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”, UNESCO said.