Belgium’s beer culture soon to be protected by UNESCO

Beer culture in Belgium might be soon on UNESCO’s global Intangible Cultural Heritage list and has therefore a clear headstart over Germany, which is still considering an application for its own worldwide renowned product. According to the application, which was submitted by Belgium's German-speaking region to UNESCO, Belgium's traditional beer production stands out from brewing processes in other countries in the world and creates a unified identity in a country with three official languages. "I think what is special to the Belgian beer culture is the combination of variety, innovation and tradition,” said Jean-Louis Van de Perre, the president of the Belgian Brewers’ Federation in an interview with Reuters.

UNESCO’s next meeting will be held next week in Addis Ababa and reviews 50 cultural activities which applied for protection.  The list already comprises 391 diverse activities such as the manufacture of cowbells in Portugal, Arabic coffee tradition in certain Arabic countries, the marula fruit festival in Nigeria or traditional dance in Bali.

Not long ago, an application to safeguard the German purity law for beer, was rejected because the German Brewers Association could not make clear enough that the 500 year old law is not a mere food law but also a living tradition. Still, the committee left it open to improve the application and to submit it again.

But it looks like the Germans are not jealous about the good prospects of their Belgium neighbors for a successful protection of their beer culture. The German Brewers Association and its speaker Marc-Oliver Huhnholz said on Friday, that his organization watches “with great pleasure” that beer culture will be discussed as a possible world cultural heritage and that German brewers ungrudgingly look forward to a successful official recognition of Belgium’s long lasting beer tradition.

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