Germany: Brewing beer is “Intangible Cultural Heritage

Beer is a cultural asset in Germany - it has always felt this way, but now it is also quite official. Since March, the traditional craft of brewing beer has been recognized in Germany as a so-called “intangible cultural heritage”

This was decided by the Conference of Ministers of Education and the responsible Minister of State Monika Grütters on the recommendation of a committee of experts from the German UNESCO Commission, the national organization of the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This means that German beer is only one step away from the status of a World Heritage.

So far, only Belgium beer officially bears this title(, 25.11.2016). The German Brewers Association failed before to safeguard the German Purity Law for Beer because it 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.

However, this time the chances for recognition of the title are higher.

The traditional craft of brewing beer in Germany is very versatile. Newly founded breweries draw on old knowledge and use it to develop new recipes. Above all, the regional roots of beer brewing lead to a close bond between the people, which is reinforced by communal rituals such as festivals, round tables and by associations.

One of these festivals is the Day of Beer on April 23, the birthday of the German Purity Law of 1516, which limits the beer ingredients to water, malt, hops and yeast. In a normal year without the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Day of the Beer is celebrated by almost every one of the nationwide 1548 registered breweries and in nearly every city in Germany.

But this year it will be a quiet day of honor. The Unesco news of cultural heritage cannot be celebrated properly. The industry is grateful anyway. "For the brewers in Germany, this appreciation is an incentive to preserve the craft and pass it on," says the representative of the German Brewers Association Holger Eichele, who also sees it as "backing for the industry".

In Germany, beer has been made in the traditional way for centuries from the four raw materials water, malt, hops and yeast. Beer production was largely left to chance in antiquity and the early Middle Ages, developed in monasteries around AD 650, a complex manufacturing method based on experience: the brewing craft. To this day, the knowledge and skills as well as the experience of the brewer play a decisive role.

If breweries do without artificial additives, brewing is often technically more complex and demanding. German breweries generally use the principle of the purity law, which for many has an identity-creating and connecting effect. The requirement is that beers should only be made from water, malt and hops and fermented with yeast.


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