BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgian beer-making and drinking put itself on a par with French gastronomy and Argentina’s tango on Wednesday when it secured a place on a global list of traditions worthy of protection.
The United Nations’ heritage body UNESCO accepted Belgium’s application, recognizing that brewing fosters a unified identity in a country sometimes divided on linguistic lines.
Belgium is home to nearly 200 breweries making 1,500 different beers, from brown ales to golden lagers and sour lambics to the strong trappist brews produced in monasteries. National dishes also include beer and the country has some 30 brewing museums.
Belgium’s German-speaking region, which submitted the application, said other countries made beer, but Belgium’s brewing history and diversity were unparalleled.
Beer culture becomes Belgium’s 13th item on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, joining horse-drawn shrimp fishing and the Carnival in the town of Aalst.
This year’s additions to the list include Cuban rumba and the Mangal Shobhajatra festival in Bangladesh that celebrates the Bengali New Year. Last year, Arabic coffee and the bagpipe culture in Slovakia gained entry.
Inclusion on the list confers on the state an obligation to safeguard the tradition. In some cases, states can apply for financial help to do so. UNESCO also has a separate list of heritage in need of urgent safeguard, for which there were five applicants this year.
The UN created its list of intangible cultural heritage in 2008 for traditional events, rituals and social practices. To be considered, the tradition should be passed down through generations and give those involved a sense of identity.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Richard Lough)