• A beer is served at the Belgium guild of brewers in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)Source: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
UNESCO is recognising Belgian beer's rich cultural heritage.
Alyssa Braithwaite

1 Dec 2016 - 2:55 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 2:18 PM

Belgians are fiercely "fier op ons bier", or proud of their beer. It has a history which dates back centuries and a boasts an amazing diversity.

Now, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is adding Belgian beer to its list of Ingangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Almost 1,500 types of beer are produced by more than 200 breweries in Belgium, most of which are craft or specialty beers, according to the UNESCO nomination.

There are beers for almost every occasion, including for winter and summer, and for Christmas and other town and village festivals. Speciality beers are even brewed for weddings. 

The recognition bestowed on the country's beer was about more than just drinking, UNESCO says. 

"Making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage of a range of communities throughout Belgium," UNESCO says.

"Beer is also used by communities for cooking, producing products like beer-washed cheese, and paired with food."

Belgium is known for its four types of fermentation: spontaneous (unique in Europe: ‘ambic’ beers and derivatives), high (‘trappist’ and other beers), mixed (high, then spontaneous: ‘brown’ beers) and low (‘pilsner’ style). 

Several universities train master brewers and help brewers with their laboratories and yeast banks, and there is zytology ('beerology') training for enthusiast brewers and knowledgeable tasters. 

Sven Gatz, who was head of the Belgian Brewers association before becoming culture minister for the northern region of Flanders, likens the UNESCO decision to winning the World Cup.

“We love our beer and appreciate the endless diversity within it, something that can’t be equaled anywhere else in the world,” Gatz says.

“In Belgium, beer doesn’t have to give way to wine or other drinks in terms of quality and diversity.”

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