Typically, downing a bunch of beers is a great way to end up not doing anything of cultural significance – unless you consider cursing out a slice of pizza you dropped in a gutter to be a culturally significant activity. But Belgium would like to think of its beer drinking as being a bit higher-brow. The country has filed an application with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) asking the agency to add Belgian beer culture to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List. No wonder Belgian beers get served in those fancy glasses.
According to the UPI, the Belgian brewery association, who filed the application with UNESCO, claims that, in its country, beer is about more than just intoxication; it is a rite of passage. “It plays a role in daily life, as well as festive occasions,” the UPI quotes the application as saying. “Almost 1,500 types of beer are produced in the country including by some Trappist [monk] communities.”
Since 2008, UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List has sought to highlight traditions in places around the globe that have been passed down for generations and give participants a sense of identity, according to Reuters. If Belgian beer and brewing gets added to the list, it will join a far reaching group including all sorts of stuff from Arabic coffee to Zmijanje embroidery. “There are more and more countries developing a beer industry with more variation, but they always refer to the Belgian beer style,” Manu Pauwels, spokesperson for the International Trappist Association, was quoted as saying by Reuters. “It is good that we can say that we are the reference and the origin of a lot of beer activities in the rest of world.”
The designation would also be a coup for beer drinkers: Every time you down a Belgian beer, you could say you were supporting a UNESCO-designated Intangible Cultural Heritage. That’s about as classy a way to say “getting drunk” as I’ve ever heard.