Belgium wants beer drinking and brewing to be considered a cultural activity worth protecting.
The tiny country is home to a massive beer industry, with almost 200 breweries and thousands of beers, according to a Belgian brewing association that is petitioning UNESCO. The U.N. organization already lists Spanish Flamenco and Indian yoga as cultural activities worthy of protection.
"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. “We have more than 3,000 beers in Belgium, more than 200 breweries and also these breweries have created around them a beer culture. We have our pubs (bars), we have our museums, we have feasts, we have the ritual of how to serve beer."
Those pushing for beer culture to be recognized by UNESCO also say beer has given the country with three official languages a sense of national identity. They added beer helps the economy.
UNESCO will meet next week in Addis Ababa to determine if beer culture will be among the 36 other practices the body recognizes.
Ordinary Belgians appear behind the push to recognize beer and brewing.
"I think it's a nice recognition for the country," said Gregoire Lepoudre, a Belgian lawyer told Reuters as he enjoyed a beer at a local cafe. "Every Belgian knows that Belgian beer is recognized around the world."
Beer would not be the first Belgian cultural activity recognized by UNESCO, which also recognizes the country’s horse-drawn shrimp fishing and the Carnival celebration in the town of Aalst.
The UNESCO list of cultural heritage was started in 2008. To be considered, the activity must have been passed down over generations and provide those involved with a unique identity.