Listing European beer culture: Czech brewers apply for UNESCO intangible heritage status

More food and drink may be inscribed on the intangible heritage list in years to come

Czech beers. Image: Øyvind Holmstad via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Czech beers. Image: Øyvind Holmstad via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses (ČSPS) is hoping to get Czech beer culture added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. The country has a large culture around beer, which is backed up by statistics suggesting that Czech citizens drink the most beer per capita every year.

Martina Ferencová, ČSPS’s executive director, is keen to emphasise the importance of the beer to Czech culture: “It has a history spanning centuries. Czech beer culture has been a source of national pride since the 19th century. But it’s not just tradition. Czech breweries remain very innovative with their work and, of course, it is connected with social entertainment too.”

Mrs. Ferencová also hopes that the Czech Culture Ministry will play a big part in the process, as well. The Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses has been in touch with government officials since it started writing its regional application, she says. Meanwhile, the Bohemian-Moravian Association of Mini Brewers has said that it will help, too. Although Prague is a well known tourist destination for beer lovers, getting official global recognition requires plenty of bureaucracy.

Not the first beverage on the list

This is far from the first time that the culture of alcohol has mixed with UNESCO. In Georgia, the ancient tradition of making Qveri wine has been on the list since 2013. Last year, the German region of Rhineland-Palatinate made an application for Viez, a historic alcoholic cider. However, the decision from Czech brewers was likely inspired by the 2016 inscription of Belgian beer culture, which recognises the wide range of roles that beer plays in Belgian heritage. Their inscription on the list even mentions community efforts to promote responsible drinking and sustainable brewing.

There are still some barriers before it makes it onto the UNESCO list. The application must be successful at both a regional level and a national level before it even reaches UNESCO. It will be a few years before picking up a pack of Pilsners from Prague counts as cultural heritage.

Read the full story at Radio Prague International, or look at the tags below for more food heritage.

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