Beer is now officially one of humanity's greatest achievements

UNESCO also adds Cuba's sensual rumba dance to list of 'intangible' heritage

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Next time you raise a glass of Belgian beer, rest assured: It's a cultural experience. 

UNESCO is adding Belgian beer to the list of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity." 

Belgium is known throughout the world for its wide array of tastes, from extreme sour to bitter, produced in just about every city and village across the west European nation of 11 million people.

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The history of Belgian suds stretches back centuries to medieval monks and has been celebrated in paintings by Pieter Brueghel and in countless songs since. 

Brussels regional leader Rudi Vervoort said Monday that beer "has been a part of our society since time immemorial." 

It is not all history with Belgian beer though. Only this year, one brewer, Brugse Zot, moved very much with the times, building a beer pipeline out of the medieval center of Bruges to a bottling plant on the outskirts out of environmental and architectural concern. 

And at a time when many pubs are closing or falling on hard times as overall beer consumption declines, such international recognition is more than welcome. 

Sven Gatz, who went from being head of the Belgian Brewers Federation to becoming Culture Minister for the northern region of Flanders, compared the recognition 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," Mr Gatz said. "In Belgium, beer doesn't have to give way to wine or other drinks in terms of quality and diversity." 

In days when alcohol abuse becomes an ever bigger concern, UNESCO said it was about more than just drinking. 

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

Also added to UNESCO's list of "intangible" heritage was Cuba's sensual rumba dance. 

The UN body gave the nod to the rumba, which it said evokes "grace, sensuality and joy". The Cuban delegation to the Addis Ababa meeting dedicated the rumba's selection to longtime leader Fidel Castro, who died on Friday aged 90.

The list of "intangible" cultural treasures was created 10 years ago, mainly to increase awareness about them, while UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect them.

On Tuesday, the UN body designated Ugandan traditional music, which is dying out partly because it requires materials from endangered species, as intangible heritage "in urgent need of safeguarding".

Associated Press, additional reporting by AFP