Belgium has numerous culinary claims to fame — waffles! chocolate! frites! — but the nation’s most prized (and historic) food and beverage institution is beer. The country has been brewing since medieval times, and currently produces more than 1,500 varieties of beer. Now, Belgium’s beer culture has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the nation’s “intangible cultural heritage,” the Guardian reports, officially designating it as something that should be preserved for future generations.
The UNESCO inscription notes that Belgium’s beer culture includes much more than just drinking: Beer-producing Trappist monks donate profits to charity, and beer is used to produce various foods and cheeses. The city of Bruges is also home to the world’s first underground beer pipeline, which carries beer from one of the city’s oldest and most popular breweries Halve Maan, to the company’s bottling facility two miles away.
A number of other nations are currently vying to have their own food and beverage traditions added to UNESCO’s cultural heritage list: Spain is seeking recognition for its tapas, and Italy wants heritage status for Neapolitan pizza. Already on the list: South Korea’s kimchi, Turkey’s coffee culture, and the Mediterrean diet, to name a few.
But while it certainly sounds impressive, UNESCO status doesn’t do much to actually protect these traditions: The lists put out by the organization, which is an arm of the United Nations, serve mainly as a boost to tourism and national pride — but surely neither Belgium’s citizens nor visitors need this kind of bureaucratic encouragement to raise a glass.