Czech brewers hope to add Czechia’s beer drinking culture to UNESCO heritage list

The Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses (ČSPS) is aiming to get Czech beer culture added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. The authors of the application are optimistic about their chances, but warn that it will take at least four years before the effort is successful.

While the Czech Republic tends to dominate the annual global rankings of beer consumption per capita, its beer drinking culture is not yet recognised by UNESCO.

This could change in the coming years after the Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses announced last week that it has sent an application to recognise beer culture as an official tradition in the Plzeň Region. Another will soon be sent to the regional authorities of South Bohemia as well.

Martina Ferencová | Photo: Eva Dvořáková,  Czech Radio

The association’s executive director, Martina Ferencová, says that these applications are the necessary initial step in the process of getting the country’s beer culture recognised globally.

“In order for us to be able to have a chance in the higher categories, we need to get our applications passed through two rounds. The first is the regional one. If one of our regional applications is successful, we will then apply on the national level where applications are approved by the Ministry of Culture. Once this is done, the culture minister can then send an application to UNESCO.”

She says that the whole process is likely to take years, but insists that it would be the logical acknowledgment of a tradition that is already recognised by beer connoisseurs in many parts of the world.

“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.”

It is not just the country’s tradition of brewing lager that has a high international reputation she says, but also the country’s unique malt and hop ingredients.

“The skills of our brewers are also highly recognised around the world. Last but not least, it is also a social phenomenon that boosts the good reputation of the Czech Republic in the world.”

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

Placing the tradition on the United Nations’ list would not be unprecedented either. In 2016, UNESCO catalogued Belgium’s beer culture within its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

Mrs Ferencová is also hoping that the Czech Culture Ministry will play an active role in the process. She says that the Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses has been in contact with the ministry already since it started drafting its regional application. Meanwhile, the Bohemian-Moravian Association of Mini Brewers has announced that it is also joining the effort.

The Czech brewing industry currently employs around 60,000 people. Although beer production and consumption numbers fell last year, it is believed that this was largely due to the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and the associated lockdowns.