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Belgian Beer Makes the Cut for UNESCO's Cultural Heritage List

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If you've ever visited Belgium, a large portion of your travel time was likely devoted to eating and drinking. The small European country is famous for its culinary offerings (frites, waffles, and chocolate, anyone?), but even more so for its beer culture. Now, The Guardian reports, Belgium's storied suds have been officially added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Launched in 2006, the list identifies traditional occurrences, observances, and social activities around the world that help define citizens' national identity.

According to Reuters, the Belgian Brewers trade association petitioned the specialized United Nations agency to add beer drinking and brewing to the list. This past week, UNESCO's Intergovernmental for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa, to debate whether beer (and other proposed cultural additions, including Indian yoga and Czech and Slovak puppetry) should make the cut.

Beer production and consumption might not sound high-brow enough to warrant a vaunted status, but Belgium takes both activities pretty seriously. The country is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, yet it boasts nearly 200 breweries and 1500 varieties of beer, according to the Belgian Brewers. Not surprisingly, beer is even one of the nation's national dishes.

Plus, the trade organization argues, beer helps the local economy, promotes camaraderie among citizens, and is historic, to boot. Rudi Vervoort, a mayor and member of the Brussels Parliament, agrees: Earlier this week, he commented to The Guardian that the beverage "has been a part of our society since time immemorial." We'll toast to that.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
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Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
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Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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