efe-epaBrussels

Beer lovers flocked to Brussels' iconic Grand Place on Saturday to attend the popular Belgian Beer Weekend, a three-day annual event in which brewers showcase their best ales to the delight of taste buds from around the world.

This year's edition, which marks the event's 20th anniversary, is set to feature 47 breweries from throughout the small Western European country internationally famous for its long and well-honed beer-making tradition.

The golden thirst quencher is so ubiquitous in the daily life of Belgians that the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO decided to include it in its list of intangible cultural heritage in 2016.

The festival's opening ceremony on Friday was presided over by Prime Minister Charles Michel and Carlos Brito, head of the world's largest beer manufacturer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

"Beer is very important in Belgium because it projects the image of our country to the world; here we have many big companies with a foreign presence and there are increasingly more businesses developing new products that boost the diversity of Belgian beer," Michel told EFE.

The delectable brew is certainly one of the tiny nation's most successful exports: 70 percent of the beer produced in Belgium is sold abroad, which amounts to a staggering 16 million hectoliters (nearly 423 million gallons).

Visitors will be treated to not just a selection of over 400 types of ale to taste; they will also be able to witness cavalcades of traditional beer carts wheeling through the streets of the bustling capital and parades featuring members of several fraternities of beer makers draped in their customary togas.

At the towering Gothic St Michel et Gudule cathedral, the faithful are set to pay homage to the patron saint of Belgian brewers and hop-pickers, Saint Arnold of Soissons.

The Belgian Beer Weekend's organizers were expecting between 50,000-70,000 visitors to attend the boozy fair, up to 70 percent of which were likely to stem from other countries.

Belgium, a country of only 11 million people, boasts over 1,600 kinds of the highly-appreciated wallop.