The Belgium Portal
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.5 million, making it the 22nd most densely populated country in the world and the 6th most densely populated country in Europe, with a density of 376 per square kilometre (970/sq mi). The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges, Namur, and Leuven.
Belgium is a sovereign state and a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organization is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions: the Flemish Region (Flanders) in the north, the Walloon Region (Wallonia) in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita.
Belgium is home to two main linguistic communities: the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, which constitutes about 60 percent of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which constitutes about 40 percent of the population. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual in French and Dutch, although French is the dominant language. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its complex system of governance, made up of six different governments. (Full article...)
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Belgian beer comprises the most varied and numerous collection of beers in the world. Belgian beer-brewing's origins go back to the Middle Ages, when monasteries began producing beers. Unlike in other European countries, Belgian beer production remained alive due to the 1919 Belgian "Vandervelde Act", that prohibited the sale of spirits in pubs, inducing the market to produce beers with a higher level of alcohol. The Vandervelde Act was lifted as late as 1983.
High esteem of Belgian beer is supported by beer experts such as Michael Jackson. Although beer production in Belgium is now dominated by InBev (the world's largest brewer by volume) and Alken-Maes, there remain 125 breweries in the country, producing about 500 standard beers. When special one-off beer styles are included, the total number of types of Belgian beer exceeds 1000.
These days, Belgian beers are sold in brown (or sometimes dark green) tinted glass bottles (to avoid negative effects of light on the beverage) and sealed with a cork, a metal crown cap, or sometimes both. Some beers are refermented (subjected to a final fermentation phase) in the bottle. These are often labeled "bottle-conditioned." Although many major brands of beer are available at most supermarkets, beverage centers located throughout the country generally offer a far wider selection, albeit at somewhat higher prices.
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