Through Belgian Glasses (Portland, Maine and Cambridge)

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I haven’t gone anywhere lately- hence the dearth of travel notes. So when my dear friend Yvan de Baets visited from Belgium, I decided to take a look at my town through his eyes. (And yes he really does wear glasses!)

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Yvan is a brewer at Brasserie de la Senne in Brussels, and he makes beers with something quite daring in Belgium: hops. His beers have a cult-like following in the US, but he believes in providing beer to his own market first, so finding it can be sporadic. If you find it, drink it!

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Starting with Tupelo across the street from me in Inman Square, I proceeded to show Yvan all of my favorite places. Some host I am! Maybe five days into his visit and 10 extra pounds (East Coast Grill, Bergamot, Lord Hobo, Cambridge Brewing Company, Deep Ellum– and the Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest- see above with winningest homebrewer in New England Alastair Hewitt) it finally occurred to me to ask Yvan what HE wanted to see, eat, and drink.

Lobster. A school bus. A truck with “the room the driver lives in”. A trashy beach bar. Armsby Abbey. Only the last one was guessable, since we both love the bone marrow there.

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After a visit to Mystic Brewery in Chelsea (pictured above with brewer Bryan who adamantly resists making an IPA) we went on a quest for lobster “with a view of water”. We found Belle Isle- which serves beer in plastic cups (see below with the flashing and vibrating crustacean that summons eaters to pick up their food), half pound lobster roll choices of all meat or tail only, and a view of some water. Yvan was in heaven.

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Apparently Yvan is not the only European who harbors a fascination for American yellow school buses. The Shelton Brothers arranged for such a bus to provide transportation between the hotel and The Festival in Portland, Maine. They were all excited. They asked me if I took one to school as a kid (yes) and if I sat in back and caused trouble (no). How do European children get to school?

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Yvan is a brewer’s brewer. He has formal German technical training, yet refers to his yeast as “she” and speaks of her like a lover. On one visit to his brewery he explained his fermentation tank choice. “Wide and shallow so she will not be distressed by so much weight on her.” Wow.

Yvan started his US visit on the other coast and drank through Philly Beer Week before arriving in New England. His main focus here was The Festival, but he managed three collaboration brews here as well (Allagash, In’finity – pictured below – and Cambridge Brewing Company) in addition to a promotion night at Lord Hobo.

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It didn’t hurt that our table was next to Hill Farmstead and Shaun was generous with a few special bottles.

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And visits with some old friends.

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Yvan’s favorites:

Meal: Duck Fat, Portland
Beer he made room in his suitcase to bring back: Resin
American bar (meaning, with greasy food and TV) Nosh, Portland
Dive bar Bud Lite: Boulevard, Revere Beach

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And of course- smelling the lobster boats. Really!

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June 26, 2013 · 7:40 pm

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