GBH founder—and one of the co-hosts of this podcast—Michael Kiser has previously described some episodes of this podcast as being "bucket-list" interviews. Folks like Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and Allagash’s Rob Todd, for example: folks who’ve played huge roles in shaping the industry as we know it and still continue to do so. Now, it’s my turn.
Today, I sit down for a conversation with Yvan de Baets, head brewer and co-founder of Brasserie de la Senne in Brussels, Belgium. You’re more than likely already familiar with the beers that de la Senne produces. Despite only being in existence since 2003, its beers, such as the dry and bitter Taras Boulba and the balanced, rounded Zinnebir, could easily be described as timeless and iconic. These aren’t words to be thrown around lightly, but try asking a brewer what his or her favorite beer is and more often than not, it’ll be one of them. It’s no surprise, either, as we’ll learn from de Baets later in this episode that Taras Boulba is a beer made for brewers.
De Baets was in town for a string of events centered around a new specialty Belgian beer festival here in London called Ales Tales. The night before we met for this interview we had hosted an event with him at The Prince in Wood Green, North London and our conversation picks up from the points we discussed that evening. This includes the origins of de la Senne and how their first beer was brewed in a Brussels squat, to just how intrinsic the Belgian capital is to everything this brewery does.
Yvan pulls no punches when discussing what he calls "fake brewers," or what most of us know as contract, or so-called "gypsy brewers." He even goes as far as to call some of them a disease within the industry. He even weighs in on the use of Belgian beer terminology, such as Lambic and Gueuze, around the world—including the recent fracas between Jester King and HORAL.