Walking the Walk in Cambridge

505742c0e8479.imageTraditionally the Todcast has been all about Berlin. Mostly this had to do with the fact that I worked there and my co-host, Todd DeHart lived there. This week, we debuted a new, reformatted Todcast that is mostly tourism centered and features a lot less of me losing my mind over something in the local news. Our new focus is about encouraging more cross-peninsula tourism and small business support as well as boosting a different place or event each week. On this week’s show, we had a little Cambridge love.

The Cambridge renewal (called Waterfront 2020) has been well underway for the last three years at least but is poised to become a center of tourism and commerce over the next decade. In addition to a major redevelopment program, Cambridge is investing in light manufacturing and even making more than a little headway in attracting tech businesses. But what makes what’s going on in Cambridge now so exciting is the downtown businesses aren’t waiting for things to get better from without, they are building a downtown culture that they expect will be sustainable throughout whatever growth Cambridge has in the coming years.

Patrick Fanning, who owns the High Spot Gastropub, as well as the new wood fired pizza place in town, Stoked is among the merchants building that cohesion. Fanning is a man on the move. In addition to running three restaurants, he is the beer event go-to guy. He has been a huge supporter of, and participant in, Cambridge’s increasing number of street fairs. This Saturday, Fanning has partnered with some of the other town merchants as well as the town itself to put on the Belgian Beer Festival on High Street (follow the link for more details).

Whether or if the craft beer revolution is over or ending is a question for another day. But what is indisputable, is that the craft beer revolution has changed the way we think of beer and beer festivals. Just shy of 100 years since the beginning of Prohibition, we have begun making our piece with beer, treating it as a part of community life rather than as a threat to it. We’ve been able to do this because of responsible and passionate brewers and distributors who have used the event model to remind people that, good beer, like good wine or good crab cakes, improves a community’s profile.

It’s not completely honest to give beer all the credit for downtown revitalization projects. All of the merchants, working together (for the most part) to improve the downtown experience for their customers sparks and supports revitalization. But rallying round beer as well as food, as helped Cambridge put on some massive events right in the downtown over the last three years.

If you get a chance, dig on the upcoming Belgian Beef Festival. If you don’t cruise by Cambridge any random weekend or in the early evening. In another decade, you can be all hipster about it, saying that it’s not a raw as it used be. Maybe even have the privilege of quoting the hippest of all hipsters, Yogi Bera: “Nobody goes their any more, it’s too crowded.”