A refresher: Portland won last year’s duel by only a few percentage points, prompting Papazian to name it Beer City USA of the West and Asheville the Beer City USA of the East. This year, the contest was even tighter, with Asheville coming out on top and less than 1,000 votes between first and second place. However, for some curious reason that has not yet been explained, Papazian changed his own rules and gave the title exclusively to Asheville this year.
The switch is a bit random, especially considering that the two cities were even closer in the poll this year than last. Whatever. It’s Papazian’s playground, and he can do what he wants.
Interestingly, over the past year since Papazian’s first poll, I have asked just about every craft beer fan I know who has visited Asheville to describe what it’s all about and, without any variance, the answers have all been very similar to one I recently received from Carl Singmaster, owner of the famous Belmont Station & Biercafe bottle shop, who lived for many years in the Carolinas and is also quite the beer traveler:
“I was truly impressed with the way Asheville has completely embraced craft beer,” Singmaster recently wrote in an e-mail newsletter. “Local craft beer was on tap at virtually every tavern and restaurant and, outside of Portland, Asheville is the only other city I’ve seen where that could be said. But brewery for brewery, fine as they were, they don’t match up with Portland’s craft brewers. Give Asheville a few years, and they’ll be amazing.”
On the week of my 21st anniversary of choosing Portland as my home, in the spirit of good sportsmanship and with great respect, I send my congratulations to Asheville in claiming the title this year, and hope my fellow Portlanders will join me. I commend Asheville’s beery enthusiasm and the work (fun work, but still work) that I know goes behind creating such a tight-knit, passionate beer culture and community. You are a proud group, and you should be. I look forward to the opportunity to visit your fine city, taste your craft beers and experience your craft beer culture for myself.
Congratulations, also, to the other cities that made the list. It should be a great source of local pride to be recognized among the best craft beers cities in the country, and, really, the world. A big “Cheers” for you all!
Now, for a little beery dreaming: Wouldn’t it be great if next year’s poll wound up being a tight race between more cities than Asheville and Portland? W. Scott Griffiths is credited with saying “Wine gentrifies; beer unifies.” Instead of letting a silly beer poll divide us, perhaps our task for the next 12 months is to work harder to assure every city in our country can rightfully be called Beer City USA.
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