For the past three years, Asheville has won the title of Beer City USA in an unofficial poll (and, let’s face it, popularity contest) led by Charlie Papazian at BeerExaminer.com. The first year, we tied with larger and perhaps better-known (at least at the time) Portland, Ore., for the honor. Some shrugged it off as a fluke or simply an indication that Asheville has a proactive social-media community — the winning city is determined simply by number of votes, after all. But, after cleaning house in the subsequent two years of the poll, not to mention welcoming craft-beer titans New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and now Oscar Blues to the area, our clout may no longer be in question.
Perhaps that’s why some local leaders in the beer industry are saying that it might be time to step aside and let the other kids play in the sandbox. An April 30 article by Tony Kiss in the Asheville-Citizen Times has some brewmasters pegged as waffling over whether our city should push so hard for the win this year. And indeed, the Twitter-verse has been quieter than usual in trumpeting the opening of the polls pitting 31 cities against one another in the battle for brew supremacy.
Should Asheville be in that game, Kiss asks?
Xpress turned to the folks at the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau to get their take. After all, the center’s daily bread is making sure that Asheville gets on the map — and their many campaigns have been successful. The bureau markets Asheville’s scenery, restaurants — and yes, even the brewery scene — to Food & Wine, Southern Living and other magazines of that ilk. And, as usual, the CVB knows exactly where it stands when it comes to accolades for Asheville.
Dodie Stephens, the bureau’s senior communications manager, says that the CVB supports the effort to win the title once again — and will be encouraging votes from its end.
“Well, I can see both sides,” Stephens said quite diplomatically in an email to Xpress. “Asheville has certainly enjoyed — and leveraged — the Beer City three-peat. From a marketing standpoint, that calling card has been very useful. In the past few years, Asheville has made great strides in its reputation as culinary and craft-beer destination.”
On the national level, however, there is still a lot of room for the growth of Asheville’s reputation, Stephens suggests. “Fresh accolades and fresh news do help keep us relevant when trying to break through the clutter,” she says. “Outside of the beer insiders, I’d say that it has probably taken three Beer City wins to begin making an impact on broader awareness (that’s me thinking back to through national media coverage and not any scientific results).”
Stephens says that the story of our meteoric rise from scrappy one-brewery town to Beer City heavyweight is a good enough story as it currently stands. “So I don’t think we’d be lacking without the win,” she says. “However, it does make it easier to get in the door when I can say, ‘Hi, let me tell you about life in Beer City USA.’”
Want to vote? Here’s where to do it. Polls close on 11:59 (mountain time) on Sunday, May 13.