We won. After a hard-fought tie in last year’s annual BeerCity USA poll, there was little doubt about Asheville’s victory this time. At the poll’s close, Asheville had 39.9 percent of the vote, compared to 34.1 percent for rival Portland, Ore. However, that hasn’t stopped the ire of some Portlanders against our fair city.
The somewhat lopsided rivalry between the two began last year, when Asheville unexpectedly pulled ahead in the first BeerCity poll. Portland then rallied into the lead, after which, in the nail-biting final hours, Asheville caught up. In the end, pollster Charlie Papazian called it a tie. But the fact that a city our size fought Portland, with more than five times the population and three times more breweries, to a rough draw attracted plenty of notice.
I say the rivalry is lopsided not because Portland’s beer is better than Asheville’s. I say lopsided in the way that David fighting Goliath seemed lopsided. In my observation of the public conversation over the BeerCity fight, Ashevilleans mostly seemed to tout the virtues of this town and its beer culture, while the Portland partisans tended to be far more negative. Some choice comments last year included referring to our fair city as “Assville,” implying that our love of beer simply meant an enthusiasm for warm Coors combined with incest, and lastly, questioning how we got the Internet in the first place (a hint: it involves machines).
An example of slightly more high-brow put-down comes from John Foyston, who writes about Asheville’s 2010 victory in The Oregonian:
Last year, Asheville and Portland tied in the annual online poll conducted by the Examiner’s Charlie Papazian. It’s a title the beer community in Buncombe County, which consists of nine breweries, plans to celebrate: June 5 will mark the first Beer City Festival in downtown Asheville.
Italics mine: nine breweries. NINE breweries. Nine…well, I think we Beervanians can afford to be magnanimous here, considering that we have BLOCKS with more breweries than their admittedly beautiful city does …bless their hearts, as they say in the South…
so let’s be Zen-like about this…all together now…Beer here now…
Perhaps words mean something different over there, but Foyston’s reply isn’t remotely magnanimous; it’s dismissive snobbery. We’re experts on politeness over here in the South, so allow me to offer, in short, what a magnanimous reply from a Portland beer enthusiast would have looked like:
Well done, Asheville. We’re glad to see your beer community supports its breweries so enthusiastically. While we stand behind our city and are proud of its unique achievements, we can all agree that a country with more delicious local beer is a good thing.
The contest was hard-fought and we look forward to Portland emerging victorious as Beer City USA in next year’s re-match. Cheers.
That would have been classy and polite. Instead we get whining about how small and backwards we are. Heaven forfend people might live in other places and be equally proud of their city’s achievements. Underlying some of the Portland grousing, I think, is the uncomfortable realization that the world (in beer and otherwise) might just be bigger than their own backyard.
Funny thing, with over five times the population of Asheville and all those breweries, Portland still couldn’t muster the votes to win. There’s a lesson there.
I’m happy Asheville won. If Portland wins next year, I hope our response will be actually magnanimous and similar to what I’ve written above.
In the meantime, to those Portlanders who insist on being sore losers, you can take your Zen and shove it.
P.S.- It’s worth noting that I have a number of Portlander friends who have behaved like perfect ladies and gentlemen about the whole thing, though enjoying a good-natured, humorous rivalry. My ire’s not directed at them. Y’all are awesome and I’ll happily raise a glass (in whichever city) with you any day.