First: The Beer City title
It's time to celebrate, preferably by quaffing a locally brewed beer. Our fair city won the 2010 title of Beer City, USA, for the second year in a row. This year, Asheville gets to be sole holder of the brew crown — unlike last year, when we shared the sobriquet with that more populous beer city out in Oregon.
Craft-beer guru Charlie Papazian organized the second annual on-line Beer City poll, which garnered more than 19,000 votes over the seven days of American Craft Beer Week (which ended May 23).
Portland has a population of more than 580,000 compared to Asheville's 78,000, but our city received 7,389 votes to Portland's 6,565.
Asheville, with nine breweries, has one of the highest per-capita ratio of craft breweries to population in the country. We're barely ahead of Portland, however, which claims 28 breweries.
There's been some smack talk about Asheville's David taking on Portland's Goliath, but mostly in jest.
"Last year, Portland folks were making fun of Asheville for even having Internet. This year, I'm wondering 'Do y'all have Internet at all?'" says Jimi Rentz, owner of Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria.
Asheville Brewers Alliance head and Asheville Brewing Co. co-owner Mike Rangel offers a few words to soften the blow.
"We have mad respect for Portland and their amazing breweries, and are happy and honored to be compared to them," he says. "A huge thanks to all who voted and all who support us by drinking Asheville Alliance brews."
Second: The Beer City Festival
Even before the honorific was bestowed, a new Asheville beer festival, named in honor of last year's win, had been planned for Saturday, June 5. The inaugural Beer City Festival will be held at the new Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park from noon to 6 p.m.
If you're lucky, there may still be tickets available via beercityfestival.com, or from local breweries or Bruisin' Ales beer shop.
Beer City Fest has been organized by the Asheville Brewers Alliance and the folks behind the annual Brewgrass Festival (on tap for Sept. 18).
To differentiate itself, the fest will offer more of an educational, regional and rock 'n' roll flavor than Brewgrass, says Rangel. There will be beer education tents, games and a musical lineup that includes Southern soul band The Legendary JC's.
Also unique is that all of the 30 breweries represented are based in the Carolinas.
"We wanted this fest to be a little bit different from Brewgrass, and now there are enough good Carolina breweries to support their own festival," Rentz says.
Also, Rentz and company wanted to give locals their own beer festival, and to facilitate that, tickets were only sold locally, not online, for the first month they were available.
Three: The Beer City tourism
So what does having these two beer festivals — plus the Beer City, USA, title — mean for Asheville?
The short answer: more beer tourists. At least half of the 3,500 tickets for Brewgrass typically sell to folks who don't live in the area. Beer City tickets are also selling to out-of-towners, though since it's the first year, fewer folks are aware of the event.
"People who are already visiting Asheville will try our beers, and it'll bring people here simply to drink our beer. Beer tourism is huge for us already," says Jason Caughman, co-owner of Pisgah Brewing Company.
Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith credits the brewers and brewery owners with helping support the city's economy.
"The local beer industry has been one of the only industries to expand during this recession," he says. "They're creative, innovative, community-minded and smart business people."
Those who work in, or are affiliated with, our area beer industry say the title will translate into dollars.
"Beer City will bring in more beer tourists — tourists that aren't necessarily here for the Biltmore or the usual sites," says Julie Atallah, co-owner of Bruisin' Ales. "Economically, it's good for the entire Southeast, which, until recent changes in beer laws, had been a craft-beer dead zone."
Adds Dennis Thies, who recently purchased Green Man Brewing: "It's great for all of Asheville because people come in to visit our breweries, drink beer, then go out to dinner or to shows."
What: Beer City Festival, 30 breweries from North and South Carolina.
When: Saturday, June 5, noon to 6 p.m.
Where: Roger McGuire Green at Pack Place Park.
Tickets: $35, purchase at local breweries or www.beercityfestival.com.
Parking: Bike, walk, take the bus, or leave that car downtown in a parking deck. Don't drink and drive. Call a cab, or try the new Buzzed Home service: "You drink. We drive. Your car," is the motto, and the drivers leave you and drive away in their scooters. www.getbuzzedhome.com or 242-2219.
Anne Fitten Glenn writes about beer for mountainx.com and her blog, brewgasm.com. Send beer news to firstname.lastname@example.org.