Community conversations: Asheville loses Beer City crown, but is the spirit still alive?

After a four-year winning streak, Asheville lost its Beer City USA title to Grand Rapids, Mich., according to poll results released May 13.

Conducted by craft-beer guru Charlie Papazian, the informal online poll showed Grand Rapids winning decisively with 27,005 votes. Kalamazoo, Mich., came in second with 11,150 votes, and Asheville placed third, with 10,075. Last year, Asheville tied Grand Rapids for first place.

Since Asheville’s tie for first in 2009 with Portland, Ore., the title has helped attract national attention to the area for its thriving craft-beer scene. The local chamber of commerce used it to promote beer tourism. And executives from New Belgium and Sierra Nevada breweries took notice, which helped convince them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building new facilities in the area.

Despite the loss, the local industry looks poised to continue its boom.

But as Papazian notes in comments he made to Michigan media outlet MLive, the poll’s not meant to be a measure “of beer volume or how many breweries or per capita consumption.” Instead, “It’s more of a measure of the community spirit and support for beer businesses, whether at the retail, distribution or brewery level.”

So with Asheville garnering significantly less votes than it did in 2012, does that mean our hearts are no longer in our pint glasses? Have we lost our Beer City spirit? Or with MLive reporting that Grand Rapids tourism marketers waged a highly organized campaign, maybe it’s more of a reflection on our commerce officials?

Whatever the case, local residents shared their thoughts on a variety of online forums this week, expressing everything from disappointment to good riddance.

Here’s a sample of what some of you had to say. Feel free to add further thoughts in the comments field below.


Hopefully we didn’t lose this title for drinking less local beer. Hopefully we lost this title for being less connected to middle-school-girl social-media sites and voting (less) for online popularity contests. — Boatrocker

As a local, I will shed no tears that Asheville’s biggest claim to fame is no longer beer. And if losing “beer city” status leads to losing tourism (which I doubt), then this town has bigger problems to address than how to win an on-line poll, OR how to brew more/better beer. — Big Al

The “Beer City” thing was never real anyway. It always felt like a cheap marketing tool. I’m proud of this town for many reasons, but towns like Portland don’t need to win a title that they know they already own. — jdawg

Via Facebook

Perhaps we should find something else to be famous for. — Jill Boniske

Congrats from Asheville! Now make some money off of this popularity $ driven contest. In a year or two another “up and coming” city will come out of nowhere to be a mecca of beer so keep your mouse warm for the next voting. Shane Lail, via Facebook.

Congrats to Grand Rapids. I’m from Asheville and can’t wait to taste what GR has to offer — Rob Howe

I guess Asheville is starting to lose its appeal. — Shane Jenkins

Via Twitter

LOL We don’t need no online poll! Beer City USA! — @BlogAsheville

#Asheville loses beer city title, questions its very own existence. Cries a bit, too. — @Weepapa

We shall be known as THE ORIGINAL Beer City USA! — @Reinkster

Not surprised that Asheville has officially lost the Beer City USA title. Time to move on. — @Ashevegas


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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