Asheville, North Carolina rose to the top of the BeerCity USA poll once again this year, 2011. While tying Portland, Oregon in 2009, the Asheville community at-large for a third year in a row came out to cast their support for their areas small business, small brewers. For more details of results see below.
I spoke with a small brewery owner from Alaska recently. His brewhouse makes 3 ½ barrels of beer at a time that’s just over 100 gallons a batch). He’s been in business for 18 years, serving local beer to his local community. He summed up what most small American brewers are all about, “It’s about going main street, not mainstream.” In his isolated small seacoast town he loves what he is doing and offering a local beer option to his community.
The same can be said for Asheville, a unique small town of 80,000 in the hills of western North Carolina. There are 8 small breweries in Asheville, with others in the surrounding area. I visited Asheville earlier this year, to see what this city was made of. Beer geek city USA? Not at all. Actually far from it. It’s a diverse and energized cosmopolitan town with an active appreciation for local businesses. While franchise type restaurants are along the roadsides leading to and from Asheville, you’ll be very hard pressed to encounter anything but locally owned small retail businesses in downtown Asheville.
The city is not only behind its small brewers, but behind local business. I encountered several people at non-brewery restaurants, ticket counters, rental car desks, hotel management and more who were far from being what one might “brand” as beer enthusiasts. Yet they were very aware of their city’s brewers and what they meant to the people of Asheville. Some didn’t even drink beer, but loved the idea of hometown small business.
The BeerCity USA poll is about community pride. Not just beer. It’s very different than other polls that rate beer on viral popularity, hops, brand presence, sales, size of brewery, volume produced, ingredients used, and preference polls. I think it’s about the essence of the American craft beer phenomenon we are all experiencing. It’s about main street, grass roots, community support, not mainstream data and statistics.
A lot of beer commentators and analysts are wondering when the “small craft brewers and their craft beer” phenomenon is going to end. They’ve been asking this question for the past 30 years. What many fail to realize that the foundation of craft brewing and enthusiasm for craft beer is unlike the infrastructure driving traditional commodities and business development.
Craft beer from small brewers is not a commodity. Its popularity is generated by an engagement of both people and communities and a fundamental attitude that has finally gained enough momentum that more people are paying attention.
There were 14,999 votes cast in this year’s BeerCity USA poll. 7,002 were cast for Asheville. The San Diego community and its supporters came on strong in 2011, with 2,374 votes, easily surpassing Portland, Oregon which had 1,495 votes.
The Top Ten BeerCity USA 2011
- Asheville, NC 7,002 46.68%
- San Diego, CA 2,374 15.83%
- Portland, OR 1,495 9.97%
- Bend, OR 821 5.47%
- St. Louis, MO 549 3.66%
- Milwaukee, WI 391 2.61%
- Philadelphia, PA 366 2.44%
- Seattle, WA 336 2.24%
- San Francisco/Oakland - Bay Area, CA 320 2.13%
- Chicago, IL 287 1.91%
Only one vote per computer and IP address.
Votes were cast from 50 countries, with 14,766 from the U.S.
Statistics on votes cast from each state
(based on IP address and other demographic information)
- North Carolina 3,612
- California 2,038
- Oregon 1,215
- New Jersey 836
- South Carolina 695
- Georgia 582
- Colorado 510
- Virginia 466
- Pennsylvania 429
- Illinois 397
A link to this story can be found here.
A side note from us beer lovers in Asheville. We want to thank everyone who took the time to support our mountain brew culture. Over half of the votes for Asheville came from other states which is a true testament for all of the local brewers in the Blue Ridge. We're proud of of our BeerCity USA title and are humbled by all of your support.