September 17, 2012

I had to smile a little when I came across this article and the accompanying comments on Fast Company, highlighting the fact that Asheville, NC had been selected as new East Coast home to not one, but two—of America’s largest craft breweries, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. The piece touted Asheville’s “beer friendly infrastructure” and a number of other factors, such as its “active outdoor vibe.”

Now I know Asheville is a great town, and a nice place to live, and I’m sure the quality of life it has to offer was an important element in both breweries’ choice. But the fact that—in at least New Belgium’s case—the final choice came down to Asheville and Philadelphia made it clear that they had not simply focused on finding a bucolic, small-town, beer-friendly atmosphere. I suspect that additional deal sweeteners, like state or local tax credits of some sort, were also an important contributing factor.

Regardless, the real trouble with the article was not its content, but the headline: Asheville: The New Craft Beer Capital of America?”  Asking that question was like pulling the pin on a grenade, stuffing it in a pie, and serving it to a table full of people who take their craft beer very seriously. You just knew you were gonna get some on ya…

Of course, it wouldn’t take long for a few readers in Portland and Denver to log in and deliver a verbal beat-down in the story comments, reminding everyone who has the most breweries, beer festivals and uber beer kultur:

“It's like giving the finger to Portland, Denver, San Diego, etc. So please stop using phrases like "Beer City USA" and "The Craft Beer Capital" as it's just inappropriate and simply not true.”

“Um No. The craft beer capitol of America is Portland, OR with more breweries than any other city in the world. That would be 51. And there are 120 brewing companies operating 153 breweries in Oregon. You got a ways to go Asheville.”

“I'll add while we have 23[breweries] in city-limits in Denver (not including metro area suburbs), there are 89 (read: EIGHTY NINE) all within a 60-mile diameter in the area.”
Well. Okay, then…

The one poor Asheville defender was eventually reduced to admitting that the notion of the town being a Craft Beer Capital was not to be taken seriously. And while defending the region’s craft beer culture, they went on to beat a general retreat, noting that “Asheville is in a relatively unfashionable and...undesirable area.”

Residents of Portland or Denver should never be so self-conscious as to feel the need to go off on any little challenge to their openly-acknowledged craft beer mightiness. Besides, the fault here was not with fair Asheville, but with reporter or editor who penned that silly headline. Nevertheless, nothing can be left to chance when one’s Beer Honor is at stake.


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