I’m going to say this up front: I don’t think Cincinnati is going to win. Heck, I’m not even sure we deserve to win. But that’s not stopping me from voting for Cincinnati every time I can find a new computer to vote from.
There are 30 other cities on the list. Traditional heavyweights like Portland, Philadelphia, San Francisco and San Diego are there, of course, as are a number of cities and towns in Colorado. Asheville, NC holds the title now, and the presence of Grand Rapids, MI has gotten a lot of buzz. “A lot of buzz.” Interesting phrase, that. Do you kind-of-sort-of think that’s the reason poll organizer Charlie Papazian1 is doing this thing in the first place? Let’s face it, as a piece of valid social research it’s a great publicity stunt.
Really, what does “Beer City USA” even mean? It’s going to have different meanings to different people based on how they think about beer. Since thinking about the macro-brewers doesn’t take up much time, thoughts will inevitably turn to craft beer. Make a competition — and put a national spin on it — and you’re sure to get Americans to start trash talking each other almost immediately. It’s genius: it doesn’t matter who wins because, in the end, you had a lot of people thinking and being passionate about craft beer. And talking about it.
So why vote for Cincinnati? Because I think we deserve to be part of the conversation. Yeah, we have an amazing history, but we have some great things going on now. The first Cincinnati Beer Week is a great example. It just blew up and took on a life of its own. We have established breweries expanding and new ones starting. We have world-class brewers. We have strong homebrewing organizations with incredibly talented members. This is a great place to live if you love beer.
I know there are some who sniff a little at me for being such a cheerleader for Cincinnati beer. No, we aren’t Portland or Philly or San Diego or Asheville. And you know what? None of those places are interchangeable either. And until we, as a beer community, believe in ourselves, there is absolutely no reason for anyone else to believe in us either. I lived in Asheville in 1994 when Highlands Brewing was in the basement of Barley’s Taproom on Biltmore Ave. The feeling around town was largely that those guys were nuts. Just another crazy Asheville idea that wouldn’t go anywhere. Except Barley’s became a second home to me and a lot of other folks and you started seeing Highlands at the local Ingles grocery store and you got the feeling there was something going on.
I get that same feeling here and now.
So am I a cheerleader? Yeah. I’m a cheerleader. Am I going to write a blistering post denouncing the skill of local brewers if I happen to have a sub-par beer from one of them? Probably not. I mean, really, is some brewer going to see my post and say “Oh my God, we got a bad review from a blogger on the Internet! Let’s rethink everything!” (The answer, for those of you scoring at home, is “no.”) I will reach out to the brewer and have a chat. I’ve found through experience that you’re usually bringing an issue to their attention that they want to fix.
But anyway, back to Beer City USA 2012. I don’t think we’ll win and I don’t think we’re ready to win. Yet. But until we can start voting for ourselves, we’ll never be able to win.
Let’s get 5% of the vote. It’s a start.
1 If Charlie Papazian had his own zip code, I’d vote for him.