BeerCity, USA closes polls


Grand Rapids now boasts 17 area breweries (and counting) and more than 20 when including Holland and Grand Haven. Courtesy Thinkstock

The BeerCity, USA poll is finished.

In a post at this morning, homebrewing expert and columnist Charlie Papazian writes that the BeerCity, USA poll he started five years ago has served its purpose.

Grand Rapids won the title outright in 2013 — after tying with Asheville, N.C. in 2012.

Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor were also voted into the top four last year.

“America ‘gets it.’ They understand the cultural and societal impact that small business, small and independent craft brewers are having in their communities,” Papazian writes. “Economic impact studies neatly and accurately sum up what’s happening with numbers and statistics. But the BeerCity, USA can rest in peace, knowing that 156,000 ballots cast helped bring attention to the unmeasurable spirit that is fundamental to the ongoing success of America’s craft brewers.”

Beer week

This year, a group of Grand Rapids beer enthusiasts were going to put on BeerCity Week, in an effort to reclaim the title for a third year.

One of the group’s organizers, Bryan Esler, co-founder of the website MittenBrew, said the lack of a poll won’t be the end of this new effort.

“It honestly doesn’t mean a lot that it’s done,” Esler said. “While I haven’t talked with anyone in the group yet, we still want to move forward and celebrate Grand Rapids beer. There’s been talk about it being a different week, potentially Craft Beer Week, which is May 12-18.”

Behind the numbers

Papazian writes that he started the poll in 2009 as a “reaction” to statistics defining the craft beer industry, referring to a quote from former business professor Aaron Levenstein: “Statistics are like bikinis: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”

Craft beer enthusiasts and drinkers weren’t getting the credit they deserve for helping build “unparalleled growth and success.”

Through the poll, “A mobilization of many beer communities happened in ways never before observed,” Papazian writes. “It wasn’t just about the beer, but about the community spirit behind the craft brewing movement.

“The BeerCity, USA poll turned out to represent exactly what I was hoping to reveal: about the essence of the American craft beer phenomenon we were all experiencing. It’s about main street, grassroots, community support, not mainstream data and statistics.”


Grand Rapids remains the last BeerCity, USA, and the city’s beer community doesn’t need the poll to know it’s a great beer region, Esler said.

“We continue to get that recognition now,” Esler said. “Whether that be through lists on, Lonely Planet or coverage in Huffington Post and other media. I think Grand Rapids will always be known as a beer city.”

BeerCity, USA titleholders

2013: Grand Rapids

2012: Tie: Asheville, N.C. and Grand Rapids

2011: Asheville, N.C.

2010: Asheville, N.C.

2009: Tie: Portland, Ore. and Asheville, N.C.

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