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Asheville's Beer City title on the line

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4/30/2012 - Asheville's Beer City title on the line
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

Online voting starts Tuesday for the national Beer City USA Poll, and three-time winner Asheville -- one tie and two solo wins -- has to be considered a strong candidate for a fourth consecutive victory.

 Some local beer leaders are saying it might be time to ease up and let some other place take the crown. Others believe that with Sierra Nevada and New Belgium brewing companies building here, Asheville deserves another win in the poll, conducted by author and beer expert Charlie Palazian. 

 "I've got mixed feelings," said Oscar Wong, owner and founder of Highland Brewing Co., the city's first craft brewery. "We got the number two and number three craft breweries to come here. 

"When we played, we won. Now, let's give someone else a chance."

Julie Atallah, co-owner of the Bruisin' Ales beer store on Broadway Street, said she was undecided on the competition. Winning the Beer City Poll "helped us get these breweries, or at least put us on the map," she said. "How does it get any better than that?"

But Mike Rangel, owner of Asheville Brewing, and Tim Schaller, of Wedge Brewing, have changed their minds about the poll and now believe Asheville should win again.

"If we are in the game, we might as well win," Schaller said.

"Asheville has gained a lot" by winning the poll 2009-11, said Rangel. "With these monster rock stars of Sierra Nevada and New Belgium (building here), it makes us worthy of competing again."

And Barry Bialik, of the Thirsty Monk brewery and pubs, is also ready to make a Beer City charge.

"Asheville is all about local pride," he said. "Whatever the result is, I hope everyone gives the full effort."

The Beer City Poll is an unscientific vote that lets beer fans vote once for their favorite brew town.

Asheville tied with Portland, Ore., in the 2009 poll, but since then Asheville has dominated the voting. The victories have brought the city a lot of attention as a beer destination.

This year, 31 cities are in the running, including first-time entries Charlotte and Raleigh.

While that might lead to a split in North Carolina voting, "It's important to keep in mind that three cities in our beer community made the ballot in the first place," said Win Bassett, executive director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

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