After thousands of votes were cast in the online poll, the two cities scored about 6,000 votes each, according to Papazian, who posted the online poll at www.examiner.com.
Papazian, who founded the Association of Brewers and American Homebrewers Association, wrote that more than 16,000 people from 46 countries cast ballots between March 18 and May 7 for their favorite Beer City USA in the first such online poll. In a seesaw polling battle, the voting was close right up to the end. Papazian said the poll, while not scientific, was "indicative of the efforts put forth by various communities."
"One thing that a poll like this indicates is the degree of beer culture and networks that exist in various areas of the country. It helps to bring to the forefront that beer culture, beer community and beer enthusiasm are relevant forces in the quest for access to better beer. ... I saw an effective mobilization of beer communities in several areas of America," Papazian wrote.
As the voting deadline neared, Asheville blogs and Twitter-ers rallied their friends and social networks. The Orange Peel on Thursday pledged to host a celebration if Asheville won.
"We are very supportive of Asheville getting this recognition because we have a lot of great microbreweries in town," said Pat Whalen, owner of the Orange Peel.
Xpress Publisher Jeff Fobes noted the two winning ingredients for Asheville: "Great beer, great grassroots effort. It took having great beer in Asheville, and a savvy, socially networked town to get that many votes." The city of Portland has nearly 10 times the population of Asheville.
Whalen and Fobes are working on details of the victory celebration. The event would raise money to benefit a local nonprofit organization, and the two are working on contact local brewers. No date has been set.
Asheville has been the hub of a microbrewing scene since Highland Brewing Co. opened in downtown Asheville in 1994. Since then, Asheville Pizza & Brewing, Green Man Brewing, French Broad Brewing, the Wedge Brewery and Pisgah Brewing have all opened. The Lobster Trap restaurant is home to Oysterhouse Brewing, and two new breweries are in the works for Asheville — Craggie Brewing and Lexington Avenue Brewing.
Papazian, noting that he might take some heat for not declaring one winner, defended his decision.
"What, no definitive Number 1 and Number 2? Correct," he wrote. "Is that a cop out? I don't think so, but of course beer drinkers are an opinionated group of individuals and may beg to differ."
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor