#44 Gaelic Ale: Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina
State: North Carolina, a Southern state famed the world over for being significantly nicer than South Carolina. Some guys from Ohio flew a plane there because it’s windy, which the state has been coasting on for 100 years as other Ohioans were orbiting the Earth and landing on the fucking moon.
Brewery: The Scottish-themed Highland Brewing, founded in 1994, the largest in the Tarheel state.
Beer: An American/Scottish hybrid called Gaelic Ale which kind tasters described as “malty” and “a benchmark of mediocrity” while less-impressed tasters found “powdery” with an “unpleasant aftertaste.”
Difficulty of Obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. It’s distributed all over the Southeast including states from which it’s legal to ship beer to Oregon
If you’re too into beer you might know about this stupid contest called “Beer City USA.” Essentially, a bunch of cubicle monkeys click-click-click on a list of cities purported to be capitals of craft beer. Mostly they vote for the city nearest their home or where they went to college. Portlanders have taken it seriously in the past and won. But now Ashville is now the perennial favorite, probably because there’s not much great beer in town to distract the dudes who vote in these things.
Asheville’s claim to fame? Being colonized by Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. Importing talent is the Tarheel way, after all. “Hell no, boys, we ain’t kin figure to make own beer—let alone an airplane—so let’s git us some Yankees to git ‘er done and we’ll go on a’claimin it fer a century!”
Mighty fine idea, y’all.
So now Ashville, North Carolina, is supposedly the best beer city in the country. This is a town that’s the heart of a metro area of a half-million people. It has 10 breweries. That’d make for a pretty nice neighborhood in Portland—not the best, not the worst, just another neighborhood.
Portland, please do not attempt to right this wrong when the next Beer City U.S.A poll takes place, should homebrew legend Charlie Papazian continue it. The poll is dumb; participating only validates the dumb results.
The biggest problem with such a contest? Very few voters have any perspective. Do the people of Asheville sincerely believe their city to be a mecca of craft beer? Yes. Does that opinion matter? No, not that they know any better. Antiquated liquor laws and fat cat distributors make it tough to drink the best beers from around this country. Most of the people who voted for Asheville have probably never had Black Butte Porter, let alone Pliny the Elder. These Tarheels love their beer, and they think it’s great because it’s better than the pig swill the rest of the South is drinking.
Hard-won perspective—gained by actually trying beer from across the country—is tough to get. Just ask intern John Locanthi, who spent the better part of his summer bootlegging brew for the President of Beers. But Willamette Week got a beer from all 50 states. And here’s what happened: Asheville done got tore up. Bottom 10, y’all. The flagship beer from North Carolina’s largest brewery couldn’t even beat South Carolina a blind taste-test. Ouch.
So, sorry to Papazian and everyone who voted in a little web poll. Asheville might be “Beer City U.S.A.” but its brew has been judged a joke in this election.
But, hey, maybe they can recruit Widmer, Deschutes and Rogue to open brewpubs in town? Someone’s gotta hold their hands through this.