The story of Western North Carolina beer is a fascinating tale filled with groundbreakers and risk-takers.
In some ways, the story only dates to 1994, when Highland Brewing Co. brought out its first kegs of ale, but the beer backstory is actually much older. Local writer Anne Fittten Glenn dives into the subject with her new book, Western North Carolina Beer: A Mountain Brew History, which gets a release party on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 5-8 p.m. at Asheville Brewing Co.’s Coxe Avenue location. It will also be sold at area bookstores and online.
The book is Glenn’s second on the subject, following 2012’s Asheville Beer: An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing, which featured 19 breweries across six counties. Since then, the scene has grown to 74 breweries in 18 counties.
“I’d been thinking about how much Asheville beer has changed [since the first book],” Glenn says. For round two, she broadened her scope to include all of Western North Carolina and a look into the little-known history of brewing that existed here long before the craft beer boom. The new book, however, is not an update of the earlier one.
“It’s really all new content, including a lot of new history,” says Glenn, who adds that she tried to look ahead at the ever-evolving beer scene wherever possible. “Eighty percent of the book is history, and that doesn’t change.”
Glenn says learning about the history of brewing wasn’t easy, but by digging through online newspaper archives, she discovered evidence of small breweries in Asheville in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She also found history on early area bars.
In the end, she wound up with 256 pages of content, including photos and an updated timeline of local beer milestones. She also notes brewery ownership changes and the handful of area breweries that have closed.
The growth of the local beer industry took place over many years, but Glenn thinks its key turning point may have been in 2012 with the announcements that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues Brewery would all build nearby. Their arrival firmly entrenched Asheville and Western North Carolina as a major American craft beer destination and one that continues to attract new breweries.