Brewgasm gets bookish: Local writer Anne Fitten Glenn releases Asheville beer book

Call her Brewgasm; call her Edgy Mama; call her Anne Fitten (it's a two-part first name), and now, call her the author of a published beer book. Anne Fitten Glenn, who has written for Xpress in several capacities, covering food, parenting topics and, most prominently, “Brews News,” released Asheville Beer: An Intoxicating History of Mountain Brewing in September.

For the past three years, Glenn has been the woman behind the pen of Xpress' biweekly beer column. In her new book, she brings in-depth historical and chronological coverage to the subject of Asheville’s brews.

Glenn begins the story of WNC beer centuries before it officially began (when Highland Brewing opened in 1994). “It's 1796,” she says. “Basically, there was this rude collection of huts where the courthouse is now, like log huts, and this was a little town called Morristown. Tiny town. There was no railroad. There was really nothing here.”

The state government sent a scouting party to the area to establish a county seat, she explains. They picked a spot several miles south of Morristown, near the current location of Biltmore Village. But when they returned to Morristown to spend the night, they visited the local tavern, where the enterprising locals convinced them to change their plans and set up the county seat there instead. “So Asheville was basically founded because of a cunning tavern-keeper and his very excellent whiskey,” Glenn says.

It's the spirit of this story, Glenn says, that sets the tone for her book. She only has two sources for the events, and as an experienced researcher — she holds a master's degree in English from the University of Georgia — she knows the tale could be totally apocryphal. (Plus, it's about whiskey, not beer.) But it's this kind of story that demonstrates the great influence of the seemingly trivial. In Asheville,  beer turns out to be not so trivial after all. Today, it's developing into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The second half of Glenn's book traces the development of Asheville's beer industry since 1994. While it includes the stories of Asheville's local brewers, it also tracks the ripples that the industry has made in the community at large. “I have an entire chapter on what I call hub businesses, so businesses that have sprung up around the breweries, whether they're bottle shops or soap makers,” Glenn says.

She developed her taste for beer by paying close attention to the industry while living in London and Woody Creek, Colo. “[In England] they have what's called the Real Ale Movement,” she says. “So a lot of the pubs in London make their own beer, and they make beer in their basement, and they have these casks of beer on the bar. So learning about beer there 20 years ago was very interesting.”

In Colorado, she worked for an educational research foundation started by George Stranahan, who co-founded and, at that time, owned Flying Dog Brewery. She says her memorable beer-drinking experience in Colorado involved a drunken, nighttime run-in with a naked Hunter S. Thompson, who was upset about her treatment of Stranahan's hot tub. (For the full story, check out the book.)

When she moved to Asheville in 1997, Glenn began freelancing for local papers, writing both food and small-business news. Four years ago, she noticed that her articles often overlapped; many of the new small businesses she covered were breweries. Since then, she's become a local authority on the beverage. She recently began teaching Beer 101 classes for the Asheville Brewers Alliance. Both the general public and members of the service industry benefit from her insight.

But what's in her glass? Glenn hesitates to say. “People also ask me what my favorite beers are, or my favorite local beer, and it's kind of like picking my favorite child,” she says. “I drank a lot of coffee stout when I was writing the book.” She recommends Pisgah Brewing's Valdez and Epic's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout.

Glenn says she's not sure if she will write another non-fiction book, but she's planning a craft beer guide for women. She says she would like to see more women working in beer. “I've spent a lot of time working in businesses where there aren't a lot of women, so it hasn't really phased me,” she says “We now have a couple of women who actually work at breweries in the area. But, I mean, a couple?”

No matter what she writes in the future, Glenn says her glass will be in hand, and a glass in hand is a glass half-full. “I want to teach people about beer and how to serve beer and how to enjoy it, but I don't like the kind of inherent snobbery that goes along with that,” she says. “But I do kind of romanticize it … I don't take beer too seriously, but I'm very passionate about it.”

Beer book-signing events

Thursday, Oct. 4: The Bar of Soap, 333 Merrimon Avenue, 6 to 9 p.m. Includes specials of local canned beers.
Saturday, Oct. 6: Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria, 42 Biltmore Ave., 5 to 8 p.m. Will tap a special local keg.
Tuesday, Oct. 16: Pisgah Brewing Company, Black Mountain, 6 to 8 p.m. Will offer specials on a couple of Pisgah beers.
Thursday, Oct. 18: Bruisin' Ales Beer Shop, 66 Broadway Ave., 5 to 7 p.m.  Free beer tastings from a local brewery.
Wednesday, Oct. 24: Altamont Brewing Company, 1042 Haywood Road, 6 to 8 p.m. Will offer specials on a couple local drafts.

Coming in November and December, locally: Green Man Brewery in Asheville, Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville, Highland Brewing in Asheville, and Asheville Brewing Company.

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