Three-foot-tall wooden hops hang on the wall above a walk-in beer cooler at the new Whole Foods on Tunnel Road. The store, opening on Tuesday, Aug. 26, is Whole Foods’ first full-size store in the Asheville area. Since the company tries to tailor their stores somewhat to the cities they’re in, it makes sense that the Asheville store would have a substantial beer component.
The Specialty Department itself is home not only to that beer cave — something it has in common with Whole Foods locations in other beer cities like Portland, Ore. — but also 12 taps that will be used to fill 32- or 64-ounce growlers. However, the crowning jewel of the Asheville store sits in the second floor loft: the Tunnel Road Tap Haus.
The Tap Haus, as you might expect from the name, is a blend of Asheville beer culture and a German beer hall. The space itself is open and airy with two walls of windows and tables that seat just a few people each. There’s a nice view of the mountains, making it nothing like a traditional beer hall, but the food takes its cue from German drinking traditions. The centerpiece is seven sausages, with a variety of meats and toppings. (Since this is Asheville, any can be ordered with vegetarian sausage instead.) Other foods also skew towards traditional drinking fare, such as a soft pretzel, German potato salad and, of course, French fries.
On the beer side, the Asheville and local component comes into play. According to Specialty Team Leader Sean Stanley, “With all the brewing talent in this area, it makes the most sense to pour what’s local.” The initial six taps (two taps are reserved for local cider and kombucha) nearly all draw from Asheville-area breweries.
The only tap featuring a year-round beer also available in bottles is Hi-Wire’s Bed of Nails Brown — a solid offering and a personal favorite from Hi-Wire. Pisgah’s Grey Beard IPA and Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum will be the two hop-forward beers. Highland’s American Saison, from the 20th Anniversary series, will be the lightest beer on tap. The last two beers are a bit off the beaten path: Oud Bruin from Natty Greene’s and Quiet Ryeot Rye Porter from Catawba. If the latter sounds completely unfamiliar, that’s because it’s never been on tap anywhere else. Members from the Whole Foods team drove out to Morganton to collaborate and create a special beer just for the store.
Pour prices will vary by the beer, but there will be plenty of serving options. Expect flight boards and pitchers in addition to the standard pint. Beer dinners, tap takeovers and other collaborations with Asheville brewers are a sure thing once the store gets past the opening rush, says Stanley. Special brewery pint nights or other promotions are also a possibility.
The grand opening of the store to the public will be Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 9 a.m. with an opening ceremony and bread-breaking with Mayor Esther Manheimer at 8:45 a.m.