Beer Scout: The Whale harpoons East Asheville location

TWICE AS NICE: The Whale owners Andrew Ross, left, and Jesse Van Note aim to open The Outpost location of their craft beer bar by fall. Photo courtesy of The Whale

Andrew Ross admits that when it comes to expanding operations for the Asheville-based craft beer bar The Whale, his business partner Jesse Van Note has historically been the more proactive one. Recently, however, those roles reversed, resulting in a second local location at 2 Beverly Road in East Asheville. The combination retail and on-premise spot, which will be known as The Outpost, is slated to open this fall.

Inverse operations

Before settling on The Whale’s new space, Ross and Van Note, who lives in Greenville, S.C., had eyed a few options downtown. But high real estate costs and the large number of beer businesses in a small area lessened the appeal. In the midst of their ongoing search, Ross and his wife, Elise, relocated to East Asheville. While numerous perks attracted them to the neighborhood, one major downside stood out as they settled in. 

“It became very clear, very quickly that there wasn’t a place to buy good beer or wine on a retail level,” Ross says. “Your only drinking options over here are Creekside [Taphouse] and RendezVous, which both do a great job, but they’re much more restaurant focused.”

Consistent with the flipflopped manner with which the space was secured, The Outpost’s offerings will be somewhat of an inverse of the West Asheville location, focusing primarily on packaged product. But as with the original Whale, nonlocal breweries are the priority to both introduce people to new beers and direct them to the area breweries themselves if they want to taste Asheville-made products, which in turn is more profitable for their fellow local businesses.

While the tap list will be much smaller than the original bar, Van Note says to count on a rosé and a locally made house beer on draft, and another inviting atmosphere where patrons can relax for a few hours.

“The whole vibe is ‘country store,’” he says. “It’s what the place begs for: modern upscale bottle shop meets local provisions.”

Ross adds, “I gotta figure out how Mast [General Store] makes their buildings smell the same — get us some of that cedar smell.”

Lowcountry addition

In addition to The Outpost, Ross and Van Note are also in the midst of opening their second location in South Carolina. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’d been eyeing an expansion to Charleston. But once lockdowns began, their focus turned to keeping their Asheville and Greenville locations afloat. With indoor capacity restrictions, the co-owners expanded outdoor seating at both locations and began doing weekly guided Zoom tastings of curated four-packs.

“There was this engagement that I think people were really worried about losing, especially in that two-month period where we weren’t supposed to leave our houses,” Ross says. “We were delivering the beer and we kept the garage door open so people could come in and get the beer. And then everyone got to sit together for two hours on a Friday afternoon and drink. That was one of those big pivotal points for us.”

Once the flagship bar was back to fairly regular operations, Ross and Van Note resumed their Charleston quest and secured a space in the mixed-use Refinery complex on Meeting Street, in what Van Note says is being called the city’s brewery district. And like the Greenville bar, it will spotlight Asheville brews that would otherwise be difficult to get in the area.

“We’re always down to gamble and go for the up-and-coming areas,” Van Note says. “COVID hit Greenville pretty hard, but things are starting to open up and head our way on Main Street. And then look at the block where we opened in Asheville. It’s just crazy.”

The Charleston location will have a grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 25, when it serves as one of only 28 host sites across the U.S. for Zwanze Day. Ross says being chosen by Belgium-based Brasserie Cantillon for the annual international celebration of lambic beers is a huge honor, especially for a business that’s been in operation a mere four years.

“I think people do trust us with alcohol decisions.” Ross says. “That’s a really cool thing to build our business on — no matter if you go to Asheville, Greenville, Charleston or The Outpost, you’re going to get something of high caliber without pretension.”

Helping ensure that consistent quality, Asheville General Manager Jesse Mellinger has moved to Charleston to run that location alongside former CANarchy Collaboratory General Manager Reed Rocheleau, who’ll serve as assistant general manager.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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6 thoughts on “Beer Scout: The Whale harpoons East Asheville location

  1. Jay

    I’ve lived all over and I’ve never ANYWHERE; where so many successful businesses expand and set up clone locations in every corner of asheville…. Maybe a good busy idea, but certainly waters down the joy of going to the only location…

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      The owners say the Haw Creek location (retail-focused; wider availability of four-packs; scaled down tap list) will be a noticeably different experience from the WAVL location (draft-focused; to-go beers are primarily single bottles/cans).

      • luther blissett

        Yeah, this sounds more like a Haw Creek version of Appalachian Vintner than a clone of the WAVL Whale, with a similar focus on non-local breweries. If you want local or local-ish beer then the Oteen Ingles or Whole Foods are just down the road.

        (Portland, OR has a lot of indie stores with multiple locations, though it’s a much bigger city.)

  2. Ben

    I live 2 blocks away and am so happy to see this! I agree with the owners about not finding beer and wine on the East Side. There are a few of us in the neighborhood who would love to see a dartboard or two and make this our new spot to toss darts. What will the hours of operation be?

    • Jay

      Fair enough; ive actually emailed GREENMAN and asked them to consider a tap room in their warehouse on Knauth Rd back behind the social and pomodoros… that would be amazing! This clearly makes me a hypocrite based on my last post and considering that green man has had like four-five locations around the city!!

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