Beer Scout: White Labs begins hiring; Asheville breweries support conservation efforts

From left, White Labs Project Implementation Specialist Aaron Gonzales and founder, president and CEO Chris White are pictured with Vannoy Construction Project Manager Erin Renwick at the site of the new Asheville White Labs facility. Photo by Scott Douglas

San Diego-based White Labs, one of the largest yeast manufacturers in the United States, will soon be crafting its wares in downtown Asheville. The company has announced that it’s hiring for positions at its new facility at 172 S. Charlotte St. White Labs’ East Coast location will produce over 100 strains of yeast for commercial breweries, wineries, distilleries and homebrewers.

“Everything we try to do, from classes to yeast or enzymes, we ultimately make it available to homebrewers. We work from the smallest homebrewer or home winemaker to the largest breweries and wineries in the country,” says White Labs founder, president and CEO Chris White.

The production lab will employee about 65 people, most of whom will be local hires. The application process is already underway, and postings are currently available on White Labs’ website. Open positions include packaging technician, equipment maintenance specialist, shipping assistant and production assistant.

Approximately 25 more job listings will follow between now and November, with an invite-only job fair open to those who apply. Orientation for new administrative and production employees is planned for the end of November.

Local breweries will benefit from not only from the availability and variety of fresh yeast to be produced in Asheville but also from the lab’s analytical support and educational opportunities. The lab will provide testing services as well as classes and on-site quality control training for brewers of all levels of experience. The local presence of White Labs will also potentially save breweries that have relied on deliveries of yeast from White Labs’ San Diego facility many thousands of dollars in shipping costs.

The Charlotte Street location is being retrofitted to house separate cleanrooms for the cultivation of traditional strains of saccharomyces cerevisiae and saccharomyces uvarum, as well as wild yeast and bacteria such as brettanomyces and lactobacillus. The facility will also house state-of-the art equipment, including cryogenic freezers and equipment for genetic sequencing.

White Labs holds several patents for its products, including a propagation system known as FlexCell and a packaging process called PurePitch. These innovative technologies allow for the yeast to be grown and packaged in the same container, which is then slowly sealed into packages of the desired size. This reduces the risk of contamination incurred by transferring cultures from one vessel to another and minimizes the environmental impact of traditional yeast packaging methods. The Asheville lab will propagate and package the majority of its yeasts using these methods, with yeast available to commercial breweries later this year and to homebrewers in early 2017.

White expects yeast to start shipping from the 100-year-old building sometime in early December. A tasting room and restaurant, slated to open in March, will be housed in an addition to be constructed on the building’s south side. A pilot brew system will be temporarily kept in the production facility until a 20-barrel brewhouse is installed during the second phase of construction.

Hiring for the brewery, taproom and restaurant has not started but is expected in late winter or early spring. The tasting room will feature 35 taps showcasing beers brewed with White Labs’ yeast strains, and the restaurant will feature food offerings intended for pairing with the breweries’ beer, some of which will also incorporate the lab’s yeast.

For details on available positions, visit whitelabs.com/jobs.

Brewing for conservation

“Green” beer isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day anymore. For Asheville breweries, environmental sustainability and conservation is a guiding ethos that plays a role in everything from the design of new production facilities to community involvement. This summer, the vast majority of Asheville-area breweries have partnered with nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental stewardship and preservation, raising tens of thousands of dollars to  help protect the natural landscape in which we’re all privileged to live, brew and drink.

Throughout the summer, MountainTrue and the French Broad Riverkeeper worked with area breweries including Hi-Wire, Wicked Weed, Catawba, Blue Ghost and Oskar Blues for its Riverkeeper Beer Series, which included section floats on the French Broad River as well as volunteer river cleanup days timed to coincide with the release of small-batch, river-themed beers. MountainTrue also organized its fourth annual Save the French Broad campaign in cooperation with Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing. The initiative raised over $36,000 to support its efforts to improve the French Broad’s water quality and help finance the construction of the French Broad River Paddle Trail. The trail, a collaborative effort with RiverLink, will be a series of public access spots and campsites connecting over 140 miles of the French Broad.

Sixteen regional breweries also joined forces with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation for a series of commemorative brews and events to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial. The Find Your Pint series, which consisted of breweries donating proceeds from one-off brews and special events to the BRPF, continues through the end of the month with upcoming events scheduled at the downtown Thirsty Monk and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Beer geeks who have collected stickers in their Find Your Pint Passport, can register their booklets with the foundation for a chance to win tickets to a VIP event at New Belgium.

Greenways have also proved to be a top priority for area breweries this summer, with Friends of Connect Buncombe’s unique Brewing for Greenways program having raised over $15,000 to date for the organization. Brewing for Greenways involved area breweries entering into collaborative partnerships to brew one-off beers to benefit FoCB. The most recent beer in this series, Urban Trail Hoppy Pale, is a collaboration between Highland Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada. Currently pouring at Highland’s taproom, Urban Trail will also be available at a fundraising event hosted by Thirsty Monk Downtown on Thursday, Sept. 29. A collaboration between Asheville Brewing and Sylva-based Innovation Brewing is due in November with future collaborations expected.

Highland Brewing, which kicked off Brewing for Greenways with a New Belgium collaboration, has been front and center among local breweries in efforts to raise money and awareness for environmental organizations. The brewery has a long-standing partnership with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and also hosts Night Flight, a 4.5 mile foot race that has raised nearly $30,000 for the Asheville Parks and Greenways Foundation over the past three years.

Highland owner and President Leah Wong Ashburn has been a driving force behind the brewery’s involvement in environmental outreach, helping to initiate the Brewing for Greenways project and continuing Highland’s diverse efforts to benefit the local landscape. She expects these efforts to continue and expand in the future. “My personal passion for greenways fueled BFG and Night Flight,” she says. “I’m sure that passion will strike again. Greenways take time, planning, money and people. Private and public support in all of these areas fosters its development. I hope both efforts grow and improve for years to come.”

For details on upcoming Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Find Your Pint events, visit brpfoundation.org/events. For details on the Thursday, Sept. 29, Brewing for Greenways event at Thirsty Monk, visit weconnectbuncombe.org/BrewingforGreenways.

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3 thoughts on “Beer Scout: White Labs begins hiring; Asheville breweries support conservation efforts

    • Anon

      It’s not a brewery – you have to READ the article before you rock the boat, boat rocker.

      • boatrocker

        Yea, I get it- they’ll make the raw materials for…..beer, directly or indirectly.
        I just feel like I’m not pulling my (increasing) weight for not trying every single new beer in town.
        Then everyone beer shames me for not knowing what the newest free range craft suds taste like. Woe is me.

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