Though Asheville brewers have benefited from the labors of White Labs’ new production facility since its yeast and testing services became locally available early this year, the public has been eagerly awaiting the proposed taproom and restaurant associated with the complex. Those driving past the newly renovated lab on Charlotte Street may have noticed increased activity in the recently completed annex adjacent to the existing structure, and with good reason — White Labs Kitchen and Tap has finished its buildout and is currently hiring in anticipation of an October grand opening.
According to White Labs founder and CEO Chris White, Kitchen and Tap was a concept born of customer feedback after opening an initial taproom at the yeast producer’s San Diego facility in 2012.
“We have people coming into the taproom tasting beers brewed with different yeast strains, and the most frequent comment we get is that they wish we had food,” he explains. “We don’t really have the space in San Diego to do that, so when we were building here we focused from the beginning on serving food with the beer, because there’s so much that happens with yeast and bacteria and fermentation in different foods and beverages, that having things other than just beer presents a more complete picture of what we do.”
The company is accepting applications for 30-35 job openings for both front and back of house working under General Manager Chris Genua, formerly of New Belgium’s Liquid Center. Additional lab jobs and an extremely limited number of brewing positions are expected to be announced at a later date. Beer and service industry or homebrewing experience are highly desirable qualifications for all prospective front-of-house hires — but an interest in fermentation and a willingness to learn are necessities, says White. Friendliness and an ability to educate are paramount as the San Diego taproom’s clientele tends to ask tough questions that servers and bartenders will be expected to answer for similarly knowledgable patrons here in Asheville.
White Labs Asheville’s taproom and restaurant will accommodate about 70 guests, with table service for roughly 50 supplementing a 25-seat bar. An additional 20-30 patrons will be able to enjoy a spacious outdoor patio, weather permitting. Of the bar’s 32 taps, half will showcase White Labs’ own beers — brewed on the in-house pilot system or at the San Diego facility — with multiple taps dedicated to an individual beer brewed with different yeast strains to showcase the unique flavor profiles they create. The additional 16 taps will feature collaboration beers, which have already been crafted with local breweries such as Hi-Wire, Bhramari and Burial as well as guest taps for other beers with interesting microbiological stories.
The restaurant will share a similar focus on fermentation, with full lunch and dinner service highlighting foods with yeast and bacterial components. The menu is being designed by Sonoma, Calif., chef Sean Paxton, whose blog, homebrewchef.com, explores the possibilities of microbiologically based cuisine. Pizza will be a central element, featuring dough made with brewer’s yeast — a common practice before the advent of faster-rising yeasts that strip out some of the delicate flavor compounds created by the slower-rising brewer’s strains, says White. In addition to the extensive beer and food offerings, the taproom will also maintain a craft cocktail program alongside a wine list and other fermented beverages made with White Labs products such as kombucha.
The unifying theme central to everything White Labs Asheville has planned is rooted in telling the story of fermentation in a way that’s accessible to a diverse cross section of Asheville beer enthusiasts, both visitors and locals. To this end, a second-story learning lab above the tasting room will host frequent lectures and workshops for brewers, winemakers, service industry professionals and homebrewers. The inaugural class — a workshop aimed at professional brewers titled Yeast Essentials 2.0 — is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Oct. 26-27, but sold out almost immediately, requiring an additional class to be scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 24-25.
White Labs Asheville has already integrated itself thoroughly into the fabric of the local craft brewing industry, and White himself has spent more days in Asheville this year than at home in San Diego. In that time, he’s developed a growing appreciation for Asheville’s unique culinary and brewing cultures, and he hopes that White Labs Kitchen and Tap will be able to contribute something novel to the community.
“I’ve gotten to know the town pretty well — downtown is a great place to walk around and enjoy,” White says. “It’s a great beer scene and restaurant scene already, and we want to complement that from a slightly different angle with our yeast and fermentation experience. We hope it will be a nice addition to all of the breweries on the South Slope and in the area if there’s a place where you can get a little bit of the science as well.”
To apply for job openings at White Labs Asheville, visit whitelabs.com/jobs or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For a schedule of upcoming White Labs workshops, visit whitelabs.com/education.