White Labs Asheville celebrated the completion of its first phase of construction with an open house for government officials, members of the local beer community, VIP supporters and media on Thursday, March 23, at its Charlotte Street production facility.
Headquartered in San Diego, the international provider of pure liquid yeast, fermentation products, services, analysis and education unveiled its progress in Building 1. Guests were allowed self-guided walk-throughs of the White Labs offices, custom packaging and shipping areas and peeks into the yeast and bacteria labs (photos of which were prohibited). A production clean room, where yeast grows into bulk sizes, is also in the building.
Downstairs in a large open space, which is the future home to the facility’s brewing operations, nine White Labs beers were on tap, ranging from an IPA made with WLP001, the first yeast strain developed by the company, to the Frankenstout, which combines 96 strains.
As attendees mingled and sampled the brews from complimentary 13-ounce tulip glasses, White Labs CEO/Founder/President Chris White spoke of his excitement at having Asheville as the home for his company’s East Coast operation. He thanked local leaders for their roles in making the expansion a reality and drew applause after announcing that 21 new people have been hired in Asheville to join four transfers, whom he noted don’t want to move back to their prior posts.
“This first phase is all about yeast production, so that’s what we set up first. We’re also packaging yeast here that has been made in San Diego and sent here and also some finished goods, so we’re doing kind of a combination of things right now as we’re getting this facility running smoothly,” White said. “What we’re doing now is sort of at a miniature scale of what it will be over the next year, two years, three years.”
White hopes to have phase two — a taproom in an adjoining building — completed in July. The new space will feature 32 taps, including experimental batches and guest beers, and serve as an easy means of educating the public about yeast and its role in brewing.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer followed White to the microphone and highlighted the building’s history as a former storage site for Bele Chere equipment and other past lives as police horse stables and a tobacco warehouse. “I feel like we’ve kind of come full circle with yeast,” Manheimer said. She added that White Labs’ $8 million investment in the city will help keep Asheville the beer capital of not merely the East Coast, but the entire nation, and praised the company’s efforts to change the face of its section of South Charlotte Street.
This is a wonderful amalgamation of science and funky and yummy beer, and that really says ‘Asheville,’” Manheimer said. “This will ultimately create 65 high-value career opportunities in science and technology, and it will in turn support over 2,000 jobs in this area, so this is really a win-win situation.”