Good Beer Hunting

White Labs Opens Fermentation-Focused Restaurant in Asheville

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Though most known for its contributions to brewing science, White Labs is now making its first foray into the food business.
On Thursday, the yeast production and fermentation supplies company announced the opening of White Labs Kitchen & Tap, a “boutique” restaurant located in Asheville, North Carolina. True to the company's nature, the restaurant will be focused specifically on fermented food and beverages.
The San Diego-based company isn’t entirely new to the area, however. White Labs first expanded to Asheville last year, where it currently operates a 27,900 square foot space capable of yeast production, packaging, and more. In Asheville, though, the company says now the expansion plan was always to incorporate the company’s debut food component, which is just now ready to launch.

“When developing plans for White Labs Asheville, we wanted to recreate a similar experience that is offered in our Boulder and San Diego tasting rooms with the addition of food,” says company founder Chris White in a statement. “My vision is for White Labs Kitchen & Tap to be a fun and appetizing way for the general public to explore the complex world of yeast and fermentation.”

To that end, the new restaurant – which tops 5,000 square feet between available indoor and outdoor space – is set to feature 28 rotating taps of both house and guest beers. Among the house brands, the company says it plans to offer a number of drinks made with the same base beer but fermented with various yeast strains so consumers can compare and contrast. Furthermore, the menu itself will showcase items such as Poutine made with “Lactobacillus-brined fries,” a double cheeseburger sandwiched between a roll made with its proprietary WLP002 English Ale Yeast, a variety of wood fired pizzas made with dough using its liquid yeast cultures, and more.

And it may not be done with this particular restaurant. Reached by GBH, a company spokeswoman says there “aren’t any plans for the immediate future” to build a food component at any of its four other locations in the U.S. and abroad, but did say it’s “open to exploring this concept again in the future.”
Either way, bringing the company’s initial edible ambitions to life is Evan Timmons, the 15-year industry vet specializing in cooking with wood fire tapped as head chef. Leading the front of house staff, meanwhile, will be Chris Genua, who, prior to joining White Labs, worked a stint at New Belgium’s tasting room. Together, Timmons and Genua will lead a staff of 40 in the new venture.
“We’ve put together a great team of culinary and fermentation enthusiasts, who will be able to provide a unique restaurant experience to our guests,” adds Genua.

The larger Asheville facility, which opened last year, represented the company’s fourth U.S. operation overall, complimenting facilities in its hometown of San Diego as well as in Davis, California and Boulder, Colorado. White Labs also operates two international outposts in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Hong Kong, China. In Copenhagen, the company actually shares space with Mikkeller and Three Floyds at the WarPigs Brewpub, so the scientists at White Labs aren’t necessarily brand new to the brewpub concept. Only now, though, the company is sharing a menu of its own. 

-Dave Eisenberg