There was a time when White Labs President and CEO Chris White took his pay in pizza. Today the Ph.D. biochemist’s company is a world leader in fermentation sciences for the brewing, distilling and wine-making industries, with facilities in California, Colorado, Hong Kong and Copenhagen. When the San Diego-based company was ready to open an East Coast facility, Asheville was a natural.
“We looked for a location with a thriving beer community, an amazing quality of life with outdoor amenities and an involved community,”
said Vice President Lisa White. “When we visited Asheville, we didn’t want to leave. We knew this would be the perfect location for us to grow our business with a production facility, as well as a boutique restaurant and tap room to better serve our customers. I had the pleasure of relocating to this region and directly working to get our eastern U.S. location off the ground.”
White Labs’ quest to make a high-quality yeast expanded into a mission to use science and technology to explore new ways to advance fermentation altogether. White Labs created the industry’s first “pitchable” yeast and revolutionized the way it’s propagated and packaged. The company’s patented FlexCell™ process and PurePitch® packaging make it possible for yeast to be grown and shipped in the same container, for the smallest users (homebrewers) to the largest professional brewers.
With about 65 employees, the Asheville facility includes yeast production, packaging, shipping and receiving, administrative offices and a tap room. Additionally, White Labs Asheville offers a variety of educational workshops and classes for professionals about yeast handling and fermentation, which take place throughout the year. To educate the public on how yeast impacts the complexity and overall profile of food and beverages, the company just opened White Labs Kitchen & Tap, a boutique restaurant and tasting room adjacent to its production facility that showcases beer-infused and fermented foods.
In terms of talent, the company looks for people who are “hungry, humble, reliable and passionate,” Lisa White said. “Asheville’s talent pool has a hard-work ethic, and they’re a great culture fit for us. We encourage collaboration and innovation within our company, and people in this community are on board and aren’t shy about stepping up.” Because of Asheville’s location and reputation, she adds, the company receives resumes from all over the country. Once on board, employees take advantage of Asheville’s outdoor opportunities, from hiking to tubing and disc golf.
East Coast customers have responded with enthusiasm to the Asheville site, thanks to the added benefits of lower shipping costs and quicker turnaround times for the temperature-sensitive yeast.
White Labs has found a welcoming and collaborative business community in Asheville. The Asheville Brewers Alliance, in particular, encourages collaboration, and members willingly share expertise, Lisa White says. In turn White Labs supports several local initiatives, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and Beer for Boobs (where Lisa White serves as president and founder), which raises money to benefit breast cancer research.