Making Progress in AVL: Q&A with White Labs VP Lisa White
Since announcing in 2015 that White Labs Asheville was on the horizon, the team has made a great deal of progress. From shipping its first orders and starting yeast production to breaking ground on a boutique restaurant and Tap Room, this project is coming along thanks to several dedicated, hard-working employees. One person, in particular, White Lab Vice President Lisa White even relocated to Asheville last year to focus her efforts on leading the project. This Q&A with Lisa will give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s taken to get the facility operational along with a small glimpse into the future for White Labs Asheville...
**White Labs VP Lisa White (center) welcoming a new Asheville team member.
When did you move to Asheville and begin focusing your efforts on getting this location up and running?
I officially began calling Asheville, NC my home on August 20, 2016. At this point, the project was already moving along and construction was in full swing. I was lucky to have Aaron Gonzales, White Labs Project Implementation Specialist, move out to Asheville before me and be the boots on the ground making sure construction was properly unfolding. Now, with the two of us here, we’re focused on completing the build-out of our yeast factory along with the Tap Room, just as we all envisioned it.
We’re very lucky to have some key employees transfer to Asheville from San Diego. Among the new Asheville Team, Kerry Rudisill and Mary Daniel are part of our Yeast Lab and Todd Flaws and Rex Cooper are in our Packaging Department. These employees were a great part of our San Diego operations and are now bringing their experiences to help lay a good foundation for both starting operations and the White Labs culture and philosophy.
Why Asheville? Tell us more about what it took to get this location up and running?
Building an eastern U.S. location for White Labs was a key next step for our company, as we wanted to continue making fresh yeast accessible to all of our customers. We looked at and considered many locations (some further north of Asheville) but the end goal was to find a city that would really welcome us as well as saw great potential in having a yeast supplier in its backyard. Asheville fit the bill. It’s giving us the opportunity to be centrally located to our customers and be in a neighborhood that’s both craft beer friendly and an overall great travel destination.
As we began construction, we had to make improvements to the property before bringing in production materials, from repairing a sinkhole in our parking lot and re-doing all the floors to making sure the structure of building could hold incoming equipment. That aside, we’re incredibly grateful for how great the City of Asheville has been to work with, especially in getting required permits and licensing in place and helping us select a very nice building on the edge of downtown. We are especially thrilled to be working with a city that appreciates its artisanal beverage and food industries.
**White Labs Asheville's yeast lab.
What is White Labs Asheville setup to do?
We have begun shipping orders to professional customers from Asheville using final products from San Diego. However, all shipping locations are assigned based on a customer’s proximity to a White Labs location (either San Diego or Asheville) and more information can be viewed through Yeastman.com. Plus, this location is now open to allow will call order pickup.
Once we have AVL-produced yeast finished, how will our customers know if their yeast was produced in Asheville or San Diego?
Although it won’t be obviously printed on the front label, customers are able to see whether the yeast they’re using was grown in Asheville or San Diego by logging into Yeastman.com and looking up the lot number printed on the labels of PurePitch® packages and traditional vials. The lot number is also a great tool for finding more QC data such as details on when your yeast passed QC and the standard by which we measure professional grade yeast.
What’s next at White Labs Asheville? What is the team actively working to complete?
The team here is finishing up Phase One of the project, which involves completing construction on the main building and bringing 15 FlexCells™ fully online. This will allow us to get our yeast production a third of the way toward full capacity.
Next, Phase Two will include two parts--our Tap Room and boutique restaurant opening by summer and the analytical lab going online later this year. Finally, for phase three, we will be incorporating a large-scale brewing system that will brew wort for yeast propagation and beers to be served in the Asheville Tap Room. For the time being, once the Tap Room is open, we’ll be shipping in delicious beers from San Diego.
**White Labs VP Lisa White (center) with Project Implementation Specialist Aaron Gonzales and Head of R&D, White Labs Copenhagen Troels Prahl welcome new equipment to Asheville!
Finally, let’s talk about the fun stuff...What has been your favorite part about this entire experience?
I’d say, visiting customers in the region and getting to know what makes their individual company! In the last year, we’ve also been involved with some great events like AVL Beer Expo, hosted by the Asheville Brewers Guild and Oskar Blues Burning CAN Festival, where we contributed a yeast strain from The Vault to make the competition-winning, homebrew recipe come to fruition on Oskar Blues’ brewing system.
Plus, it definitely helps that the local beer scene has done a wonderful job welcoming us to Asheville. From larger breweries like Sierra Nevada Brewing and New Belgium to small brewpubs such as Wicked Weed, Hi-Wire Brewing and Burial Beer Co., everyone seems very thrilled to have a local yeast supplier set up shop in Asheville. We look forward to continuing to be an active and contributing part of the community!