Asheville: Where breweries come to play

Lisa White, co-owner of yeast company White Labs, takes us on an Asheville adventure in a city with great music, bookstores, zip lining and 33 breweries.

Posted: Feb 12, 2019 8:00 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2019 8:00 PM

Before any of the breweries in Asheville can brew beer, Lisa White knows they need yeast.

A co-owner of White Labs, a San Diego-based provider of yeast to professional and home brewers, White opened up an Asheville, North Carolina, location in January 2017 to better serve her company's East Coast clients.

White wanted the company's new location to have a quirky, beer- and music-loving scene and a hiking, biking and kayaking culture.

"If Mammoth Lakes and Austin had a baby, it would be Asheville, and that's why I love this place," says White, who was in medical school while her husband, Chris, was finishing a PhD in biochemistry.

His lab work on fermentation furthered his interest in getting a higher quality yeast for his home brewing projects, and Chris founded White Labs in San Diego in 1995. Lisa left medical school and joined the company full-time in 1997. (They're now divorced but still co-own their company together.)

It's a brewer's city

Asheville has 33 breweries in the city alone, at last count, and 48 breweries in the greater Asheville area, according to the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Highland Brewing Company was the first brewery to open in Asheville in 1994, followed by several others, including Green Man, Asheville Brewing and Pisgah (in nearby Black Mountain), according to Explore Asheville.

And the industry is still expanding, with Fermented Nonsense Brewing and Black Mountain Brewing opening in 2018, and other breweries scheduled to open in 2019, the tourism bureau says.

While brewers can choose from around 300 regular and seasonal yeast strains, grown from White Labs' mother cultures stored in yeast banks at minus 80 degrees Celsius, the top three sellers are the California Ale Yeast, London Fog Ale Yeast and the German Lager Yeast.

Playing with yeast

Once in Asheville, White started inviting breweries to experiment with new and different strains of yeast.

"We've gotten so many requests and have done a lot of collaborations with breweries in the area, and even cideries in the area who want to do special projects with us."

She also wanted to teach a wider audience about the power of yeast. So she opened White Labs Kitchen & Tap in October 2017, feeding people in the same building as the lab, demonstrating that changing the yeast changes the taste of beer, pizza crust, hamburger buns and fries.

"What a lot of people don't know is there are over 500 flavor and aroma compounds that yeast can provide to the beer," she says. "What we do (in the restaurant) is we take one recipe, it's one stock recipe, and we put it in different fermenters and the only thing we change in those say four different types is the yeast."

She recommends trying their Tabberer IPA flight to taste the differences between the different yeasts.

"We're just the cool scientists. That's just who we are."

Although White is relatively new to the Asheville area, it was easy for her to come up with a list of her favorite places to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; listen to music; check out the visual art scene; find a good book; and explore the outdoors. She also has an extensive list of places to drink beer, although she gets to call that work.

With her best friend Lara Wenner, a Las Vegas-based doctor, coming to town for a visit, White came up with a list of places she wanted to share with her friend.

Let's start with breakfast

Over Easy is White's top breakfast choice. "I get a local vibe from that place, and I love the care they put in their food," she says. She recommends the huevos rancheros. "And the coffee is good and strong, and they make some good brunch cocktails."

Option B: Sunny Point Café is "a nice lively place, and I can go there with my kids," she says. The southern omelet is a favorite.

Over Easy Café, 32 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC, 28801; +1 828 236-3533

Sunny Point Café, 626 Haywood Road,, Asheville, NC 28806; +1 828-225-5925

Flying through the air

Zip lining at Navitat has been on White's bucket list since before she moved to Asheville. "They also take you on a trail and show you about the flora around, and then you get to ride above it and see a great view," she says.

Navitat's zip lines are located at Moody Cove, a 242-acre property that dates back to pre-Civil War days, says Navitat CEO Ken Stamps.

White went on the Blue Ridge Experience tour, which offers three side-by-side zip lines, including one that is 3,600 feet long, is 350 feet above the floor at its highest point and offers speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, Stamps says.

"The Navitat campus was so beautiful, the guides were so knowledgeable, caring and entertaining, the zip lining runs were spectacular," White says "I really felt like I was flying."

Well-Bred restaurant's Weaverville location is a great place to stop for lunch after zip lining. (Don't fill up beforehand!)

Option B: White and her family have annual passes to Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate, where she often does an eight-mile walk training for an annual three-day breast cancer walk.

Navitat, 242 Poverty Branch Road, Barnardsville, NC 28709, +1 828 626-3700 (Open March 2, 2019 through mid-December this year)

Well-Bred, 26 N. Main Street, Weaverville, NC 28787; +1 828 645-9300

Biltmore, One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC 28803; +1 800 411-3812

Time for a beer

Bhramari Brewing Company isn't like most other breweries, and that's saying something in Asheville.

Bhramari is one of White's favorite places to take people. Co-owner and head brewer Gary Sernack "is just a little nuts, but you gotta love that about him because he kind of takes risks," she says.

He'll think, "'What if I just put a pizza in the beer?' and, y'all, he really did that," she says. "It's kind of crazy. I'm sure sometimes it doesn't work, but a lot of times it does and he just loves to put it out there."

One of the beers she really liked was a play on an Arnold Palmer, so "it had tea in there and also lemon, and it was a refreshingly good beer," she says. "If you put this in a can, I will take it tubing down the French Broad River."

Option B: Support White Labs' charitable arm, Beer 4 Boobs, which raises funds for breast cancer, by getting a pint at Catawba Brewing Co. or Hillman Beer. They support a cause "dear to my heart," she says.

Bhramari Brewing Co., 101 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, +1 828 214-7981

Catawba Brewing Co. (South Slope location), 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801; +1 828 552-3934

Hillman Beer, 25 Sweeten Creek Road, Asheville, NC 28803; +1 828 505-1312

Dinner by the river

After a few visits to Asheville, White wanted to take her friend for a great meal that's a bit off the beaten path. She picked Smoky Park Supper Club, a light-filled river- and farm-to-table restaurant built from the massive containers used to transport goods on container ships and railroads.

"Not only do you get a great meal, but you get a great view, and the river runs right there," White says. "It's just outside of downtown, so if you just want to venture a little bit away from the main downtown [with] an easy place to park, that's a really great place to try."

Option B: "Cúrate, to me, is the most authentic Spanish tapas you can get stateside," she says, and she loves the house sangria. Cúrate regularly tops lists of best Asheville restaurants, and "that's where I like to take people."

Smoky Park Supper Club, 350 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC 28801; +1 828 350-0315

Cúrate, 13 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801; +1 828 239-2946

Time for even more fun

Some bookstores have coffee bars. Battery Park Book Exchange has an actual bar with an extensive menu and lots of little nooks and crannies among the new and used books to drink and read and meet to talk about books and writing. That's where White and her friend Wenner met to have a glass of champagne and stroll the book aisles.

"It's a really cool, relaxed place," she says, "and not your typical bookstore."

Option B: Orange Peel is just one of Asheville's hoppin' music venues. At one show at Orange Peel, "Lauryn Hill was 10 feet away from me," says White.

Battery Park Book Exchange, 1 Page Avenue, #101, Asheville, NC 28801; +1 828 252-0020

Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801, +1 828 398-1837

Huntsville/Redstone
Mostly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 57°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 44°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 488973

Reported Deaths: 9660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson703321342
Mobile35725716
Madison32088437
Tuscaloosa23913404
Montgomery22369481
Shelby21714209
Baldwin19554263
Lee14827147
Morgan13529243
Etowah13091309
Calhoun13063281
Marshall11197202
Houston10019255
Limestone9303130
Elmore9283179
Cullman8856176
St. Clair8747214
Lauderdale8541209
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7424161
Walker6466240
Jackson6450101
Autauga614384
Blount6058125
Colbert5973118
Coffee522299
Dale4606106
Russell400530
Franklin396575
Covington3918105
Chilton380096
Escambia375970
Tallapoosa3533138
Clarke342348
Dallas3385139
Chambers3382102
Pike292471
Lawrence280685
Marion277492
Winston244563
Marengo243454
Bibb243259
Geneva238168
Pickens223453
Barbour208450
Hale208064
Fayette198755
Butler194865
Henry181741
Cherokee175737
Monroe165538
Randolph161240
Washington155832
Crenshaw143052
Clay142554
Macon140344
Cleburne136139
Lamar130632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120525
Bullock116033
Conecuh106423
Perry104927
Sumter98231
Greene86732
Coosa86323
Choctaw54723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 767315

Reported Deaths: 11198
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby863831451
Davidson80598835
Knox45139569
Hamilton39899450
Rutherford37781371
Williamson24944202
Sumner21120312
Montgomery17171207
Out of TN1659390
Wilson16157208
Unassigned15617126
Sullivan14142273
Blount13905176
Bradley12699137
Washington12659231
Maury12124158
Sevier11870160
Putnam10525167
Madison10030225
Robertson8866117
Hamblen7936160
Anderson7874155
Greene7251144
Tipton688699
Coffee6254114
Gibson6166140
Dickson6118103
Cumberland6070117
Carter5922152
McMinn585589
Roane579995
Bedford5744117
Loudon561464
Jefferson5569116
Lawrence554080
Warren529475
Monroe524988
Dyer5221100
Hawkins517092
Franklin469983
Fayette463571
Obion435694
Rhea411272
Lincoln409861
Cocke395691
Marshall387754
Cheatham385143
Campbell377458
Weakley377459
Giles370495
Henderson360673
Carroll346580
Hardeman337563
Macon334873
White333765
Hardin329562
Lauderdale308842
Henry298274
Marion289144
Wayne286330
Scott284842
Overton283257
Claiborne271665
Haywood264159
McNairy264151
Hickman262339
DeKalb261547
Smith252236
Grainger240446
Trousdale237722
Fentress228244
Morgan228236
Johnson214337
Chester200446
Bledsoe197910
Crockett196746
Unicoi179047
Cannon173528
Polk173221
Union168030
Lake167326
Grundy165730
Sequatchie153627
Decatur153135
Humphreys151121
Benton149939
Lewis145724
Meigs125420
Jackson124633
Stewart123024
Clay106030
Perry102327
Houston102030
Moore93616
Van Buren79120
Pickett74623
Hancock49212

Community Events