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 9:00 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2019 9:00 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

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312521

Reported Deaths: 5498
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion42641849
Lake27152455
Allen18010298
Elkhart17177221
St. Joseph16799229
Hamilton13011167
Vanderburgh9751120
Tippecanoe858727
Porter827986
Johnson6389165
Hendricks6098157
Vigo608384
Monroe536750
Clark515077
Madison5060122
Delaware4905103
LaPorte465595
Kosciusko462339
Howard344277
Warrick325672
Bartholomew316863
Floyd316277
Wayne307770
Cass299931
Marshall299144
Grant272550
Noble255046
Hancock253852
Henry247537
Boone244554
Dubois237931
Dearborn219030
Jackson215534
Morgan210843
Knox187819
Gibson186925
Shelby182155
Clinton180321
DeKalb177831
Lawrence177648
Adams168222
Miami162614
Wabash162521
Daviess156443
Fayette149234
Steuben147113
Jasper144412
Harrison142924
LaGrange142630
Montgomery142127
Whitley137114
Ripley132115
Huntington127410
Decatur126143
Putnam124627
Randolph124519
Wells124429
White123222
Clay122523
Posey122116
Jefferson118816
Scott109020
Greene102653
Jay99013
Sullivan96416
Starke92021
Jennings85314
Fulton84518
Spencer8378
Perry82521
Fountain7798
Washington7527
Franklin69927
Carroll68613
Orange67328
Vermillion6243
Owen6087
Tipton57627
Parke5706
Newton56312
Rush5438
Blackford53412
Pike50919
Pulaski39515
Martin3585
Brown3424
Benton3402
Crawford2941
Union2702
Switzerland2575
Warren2382
Ohio2317
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 40°
Angola
43° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntington
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 38°
Decatur
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Cloudy Thanksgiving
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events