ASHEVILLE—Two years after announcing plans for a yeast production facility in craft brewing hotspot Asheville, West Coast fermentation specialty company White Labs is about to start “Yeast Coast” production at its new factory in January 2017.

Things are hoppin’ at the 26,000-square-foot building that will soon be the new Eastern U.S. and European R&D headquarters of the San Diego-based company.

The company began hiring in early fall of 2016. The first 25 employees will start work January 3, and a total workforce of 65 people is expected to keep the plant running when everything is complete. Overseeing the site is Vice President Lisa White, a scientist, co-founder and former spouse of CEO Chris White.

The company has finished building out space for its production facility and administrative offices, and has also begun to move in yeast propagation equipment for what White brands as the FlexCell process.

Once production begins in January, White will be producing a limited amount of yeast from the new Asheville site while shipping most of its supply from San Diego. A subsequent second expansion phase will increase the portion coming from Asheville.

Opening planned for late spring

White Labs hopes to open its facility to the public in late spring with a tasting room and boutique restaurant, along with an educational classroom and large-scale brewing system. Much White’s current San Diego and Boulder tasting rooms, the new Asheville tasting room will serve the same batches of beer fermented with different White Labs pure liquid yeast strains. This will all mark the completion of phase three, and for the next two years, the company will focus on increasing yeast production from Asheville.

The idea for White’s move into Asheville started when Chris White attended a 2012 Science in the Mountains fermentation workshop at Appalachian State University.

Science in the Mountains is a program sponsored by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to highlight life science research and commercialization related to western North Carolina’s unique natural resources.

NCBiotech representatives at the conference suggested to White that he consider establishing an Asheville site for his business. Follow-up communications continued, and area officials hosted a subsequent visit by White to Asheville.

Partners in the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville then took the recruitment lead with numerous site visits, incentive support and other activities to help White understand the benefits of an Asheville facility.