White Labs makes yeast for home brewers and commercial breweries. They have a stellar reputation for quality and innovation. The White Labs World Headquarters is right here in San Diego; they also have four other labs in the U.S. (including a tasting room in the Boulder, CO, location), a lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, and a distribution facility in Hong Kong. If you drink craft beer, you have almost certainly already been the beneficiary of White Labs’ work without knowing it.
The tasting room at the White Labs headquarters would be a lovely little spot to have a drink, even putting aside how interesting it is and the quality of the beer. It is nicely decorated, has some neat history-of-science art on the walls, with a large bar and high tops toward the back. There is a window from the tasting room to the back where the brewing and yeast-culturing magic takes place. You can also get a tour (I haven’t done it yet, but Yelpers think it is a good tour).
On top of that, the beer is good. It would count as good even at a regular brewery. What really makes it stand out for the serious beer lover, though, is that it can be served in flights where the base beer is the same but the yeasts are different. *Mind blown.* That makes a wonderful way to learn about how differences in yeast impact flavor and aroma. They have so many options that you will have to come back several times to fully experience what they have to offer.
The only downside to my visit was less than stellar service at the bar. My diagnosis at this and similar places that have an automatic and worshipful audience is that they get complacent; there’s no pressure to impress, so they stop trying. It is a shame, because the rest of the experience here was excellent. (And it wasn’t just me; the bartender was dismissive and hostile to a guy who was picking up a yeast order for a brewery, too.) As my girlfriend put it, there is literally no other point in the job of bartender than to give excellent customer service, service that makes people feel happy and want to spend their money there. Making someone feel unwelcome, like a burden, stupid, out of place or otherwise bad is failing at the job.
I had the “Pasteur” porter flight. It was excellent (and confirmed that I am a lover of British style beers: the French yeast version was the least impressive to me).
Porter – WLP004 – Irish Ale Yeast. (5.65% ABV). Nice dark color with a light tan head that dissipated quickly. Prominent chocolaty aromas and flavors, fruity yeast flavors. It had a medium mouthfeel and a slight sharpness. 3.5/5
Porter – WLP022 – Essex Ale Yeast (5.62% ABV). Same color, better head retention. This is the kind of beer I could drink gallons of. You pick up a bit of chocolate malt and nice sweet/fruity yeast flavors. It is smooth, full, and clean. An exciting beer. 4.25/5
Porter – WLP072 – French Ale Yeast (5.69% ABV). Simple, clean. Not as flavorful as the others in the flight, so to my palate not as good as the others but still a perfectly fine beer. 3.25/5
http://www.whitelabs.com/ 9495 Candida Street, San Diego, CA 92126