Beer aficionados add to the local craft market with a pop-up brewery that donates a portion to a cause.
by Catherine Currin | photography courtesy Ancillary Fermentation
You may have wondered what Ancillary Fermentation was as it bombarded your Instagram with events in quirky venues, like an old service station or a crossfit gym or All Saints Chapel in Oakwood. The pop-up beer experiment is the brainchild of two Cicerones from downtown Cary’s Bond Brothers Beer Co. The expert fermenters are creating great beer, hosting unique events and giving back all at once, a formula that’s gaining momentum in the Triangle. We had to learn more about what’s next for the travelling taproom, so we chatted with co-founder Sean McKinney.
How’d you initially get into the beer business? What’s your background?
I went to school for Studio Art in Wilmington and then moved back to Raleigh in 2007 to bartend and work on my portfolio. The bar I worked at was this basement sports bar on Glenwood South called Hi-5 that touted 250 different bottled beers. This is also where I met the masterminds of Trophy Brewing/State of Beer, Chris Powers and David Lockwood. Fast forward a few years and I wound up following them around downtown Raleigh as they opened up different establishments. I received my Certified Cicerone, basically a beer sommelier, and it was in that program where I met Whit Baker, owner and brewmaster of Bond Brothers Beer Co. After 7.5 years, I left my old company and became Head of Blending at Bond. Currently, I’m blending and overseeing 125 oak barrels on any given day.
What’s the mission behind Ancillary Fermentation? How’d you get started?
The mission behind Ancillary* is to shake things up in a collaborative setting. It’s a way to provide an experience and activate spaces outside of the typical bar/brewery scene that has become so familiar. It’s an attempt to get beer drinkers out of their comfort zone while providing a space for people less involved in the industry to feel potentially more comfortable coming to the beer table under the guise of a new shared experience. And while we’re at it, it’s a great excuse to bring attention to issues that we find important or want to highlight. We pick a different charity each month to donate a portion of the proceeds to. It all started over lunch with a few of the guys I’ve been working with for the last couple of years. We joked about starting a little side project and then progressively became more serious about it. Could we start a brewery, on the cheap, without a brick and mortar? If you don’t have a place for people to come to, how do you keep people engaged in a consistently crowded market?
We knew we didn’t just want to drop beers off in such a competitive scene—North Carolina is super spoiled with the amount of amazing beer we are able to get our hands on. Our beer is contracted out of Fortnight Brewing, as they have the extra tank space we require. We create our own taproom once a month at a different place, with a different beer and theme to resolve the lack of permanent space. And we choose a different cause to give to each time, because how can you not now days?
What’s the purpose of having pop-ups vs. a permanent location?
It keeps things fresh and exciting. Where’s the next event gonna be? What’s the theme? Who’s involved? Without a permanent structure, it creates a space that allows us to pivot or move a little more freely and quickly. I’ve found that I tend to get bored rather easily as well, and this is definitely an answer to that, too.
What sets Ancillary* apart from the countless breweries popping up in Triangle? What beer would you recommend someone try?
I think the lack of physical foundation definitely sets us a part. Not that we created the idea. Nor did we create the pop-up. “Contract breweries” like Mikkeller and Evil Twin have been doing it for the better part of a decade. It’s a really beautiful model for testing proof of concept. I’m not aware of a brewery that’s applying both but even if there is, it’s a newer model in this field, for sure.
As for which beer to try, I’d recommend trying whatever the monthly release is! Currently, we’ve been putting out only one beer a month which is usually gone by the time of our next release. This month was the first time we did a double release. Scoop ‘em up and drink as soon as possible! The fresher the better. Together with Whit Baker (who’s a brewing savant), I’m super proud of the quality of product we’re producing.
What’s next for Ancillary Fermentation?
Great question! We’re currently in discussion about what the next chapter looks like for Ancillary*. IS IT a brick and mortar? Is it a brand that travels outside of Raleigh? Is this even a permanent project at all? These are the questions we’re currently asking ourselves.