When it comes to running a business, partnerships are key. In the beer industry, that often shows up in leadership where one person may handle the books or operational responsibilities, and another focuses on the liquid itself. In all cases, finding the balance between people and personalities is importance of yin and yang that can make breweries succeed.
Lucky for me, I recently had the chance to sit down with some perfect examples of left and right brain come to life. In this pairing, Whit Baker is the former and Sean McKinney the latter. Whit’s scientific “left” focuses on recipes, while Sean’s creative “right” brings aspects of artistry to the act of drinking beer. Together, they’re part of a set of owners and brewers behind Ancillary Fermentation, a sort of brewery/event company in the Triangle region of North Carolina.
With thousands of breweries scattered across the country, including nearly 300 in the Tar Heel State, it’s not uncommon to hear conversations that mention how quality beer alone isn’t enough to exist in a competitive industry.
This is where Ancillary flips the script. Both Whit and Sean have “day jobs” at Cary, North Carolina’s Bond Brothers Beer Company, and once a month, create pop-up events for this side project. These are situations you do not find in beer, with one-off releases held at what are essentially theme parties. There was the holiday office party in an actual office. And a motivation-themed gathering at a CrossFit gym, complete with Hazy IPA served in clear, plastic water bottles. Their latest was held in a church. Each example an opportunity to push drinkers into new and weird spaces to share this incredibly common experience of drinking beer with friends in a new way.
We’ll delve into all of this in our conversation, including how Whit thinks about recipes and setting Ancillary’s beer apart, but it’s clear this effort is about way more than what goes into a glass. If anything, this chat feels like an important glimpse into the way today’s breweries need to think when a taproom experience—no matter how wonderful—can sometimes get a little repetitive.
This is Whit Baker and Sean McKinney of Ancillary Fermentation. Listen in.