Every now and then, we’ll send a little postcard from a brewery, bar, or restaurant that inspires us with some words and a few images.
I’ve never really understood CrossFit. It feels cultish and sort of holier than thou. Some of my closest friend’s Instagram feeds have been taken over by photos and videos of weight-lifting. When they travel, they seek out the closest CrossFit gym. It’s more than a gym; CrossFit is a lifestyle™. Then again, I write about craft beer.
I don’t think there’s a better way to blur the lines between the niche fanaticism of craft beer and the athletic obsession of CrossFit than Ancillary* Fermentation’s Inspirational Quote can release/mobile taproom, which featured 1:1 sessions with a life coach, a pop-up coffee bar from Yonder Coffee, free motivational books, and all the protein bars you could eat.
We’ve sung the praises of Ancillary* Fermentation in the past (see here and here), but this was the first time I made it to one of their famed can release parties. If you’re not familiar, once a month the team behind A*F, a side project from members of the Bond Brothers Beer Co. team, releases a new beer at a “mobile taproom.” Each release is themed with unique entertainment and food and drink options, plus a portion of the proceeds are donated to a nonprofit (this time, it was the NPCA).
The previous release was billed as a Holiday Office Party, replete with garland adorning the walls, holiday cookies, and disposable cameras. With each mobile taproom, Ancillary takes over a new space (e.g. abandoned gas station, office park) in the Raleigh/Durham area. Co-founder Sean McKinney says the goal is to “activate spaces that people might not think to find craft beer.”
In a lot of ways, Ancillary* Fermentation isn’t about the beer; the liquid is a footnote, an asterisk. The A*F team is changing drinkers’ perception about what it means to be a modern brewery. Craft beer is as much about drinking an IPA out of a plastic water bottle, wearing workout clothes, and chatting with a life coach in a Raleigh CrossFit as it is about sitting in a traditional taproom, sipping an IPA out of a teku, and staring at stainless steel.
That’s not to say the beer isn’t great. Co-founder Whit Baker is a talented brewer and oversees each Ancillary* beer contract-brewed at Fortnight Brewing. The first four releases have all been IPAs with slight–though distinctive–tweaks on the hop bill and base recipes. Inspirational Quote is a delicious, all-Mosaic IPA. The can artwork is equally as important as the beer, communicating the theme of the mobile taproom through subtle design and found photography. The first release, “Cat’s Out of the Bag,” was a simple, half-opened catfood can. It was evocative and fun. The Inspirational Quote can design featured a distorted found photo depicting a late 19th-century mining town “banding together to clear snow from the tracks that run through their community.”
Craft beer is cultish and exclusive. But breweries like Ancillary* Fermentation offer a new look at what craft beer can be. Does that mean Ancillary* will host mobile taprooms every month forever? Probably not. But the Ancillary* Fermentation project is bringing something radically different to the Triangle area and craft beer at large.
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