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Speciation Artisan Ales: Where the Wild Things Are

Speciation Artisan Ales: Where the Wild Things Are

Proprietor and mastermind Mitch Ermatinger, along with wife and partner, Whitney, opened Speciation Artisan Ales in Comstock Park in January 2017.

As Speciation’s website bio accurately points out, their business is “unconventional, focused, and as unique and personal as the beer [they] craft.”

After nearly two years of only allowing customers to have access to its brewery one day a month for bottle releases, Speciation Artisan Ales officially opened their tasting room in October 2018. Customers are now able to visit the location Thursday to Sunday, every week.

Here’s everything you need to know about Speciation Artisan Ales, starting with the basics:

Address: 3721 Laramie Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321
Hours: Sunday: Noon to 6 PM; Monday to Wednesday: Closed; Thursday to Friday: 4 PM - 10 PM; Saturday: Noon - 10 PM

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Beer

Speciation is known for its signature “wild” ales. Mitch Ermatinger refers to their beers as “rustic, wild beer that’s fermented with yeast from the environment.” Rather than traditionally inoculate their beers with lab-grown yeast, Speciation relies on what’s naturally floating around in the air (within the brewery) to make the magic happen.

Prior to recent technologies that allow brewers to extract a single cell of yeast in order to harness its strain for consistency, Speciation’s brewing approach gives a nod to the way beer used to be made—one in which each batch, although perhaps the “same beer” on paper, is a beautiful anomaly from the last due to its reliance on trusting that Mother Nature will do her part where technology is generally relied upon.

Speciation takes a collaborative approach to its brewing. The brewery contracts with other breweries to brew unfermented beer for them. They’ve employed Brewery Vivant,  The Mitten Brewing Co. , and most commonly, City Built Brewing Co.  to handle this phase.

Speciation provides the recipe and the raw materials, and the specifications to the other brewery. That same day, the unfermented beer is turned back over to Speciation, where it spends the rest of its life fermenting, aging, and ultimately being packaged.

The vast majority of Speciation’s beers undergo open fermentation, which means the beer is deliberately exposed to the air, including “wild” organisms from the environment, fruit, or other forms of inoculation to stimulate the process.

What makes Speciation’s beer particularly valuable is the blank canvas from which it starts.

Contained in a large 30-barrel and 50-barrel wooden foeder (approximately 1,000 gallons and 1,500 gallons, respectively), are their two distinct raw, house cultures used for the consistent base of their funky farmhouse ales and their sour/golden ales. It’s these two proprietary cultures that thread Speciation’s beers with its signature, underlying flavor profile foundation.

After being layered with fruit (locally sourced, seasons permitting) and other ingredients, about 75% of Speciation’s beers are laid to rest for months (or, even years) in an array of oak barrels.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

What's on draft

Speciation's tasting room features eight to 10 beers on draft, which are rotates weekly. Unlike many taprooms, Speciation’s draft selections are always rotating.

Fact: The taproom draft list is ranked in order of level of intensity, or acidity.

Monthly bottle sales

Follow Speciation on Facebook, and watch for their monthly post that announces what beers will be bottled and available for purchase. Customers can also reserve tickets online on the first Saturday of the month, to purchase bottles on the second Saturday of the month.

If you miss bottle reservations, you can still visit the taproom to see what’s available for purchase.

Bottles can be purchased for on-premise consumption, and select bottles are available as take-home purchases, too.  

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Mug club

Speciation’s mug club titled “Cultured Club” is currently sold out until 2020. Memberships for 2020 will go on sale promptly at noon on Nov. 1, 2019, and can be purchased via their online shop or in-person at the tasting room.

The up-front investment of $250 includes 12 member-exclusive bottles (three bottles each of four different brands not available anywhere or to anyone else), early access to reserve monthly bottles, two member-exclusive glasses, an invitation to a members-only Facebook community, and access to a year-end Cultured Club party.

For those who can’t wait until 2020, Speciation is a supporting establishment in Better Drinking Culture’s Universal Mug Club, memberships of which are always available and earn $1 off full pours in the taproom.

Tours

Take a formal tour of Speciation’s production tours by making an appointment via their website. A $20 tour culminates with a tasting flight of four, 4 oz. pours from a selection of what’s currently available on draft, as well as a surprise sample of something that’s in the works.

If business permits, informal tours may be accommodated unannounced on Thursdays and Sundays during regular taproom hours.

Distribution

Check out Speciation’s website for where you can find their beer at local retailers, breweries, and restaurants.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Wine offerings

Geared toward savvy beer drinkers and wine lovers, alike, Speciation recently launched red and orange wines (a trendy type of wine where the juice of white grapes are fermented in contact with the skins) to its diverse menus.

Speciation recently added “natural wines,” to its menu. Natural wines encompass naturally-grown grapes (i.e., with little to no pesticides or other additives) spontaneously fermented by the yeast that resides on the grape skins, then aged in oak barrels.

Food items

Without a kitchen, the taproom is bring-your-own-food (BYOF) friendly.

Speciation also offers pre-packaged artisan cheeses and meats from Apertivo . The location also offers Brix, locally-made, small-batch sodas, as well as kombucha.

Amenities

  • Ambiance: Relaxed and friendly, immersed in an intimate space (with a capacity of just 44) shared with their production facility and aging barrels, commonly occupied by those in the know

  • Wi-Fi: Available and free, but network and password shared upon request to first encourage in-person connection

  • Patio seating: N/A

  • Kids welcome: Yes

  • Parking: Modest lot, adjacent street parking (free) on Laramie Dr NE

In anticipation of Beer Month GR7 Monks  will be hosting an event with Speciation Artisan Ales on Thursday, February 21. Speciation will be releasing a new beer to celebrate the 14th annual Winter Beer Festival  and Beer Month GR.

Don’t forget to bring your Beer City Brewsader® Passport when visiting Speciation. Or, download theBeer City Brewsader Passport app before visiting one of Grand Rapids’ many craft breweries.

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