Proprietor and mastermind Mitch Ermatinger, along with wife and partner, Whitney, opened Speciation Artisan Ales in Comstock Park in January 2017. They have since relocated Speciation to the Uptown neighborhood on Wealthy St.
As Speciation’s website bio accurately points out, their business is “unconventional, focused, and as unique and personal as the beer [they] craft.”
Here’s everything you need to know about Speciation Artisan Ales, starting with the basics:
Address: 928 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506 (formerly located in Comstock Park)
A look into the new taproom on Wealthy Street.
Photo by Wes Kitten
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.
Speciation Artisan Ales' taproom draft list is ranked in order of level of intensity, or acidity.
Photo by Wes Kitten
What's on draft
Speciation's tasting room features eight to 10 beers on draft, which are rotated 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.
Speciation is known for rustic “wild” ales.
Photo by Wes Kitten
Wild Card: This taproom discount program resembles a traditional mug club. The $50 annual fee includes 15% off merchandise and $2 off full pours all the time. Additionally, there are extended discounts on Wild Card night (Thursdays).
Cultured Club: The up-front investment of $250 includes 12 member-exclusive bottles (three bottles each of four different brands), early access to reserve monthly bottles and cans, access to the Cultured Club private Facebook group, and a Wild Card membership.
Check out Speciation’s website to learn where you can find their products at local retailers, breweries, and restaurants. Speciation self distributes in the Grand Rapids area and has a distribution partner that covers the rest of Michigan's lower peninsula.
Speciation Artisan Ales' intimate space allows for customers to enjoy work or play while sipping on their favorite craft beer or wine.
Photo by Wes Kitten
Wine and Seltzer Offerings
Geared toward savvy beer drinkers and wine lovers, alike, Speciation's diverse menu features red and orange wines (a trendy type of wine where the juice of white grapes are fermented in contact with the skins).
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.
Pét-Nats (traditionally produced bubbly wine) and Piquettes (natural wine spritzer) round out this diverse menu.
Speciation features a strong seltzer program as well. Natural seltzers make with real fruit and spices are served up with a retrofuturist space/sci-fi theme.
Without a kitchen, the taproom is bring-your-own-food (BYOF) friendly.
Speciation offers a variety of snacks, and there are multiple restaurants within walking distance for take-out. The location also offers Brix, locally-made, small-batch sodas, as well as kombucha.
Ambiance: Relaxed and friendly, immersed in an intimate space shared with their production facility and aging barrels, commonly occupied by those in the know
Patio seating: Yes
Kids welcome: Yes
Pets Welcome: Large permanent patio. Well behaved dogs on a leash are welcome on the patio (but not inside)
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.