Q&A with the Owners of Speciation

What did you do before opening a brewery?

M: I started homebrewing with my roommates as soon as I turned 21, and after the 1st or 2nd batch I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. It took me 3 years to get a job in the industry at O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply. In 2012 I had a personal crisis and thought I needed to grow up and be an adult. So, I decided to quit O’Connor’s HBS to work for my dad’s company selling factory automation parts like sensors, industrial cameras, robotic arms, etc. I learned some great small business skills there, but ultimately I wasn’t happy. Luckily in 2013 Whitney had the travelling bug and wanted us to move to Colorado, so I used that as an opportunity to change my career back to beer. I was hired at Former Future Brewing Company late 2013, and I worked hard to learn as much as I could there.

All along Whitney and I were working on a business plan for a brewery back in MI. We were originally going to open a brewery on a river that focused exclusively on beer under 5% abv. After running the numbers a dozen times, and re-writing the business plan 2 dozen times, we decided to shift gears. I was learning a lot about wild beer working under James at FFBC and Black Project, as well as reading everything I could find about sour beer (thanks MTF!). Whitney and I saw how popular sour/wild/farmhouse beers were on the west coast and in Colorado, so we decided to open an all sour brewery, something that was lacking at the time in Grand Rapids… And here we are!

W: I am a social worker and have worked primarily in the areas of child welfare and adoption. I really like what I do.


How would you describe each other?

M: Whitney is endlessly patient, kind, and unique. All are rare qualities these days. She’s not afraid of just being herself, and all she wants to do is make the world a better place.

W: Mitch is friendly, loyal, hardworking, and endearingly curmudeony. He’s a really good friend and has a good sense of humor.


What are your favorite beers in the world?

M: Bam Biere - Jolly Pumpkin, Orval, Atrial Rubicite - Jester King, Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Gueuzerie Tilquin

W: Propolis Zephryos, Rodenbach Caractere Rouge, Black Project Supercruise Tempranillo


What are your desert island beers?

M: Pivo Pils - Firestone Walker, Two Hearted - Bell’s, PBR, Featherweight pale - Cannonball Creek, Fuller’s ESB

W: Fuller’s ESB, PBR, Sam Adams Noble Pils, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, Bells Oarsman


Why are you opening a brewery?

M: I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do with my life. At this point I need to be my own boss because I don’t like having a regular schedule, and I get my best work done in unpredictable spurts.  Ultimately I’m passionate about crafting unique, high quality beer and cider on my own terms, and sharing them with a part of the country that has been a bit deprived from sour beer due to Michigan’s spotty distribution.

W: Beer has always been our common passion. We’ve dreamed about opening a brewery for a long time in the “it’s fun to think about but it’s never going to happen” sense. When we moved to Colorado we saw a lot of potential in the sour beer market, and thought “well, why can’t we open a brewery?”  Mitch makes incredible beer and we had a good vision for moving forward. I like the idea of creating something that is totally ours and that we have the freedom to evolve into whatever we want it to be.  I think it’s worth the risk to unapologetically chase our dreams.  

What do you listen to while working?

M: Lots of Rap & Hip hop (Vince Staples, Kanye, Run the Jewels, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown), Lots of Doom/stoner metal (Sleep, Black Sabbath, Yob), balladeers (Nick Cave, Tom Waits), some instrumental stuff (Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Mogwai), as well as Radiohead, Iron & Wine, Arcade Fire, etc.

W: NPR and Podcasts. Some of my favorites are This American Life, Radio Lab, and Invisibilia. (yup, I fully own that I am a geek).


Who are your biggest inspirations?

M: James & Sarah Howat from Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales for being completely brilliant and original. Also, both my grandpa and my dad for instilling a sense of business and entrepreneurship in me.

W: I have to agree that James and Sarah Howat have been some of our greatest mentors and inspirations. We are continually inspired by their creativity. Other breweries that I really admire are Jolly Pumpkin, Propolis Brewing, and Scratch Brewing.


Do you have any other hobbies?

M: I really enjoy hiking, camping, traveling, music, video games, and anything sci-fi.

W: Yoga, camping, puzzles, and I’ve recently been learning how to fish.


Where is your favorite place to travel to?

M: I have to say Iceland. I’ll never get sick of the landscape of waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, and volcanoes. Second favorite would be England. I love cask beer and the pub/beer culture in England.

W: I love traveling anywhere that I get the opportunity to, but I mostly enjoy traveling to visit friends. I tend to like colder climates as well, so Norway and Iceland are at the top of my list.


What are your favorite foods?

M: Cheese, lengua tacos, vindaloo, pizza

W: Green bean casserole, Ethiopian cuisine, fresh fruit


What is your favorite animal?

M: Corgis, duh.

W: Cats.


September Progress!

Updates on our progress... location, licensing, beer etc. 

Location: If you haven't heard, we have a location! We are located at 3720 West River Drive NE, Suite 20, Comstock Park, MI 49321. It's tucked away on the back side of the building, facing Laramie Drive. MEIN Office Furniture occupies the upstairs portion of the building. The minimal construction he had to do is nearly finished. Initially we were shooting for 1500 sq ft when we began looking for a location, but we ended up with exactly twice as much space, at 3000 sq ft. That means lots of room for beer. That means lots of room for aging spontaneously fermented beer!


Licensing: Our MLCC and TTB applications are both being reviewed as of right now. We will set an opening date as soon as we get our necessary licenses. Right now it's looking like December/January. We WILL be doing a bottle club. The details are not completely worked out yet, but we will announce it as soon as we are fully licensed! All I can say right now is that it will be worth it... Two nice glasses and 12 member only bottles!

Pilot batch bottles: Mitch has been hard at work brewing test batches for Speciation at home. You may have seen the bottles around because of our t-shirt promotion, or at a bottle share. We can't sell this beer, so it's mainly to get the word out about what we will be doing at Speciation. Look for it at bottle shares around GR. If you are hosting a bottle share and would like one of our bottles, send us a message though the contact page.

 Photo Credit: Zach Dunklee

Photo Credit: Zach Dunklee

Look for more updates in the near future, and feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns. Cheers!

Speciation Featured in WZZM Story

New breweries continue to open in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Grand Rapids continues to get more places to drink.

Every year, Beer City USA opens more and more micro brews and in 2016, between six and 10 are planned.

"That number changes everyday,"  says MLive reporter Amy Sherman, a beer expert in Grand Rapids.  She starts our brewery tour at Creston Brewery on Plainfield in the Creston Neighborhood. 

Scott Schultz and Molly Bouwsma-Schultz are there to tell us about it: "It is special to us because we have a lot of Grand Rapids history here," Schultz said. "This is a former furniture showroom and they use to make furniture here and display it here, and now we are going to be making beer."

We stand in the middle of the main tasting room. The building is abuzz with construction workers at this point it is too early to tell what the theme is. Schultz says that the plan is to have a lot of art and plants around the space. 

But for any brewery, it is all about the beer.  

"We are not really brewing to styles here," Bouwsma-Schultz said. "We are trying to go for crush ability, freshness, something aromatic that you can drink. " 

They hope to open in late spring. 

Our next stop is a big building under construction on Bridge Street. 

"This is the biggest of the big," explains Sherman. "This is the new New Holland facility here in Grand Rapids." 

Rockford Construction has been working diligently to get the space open by this years ArtPrize. 

"This is going to be pretty awesome with over 400 seats," Sherman said. "They are going to have cocktails, as well as beer. "

We head to Alpine Avenue where a small grey nondescript building still doesn't have a sign telling people what it is. 

"It is called Greyline Brewering," Sherman said. "It is kind of a mystery." 

Right now we know that there is a crack team of brewers creating unique beers. We know they will have about 55 seats in their tap room, but for now, that's all we know. 

The last person we meet with has a beer, but doesn't have a building. 

Mitch Ermatinger of Speciation Artisan Ales meets us at Harmony Hall: "I don't have a brewery right now, but harmony has hired me to start a sour program," Ermatinger said. 

Sour beer is beer that has an intentional tart, sour, or acidic taste. 

"It tastes like lemons and sometimes wheat and sometimes vinegar. All kinds of different flavors in play," Ermatigner said.

The plan is to find a building and open this year.

(© 2016 WZZM)


Sour Homebrew Class @ O'Connor's Home Brew Store

"Here at O’Connor’s, we have made it one of our missions to be involved with the local brewing community.  We were so pleased to learn that one of our original Home Brew Experts, Mitch Ermatinger, was moving back to Grand Rapids (from Denver, Colorado), to open a sour beer brewery-Speciation Artisan Ales.  During his time in Denver, Mitch was a brewer at Former Future Brewing Company, and is currently working on building the sour program at Harmony Hall.  If you have been brewing your own beer and want to go beyond the basics, this is the class for you."

What:  Sour Beer Brewing Class.  The first portion of the course will focus around the different ways to make sour beers and tips that Mitch wants all of you to know about this process.  The second portion of the class will be a Q and A…..while sampling sour beers and enjoying snacks.  There are 30 seats available, so it would be great for home brew clubs and brewing friends to sign up together.

When:  March 5th, from 1-3pm

Where:  Martha’s Vineyard Events Space…..right next door to O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply

Cost:  $20, which will include sour beer samples and snacks.

Please visit our shop, or call, to sign up.  Payment is required at time of registration and is nonrefundable the day of the seminar.

First All Wild Brewery Coming to Grand Rapids, MI

GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. Nov. 16, 2015-- Husband and wife team Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger announce official plans to open Speciation Artisan Ales, a 100% wild brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by late 2016. The small scale brewery will focus on producing high quality mixed fermentation sour and funky beers released monthly in bottles. Mitch Ermatinger will be leaving his post as brewer for Former Future Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado to head up this new venture. Mitch Ermatinger brings with him extensive brewing and blending knowledge of sour beers influenced heavily by his work alongside James Howat, head brewer for Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. Mitch Ermatinger was part of the Black Project team that won Great American Beer Festival medals for wild ales in 2014 and 2015.

Using influences and ingredients from the local area, Speciation Artisan Ales hopes to highlight the unique terroir of Michigan in its flavor profiles.  The brewery’s name was inspired by the natural variations that occur in nature over time to create an ever-changing product. Speciation Artisan Ales plans to have a number of recurring beers as well as several special barrel aged and spontaneously fermented projects. Speciation Artisan Ales is the first all wild brewery of its kind in the Grand Rapids area.  Both raised in West Michigan, the Ermatingers have chosen to return to start their brewery in Grand Rapids because “The enthusiasm for beer is unparalleled to other areas of the country and yet many of the innovative techniques and styles of beer have not yet caught on in the Michigan market” said co-owner Whitney Ermatinger. Brewer and owner Mitch Ermatinger said, “We hope to expand the perception of what wild and sour beers are while still creating a variety of products that are accessible to all types of palettes.” Wild beers are differentiated by their wide variety of flavors created from combining different yeasts and bacteria, longer fermentation times, and variability within the product. The owners aspire to increase the diversity and availability of sour and wild beers in the West Michigan market.

Speciation Artisan Ales is currently in the planning stages as owners work to secure funding sources to get the brewery off the ground. The brewery will be establishing in a yet to be determined location in the Grand Rapids area. Fermentation vessels and barrels will provide the backdrop to the combined production area and tasting room. Initially opening one day per month for bottle sales and tasting, Speciation Artisan Ales will eventually expand its tasting room hours to be open weekly. For further information and updates about Speciation Artisan Ales go to http://www.speciationartisanales.com or follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/speciationartisanales.


Mitch Ermatinger