SPECIATION ARTISAN ALES
Speciation Artisan Ales has opened a tasting room. The niche brewery, located at 3721 Laramie St. in downtown Comstock Park, expanded into the 2000 square foot suite attached to the original production facility, and now occupies 5000 square feet. The brewery, which opened in January 2017, was originally open just one day a month for customers to pick up their orders of new bottle releases.
“That was definitely a good way to start,” said owner Matt Ermatinger. “But it became clear that a lot of our customers wanted a place to hang out and enjoy our beer with like-minded folks.
“The response has been great so far,” said Ermatinger. “Everyone that comes in really enjoys the ambiance and the excellent customer service…also the beer!”
Ermatinger noted that the brewery is a little hard to find, and “the key now is to figure out how to get people to go a little out of the way to enjoy our tasting room.”
There’s a cooler with bottles for in house consumption and a rack of to-go bottles next to it. Speciation Ales doesn’t have a food license, but cheeses and salami are available for snacks. Customers can also bring their own food and can order out for delivery to the brewery.
Ermatinger hired additional people, including one from the Grand Rapids Community College brewing program, to staff the tasting room and keep up with increased production. There are now nine staff members including Ermatinger and his wife Whitney.
Ermatinger said a lot of thought went into transforming “a relatively dull industrial suite into a comfortable and inviting space to enjoy the beer right in the middle of where it’s made.” Speciation Ales brews a unique barrel-aged farmhouse, wild beer, and sour ale, Ermatinger said he wanted the tasting room to reflect the rustic character of the beer. The room is surrounded by barrels of aging beer on two walls with long wooden tables and benches in the center. There are a couple of large beer barrels with bar chairs to sit at. The sixteen foot long bar is a chic, polished copper layer over cement. There’s room for about 44 people.
The word speciation means “the formation of a new and distinct species through the course of evolution.” Ermatinger said all the beers and their names are themed after evolution and biology such as Thread of Life and Genetic Drift.
The tasting room is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 6 p.m.
LOST VILLAGE PIEROGI
When Mike and Holly Kotz had a bad experience with pierogi at a brew pub, they figured they could do better and started making their own pierogi at home. Then they entered a friend’s Christmas party food contest taking first place for both the main dish (chicken fajita pierogi) and dessert (cheesecake pierogi) categories. Friends started asking them to make pierogi, and the outcome was a full time business – Lost Village Pierogi.
The two recently moved their business into Cookie Chicks, 3979 West River Dr. in downtown Comstock Park, and joined the growing kitchen co-op there.
“(We) were working out of a kitchen in Lowell which was too far from our home,” said Mike, adding their client base was primarily in the Grand Rapids/Comstock Park/Westside area.
They have over 16 varieties of pierogi which they rotate through making 350 dozen a week. Varieties include the potato & cheddar (a best seller), kielbasa & kraut, and sweet farmer cheese, as well as spinach & feta, stuffed cabbage, and ham gouda macaroni and cheese.
“We began as West Michigan Polish Catering in early 2017,” said Holly, but the demand for our pierogi became so great that we changed our focus to only pierogi and became Lost Village Pierogi.”
The two are at the Rockford and Muskegon Farmer’s Markets on a regular basis. They also ship and deliver their pierogi locally, and ship them nationwide. They have pierogi available at their shop as well as at Lewandoski's Market & the new Bridge Street Market in Grand Rapids.
Mike is half Polish and grew up watching his family cook Polish food. He has fond childhood memories of his grandmother and aunts making pierogi every Christmas. That memory led to the name Lost Village Pierogi and the slogan on their business cards – “Honor the Dead/Feed the Living.”
“In our hustle and bustle life, we are losing our traditions,” said Mike. “By providing you with our pierogi we are not only honoring those who have gone before us, but we are feeding the living and passing the torch on to future generations”
“We both love seeing people enjoy the food we make for them…those who have never had or even heard of a pierogi and are instantly in love, and those who have grown up with pierogi, you can see them re-live their family memories with each bite.,” said Mike.
The two enjoy being involved in community events such as the Comstock Park Homecoming Parade and annual craft show and donate to the Food Share Pantry program. They advertise on Facebook and Instagram as well as on Polka Pops radio and have appeared on Fox 17.
Before they started their business, Mike was a graphic artist and screen printer, and Holly was a high school English teacher in Comstock Park. They live in Grand Rapids and have a full house - a daughter 18, and a son 16 who works with them, as well as a mini Australian shepherd named Oscar and a budgee parakeet named Bird Dog.