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Into the lab with Pontiac's Exferimentation Brewing

For co-owners Eric Benton, Andrew Stamper, and Scott Boughton, it's passion that has them brewing beer until 3 a.m..long after their shifts in the automotive industry have ended for the day.

The three friends opened Exferimentation in July 2016, though they started working on their quirky signature beers for several years before that. The co-owners consider themselves the "mad scientists" of the brewing trade, eschewing the traditional ales and lagers for something more unique. Hence the name http://exferimentationbrewing.com/Exferimentation, from"Experimenting with fermentation."

There's Clownpocalypse, a toasted coconut cream ale born out of a conversation co-owner Eric Benton had about a zombie clown apocalypse. There's the Pink Tickler, a hibiscus wheat beer that's also the brewery's most popular. And there's a red ale with rosemary, cayenne pepper, and black pepper, a pineapple-rhubarb wheat beer, and a lemon-coriander sour beer, to name just a few. The trio is always working on other unique flavor combinations, testing them out on their all too willing loyalty program members, the Mad Scientist Club.

It all started out so innocently.

"We started homebrewing on my back porch and progressed from there to a small industrial space in Rochester," says Benton. "We had a club and brewed ten gallons at a time. We had that for 18 months, and by the time we got to the end of the 18 months, we had 30 people showing up and drinking all of our beer. They were drinking more than we could make," says Benton. "We figured that it was time to go pro."

Though it may seem like a current trend, homebrewing has been around for thousands of years. And like the many brewers before them, the Exferimentation crew learned how to brew beer through the trial-and-error process. Come up with an idea, see what works, let people try it, and proceed based on their enthusiasm for the product.

Keeping their focus on the beer, Exferimentation has spent the bulk of their money so far on brewing equipment. Work on the tasting room, a storefront in downtown Pontiac, was done themselves. The trio rehabbed the floors, installed the tile, and built the bar and tables all by hand. And this done in the evenings and weekends, working around their "regular jobs."

In searching for the right space for their bar, Exferimentation looked at a couple of locations before finding downtown Pontiac. The historic storefronts, walkability, and the potential for economic revival made it obvious that it was the city that Exerimentation was about to call home.

"We didn't know that we wanted Pontiac until we went into Pontiac to look. And then we absolutely knew that we wanted Pontiac," says Benton.

Benton's big on the city's future, saying that he thinks it's about two to three businesses away from a development tipping point, leading to it becoming a bustling destination for a night on the town.

The building where Exferimentation is located, 7 N. Saginaw St., is already abuzz. Directly across from the recently renovated Flagstar Strand Theatre, 7 N. Saginaw St. hosts a vintage clothing store and, not one, but two breweries. Five days after Exferimentation signed the lease on their storefront, Fillmore 13 Brewery signed theirs. The two breweries share a hall. But the competition doesn't irk the Exferimentation team one bit. All it means, says Benton, is that there are more people drawn downtown.

Part of that, he says, is that he knows craft beer fans are the type to try as many new beers as possible, and not settle into a single establishment. It's a "the more, the merrier" situation that creates the foot traffic a business desires. 
 
And in talking about beer towns, Benton has his eyes set on a certain city in west Michigan known for its dozens of breweries, which holds the title of Beer City, USA.

"Look out Grand Rapids, here comes Pontiac."

Name and title: Eric Benton, co-owner (other owners are Andy Stamper and Scott Boughton)

Year Exferimentation opened: Opened 7/21/16

One interesting job you had before running Exferimentation: I was the chocolate and frappucino buyer for Starbucks.

What's the best brewery soundtrack: Best soundtrack to me is Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons.

What's your favorite beer flavor of all time: We love citrus around here, especially grapefruit. It's becoming commonplace these days, but grapefruit with its slight bitterness fits just right with an IPA.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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