D.C.’s newest brewery also aims to be its most environmentally conscious. That starts with the name: Hellbender Brewing Company, a nod to the hellbender salamander. Co-founder Ben Evans was fascinated by these nocturnal amphibians—large enough to eat a small kitten—as a kid and now aims to bring awareness to their endangerment. He and co-founder Patrick Mullane have already done an event with the National Zoo to raise money for an endangered salamander exhibit.
Hellbender’s brewing process also has the environment in mind with unique brewing system “radically different than anything seen in D.C. to date” that uses less water and less grain. Rather than crushing the grain to the consistency of oatmeal, they use a Belgian-made hammer mill and mash filter system that turns it into a flour-like powder. The greater surface area means they can extract more nutrients and sugar with less grain. Hellbender claims to be the only craft brewery with a mash filter on the East Coast, but the system is widely used in Belgium.
The brewers have also partnered with American University’s Office of Sustainability to find local farmers who will take their spent grain and use it as livestock feed and compost.
Evans brings a scientific background to brewing as a microbiologist and neuroscientist who previously worked on visual regeneration in blind Mexican cave fish at the University of Maryland. Meanwhile, Mullane spent 12 years as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill, primarily in transportation policy. The two bonded over their love of home brewing and ultimately decided to take the plunge into brewing professionally.
Hellbender’s first beer, a full-bodied American red ale called Red Line, will debut today at 5 p.m with an event at Iron Horse Taproom featuring $5 pints. The brewery will release its next flagship beer, Bare Bones Kolsch, at ChurchKey on Nov.11 and its Eft IPA the week after that.
Expect several seasonal beers as soon as next spring. Evans, his dad, and some friends also started a small hop farm in upstate New York in 2010 that grows 15 varieties of hops. After the fall harvest, Hellbender will use these hops for one-off beers.
The brewery’s tasting room will open Nov. 15 with hours tentatively set from 1 to 6 p.m. The following week, Hellbender plans to expand its public hours to Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. in addition to Saturdays.
Hellbender Brewing Company, 5788 2nd St. NE; (202) 827-8768; hellbenderbrewingcompany.com
Photo courtesy Hellbender Brewing Company