Brew at the Zoo, the National Zoo’s foamy fundraiser for conservation efforts, was as good a venue as any for the coming-out party of Hellbender Brewing Co., named after a species of giant salamander indigenous to the mid-Atlantic.
Partners Ben Evans and Patrick Mullane served two homebrews at the July 12 event — a peppery saison and an IPA with a lingering, dry finish. The first is “a showcase for the yeast,” the second a “showcase for the hops,” says Evans.
He and Mullane don’t expect Hellbender to be on the market until January or February. Evans, a biology major who once kept tiger salamanders as pets (which explains the name), says their business plan is progressing nicely, although he admits several pieces have yet to fall into place. Specifically, he and Mullane need to negotiate a bank loan to purchase the 20-hectoliter brewhouse they’ve got their eyes on, and they have to sign a lease on a property in Northeast near the National Arboretum.
Evans will do most of the brewing — he says he’s been making beer since his undergraduate days at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pa. (he currently works at the University of Maryland as a researcher in neurobiology)
his college days at the University of Maryland (he retains his day job there as a researcher in neurobiology). Mullane, a Congressional staffer, will assist with the brewing, but focus primarily on the business side. The IPA will become one of the brewery’s flagship brands, along with a Kolsch and an American amber ale.
The saison, which held its own against several other solid examples of the style poured at Brew at the Zoo (the crisp Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing Co., the fruity All Access Saison from Starr Hill), will be the brewery’s spring seasonal. A hefeweizen (summer), pumpkin ale (fall) and a nut brown ale (winter) are also tentatively planned for the seasonal lineup.
Evans wants to get into canning, but initially his beers will be draft only. “We’re opening on a budget,” he explains. With the competition for taps ever intensifying, it’s never too early to get your name before the public.