Thanks to reader H for alerting us to Hellbender Brewing Company’s arrival in the neighborhood.
Hellbender, founded by Patrick Mullane and Ben Evans, is located at 5788 2nd Street NE and will have its official tasting room grand opening on November 15, 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm.
We got in touch with Mullane, who took some time to answer a few questions for us.
Hellbender soft opening
- Can you tell our readers how you got started?
Both of us were avid homebrewers and had been brewing together for a couple of years. Ben had been considering opening his own brewery for sometime. He was a research scientist at the time and recognized that research funding was dropping nationwide. However, his background as a microbiologist and experience working at other breweries gave him much of the experience he needed to start his own brewery. Confident in my brewing and business skills, Ben approached me about partnering in the endeavor and Hellbender Brewing Company was born.
- How long were you brewing prior to deciding to start a production brewery in DC?
Both Ben and I started homebrewing before we met. Ben began homebrewing over 12 years ago while still in college and eventually assisted on the side at 3 separate breweries while also pursuing a career as a microbiologist. I began homebrewing about 8 years ago after working in the bar industry opened my eyes to all the great beers out there. We met through Ben’s wife, a long time friend of mine, when they started dating. We began brewing together on a routine basis in 2009.
- What made you select a location in Riggs Park? Was it just a matter of available space? Were you familiar with the neighborhood beforehand?
We were not familiar with Riggs Park. There’s not much affordable warehouse space in D.C. that would still fit the needs of a production brewery. We were lucky enough to find our location on 2nd Street before the Ft. Totten Square project began driving up prices in the area. Not being familiar with the area, we found the convenient metro access and economic development to be potential boons for our business. Just as important, the neighborhood has been very welcoming with many residents stopping by during construction to introduce themselves and express their excitement about having a brewery come to Riggs Park.
- Will you offer tours of the brewery?
We will. Our tasting room will be open every Saturday from 1pm-6pm and tours will be offered at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. The tasting room will also be open Thursday and Friday evenings from 5pm-8pm, but no tours will be offered at that time. To thank our neighbors, residents of the 20011 zip code will receive a standing discount of 11% on all purchases in the tasting room.
- Do you have a signature Hellbender beer?
We actually have three. Our flagships are the Bäre Bönes Kölsch, a crisp, dry German-style ale, the Red Line Ale, an American Red Ale perfect for the fall, and Eft I.P.A., a hoppy and citrusy India Pale Ale. We will brew all three year-round.
- Do you plan to bottle/can your beer?
We hope to begin canning in 2-3 years. Cans are more environmentally sensitive, safer to transport and more versatile.
- How much beer are you planning to produce in your first year?
Up to 5,000 barrels (10,000 kegs)
- You had your first beer tasting at Iron Horse. How was that experience? How competitive is it to get your beer sold on draft at popular beer bars (like Meridian Pint, Iron Horse, Churchkey) and are you planning to launch beer at these locations?
Our launch event at Iron Horse Taproom was every bit at successful as we could have hoped. It was a big crowd and we kicked all the kegs they had on hand, which they probably expected to last them about a week! We will be reaching out to every bar we can and the goal is have Hellbender beers served in every D.C. neighborhood.
- How would you describe collaborative efforts between production brewers in the DMV area?
The craft brewing community in general is very supportive of each other and breweries collaborate frequently with each other. The other breweries in D.C. have been very helpful with their advice during our start up and we look forward to creating some fun brews with them in the future. In fact, every year all the D.C. breweries collaborate. This past summer, the D.C. breweries collaborated on the Solidarity brew, a session I.P.A. The recipe changes every year and we look forward to collaborating for the first time next year with the 2015 Solidarity brew.
- We noticed you plan to partner with Casey Trees to plant trees in Riggs Park. What was the impetus for that collaboration? Do you plan to be involved in the community in other ways?
We have a strong environmental focus at Hellbender Brewing, stemming from Ben’s experience as a microbiologists and our combined desire to operate an environmentally responsible manufacturing operation. This is why we chose a new style of brewing system that can reduce water usage by 30%, ingredient usage by 20% and utilities by a similar amount. Working with Casey Trees is another way we’re trying to meet our green goals. D.C. is better than most urban areas in respecting and preserving green spaces but we’d really like to see better tree care and coverage in this city and we’ll start at the brewery.
As we get our feet under us, we definitely want to interact with and become a contributing part of the community. As we grow, we will seek out Riggs Park residents as job applicants, be available to host community events and be open to other ideas. Now that we’re open, we’re looking forward to getting to know our neighbors better!
- The tasting room grand opening is scheduled for November 15. What can people expect?
It should be a great event. We’ll have all three flagship ales on hand for customers to sample and to purchase. Plus, Ben will be giving tours to show off our new facility and talk about the brewing process. Since this is our big opening, we expect a large crowd for the day. So, we’re bringing in the BBQ Bus food truck to give everyone a great food option. We hope our Riggs Park neighbors can join us for the opening or any of our public hours. Even for the non-beer drinkers, we hope the BBQ bus and tours will be enough to entice folks to stop by.