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One Hell of a Brewery

Hellbender Brewing | Carpe DC Food Tours Washington DC

So not sure if you guys are as big NPR fans as I am, but I love a good Saturday morning Car Talk. Listening to Click and Clack on my way to brunch is a must. And I’m not in it for car knowledge.

Their puzzlers are pretty epic, and they’ve inspired me to try one of my own.

Ready? Drumroll please….

What do salamanders, biology, and beer have in common?

You guessed it.  They are all the topic of this week’s blog post- all about…

Hellbender Brewery!


This brewery, named after America’s largest salamander, has deep roots in biology and the environment.  The endangered Hellbender salamander can reach up to 15 inches long, and is native to the region. (can’t you just hear David Attenborough saying this…)  Using Hellbender for the name was a way for the brewery to highlight its environmentally friendly leanings while also giving a holla to DC, a former habitat of the water loving amphibian.

We caught up with these pioneers d’alcohol at their brewery to see what it was all about.

Ben and Patrick, founders of Hellbender, have been brewing together for ten years and perfecting the craft every step of the way.  Ben is a biologist by trade, and Patrick as a staffer on the hill focusing on environmental policy prior to opening Hellbender. So you can see where the love for this hellacious, slippery Cryptobranchus alleganiensis comes from.

With the combination of their two backgrounds, they have

crafted beer that is unique in its very Deoxyribosenucleic Acids… (you know, the ol’ double helix…DNA)

One way they do that is by growing their own yeast- a process Ben is particularly fond of since it gives him an excuse to keep his microscope around. This makes them stand out since it means that they are the only brewery in DC that can isolate and breed super unique strains, but they also count the yeast before it goes into the mash, which means they have additional control over the quality and consistency of their beer’s flavor.

It also forces them to keep their brewery as spic and span as a science lab- so there’s no cross-pollination (you can tell we were hanging with a scientist can’t you… Bill Nye eat your heart out!)

Hellbender stands out not only for what they brew, but how they brew.

 They are the second US brewery to use a small scale, high efficiency mash filtration system- the same they use in Belgium (which produces Ben’s favs!)

Ok, ok but lab coats aside-

These guys are doing the DC beer scene a wonderful service…when I asked them how do they decide what to brew next. they explained that they check out the market and see what’s missing or find things that could be improved. (that might possibly be the funniest way to do market research EVER!)

So for example- a Kolsh beer is sold year round in Europe and only in the summer here- BOOM!

Just like that they released the KPA aka Kolsch Pale Ale on June 3rd!

Another great variety they’ve created is their Coffee Stout– which is delicious! They partnered with DC’s newest coffee roaster and one of our newest tasting stops, Compass Coffee, to get the freshest roast coffee bean flavor possible, and a lil caffeine buzz too.

They also have a very crunchy bar that’s definitely worth a visit, being walking distance from the Ft Totten metro, I’m not sure how you could turn it down.  But just to be sure you don’t, they’ve hosted things like Detox to Retox- the local brewery/yoga night (how have I not tried that yet??) and they also bring out food trucks on the weekends and show local games on the big screen.

And if yoga and food trucks weren’t granola enough, all the bar décor is made from recycled shipping materials and reclaimed wood, including the bar- which is a sexy tiger maple that the guys spent over 100 hours refinishing!

So there are plenty of untapped reasons to check out this funky salamander focused brewery!

And if you’re looking for an excuse to taste some Hellbender while say… walking and learning about DC- maybe our new 14th St. Happy Hour Tour is the thing for you!

We’ve done a few soft launches that rocked hard, and it won’t be long before we blow the roof off your Tuesdays!

So keep us in mind for your next greatest Tuesday night and if you need a taster early- check out our U Street and Shaw Food Tour!