The DC beer scene is about to get slightly more crowded. Tonight Hellbender Brewing Company launches at Chinatown's Iron Horse Tap Room with $5 pints of their red ale. On November 11th, the brewery will release Bare Bones Kolsch-style ale, "Beer stripped down to it's absolute roots," says co-founder and head brewer Ben Evans, at Churchkey. An IPA will follow, and the first seasonal will most likely be a brown ale made with smoked malt from Virginia's Copper Fox Distilling. Like Bluejacket and Right Proper, they also have an open fermenter.
We had a chance to sample the red ale and IPA, and think you'll be pleased. The former is hopped with Cascade and Willamette, and has tangerine and toffee on the nose, followed by grapefruit and pine notes. It's slightly sticky, and gives way to a moderate dryness at the end. Though it's 6 percent alcohol by volume, it's easy drinking and refreshing. The Eft IPA is massively bitter, smelling of flowers, oranges, and lemons, and tasting of bruleed grapefruit and toast with a lean, dry finish. Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe are the major hops used here and both beers share a British ale yeast.
Hellbender is the first area brewery to use a Belgian-style, and Belgian-imported, mash filter, which allows brewers to grind malt into a fine powder, creating an instant oatmeal-like slurry that is then filtered. This process allows Hellbender to use less malt (because of more surface area on which enzymic reactions can take place, yes, there is science here) and water than other area breweries. In addition, they directly inject steam into their boil kettle, saving water and electricity. These environmentally sound practices make sense for a brewery named after an endangered salamander, an obsession of Evans, on the left, below, in front of the mash filter. Co-founder Patrick Mullane is on the right.
The tasting room will open on Saturday, November 15th with growlers and pints, probably $5 for the latter. Behold the tap handles below. Look for additional Thursday, Friday, and Sunday hours as well. Hellbender will be draft-only for the time being.
5788 2nd St NE (a 10-minute walk from the Ft. Totten Metro station)