Sept. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hellbender Brewing Has Hill Roots

It makes sense that Evans, the scientist, is taking on the role of head brewer and Mullane, the policy wonk, is focusing more on the business side. Mullane spent his time on Capitol Hill focused exclusively on transportation policy.

“I started with Tom Petri, in the House” when the Wisconsin Republican headed the Transportation and Infrastructure Highways Subcommittee,” Mullane said. “Then I went for a short stint in the Texas Department of Transportation here in D.C. There was a big reshuffling there and I went to [then-Sen.] Kay Bailey Hutchison, [R-Texas]. I was there four years. Then I went to the [Senate] Budget Committee. There are so few transportation policy guys, so it opens doors for you.

“Everyone comes to the Hill and says ‘I want to do defense. I want to do foreign affairs,’” he continued. “[Staffers] cut their teeth on transportation policy. Then they go through an appropriations season and say, ‘Get me the hell out of here.’ Then they go to another policy area.”

Though Mullane’s craft beer education started on a college trip to Montreal — where he sampled the famous La Fin du Monde brew — it’s been his time in Washington that schooled him.

“D.C. is kind of on the forefront, at least on the East Coast, for bringing craft brews in, so it’s been great to try stuff, particularly the Belgiums,” he said. “Like at the old Brickskeller [now Bier Baron]. I used to love going there. I’d pick a country and try a random beer and then more bars like that kept popping up.”

Mullane started brewing in 2005.

“I spent five years working in Toledo Lounge in Adams Morgan and then ended up doing everything from serving to bar-backing, ended up in the kitchen. It was just fun to work with food on a big scale,” he said. Then he thought that it would all be a lot more fun if he was making “something alcoholic,” so he started teaching himself the craft of brewing.

“I liked starting with the grain and then learning how to actually create alcohol. My first batch was really, really good. It was a Belgium blonde ale,” he recalled. But, he continued, “the second batch was just really, really screwed up. I still don’t know what I did wrong.”

Over time, Mullane learned to be consistent and got better results.

Now the former staffer is a part of a growing business community.

“It is definitely a burgeoning community,” Mullane said. “DC Brau is leading the way to start a brewers guild here in D.C. We’re one of the few states with breweries without a brewers guild ... or not, I guess, not a state. Still working on how to say that.”

He said the local breweries “all get along really well. The competition factor is very different from what it is on cutthroat Capitol Hill or K Street or the general business world of ‘crush your competition.’ Here it’s kind of ‘high tide raises all boats.’”

Mullane said that, globally, things are going their way.

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