The Hellbender salamander. Cryptobranchus Alleganiensis. Mud Puppy. Devil Dog. Grampus. Mud Devil. Allegheny Alligator. Founder & former neuroscience researcher, Ben Evans, was always obsessed with amphibians growing up. He named his brewery after this 2-foot amphibian for three main reasons. He wanted a local name without being obviously local. The Hellbender is threatened or endangered wherever it can still be found in the wild, which ties in perfectly with our entire approach to a more sustainable brewery, and our search for a better way to brew beer. Lastly, the name is pretty badass.
A century ago, these wonderful creatures could be found in just about any clean, cold, rocky, fast moving river or stream from New York to Georgia, Appalachian valley and to the Ohio River Valley and the Ozarks. But Hellbenders are what's called "Habitat Specialists," meaning they can't survive outside their very specific habitat needs. For this reason the biggest threat to the Hellbender salamander is sedimentation, a hidden form of pollution that often leaves the water crystal clear while severely damaging the riverbed habitat below the surface. Silt, dirt and other runoff from roads, farms and construction enter local streams and rivers and fill in the space between the rocks in the riverbed, slowly eliminating the Hellbender's hidden habitat and driving out their food source. Sedimentation is kinda like the world's slowest, deadliest mudslide, often wiping out the majority of a river's inhabiting species.
The Hellbender is fully aquatic, meaning they do not leave the water, and they cannot travel long distances over land to another river or stream. Once sedimentation takes over, they die off, never to return to that river. Humans directly contribute in other ways as well when they use rivers for recreation and disturb riverbeds by moving rocks and stirring up mud. Today, healthy Hellbender populations are only found at higher elevations in the mountains of National forests, well out of humankind's reach.
Freshwaters Illustrated filmed the short documentary above seen above. This is the first ever high definition video of these salamanders, and one of the first screenings was right here in our taproom. With the help of organizations like Freshwaters Illustrated, the Smithsonian National Zoo and others, they just may survive another millennia if we can protect their remaining habitats.