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If you’ve stepped foot inside Hellbender Brewing over the past four years, there’s a very good chance you’ve had a beer with LT Goodluck.

On MLB’s 2015 opening day, the genial Arizona native joined the Riggs Park brewery as its tasting room manager. But Goodluck’s interest was always on the production floor, where he could often be found washing kegs and shadowing head brewer Ben Evans whenever the tasting room was closed.

Eventually, Goodluck made the transition to brewer.

“Ben and I create recipes, we brew the beer, and then we can and keg all the Hellbender beers that are distributed in D.C.,” Goodluck says of his responsibilities. “I also help around the brewery and tasting room wherever I can, which could include anything from picking up cigarette butts outside the brewery to posting photos on the Hellbender social media accounts. Ben and I have even visited local farms to pick fruit for our kettle sours.”

Today, Hellbender releases a new pale ale called Code Talker. It’s a beer close to Goodluck’s heart: Not only did he pitch the recipe to Evans, he named it in honor of his grandfather John V. Goodluck, who served in World War II as a Navajo Code Talker. (He’s pictured below in the first row, second from the right.)

“LT was back here a lot watching and learning before I hired him as a brewer,” shares Evans. “Even though he didn’t have any prior home or professional brewing experience, his attention to detail, work ethic, attitude, sense of humor, and love of craft beer and brewing quickly made him an invaluable addition to our team. Once he learned the ins and outs of our more complicated mash filter system system – complete with a dizzying array of touch screen controls – he started contributing to recipe tweaks and development. Rather than just going through the motions, I think he and I constantly push each other to be better brewers.”

Prior to the beer’s release, I traded e-mails with Goodluck about Code Talker and its inspiration.

What was your concept for Code Talker?

I proposed the idea for Code Talker to Ben as “old school hops meet new school brewing techniques.” Instead of using new, intensely tropical hop varieties, we opted for heavy additions of Chinook, Comet, and Columbus from the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to give the pale ale a dank nose, grapefruit and resinous flavor, and moderate bitterness.

But rather than adding lots of bittering hops like its old school pale ale predecessors, most of the hops were added very late in the boil or via dry hopping to give this beer intense hop flavor and aroma without excessive bitterness.

To accentuate the hop character, I decided to use a mostly Pilsner malt base and ferment with a clean California ale yeast. A small amount of flaked oats and wheat add a touch of body to this dry pale ale.

What attracted you to those relatively old school hops?

The aromas and flavors that have been absent from most recent pale ales that I miss are found in Chinook, Comet and Columbus.

What are some other beers you’ve pitched in the past?

I’ve been officially brewing with Ben for over a year, but I’ve been involved with and given input on every new recipe Hellbender has done in the past couple of years.

These have included some of our most popular small-batch releases, including Panda Strike Force hazy IPA, our collaboration with Red Bear Guavabeary Gose, and Fringe Class hazy pale ale.

Tell us about your grandfather.

John V. Goodluck (3/15/24 – 4/1/00) served in World War II as a U.S. Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker. He was a member of the 3rd Marine Division in Iwo Jima and Guam.

The Navajo Code Talkers relayed messages in the first language I learned to speak, the Navajo language, a code that was never broken by the Japanese.

What made you want to name a beer for him?

I’ve always wanted to dedicate something that I created to my grandfather.

Code Talker will give me the opportunity to share the history of the Navajo Code Talkers when customers inevitably ask about the origin of the name.

All photos courtesy of LT Goodluck and Hellbender Brewing.

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