Flat 12 serves intriguing bar fare using mini-kitchen approach

Elliott Rogers-Cline hard at work.

Elliott Rogers-Cline hard at work.

Knowing how to brew great beer does not necessarily translate to also knowing how to offer great food. Flat 12 Bierwerks, which opened recently at 130 W. Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville, doesn’t serve food at its home brewery in Indianapolis, but it has decided to do so at its new location.

The results are intriguing and surprisingly effective — this isn’t a mail-it-in effort with bag-to-fryer pub fare like mozzarella sticks and chicken cubes. Instead, Flat 12 hired a chef named Elliott Rogers-Cline, who got his culinary degree at Sullivan and now manages a menu based around naan flatbread, hummus, regionally produced meats and a little creativity in making a few ingredients go a long way.

At the moment, 11 items appear on the “Chow” menu; by comparison, at any given time there are at least 16 Flat 12 beers, so the focus is still on brewing. But you won’t go hungry as you sip your Pogue’s Run Porter, your Half Cycle IPA or one of the always rotating seasonal and specialty beers.

I stopped in recently to get a taste of what the menu has to offer, and Rogers-Cline gave me a quick taste tour.

“We wanted to do something that would be unique and people would enjoy,” he said, “but we didn’t want to do something that would take away from the beer. We didn’t want to do a full-service restaurant, because when it comes down to it, beer is the most important thing we’re doing.”

But the food is worth a taste.

On my recent visit, the chef let me try some of the raw materials, such as the pepperoni and “Kitchen Sink” sausage made by Smoking Goose Meatery in Indianapolis. Smoking Goose is actually right across the street from Flat 12 in Indy — it’s also where Rogers-Cline previously worked, which is how he came to return from Indianapolis to the Louisville area as Flat 12 Jeffersonville’s chef. (Hey, it’s small tri-state region.)

Flat 12 flatbreadThe sausage — which he described as a “nose to tail pork sausage” — would be delicious consumed cold with crackers and cheese. To be honest, the pepperoni is as well. He also let me taste the house-made pickled onions, which I also could consume as a snack. But most of these ingredients appear on flat bread or in naan sandwiches.

I got to sample a few of the early best-sellers, starting with the Caprese FlatBread. This is naan flatbread topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh-cut basil and a delicious balsamic glaze drizzle that pulls it all together. It’s simple, and yet the flavor combos meld perfectly. For $8.95, it would make a perfect snack for two.

“The glaze really makes that, I think,” Rogers-Cline said.

I also got a sample of the Smoked Pork FlatBread, which is a good option for the devoted carnivore (and hey, meat and beer go well together); this one is topped with Smoking Goose jowl bacon and the aforementioned Kitchen Sink sausage, along with imported gouda cheese, mozzarella and the aforementioned onions. It’s delicious. The only way I would imagine it could be a better treat would be to add some pepperoni. My guess is Rogers-Cline would make that happen if you asked nicely.

But perhaps the tastiest item I got to try during my visit was the Hot Ham FlatMouth, a flatbread sandwich made from Smoking Goose City Ham, imported gouda and Half Cycle IPA mustard. The salty ham and the IPA mustard go together perfectly for a big flavor that, quite frankly, is sure to sell more beer. Served hot, with the gouda nicely melted, it would make a great lunch for one or a perfect snack for two, as it comes in two sharable halves.

Flat 12 sandwichI went back on Friday and had an order of pretzel breadsticks with my girlfriend Cynthia. They were basically just pretzel sticks — sans salt — cut into sections and served hot with sides of the Half Cycle IPA mustard and beer cheese made with Pogue’s Run Porter.

Other interesting items on the menu include the Turkey Pesto FlatMouth, made with turkey, goat cheese, pesto and pickled onions, and Biergarten Cubes, which are not fried but rather cubes of gouda served with a pepper medley and the house spicy IPA mustard.

Actually, nothing at Flat 12 is fried. Why? Because there is no fryer. The “kitchen” is actually just a corner behind the bar with an assembly space and a TurboChef impinged-air convection oven that cooks food quickly.

“It is by no means less (effective) than pizza ovens I’ve used,” Rogers-Cline said. “And there’s stone in there, so you get the crunch on the crust.”

Rogers-Cline said he estimates Flat 12 can serve between 25 and 35 people per hour with its mini-kitchen setup, although the location is still so new that he isn’t quite sure just how busy weekends will be.

When I stopped in this past Friday, the place was packed — every bar seat and table were occupied, and our food came out in a reasonably short time. Look for the menu to see adjustments going forward. In addition, Rogers-Cline is looking into infusing hop oils into some new offerings in 2015.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of beer to enjoy as well. Flat 12 is currently in the midst of its 12 Beers of Christmas special; a couple of intriguing brews coming this week are Chocolate Orange Porter on Friday, Dec. 19, and Grandpa’s Glazed Ham, which is a barrel-aged beer set for tapping on Sunday, Dec. 21.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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Flat 12 Bierwerks eyes Dec. 6 opening in Jeffersonville

Flat 2Indianapolis-based Flat 12 Bierwerks plans to open its new location in Jeffersonville, Ind., on Saturday, Dec. 6. Insider Louisville got a sneak peek inside the new space on the riverfront, and it looks like the kind of location that will draw crowds. (There are rumors of a Nov. 22 soft opening for those feeling adventurous.)

The tap room features 32 taps – 12 of them on shared lines – and will serve basics like flatbreads and sandwiches. The beer selection, obviously, will focus on Flat 12 brews, but there will be occasional guest taps and tap takeover events.

In all, the space at 130 W. Riverside Drive (just a few blocks east of Buckhead on the River) is about 4,200 square feet, which includes the tap room and deck, as well as the cooler area and space that will eventually house a brewing operation. For the first few months at least, beer served at the Jeffersonville location will be brewed in Indianapolis.

Eventually, Flat 12 may even serve coffee, according to tap room manager Shanna Henry, who was at one time a barista in Seattle. And in addition to many specialty beers, one of the house specialties will be a hop-infused olive oil that will be used with menu items.

“We’re stoked about the hop oil,” Henry said, “and we’re hoping to put some hops in coffee.”

The first tap room promotion will be a “12 Beers of Christmas” event spanning three weeks. Four new beers each week will be unveiled leading up to the holiday, including three versions of Flat 12’s popular Pinko, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. One of those is aging currently in a Pappy Van Winkle 23 year barrel.

Other Flat 12 favorites will be staples as well, such as Spirit Mover Saison, Joe Brahma Coffee Brown Ale, Kattenstoet Belgian Pale and Hammer Down, a smooth pilsner beer inspired by NASCAR driver James Hinchcliffe. Price points and a final menu are being worked out, but pint prices should range from $4 to $6 depending on the beer style, and growlers will be sold as well.

Flat 5Flat 12’s regional sales manager Eric Finch said the new facility should be brewing by the end of summer 2015. He said the Indianapolis brewery currently produces about 20,000 barrels per year, and that the Jeffersonville brewery will probably brew about half that amount. Part of the strategy is to get Flat 12 production farther south to assist the brewery in expanding its market to the South and Southeast.

As for exactly which beers will be brewed in Jeffersonville versus Indy, and the exact setup of the brewery, Finch said that’s still being worked out.

“What I do know for sure,” he said, “is that we’re going to brew some beer here that we’ll sell exclusively here. That’s the only way to make the local connection work.”

And part of Flat 12’s plan is to become as local as possible by hosting events, getting involved in community happenings, collaborating with Louisville-area breweries and generally being a local presence rather than an annex of the Indianapolis brewery.

Another part of the complex, which is behind an adjacent restaurant, will become an event space and later will be converted into a storage cooler, space for another small brewing operation specifically for experimental brewing and barrel room. Finch referred to the soon-to-open location as a “toddler” that has lots of room to grow.

And while Flat 12, whose beers came to Louisville taps earlier this year, considers itself part of the Louisville brewing scene, management chose Indiana for more than just logistics and ease of transition. Jeffersonville’s downtown is growing and has seen a spike in foot traffic since the Big Four Bridge opened.

“We believe in Indiana,” Finch said. “Jeffersonville has been very welcoming and open to us.”

Flat 1Perhaps the jewel of the space is a front deck that overlooks the Ohio River. It will be equipped with roughly 10 picnic tables and is sure to be a destination place during warm weather months and downtown events. Inside the tap room, décor is a combination of aged metal and reclaimed oak palette slats from the Indianapolis brewery.

In the center of the room, suspended from the ceiling, is a huge round Flat 12 logo light; eight round tables that will be placed inside the tap room will also bear that logo. The L-shaped bar will have about 10 barstools for additional seating, and hanging lights made from kegs will help illuminate the space. All in all, the total space should be able to hold just under 100 people.

Meanwhile, the limited menu is in place not to compete with nearby restaurants such as the Olive Leaf Bistro next door, but rather to serve as a before and/or after stopping point for people going out for the evening to dinner or other events.

“We’re a gathering place, a social destination,” Finch said. “We want to support and enhance the business community here, especially the restaurants. We want to be partners in the hospitality scene.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Surveying the Indianapolis Beer Scene, Part 2

A pour at Flat 12.

A pour at Flat 12.

If you read Part 1 of my Indianapolis beer tour, you know that I was impressed by what is going on in Indy’s beer scene.

On Day 2 of my trip, my hope was to hit one of my prime targets: Sun King Brewing Company. Unfortunately, back at the hotel at the end of Day 1, I realized the unthinkable – Sun King is closed on Sundays. How I managed to miss that when mapping out the tour, I have no idea, but miss it I did.

And so before I get into writing about the breweries we did visit on the final leg of the trip, I’ll say that if you go to Indy for beer, you must go to Sun King, and not just because they make a seasonal called “Bitch’n Camaro.” No, it’s just that I have never had a Sun King beer that disappointed. Even the odd Popcorn Pilsner I tried last year was intriguing.

Also, I was hoping to get a taste of Skulking Loafer, an English-style strong ale, which, according to the Sun King website, was released this month. Ah well, maybe next time.

Here’s a rundown and a few words about the experience at each stop on Day 2:

Black Acre Brewing Company: Two years in, Black Acre seems to have a nice following, based on the lively lunch crowd we encountered during our Sunday visit. The tap room, located in Indy’s historic Irvington neighborhood, is industrial-meets-wood-slats, with two big windows at the front of the shop to allow in plenty of natural light.

In addition to the house brews, there were several guest taps, but I was there for the Indiana beer, so I got a four-beer sampler including Monkey Hug, Phantom Cat, Saucy Intruder and Simcoe Pale Ale.

Monkey Hug is a hazelnut brown ale, with a big, nutty flavor and a nose to match. At 40 IBU and 6.4 percent ABV, it isn’t a huge beer, but it comes on pretty strong nevertheless with a big malty embrace. Come to think of it, this beer literally is like being hugged by a monkey. I think.

Phantom Cat, meanwhile, is a foreign export stout style, brewed with Magnum hops to give it an unexpected bite. According to the Black Acre website, this style of stout was brewed to be hoppier and slightly more alcoholic to help preserve it during long ocean voyages. My feeling is that if I was on that voyage, this beer would be gone long before we ever found land.

Black Acre's tasting room.

Black Acre’s tasting room.

Saucy Intruder is now on Black Acre’s “retired” list, according to its website, which means I may have enjoyed one of the last few tastes of this rye IPA. I found the rye to be a bit subdued – I like the rye bite, what can I say? – but I will give this beer credit for indeed being a tad “saucy.” At 75 IBU, the hopheads will gobble this up, if it ever comes back.

Finally, I had the Simcoe Pale, a pale ale made entirely with – you guessed it – Simcoe hops. It has a big floral nose and lots of lacing, but it is medium bodied and nicely balanced. At 6.1 percent ABV, it is just north of a session ale, but it sure drinks like one. Our server, Matt, said the Black Acre single hop is actually a staple, but with rotating hops.

Matt also said that the Monkey Hug was a total accident.  It was some left over Phantom Cat that didn’t quite go as planned, but turned out to be a pretty good brew. The name comes from a comment made when doing a cleanup, when someone suggested they needed a monkey to clean all the tight spaces in the brewery. And, of course, if they had one, they’d give him a hug.

All I’ll say is this: If you go to Indy, I highly recommend visiting Black Acre.

Flat 12 Bierwerks: Ah yes, another key reason I wanted to check out Indy’s beer scene. You just can’t beat a brewery that has a beer called “Clown Tears,” right? Flat 12’s inviting tap room offers free samples of about an ounce apiece, as well as a laid back atmosphere in which to enjoy a pint. Or two. Or three. And they’ll be served in clear plastic cups.

I tasted 12 beers while there, so I’ll spare you extended reviews; that said, it won’t be easy to pick a few favorites. Walkabout IPA was one of my top choices, featuring loads of Galaxy hops and a flavor profile that hints at grapefruit. Half Cycle IPA is a five-hop bitterness frenzy that hits you like a punch in the mouth. In a good way.

Meanwhile, Winter Cycle, a double IPA actually drinks much more smoothly despite a 107 IBU score and 9.3 percent ABV. Also, be sure to check out the Rogue’s Run Porter and the nitro version. Big, nutty flavors and wonderful, creamy bodies.

I should probably mention the Upside Down Blonde, a pilsner-meets-wheat beer with a really interesting mouthfeel and flavor. It is sessionable at 5.4 percent ABV and light on bitterness at 23 IBU, but doesn’t sacrifice complexity.

I really hated to leave this place, but was excited when I learned a few days later that Flat 12 plans to open a tap room later this year just a few miles from my house. See you there.

Oaken Barrel sampler.

Oaken Barrel sampler.

Oaken Barrel Brewing Company: This brewery just outside Indianapolis in Greenwood has been around for more than a decade, and the quality remains. The beers aren’t terribly adventurous, but they are solid and accessible.

This was as much a food stop as it was a beer stop, and we weren’t disappointed by either. I had spicy Cajun beef tips that were quite well with the hoppy and spicy Gnaw Bone APA, a nicely balanced ale that drinks bigger than its 45 IBU. I’d not had this in a year or two, and had forgotten how tasty it is.

I’ve also long been a fan of the Indiana Amber, a malty and mild amber ale with a caramel quality and just a bit of a hop bite at the back end. Good stuff. I also tasted the Razz Wheat, a raspberry wheat beer that Cynthia said tastes like ketchup (not sure what’s up with her taste buds sometimes), and Snake Pit, a super-thick porter with a big mouthfeel and yet a surprising drinkability.

By this time I was feeling on the verge of being a bit too tipsy, so I had to pass on trying the Superfly IPA, but I’ll get it next time, just as I will make it a point not to miss Sun King during my next visit.

But meanwhile, my liver needs to recover from this visit. That could take a few days.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.

Flat 12 reveals it will open full-scale craft brewery in Jeffersonville

flat 12 logoBierwerks of Indianapolis announced recently it would open a tap room on Jeffersonville’s riverfront in 2014. Well, hold on to your growlers, because president and CEO Sean O’Connor has now confirmed the new location will also house a full-blown brewing operation that will likely have a larger capacity than its current brewery.

He said Flat 12′s brewing will be split between the two facilities and would theoretically more than double Flat 12’s total capacity. The current brewery, O’Connor said, can produce up to 40,000 barrels per years in its 10,000-square-foot space.

“If the facility layout here can get us between 30,000 and 40,000 we think the facility down there will be able to do more than that,” he said of the roughly 12,000-square-foot space in Jeffersonville. “It will be able to pop out a sizable amount of beer.”

O’Connor, who founded the brewery with Steve Hershberger and head brewer Rob Caputo in late 2010, said bids are expected soon from brewing equipment designers that designed the brewing system in Indianapolis; once that happens he will know more specifically what the brewing operation will look like.

Though there still is no target date to open, he said the goal is early summer.

One of the reasons for opening the new Flat 12 facility is to be closer to its southern distribution line, he said, but also because it takes Flat 12 to another level in terms of spreading the word. Like most breweries, Flat 12 employs traveling representatives for tap takeovers, brewing events, etc., but a new facility extends that in a much more significant way.

“One of the things I like in Indianapolis is [customers] can come into the tasting room and talk to the brewers, taste the beers, and get a feel for what Flat 12 brewing is all about,” he said. “We have people traveling, but that’s not the same as when you build it into your daily routine.”

He also said there will be specialty beers that will not only be brewed in Jeffersonville, but which will only be available in Jeffersonville.

“We want to make it special to Southern Indiana,” he said.

While O’Connor said he and Caputo will travel between the two breweries – “It will be a home away from home,” he said – a full-time brewer will be hired to manage production in Jeffersonville, along with “a sizable hiring” of managers, tasting room employees, brewing assistants and even kitchen help.

The need for kitchen workers is part of what will differentiate the new facility from its predecessor. While the tasting room will have a similar design and layout, the new location is equipped with a small kitchen, enabling the tap room to offer a small menu of food items to pair with beers.

Another differentiator, of course, is that Jeffersonville’s new Flat 12 will have a view of the Ohio River and Louisville.

“We definitely want a piece of the Indianapolis tap room in there,” he said, but noted that the new facility features rows of windows facing the river, and O’Connor also said a small patio area will be built for outside seating.

Flat 12 offers a wide range of creative craft beers in various styles, along with rotating seasonals. Craft beer enthusiasts will find plenty of challenging beers, while craft beer newcomers will be able to find options they can enjoy as well.

With the news of Flat 12, it seems quite the beer scene is brewing in Jeffersonville. In January, Red Yeti Brewing announced it will open a brewery just a few blocks away from the future Flat 12 on Spring Street; it will include a full-service restaurant and bar, with guest taps and a handful of house brews. No official open date has been announced.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Indy’s Flat 12 Bierwerks to open Jeffersonville taproom

Flat 12 Bierwerks, an Indianapolis-based craft brewery which just began distribution to Louisville, announced it has signed a lease agreement and plans to open a taproom on the Jeffersonville, Ind., riverfront.

Flat 12 beer literally began pouring in Louisville just this week.

The soon-to-be Flat 12 in Jeffersonville

The soon-to-be Flat 12 in Jeffersonville

The address for the new taproom is 130 W. Riverside Drive, which is just west of Cluckers restaurant, across from the Jeffersonville Riverstage at the foot of Spring Street.

Kara Gentry, marketing and PR contact for Flat 12, said the tap room will be next to a Mediterranean restaurant called Olive Leaf Bistro, which shows the same 130 W. Riverside address online. The taproom would also be just blocks from another brewery, Red Yeti, that is slated to open soon on Spring Street.

Gentry said a target open date has not yet been set, and an announcement will come later. The decision to choose Indiana over Louisville had a bit to do with state loyalty.

“Jeffersonville seemed like a nice fit for us,” Gentry said. “Already being an Indiana based brewery, it is more accommodating to stay within Indiana. In addition, Indiana has been very supportive of our brewery, so it is worthwhile to continue building that relationship but in a location that will be more accessible to our customers in Tennessee and now Kentucky.”

“We’re excited to embark upon this adventure,” said Sean O’Connor, Co-Founder/CEO of Flat 12, in a press release. “Customers come to our Indianapolis brewery taproom and appreciate the interaction with our brewers, the staff and one another. They enjoy the opportunity to try unique Flat 12 beers in a relaxed atmosphere where the focus is on a quality experience. We’re looking forward to bringing an element of that here to Jeffersonville.”

flat 12 taproom

Inside the Flat 12 taproom in Indianapolis

I visited Flat 12’s Indianapolis tap room this past weekend, and it is as inviting as O’Connor suggests. There is a tasting area adjacent to a gift counter and a cooler filled with six-packs and four-packs of Flat 12 bottles and cans near the main entrance.

There’s a larger tasting room with tables and a makeshift bar – plywood atop barrels – with natural brick walls and wood beams. The furniture consists of metal outdoor tables and chairs, and hanging lights help decorate the laid-back room.

Small samples (about an ounce) are free and come in small plastic cups, while pints also are poured into plastic cups.

The beers are all high quality and most are fairly aggressive, such as the ultra hoppy Half Cycle IPA and the ultra-smooth Nitro Pogue’s Run, a nitrogenated version of Flat 12’s Pogue’s Run that is balanced with dark grains and chocolate notes. The Upside Down Blonde is light but complex as a hybrid of pilsner and wheat beers. For lightweights, there are Clown Tears Extra Pale Ale and Baby New Year Mild Ale, both of which are lower-alcohol beers but with deceptive depth of character.

Flat 12, established in 2010, distributes in Indiana, central Illinois and east-central Tennessee, along with Louisville. The Jeffersonville tap room would be the first satellite location for the brewery.

“We like the location – it brings Flat 12 to Southern Indiana in a new and exciting way,” Co-Founder/Brewer Rob Caputo said in the release. “It also brings us closer to customers in Kentucky and Tennessee. We hope it will strengthen those relationships and that we will become part of the fabric of Jeffersonville and the entire riverfront community.”

This post was originally published by LouisvilleInsider.com.

Cucumber Beer?

louisville beer - cucumber kolschI was fortunate to meet the friendly folks from Flat 12 Bierwerks when I was at this year’s Fest of Ale, and I noticed that they have a new one on the way: Cucumber Kolsch.

OK, full disclosure: I freaking hate cucumbers. Like, really hate. I hate them so much, in fact, that when I order a dynamite roll at a sushi restaurant, I ask the chef to replace the cucumbers with avocado. If there’s cucumber in my sushi, the cucumber is all I can taste. Blech.

Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by the notion of a cucumber beer simply because the flavor of cucumber is at least a crisp one. Check out the brewer’s description of Cucumber Kolsch: “A Kolsch style German ale with lager qualities owed to pilsener malt and cold fermentation. Pours a deep gold color. Smooth drinkability and super-refreshing finish from an infusion of cucumber.”

Sounds like an interesting summer beer to me (I just won’t want it in my sushi). Very soon you’ll be able to get it around town, or at the very least over in southern Indiana. Here are some locations listed on the Flat 12 website:

Rich O’s Public House

Feast BBQ

Dragon King’s Daughter (New Albany)

Buckhead Mountain Grill (Jeffersonville)

If you try one of these before I do, shoot me a message and let me know what you think …