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.)
The 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.
I 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.