Mashed Potato Beer once topped the Thanksgiving menu at Flat12 Bierwerks, followed by a seasonal favorite, Glazed Ham Porter for Christmas. Then there's the pickle beer, better known as Cucumber Kölsch. And spoiler alert: Taco Beer debuts as one of its Winterfest offerings.
To say this near eastside microbrewery thrives on inventiveness is like saying Justin Bieber seems a bit grumpy lately. Big understatement.
Its crazy-sounding (yet "really good" and well-received) beers speak of the 20-barrel brewhouse's innovative spirit, but that creative ferment doesn't stop there. It flavors all the products and events that come out of this establishment -- from its philanthropic programs and community efforts to the Flat12 Reel to Reel monthly movie night.
"We're known for doing really creative and experimental beers," says Valerie Green, event marketing coordinator and Reel to Reel originator. "If you look over the years at what they've done, they're just wacky. They work really hard to be creative and put an artistic touch on the beers we make and the products we offer. So Reel to Reel is just kind of a natural extension of that."
Flat12 Reel to Reel brings together local independent filmmakers of every stripe and filmgoers alike. And if it happens to attract artists, musicians and craft beer lovers in the process, Green's a happy gal. Feb. 13th's screening will mark the third in the series. The first two went over big (with nearly all 50 seats filled for January's movie night), despite terrible driving conditions due to wintry weather. "We've already almost outgrown our room," she says.
The free event takes place in Flat12's taproom from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m, with a brief intermission. Green selects from an assortment of submissions, looking for interesting films that run five to 10 minutes long. So you can expect to see 12 to 14 short works, ranging from sketch comedy and music videos to brief documentaries and a little of everything in between. Each film gets a title page up on the taproom's 54-inch projection screen; it notes the name of the film and its producer. The filmmaker then stands before the audience to give a super-quick presentation on what everyone's about to see. Then it's movie time.
Green says it turns out great, because afterward everyone knows each other's name and their work. They can comment on it, network and possibly make connections to collaborate on future projects. She encourages everyone who's interested to participate. Reel to Reel has screened films from editors and pro videographers to newbies who are just getting their feet wet. And she likes the mix.
"It's cool because then they can have conversations about working together," she says. "That's kind of the whole point -- to encourage people to do more; we're trying to inspire people to do this. They have a venue and a captive audience that wants to see their work."
For one high school math teacher-turned-professional-filmmaker and photographer, Reel to Reel picked up where his personal video club left off.
"It was like a collision of interests, because I go to Flat12 all the time, because I love what it does beer-wise, but then my buddy sent me the link [Green's online request for submissions], and I live really close in the neighborhood," says Daniel Arthur. "It's cool what they're doing; we have very similar motives when it comes to doing creative things and getting people involved around the city."
Arthur and many of his friends know their way around a camera and even had their own "video variety club" for about 18 months. They produced monthly submissions and showed them at another buddy's space, Factory 17, on the third floor of the Murphy Building in Fountain Square. And when that sort of fizzled out with the changing seasons, he welcomed Flat12's platform.
"Like Reel to Reel, it just forced us to be creative, to come up with something every month," says Arthur. So far he's submitted a short music video showcasing Indianapolis and then one he made about Washington D.C. while riding the Metro with his sisters and friends.
An Indy-native, Green lived in Denver for the past six years. There she worked for a nonprofit group in professional filmmaking -- educational films in fact. She organized a program similar to Reel to Reel in Colorado. So when Green joined the Flat12 staff last fall, she proposed movie nights here.
Head Brewer and Co-founder Rob Caputo promptly gave his thumbs-up to the idea. With a background in printmaking, painting and metal work in addition to communications experience in radio (doing on-air and production work) and multimedia, Caputo is nothing if not creative.
Caputo strives to support the local community and get the surrounding neighborhoods involved. And many of Flat12's philanthropic partners want to get in on the act with footage showcasing what they're doing for Indy and its residents. So it was a perfect fit.
Then there's Todd Bracik. Here's a name you might recognize from his steady involvement over the years with Big Car. Bracik is all over it when it comes to Flat12 and the movie screenings. Green says he's been putting together film events around Indy for the past 10 years. He works part-time in the taproom, and he's a steel sculpture artist (one who's created his own metal garden and outdoor theater, complete with a large outdoor screen.)
"Todd is basically a film collector," Green explains. "He collects all different kinds of mediums -- the old actual reel-to-reels and filmstrips and all."
She relays a story about one of Bracik's friends who found boxes of beauty college instructional filmstrips in an abandoned building. Translation: Kitschy jackpot! Bracik saw it for what it's worth -- a gold mine for a themed movie event.
"He has the filmstrip projector and he's going to project the films that teach how to make beehive hairdos," Green says. "And then we'll have a rockabilly band that's going to play a soundtrack to it, and we'll have teams of people trying to do these beehives and other crazy '60s hairdos."
The head brewer will brew beer using local honey to go along with the "beehive" theme. "It's just going to be really silly and funny," she says, laughing.
An upcoming film night on March 13 will incorporate a 16 millimeter projector (which Bracik owns, of course). The IU Film Archives Library reached out to Flat12, searching for a venue to show "the best of" its 48,000 educational films from the '50s and '60s. Retro Madness! will feature Leave It Beaver-style instructional flicks on the all-important topics to teach teens -- grooming, dating and dealing with drugs and alcohol.
International Diversion for Indy-made films
And if that doesn't give you an idea of the creative genius and humor on tap at this microbrewery, perhaps its house animation expert and "resident Russian" will.
Like a rodeo clown, Sergey Grechukhin steps in at intermission to provide an interesting distraction for filmgoers. He presents a segment he calls "Odd Minute," in which he brings high-quality old Russian cartoons and heps the audience to their background, technical quality and plot lines. And he intentionally selects films with limited to no narration.
"I'm there to create a little break from the local films," says Grechukhin. "I thought it would be fun to insert something that probably nobody has seen before or heard about and hopefully something that's still relevant today and cool."
So far his Odd Minutes have included The Mitten from 1967 and Hedgehog in the Fog, a children's classic from 1975. For his third in the series, Grechukhin plans to progress to a Russian Claymation film from the '80s. He talks eloquently of these cartoons he watched as kid and how Soviet Russian animation in particular differs fundamentally from the commercialized American version produced during the same era.
His passion for the films is evident when he speaks, and when asked about his filmmaking background, he says sort of laughing, "I'm an attorney. I have absolutely no training whatsoever in film. I like animation; I like cartoons; and I like films, but I'm not by any means connected to that world at all professionally."
Which seems apropos.
"Reel to Reel provides a venue for filmmakers in a very comfortable setting," Grechukhin says. "All you need to do is to have a submission, and chances are likely it will be shown. It's a great way to encourage people to produce new stuff."