Holy Cross stories, pt. 1: Flat12 Bierwerks

Holy Cross Highland Park

The Highland Park hill with the Holy Cross bell tower in the background.

From the pinnacle of Highland Park you can see a lot. It’s the second highest point in Indianapolis, so Chase Tower and the downtown skyline are highly visible. But so are the 136-foot Holy Cross bell tower, a fence with three Rottweiler statues, a development of brand new $300,000 to $500,000 homes, a one-acre urban farm in the shadow of two antiques and oddities stores.

When I wrote my profile of Holy Cross, I had to cut down to the essentials to capture the neighborhood as a whole.

So, while I want folks to read my article (Click here: Holy Cross Neighborhood in Downtown Indy Resurges with New Homes, Businesses) I’d also like to share these stories.

Flat 12 bierwerks brewery

(Photo courtesy of Angie’s List)


414 Dorman Street

Sean O’Connor is a Greenwood, Indiana, native who fell in love with craft beer in Europe. He and his wife lived abroad for a while and when they returned, he helped start Flat12 Bierwerks.

Sean is co-founder (along with brewer Rob Caputo), president, and CEO of Flat12. We spoke in the taproom in January.

Why did you open up here in Holy Cross instead of somewhere else, a brand new building somewhere else in Indianapolis?

Probably three or four reasons. We wanted to be a production brewery that had a really neat taproom presence. This neighborhood fit those two criteria because we’re close to I-65, I-70—so good for transportation, getting the beer to Monarch. But it’s also in a really cool neighborhood.

Did the neighborhood know about your business when you moved in? And what was the response after you opened up?

It’s really important for me to be a member of the community, so we wanted to go to a neighborhood that was going to want us, to partner with us.

When we first found the building, we said this works for what we want to do from the operations standpoint, so we started going to the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association meetings, NESCO neighborhood meetings, Cottage Home Neighborhood Association meetings. So we started meeting with all the leaders and said, “We’re thinking about opening up a production facility.”

We laid everything out on the table and said, “This is what our vision is, is this something your neighborhoods would want to get behind? Is this something that you would support?” And overwhelmingly, everyone welcomed us with open arms.

This is an interesting building, too; is there any history behind it?

There’s a lot of lore. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I don’t know which ones are true and which ones aren’t.

My favorite one is: a gentleman was in here and said, “This used to be the Pepsi bottling plant.” And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.’ And he said, “No, it is. When I was in high school, I drove a forklift and I remember coming right down that area.” So I guess that there’s some truth to that.

This room that you’re looking at here—all the brick, all the cedar—this was all here. It was just covered up.

I’ve heard that this was leftover from a project someone was doing for the Lilly family, a big cedar project. That’s how he got his hands on the cedar.

What’s neat up here is there’s not a single nail. It’s all Amish pegging, which I think is pretty cool.

We took several weeks undoing this room rather than taking a bobcat and demolishing everything. And all of this was here. It almost felt like we were archaeologists.

How have you seen the neighborhood improve since you’ve been here?

We weren’t the first-comers to the neighborhood. It was already moving in the right direction, and was in a good spot. I’ve definitely seen continuous improvement every year.

Smoking Goose coming in across the street was great. Name me one other place in the country where you have a topnotch brewery and a topnotch smokehouse right across the street, come in on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and buy carryout from both of them.

It’s a really cool urban area, and what I think is neat is we get people all the way from Carmel and Greenwood who come in just to hang out and see this area.

We want to be part of the neighborhood. We don’t just want to be located here; we want to be part of it.

It really seems like—from all the crazy, eclectic beers you produce—you fit this neighborhood really well, because everything I’ve heard from people who live here is that it’s so diverse, there’s so much local flavor here…

Craft beer, in general, has a diverse clientele. Someone says, “Who’s the craft beer drinker?” It’s high school educated to PhDs. It’s young to old. It’s women to men. It crosses gender and socioeconomic gaps.

And I think that’s one other thing about us, too. We don’t have just a single flagship beer—we’ve got five great core beers, and what we have on tap right now is another 10-15, and they’re ever-changing. We are. We’re a very diverse company, and we’ve got diverse employees.


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