23 Mar Great Beer & Pizza In Charlestown, IN? You Heard Us Right!
What would you think of if someone asked you about Charlestown, IN? If you’re from the area you could know they have one of the biggest Christmas celebrations in Indiana. You might know it is a small town in southeastern Indiana or you may have never heard of it. What most people wouldn’t think of Charlestown as a place to get a really good pizza and great beer. That is because most of you have never been to Charlestown Pizza Company.
Charlestown Pizza Company was opened in March of 2007 by Shawn Vest and his wife Tajana Johann. Both Shawn and Tajana are former employees and pupils of Roger Baylor at the famous Rich O’s. This is where they cut their teeth in the pizza business and learned about beer. While Shawn was a beer buyer for two years at Whole Foods in Louisville, KY, he credits his knowledge of beer and pallet to his 7 years working for Roger. This explains how a small family friendly pizza shop in Charlestown, IN has the beer menu CPC does.
When I pulled up to CPC it was a bit unassuming with a brick façade and blue awning with the business’ name on it. There is also a small hanging white sign, reminiscent of something you might see on an old school doctor’s office, with Charlestown Pizza Company printed on it. Nothing flashy, the windows are not covered in beer posters and neon signs. If I were driving around looking for a good beer, I might overlook this place.
Back to the business at hand: the beer and pizza. Let me start this off with I do not care for standard pizzas. If it gets delivered in 30 minutes or less chances are I ordered a sandwich or wings. When Shawn asked me what I wanted to eat, I told him to bring me whatever he wanted. I was surprised with a mashed potato pizza. Yes – MASHED POTATO PIZZA!!! Bacon, cheese, garlic, mashed potatoes, and well cooked pizza crust. It was like eating the best potato boats you have ever had, because they were in a crunchy and chewy pizza crust. It was 8 inches of delicious carb on carb violence. I paired it with a Saugatuck Brewing Neapolitan Stout and it was a glutinous 35 minute food vacation. The sweetness and roasted flavors in the stout played well with the savory pizza and was even better as the beer warmed up. Things like this are why I am fat, just in case you were wondering. This is what Shawn and Tajana wanted: a place in Charlestown with good pizza and beer where the family could all go together. And, they were tired of driving 30+ minutes just to get it.
The remainder of the beer list was pretty well thought out. Shawn likes to keep his beer list at around 100 bottles and 8 taps. When he orders beer for CPC, he selects options that are great examples of style. An example is Weihenstephan Hefeweiss Dunkel, the only Dunkel Weiss on the menu because Shawn feels it is the best example of that style made. He also takes requests from customers and manages to stock some very good beer. Flat12 Half Cycle, Tin Man Rivet Red, Oaken Barrel Snake Pit Porter, 2012 Scaldis Noel, and Fantome Printemps are all on the bottle list ready for everyday consumption. On tap Indiana beers dominate to the tune of NABC Tunnel Vision, Triton Sly Boogie IPA, and Flat12 Bleeding Heart to name a few. The included beer list changes daily and may not include everything that is available. If you’re friendly and talk with Shawn, you may find there are some Easter eggs hidden somewhere out of sight.
CPC carries a decent cider and sour lists on their bottle menu as well. This has been driven by the increased popularity of both cider and sour beer over the last three years. When I asked Shawn how he helps customer new to craft beer make a decision, he stated he just talks to them in terms of flavors like foods. If someone says they like citrus Shawn might ask how they eat a half of a grapefruit. If they eat it fresh out of the peel, he will suggest an IPA. If the person says they dump a bunch of sugar on it, he might recommend a lambic or cider. I feel like this is a great way to begin someone’s craft beer education.
Whether you go for the pizza or the craft beer, you will be happy with both at Charlestown Pizza Company. Bring the family and let the kids play in the small arcade area adorned with maps from National Geographic magazines. Grab one of the encyclopedias off of the partition and show the kids how we used to do research. They may accidentally learn something. If you sit at the bar you could hear Shawn and his 15 year-old server quoting Shakespeare. If you’re lucky, you might be regaled with stories of the same server being paid to kill snakes under her deck. There is a little something for everybody.
I asked Shawn what he wanted people to know about CPC, and this is what he said:
“The main thing people should know is that we love pizza and beer. We try to provide community for a small town through pizza and beer. You notice we don’t have televisions. There are no distractions when you come in to eat together.”
“You’re breaking bread together, you’re having pizza. It’s a shared meal and you should sit down and talk to one another, as opposed to the game, news, or whatever is on television. The music is at a decent level, but very community oriented.”
“You can have a beer while the kids are here and not be in a raging bar atmosphere.”
Keep drinking great beer and talking about it, I know I will!