Behind the Bar

Talking with Stout's head drink-slinger

Mark Collins, a 31-year-old bartender from Cork County, Ireland, talks to us about the first few weeks at Stout NYC, the new beer wonderland by Madison Square Garden.

Stout's supposed to be pretty large, eh? It's about 15,000 square feet, another 7,000 to 8,000 feet that's upraised. There's two levels . . . the basement level isn't open yet.

Wow. Why'd they want to create such a big space? What was the idea behind it? When you walk into the bar, the idea is to be walking into an Irish town square with a cobblestone floor. You've got a red brick building to your right. You've got the carriage house building at the top of the town square.

All smiles
photo: Corina Zappia
All smiles

You guys get a lot of the MSG crowd? Since we opened, there hasn't been a lot in the Garden, but we've been getting kids from concerts. The Knicks and the Rangers haven't been playing, so we haven't seen that yet. I'm sure we will.

Do you prefer stout to lager or ale? I'd have to say yes.

What's your favorite type? Oatmeal. It's just got a lot more flavor to it, as opposed to being used to growing up with dry, Irish stouts. I discovered oatmeal stouts when I came over here.

What beer is crap? Bud Light.

You would never drink it? Never. It's just water with a kick.

What is your favorite cheap beer? Heineken. If I was going out for a handful of beers with my mates, it would be Heineken. For a lighter beer, it's good. As opposed to drinking these stouts and all that all night, they become a bit too heavy. So you try one or two.

When you want to splash out, what do you drink? Chimays . . . the Belgian Ales. I'd go with Chimay Grand Reserve . . . It's just a nice, heavy, dark, beer. Great flavor.

Have you ever tried vintage beer? Do you like it? In a small dose, I'd have one. Because you have more than two or three, and you're distorting your taste buds anyway, so you don't really appreciate it as much as you should.

What annoys you the most with beer connoisseurs? I guess [when they're] not open to a lot of people's opinion. I mean, a beer tastes a little different to everybody. Everybody gets their own taste and flavor out of it, to a certain extent . . . It's almost like they come in and they're almost condescending, like "I know what it is, don't tell me any different" . . . They're just not open for conversation on it. I don't want to sound like I'm coming down on beer connoisseurs, but . . .

Do you ever get tired of drinking beer? No, I wouldn't say that. Truth of the matter is, I don't get a chance to drink it that much while I'm working. So I look forward to it, when I do get a chance.

Did you ever have a dream you were swimming in it? My name's Mark, not Homer.

But you work with 120 types of beer. Haven't you ever dreamt you were sitting in a tub of beer? Ha ha, no, but I'm probably going to have one of those dreams, now that you said it.

How old were you when you had your first? Oh . . . I was way too young. Way too young. I'd say my early teens, with friends. And it was probably Bud Light.

 
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