Bartender of the Month: Sean Brown

Sean Brown of Split Rail Tavern talks about quality craft brews and great food.

Photo by: Amy Tucker
Interview by: Dan Mathers

How long have you been at Split Rail? Since we first opened 3.5 years ago, and I’ve been bartending for a little over a year.

Why do you think you were nominated for Bartender of the Month? I love the craft—it’s fun. I have a lot of knowledge, and I love sharing it with customers.

What kind of knowledge? The beer knowledge obviously. Working under bar manager James Mullally, he’s got an amazing background after his time in New York, and I’ve been learning from him. Being able to try the beers each day is an awesome deal.

What got you into beer? Drinking it. I’ve gone from just crushing light beer at college parties, to now I get to sample the finer side of things. It’s crazy how craft beer is everywhere now, and it’s awesome to be at a bar with so many constantly rotating taps. And trying all these beers, you pick up the different profiles of things, like hop varietal. People are pushing it all to new levels, and it’s cool to see how things are changing and growing as the craft beer boom has taken off.

You seem very into hops; I take it you’re an IPA guy? IPAs are the majority of what I drink, but I also like a lot of Belgians, too. Sometimes it’s possible to get overwhelmed by IPAs, so variety is good. This time of year you get some higher ABV drinks to warm up the insides, like those bigger stouts and bourbon barrel-aged stuff. One of the best things about Split Rail is getting all these great beers from overseas, too. It’s not all just American craft here.

You find the food menu and beer list work well together? We just introduced an eight-course, paired-meal event. It’s a small tasting menu and a bunch of crazy rare beers that we’re pairing with those courses. We’re going to do that every couple months from now on, and our first one already sold out. The final course is a series of wafers from Éclat and a crazy lambic from Cantillon in Brussels, and it’s hard to get their beers here, so we’re building that reputation. You have a favorite on menu? The grilled basket cheese is on the new menu. If you’re familiar with queso canella, they sear it really hard on both sides, which chars outside and softens inside. That’s drizzled with pistachio honey over a bitter green salad, tossed in a mustard vinaigrette with dried apricot. It’s a great app to for-and-knife your way through

What’s your preferred shift? Saturday night is the most fun time. We started bringing in a DJ every Saturday night, so the party goes late, and we’ve got a really good crowd—mostly middle-aged couples, and people in their 30s and 40s. I get to have fun with the customers. But any time is great here; the staff is awesome. James worked at Clover Club in Brooklyn and Justin Hoke was the chef at le Bec-Fin. It’s a really awesome place to work, learn and have a great time doing it.