Mellow Mushroom bar manager Brian Bateman brings experience, beer-knowledge, and an unflappable demeanor to the popular Pizzeria’s Anastasia Island location.
Though it’s a nearly 50-year old franchise with something like 140 locations across the U.S., people like bartender Brian Bateman allow each Mellow Mushroom to maintain a funky, community-specific flavor (no pun intended). The 46-year old Ocean City, Maryland transplant’s been a smiling face behind the Mellow bar since the Anastasia Island location’s grand-opening nearly four years ago, slinging cocktails and pulling tasty pints from the pizzeria’s vast and locally-focused selection of taps.
Bateman landed his first bartending job nearly two-decades ago when he was a member of the University of Virginia Weseleyan’s golf team. Needing a summer job to maintain his residence in the coastal vacation community of Virginia Beach, Bateman’s bar-backing gig at a night club-style joint turned into a steady bartending job. Since then he’s been behind the bar off and on from Pittsburgh to Virginia until his arrival in St. Augustine 15 years ago. The experience at a high-volume establishments primed Bateman for the large and eclectic crowds of revelers and diners that Mellow tends to pull in on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights he tends bar.
“My strength has always been volume,” Bateman says. “I’m able to handle a really crowded bar, efficiently and accurately.”
Though Mellow offers a variety of creative cocktails and a pretty righteous daily happy hour ($1 off drafts!), most of Bateman’s regulars – who hail not just from the restaurant’s Davis Shores neighborhood, but from all over the island and downtown – come in looking to expand their hop-oriented pallets. In response to his customers high-demand for variety, Bateman has become a student of beer.
“I’m kind of a ‘hop-head’ so I like to keep a lot of IPAs on tap,” Bateman explains. “Our menu can be overwhelming, but I’m really good at pointing people toward something new that fits their tastes, or expands their understanding of beer.”
“We have goses, sours, stouts, reds, porters, you name it,” he continues. “We also get a lot of rare and special beers from breweries like Funky Buddha and Cigar City.”
Aside from his shifts behind the bar, Bateman serves as Mellow’s bar-manager. With such a busy bar under his charge, Bateman says he’s heavily dependent on his team of five bartenders.
“It’s a great team and we are all interchangeable,” he says. “I’ve tended bar in places all over the country and this is the hands-down the best atmosphere I’ve ever worked in.”
The St. Augustine Mellow Mushroom is located at 410 Anastasia Boulevard. Visit them online at www.mellowmushroom.com/store/saint-augustine. Photography by Brian Miller.