As part of our Q&A series, Morningsider brings you exclusive interviews with neighborhood VIPs. This week, we interview Ousmane Keita & Chris Pollock, co-owners of Bier International, the first beer garden in Harlem.
Having been in business together for over a decade, Ousmane Keita and Chris Pollock opened Bier International in summer 2010 and have been enjoying success ever since. Bier International continues to provide a terrific atmosphere, quality service and a delicious menu. They also hold crowd-drawing events such as the popular Oktobierfest and monthly beer and wine tastings.
1. Tell us about Bier International.
Bier International was conceived to offer Harlemites a great selection of international beers (and wines), something that residents previously had to travel elsewhere to find. Additionally, we wanted to offer international dishes to accompany and complement the fine selection of (mostly) imported beers. Bier International introduces previously unavailable beers to Harlem and pairs those with the dishes offered.
2. What inspired you to open Bier International?
Basically the realization that Harlem didn’t have any beer gardens, or any place that offered a good selection of beers.
3. What are your favorite dishes served at Bier International? What beers would you pair with them?
All of our dishes carry pairing suggestions on the menu. Very popular are the catfish tacos (bier: Pauwel Kwak), something of a signature dish, along with our steak burger (100% beef, preservative-free) (bier: Jenlain Ambrée), our sausage selection – locally-produced in small batches – and seasonal specials such as soft shell crabs, mussels, Wiener Schnitzel or Schweineflügel (braised pork wings). Our Executive Chef, Adriano Flor Santos, hails from Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa, and his international experience complements Bier International’s concept perfectly.
4. Do you have any specials or events coming up you’re particularly excited about?
Any special our chef cooks up (pun intended) is exciting and we constantly discuss the next ones. We just had our annual “Wurst” month with special sausages from different countries.
We also have monthly or bi-monthly beer (or wine) tastings.
And while we have several “international” celebrations throughout the year such as Maifest (May 5 & 6) and Bastille Day (July 14) featuring special beers and food, our most popular event is Oktoberfest, which usually starts mid-September. We call it “Oktobierfest” and we started a new annual Harlem tradition by crowning an Oktobierfest queen. Bier International also has a contingent marching in the annual Steuben Parade.
5. Aside from Bier International, what are some of your favorite Harlem hot spots?
We like what’s happening in Harlem these days and we appreciate those businesses that have been around for a while, such as Shrine, and stuck it out until the Harlem Renaissance took root not so long ago. We support those and anyone that is coming in now, especially on FDB, to make Harlem a more exciting place and destination for all New Yorkers and other visitors.
6. What are your favorite parts about being business owners?
The freedom it offers you to do what you believe in, along with the challenge of making it work and succeed.
7. Anything else you would like to add?
Bier International strives to offer a top quality product at an affordable and reasonable price point, a delicate balance, with appeal to an increasingly demanding and sophisticated audience. It provides a stylish, yet down-to-earth bier garden experience reflected in communal tables to foster socializing, and cultural interaction amongst our diverse roster of patrons.
2099 Frederick Douglass Boulevard
New York, New York