Shady Pines Saloon’s Alen Nikolovski on what he learnt from Bar Convent Berlin

Alen Nikolovski, a member of the Hubertus Circle.

“Man, Berlin’s not a very pretty city, but as soon as the sun goes down, it’s fucking wild!”

Jägermeister’s Hubertus Circle members ventured over to the world’s wildest party city for BCB. Upon their return, we sat down with the guys to see what it’s all about. First up is Alen Nikolovski — the Shady Pines legend — to discuss everything from international trends to techno appreciation and bad moustaches.

First things first, how was BCB?
There’s 14,000 people at that place, did you know that? It’s the biggest bar event I’ve ever been to in my life. Very well organized, very cool set up—hats off to those guys, hey. I saw heaps of friends that I haven’t seen for a while. I’m talking friends from New York, the UK, friends from Berlin, and bartenders from all over the world. It was really cool.

What did you take away from it?
There were a lot of shit moustaches there. Like, stupid curled things.

Alen Nikolovski, a member of the Hubertus Circle.

Did you feel pretty confident about the look of yours?
I’ve had this for almost for five years, and mine’s just been like this the whole time — just a slug. I just wake up and let it sit now. But no, what I really took from it was that there were a lot of talks that I really enjoyed. And one of my favourite parts of it all was how much women had input into it. I’m a very big supporter of women in the industry, I think they should have as much of a say, if not more of a say. You could tell they made a really conscious effort in that way. There were a lot of women talking about women in the industry and a lot of women speakers, and judges too.

Were there any trends you saw that you think we should keep an eye out for here in Australia?
Nah, I think we’re ahead of everyone else. In the bartending industry Australia is ahead by miles. Look at the drinks here; they’re better than the drinks anywhere else in the world. They should take shit from us! Really, it was eye-opening to see. What else? I did see a lot of carbonated drinks coming back, which we already did a while ago. You know what I did like? Even though Berlin is such a big city and there are so many bars, the bartending community is still a really close community. Which so is Australia, but Australia’s sort of like who’s got the bigger ego kind of thing, whereas everyone there was equal. But yeah, Australia, we’re killing it.

The Berlin nightlife scene has a reputation of ‘anything goes’, is that what you found? Any crazy stories?
Man, Berlin’s not a very pretty city, but as soon as the sun goes down, it’s fucking wild. Like, you go to nightclubs at 9pm and you walk out at 8am. And I love techno, so it was perfect for me.

Is that still a really big scene over there?
Yeah, it’s gnarly.

That’s crazy, cause there’s literally nothing here.
Nothing! What they have in their nightlife we have none of here. I mean, bars, yeah sure. But in terms of nightclubs, it’s the best experience ever. They put a sticker on the back of your phone where your camera is, so when you walk in, no one is on their phones. I was like, ‘Hold on!’ If you get your phone out you get kicked out. So you walk around and you’re like ‘Holy shit!’ everyone’s just enjoying the music, enjoying the vibe, enjoying the dancing. So I thought that was incredible — Berlin has nailed that. It’s loose, man.

Is there anything you think Australia could learn from the nightlife scene over there, and vice versa?
Yeah, Berlin’s really cool at night. Everybody lives for the night, which is what I really liked about it. We finished our pop up at 3am, and then we went to a bar that’s 24 hours. And the thing I noticed over there is even though they have basically no rules with the nightlife — which is completely opposite to what we have — they don’t drink aggressively there, they drink to enjoy it. Over here, people go out just to get real fucking pissed in a short period of time, which instead of the lockouts being good, I think that’s all they’ve done. They’ve just ruined people’s drinking habits here and they’ve ruined the way people should drink. Over there, there’re no fights. We didn’t see anything aggressive. It’s the freest place I’ve ever been.

How was it experiencing Jägermeister over in the country that it all started? Much different to over here?
Man, people really love it over there. When we went to Wolfenbüttel where Jägermeister is made, that was probably my favourite part of the trip. It’s like, you know how you see in movies and postcards what those little houses in Germany are supposed to look like? That’s what they looked like. I was walking around thinking ‘Holy shit, I’ve seen this in movies’. And going and seeing where Jägermeister was made was so cool. One thing that I really took from it was the fact that the barrels are all different sizes but they’re all so old, and they all get marked with how much is in there, and the fact that the recipe is so secret that only four people know it. Even the bags that go in there aren’t labelled.

Who are the four people?
It’s in the family, and then the master distiller guy.

So cool. How was catching up with the rest of Hubertus circle there?
Yeah it was cool. They’re pretty fucking passionate about it. There’re guys with like tattoos and shit. We’re only just starting out over here, but these people have been into it for years. It’s cool to see.

When are you getting your tattoo?
I said I’d get the deer, but I’ve only got a little bit of space left.