Monday, June 30, 2008

Outer Banks Brewing Station

The Outer Banks Brewing Station
P.O. Box 2584; MilePost 8.5
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a family reunion in Nags Head, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. My dad's side of the family squeezed about 30 people into a beach house, and fun times were had by all.

I was extra excited because Karl tagged along for the first few days (and didn't break up with me after meeting the more temperamental and volatile half of my family). Since Karl was there, we of course had to explore the edible and drinkable possibilities brewing on the Outer Banks.

On recommendation from Gene (our favorite Church Brew Works bartender), we sought out the Outer Banks Brewing Station (on the sly, of course: my family is a bunch of teetotalers!), a brew pub at milepost 8.5 on the main highway (Croatan, or the Bypass, or "The Big Road"). When I asked my former missionary grandmother, who lives on the Outer Banks, for directions, she looked horrified, and said, "You're going there? But that's a joint!"

Oh well. We promised her we'd stay away from the bar, which seemed to satisfy her.

The Brewing Station resembles a church more than a pub (on the outside). It's a large white building with architectural aspects that suggest a nautical theme. The coolest part about the pub is that they have a windmill! I read on a blog somewhere (I'm sorry I lost the link!) that the windmill doesn't actually power the Brewing Station, but they sell the electricity it generates to the main grid and thereby receive a credit on their electricity bills. An ad we saw in one of the travel mags touted the Outer Banks Brewing Station as America's first wind-powered brew pub, which is a little misleading, but I think that this is a step in the right direction!

After being seated in the dining area (well away from the bar, Grandma!), Karl and I split a bowl of mediocre crab bisque ($5.99). Besides containing far too little crab meat, the bisque tasted cheesy. Crab bisque should have no cheese, or at least shouldn't taste like nacho sauce! It should be creamy and silky, with nice lumps of crab floating just below the surface. That bisque made me long for the she-crab soup at Soby's in Greenville, SC.

The fish (flounder) and chips ($8.99)were much more delightful, and there was plenty for Karl and me to split the lunch entrée and be stuffed. I am of the opinion that it is difficult to mess up fish and chips, but Karl has apparently had some bad experiences. The OBX Brewing Station pulled through well enough to satisfy Karl's tastes (and mine!). The batter wasn't too heavy, and we got about 5 good-sized pieces of flounder. The wedge fries were perfect: crispy and flavorful on the outside with pillows of soft potato on the inside. The fish also came with a delicious remoulade on the side.

Of course we tried the beer, too! Before ordering any pints, we ordered a tasting flight of four 5 oz. servings of their current selections ($6): Ölsch, Old Knucklehead Nut Brown Ale, Shipwreck Stout, and one that I cannot currently remember. I'll have to update when I do. The Ölsch was pretty plain. If you like light beers, go for the Ölsch. The Nut Brown Ale, on the other hand, was insane: I could appreciate what an interesting and well-crafted beer it was, but I still didn't like it. I took two or three sips and could not figure out why I didn't like it, but there it was! It is unlike any brown ale I have ever tasted. It has a strange roasted cereal taste that is juxtaposed by resiny hops. It makes a very, very strange and great beer that I, nevertheless, could not bring myself to enjoy.

The winner for me is the Shipwreck Stout. It definitely made the trip worthwhile: it's one of the tastiest and smoothest stouts I have ever had the pleasure of imbibing. The description on the menu is fairly apt: "Fat and chewy oatmeal stout with a sweet silky finish." I'm not sure that it's chewy, but it is a full-bodied beer that ends up feeling incredibly light and, yes, silky by the time you swallow. So well balanced! It's chocolate-y and slightly sweet, but not to the point of being a dessert beer. One of the things that often turns me off about stouts is that I have difficulty finishing even one pint because they are so heavy. The Shipwreck Stout is light enough that you can eat a meal and have your beer without risking explosion of the innards. It is absolutely worth the trip to the Outer Banks Brewing Station just to try the stout.

Karl also tried a pint of the Hefeweizen, which was alright. The waitress served it in a very tall hefeweizen glass with a slice of orange for garnish. Though the presentation was lovely, the beer had a little TOO strong of a banana flavor for my tastes. If you want the best brew pub hefeweizen, you should try the Church Brew Works' Heavenly Hefeweizen: I swear that it is like drinking a refreshing banana split (pineapple, strawberries, and nuts included) in a glass.