On Gas Stations and Nostalgia

Ben Sally, July 23, 2013

I'm currently in the process of moving from one apartment to another. Despite the paucity of furniture that can physically fit inside an apartment affordable by a grad student in Manhattan, I've managed to accumulate enough stuff over the past 12 months to justify borrowing my parents' minivan for a week to facilitate things. It was during this process that I had perhaps the most mundane epiphany of all time: I hadn't been to a gas station in a year.

I don't know why this occurred to me -- I've never had any sort of affinity or affection for gas stations. The beer there is almost universally horrible, gas saps far too much money from my beer fund, and the story of a friend of a friend getting carjacked while filling up has always made me feel vaguely uneasy. Still, the first time I ever successfully bought beer was at a Mobil (Natty Light), and it's always liberating and something of a relief to know you have a full tank of gas to go wherever you please.

So there I was, filling up the van at a Shell station in Washington Heights after moving, when all of a sudden this bizarre sense of nostalgia that I struggled to understand came over me. So I did what I normally do when faced with an emotional quandary: I went inside and bought beer.

With a six pack of the best thing they had that was cold acquired (Sam Adams' Summer Ale-1.39 BAR), I thought and thought and finally formulated a hypothesis: the past year had been the first time since I turned 16 that I'd been stuck in a single place with no means to pick up and leave on a whim. No. Car. It was a peculiar feeling -- it's not like I'd ever considered such a drastic move, nor would I have gotten very far, but I suppose the subconscious knowledge that it was an option was somehow reassuring.

I pondered this for 45 minutes while looking for a parking spot, then wound up getting a ticket for leaving the van too close to a hydrant. And just like that, any longing I'd had for the feeling of autonomy a car provides went out the window.

Anyways, this has been a long-winded and probably tangential at best introduction to my actual topic, which is The Filling Station in NYC's Chelsea Market. They specialize in gourmet salts, oils, and vinegars, and have more recently added 64 oz. growlers of craft beers to their offerings-fuel I definitely prefer to that of the unleaded variety.

Given that it was an 85 degree Sunday afternoon that I'd spend ambling around the High Line (an elevated park on a series of abandoned train platforms in lower Manhattan), four pints of something light and refreshing sounded mouth-wateringly glorious. To wit (see what I did there), I paid my $22 (plus a $5 deposit for the growler, which you can take back for a 10% discount on refills) and happily headed back to my apartment with a large brown bottle of Westbrook Brewing Co.'s White Thai Witbier.

It's described as a Southeast Asia-inspired take on the traditional Belgian witbier, in that lemongrass, ginger, and Sorachi Ace hops are used in lieu of coriander and orange peel. I'm an absolute sucker for beers with ginger in them, ever since I had the idea years ago to dry hop an unfiltered wheat ale with crystallized ginger (probably the best idea of my life; it's all been downhill from there). Unfortunately my tulip glasses haven't been unpacked, but a stein will do in a pinch.

Westbrook Brewing Co.'s White Thai Witbier (poured from 64 oz. growler into frosted glass stein...repeatedly)

Appearance: 4/5: Lovely golden haze, just the right amount of white head. Looks like a witbier should.

Smell: 2.5/5: What's there is nice-intriguing hints of lemongrass and ginger. The aroma is disappointingly faint though.

Taste: 3.75/5: Definitely unique-slightly more sour and hoppy than your typical wit. Detectable hints of lemongrass and ginger that aren't overwhelming, but left me wanting more.

Mouthfeel: 4.5/5: No complaints here. Light body, not overly carbonated. Very very refreshing.

Overall: 3.75/5: There's nothing wrong with the beer to be honest, it's quite delicious. I just felt a bit underwhelmed, as I was hoping for more lemon and ginger notes since that was what attracted me to it in the first place. Still, it definitely hit the spot after a long hot day, and it's a wonderful summer beer that I can recommend whole-heartedly if you temper your expectations somewhat. I suspect that if I'd not gone into it actively looking for the lemongrass and ginger flavors I'd have enjoyed it much more.