I recently embarked upon a family vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I drank several beers while there and went to several places based on the recommendations from BeerGraphs readers. And for that I am thankful.
More recently, however, I have returned home from the Outer Banks, a process that involved a long drive that could not have possibly started under worse circumstances.
“What could be so terrible? You seem upset. This is a safe place.” Hollow words. Psychological spears, carved from the neurotic bamboo of my nightmare forests, from my therapist, Dr. Rayon Vert.
Imagine a gas station. Imagine needing gas for the long trip home and the price being right. Now imagine...
“Enough of these imaginations. You do not pay me to imagine things. In fact, you do not pay me. You are here as a favor to your father. Now why don't you just get on with this, stop singing your John Lennon songs, and tell me what happened.”
But YOU are imaginary. You're not real. You're not doing this as a favor to my father. You don't even know my father. You exist solely in my head.
“Is that how you see our relationship? As 'not real'? Are you implying I don't exist, that you control me? Can you make me move my left arm? If you controlled me you could move my left arm right now. Go ahead, move my left arm.”
His eyes were wider than his bifocals. And bright like bulbs. He stared my way for about 10 seconds and then broke, returning to his notepad to scribble more curly q's and plus signs.
“You see! You can not do it,” he said. “You tried and you could not. I exist. You exist. We all exist. And I know your father. Now carry on – tell me more about your gas station tragedy.”
I sank back into the couch and looked past the ceiling as his words came out staccato and quick. I anticipated that the bored moan of Dr. Vert would occur before I finished my next word and prepared to talk right through it as I started over.
Imagine a gas station, I said again. Imagine needing gas for the long trip home and the price being right. Now imagine as you pulled up to the pump, a white pickup truck pulling up to the pump along side of you. And in this white pickup truck is man with dark sunglasses and a grey, overgrown mustache. While you could not see his eyes and you could not see his mouth, he appeared to be looking in your direction and you got the sense that his mouth was just slightly open. You thought he might look away if you continued to look at him, but he did not.
Casually, before exiting the car, you remark to your traveling companion, in my case I remarked to Wife, that you found it weird that the mustachioed gentleman in the truck next to you appears to be staring in your direction. And your traveling companion will agree – it is strange. In your mind you might tell yourself he is looking at something beyond you, that you are unaware of, perhaps something across the street, an advertisement, or a large breasted blonde walking her dog. You tell yourself such things so that you have the courage to get out of the car and pump gas in very close proximity to the strange man.
Like a mirror, the man exits his vehicle as you do, unscrews his gas cap as you do, and selects his fuels type as you do. As you and he simultaneously place the gas nozzle into your tank, you sneeze – loudly and unexpectedly – and the man quickly responds with a polite 'Gesundheit!'
This small action would not seem so unsettling except that during your stay in North Carolina you estimate that you sneezed in excess of 300 times and not once did you hear a Gesundheit. Sure, you heard many a 'bless you' and 'God bless you' but not a single soul you encountered invoked the German response. What would make it even more peculiar is if the area you lived and where traveling home to had a large Pennsylvania Dutch contingent that more often than not said 'Gesundheit' in response to a public sneezing.
It was as if this man at the gas pump knew where I was from and he was trying to endear himself to me in hopes that I would befriend him. I assumed this potential befriending scenario would end with me dead and murdered and was therefore quite uncomfortable.
At this moment, you could imagine perhaps the reflection in your car window of a small smirk on your face as the following dialogue silently occurs in your brain, “You are being silly. This man knows nothing about you. Sure, he is wearing a Sticky Finger BBQ Sauce t-shirt and, yes, that is your favorite BBQ sauce, but this man is not trying to murder you. He is merely trying to be polite and all your strange intuitions are merely the result of coincidence. Yes, I am being silly. This whole things is just me being crazy.”
Then, from behind the pump, the man says, “Long drive?”
And while his heavy drawl has rendered your pleasant smirk into a tight lipped kitten face, you are still momentarily convinced that you are in no real danger and your previous murderous premonition was just your silly, crazy brain playing tricks on you. With a sense of pride in overcoming your quiet insanity, you respond to his query, “Yes, all day.”
He follows up, like a friend would, “Where you headed?”
“Pennsylvania,” you say, while the neurotic and protective voice in your head reminds you that he probably already knows that because he has been tracking you for some time and/or your license plate. But you are being sociable right now and and are not listening to yourself. You are so stupid that you feel as if you are actually becoming a better person by increasing the probability that you are murdered today.
So when the man says he is from 'Philadelphia' and then asks you 'where abouts in PA', you ignore the voice inside yourself and say to the strange man, “About an hour and a half northwest of there, outside of Reading, PA.”
He asks, “You taking 95 the whole way or heading up the coast?”
“Probably taking the coast the whole way,” you respond.
At this point, you can no longer drown out the screams of your inner voice with the smirks and smiles of attempted social interaction. You can not help but to agree with the idea that you may have just revealed too much information to the strange man from Philadelphia with a very thick southern accent and that attempted homicide is now, most likely, the best case scenario for the remainder of your day. It is at this point that you decide to cease all communications and focus in a way that no man has ever focused before on the act of holding the gas nozzle trigger.
Like a true psycopath, the man simply echoed my silence. Several moments passed before my tank was full. As I returned the nozzle and tightened my gas cap, the murderer bid me farewell:
“Well, drive careful and get home safe. I imagine there are going to be a lot of crazies on the road today.”
Dr. Vert let out a loud scoff and said, “That is quite a tale you've put together.”
It is not a tale, I exclaimed, exhausted from Dr. Vert constantly questioning my honesty. It might be the most honest thing I've ever told you.
“And the man said those words at the end?” he asked, his eyes back down at his notepad.
Word for word. It's burned into my memory. That and I pulled over about five miles down the road to see if he was following me and to write it down.
“Was he following you?”
It was hard to tell. There are a lot of white pickup trucks in that area, but I don't think so.
“So you're safe now. Let's move away from the negative and talk about something positive from your time on the Outer Banks. Also, perhaps it is time to stop watching True Detective over and over again.” Dr. Vert sat with legs crossed and and hands folded atop of his knees. The notepad was gone. He seemed attentive and interested. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He leaned forward, extended his arm with the pack in hand, and asked if I'd like one.
I took him up on his offer and as we enjoyed what seemed to be an endless cigarette, I told him about my time on the Outer Banks – the good stuff. I told him about Chip's Wine and Beer Shop in Kill Devil Hills, where I stopped as soon as I got into town for a four pack of Outer Banks Brewing Station's Lemon Grass Wheat. I also grabbed some beers by Boulevard and Ska Brewing that I can't get near me in Pennsylvania.
I told Dr. Vert about the Foothills Brewing's Jade IPA (6.44 BAR, 108 Style+), which I found on tap at Trio. I told him how it was one of the better IPAs I've ever had, how I had it after drinking an Enjoy By 7.04.14 and it was the better beer that night with a unique blend of tropical fruit, maybe even mango, and dry grass flavors with perfect bittereness. I told him if he ever has the opportunity, he should try it.
I almost couldn't contain myself as I told him about my times at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. I wondered aloud why I had never come across something like it before, how at first I had thought it to be a mirage, too good to be true. I described it a spectacle not unlike the Grand Canyon, where you wonder how it came to be and how long it took to be created. Dr. Vert grew impatient and playfully demanded that I just come out with it already. With a rude joyfulness that reminded me immediately of Dickie from The Talented Mr. Ripley, he stood up from his chair and looked toward the ceiling asking what could be so wonderful. Unsure if he was mocking my pleasure or taking part in it – I decided not to care and just told him: the Outer Banks Brewing Station had an outdoor beer garden with a playground for your kids.
He plopped back down into the seat of his chair and ran both his hands through his hair. He looked off into the distance, trying to picture it. Immediately, he was back out of his seat, racing back to his desk, maniacally opening and closing drawers until he pulled out a clear bottle half full with brown liquid.
Two glasses appeared and he poured them mostly full while saying some number of years and scotch, never asking if I cared for any. He brought them over, forced one into my hand, and then squeezed my hand over top of the glass to make sure I had a good grip on it. Next, he took out another cigarette, put it in my mouth, lit it, and then got another for himself. He lit his cigarette as he fell back into his chair again, a picture perfect flabbergasted as he looked right at me and asked, “Why isn't everyone doing this?”
He never blinked. In fact, his entire expression never changed. It was as if he was frozen waiting for my answer. Eventually, realizing he asked a question that was most likely rhetorical, he snapped out it and asked me about their beer. We talked about how an on-premises playground for little ones might affect a parent's ratings of the beers experienced during their time in what we both decided, after another glass of brown liquor, was the 4th dimension of parenting. I described the first beer I had there, their Naked Saison (not listed on our LeaderBoards) – big flavors, a bit sweet, with hints of mint – and how I rated it a 4 even though it was probably more like a 3.25 or 3.5. We dubbed such overrating The Playground Effect as we stood next to his giant globe and just spun it backwards as fast as we could, like two laughing, giant supermen standing still, reversing time back to the dinosaurs.
Their Standard Issue Pale Ale (-0.9 BAR, 91 Style+; it might do better with our metrics if it was labeled as just a Pale Ale instead of an Imperial Pale Ale) was decent, I told him, with very drinkable but tasty hop flavors and a faint aroma of weed all worthy of the 4 star rating I gave it. But again, away from the playground, it may only be worthy of a 3.5 rating. Dr. Vert grabbed the globe with both hands and stopped it in its place.
“Did you say weed,” he asked. “Do you have any?”
Lemon Grass Wheat Ale, Outer Banks Brewing Station (0.46 BAR, 97 Style+)
Appearance = 3.5/5
Pale yellow, cloudy, half inch of white head, not much retention though.
Smell = 3.5/5
Lemon, wheat, a bit of grass. Doesn't get much more straight forward than this.
Taste = 4/5
Nice tart lemon, wheat sweetness, and some grassiness. It was a bit sweeter on draft than from the can.
Feel = 4/5
Typical wheat feel but with a hint dry grass bitterness up front.
Overall = 4/5
There may be a bit of a vacation/playground effect in action here, but I thought it was certainly better than the BAR or Style+ would lead you too believe. Not as sweet as a typical wheat with some lemon tartness and dry grass flavor. Wife and I both agreed we would rather drink this than Bell's Oberon, just to give you a ballpark idea of where it might fall on the wheat beer scale. But again, we were on vacation, at a beer garden with a playground.
For more of J. R. Shirt's sessions with Dr. Rayon Vert, click here and then here.
J. R. Shirt brought several North Carolina beers home with him. He will be drinking them over the next couple of days. He might write about them on these pages in the next week or so. He might not. Follow him on Twittter and Untapped @beeronmyshirt.