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Beer does a body good: Outer Banks Brewing Station

Continuing this blog’s inadvertent-but-grand tradition of reporting on mostly fried food and beer, my next recommendation comes just in time for the 5th Annual Outer Banks Marathon.By J. Barrineau I have several friends running in the 2010 race – friends who are far superior athletes than I – and although I wish I could be there, and I certainly wish them well, I don’t envy them.

After my friends run 26.2 miles, they should head to the Outer Banks Brewing Station at MP 8.5 in Kill Devil Hills. What better way to recover than throwing back a pint or three of expertly handcrafted beer at the nation’s first wind-powered brewpub?

Vintner-turned-brew master Scott Meyers, formerly of Berkeley, Calif., delivers some truly exquisite brews. My personal favorites are the Olsch and the Lemongrass Wheat Ale, which certainly speaks to the beers’ wonderfully complex flavors because I tend to favor darker beers. However, when we visit the Outer Banks Brewing Station, it’s usually after a hot day out and about, so it makes sense to quench a thirst with these food-friendly brews.

And although the beers are the stars of the show, the food cannot be missed. The menu is much more sophisticated than the usual bar fare: I’ve had the petite filet, which was tender, flavorful and cooked perfectly. The Veggie Chipotle Burger – a black bean burger – is much better than most veggie burgers, and according to my husband, the Cuban sandwich is a must-taste. If you’re just looking for a beer and something fried to take your mind off your aching feet, calves, thighs and hips, try the onion rings or fried okra. Or check out the new Jalapeño Bottle Caps, which I’ve never had, but I’d bet they’re nearly perfect. (Editor’s note: In my book, the only fried food more perfect than a fried dill pickle is a fried jalapeño.)

So if you’re in KDH the weekend of Nov. 13-14 – or ever – be sure to stop by to one of the coolest dining establishments on the Banks. In addition to the beer and fine foods, the OBB Station also has a full entertainment calendar featuring such acts as The Influence, which will be performing Nov. 19-20.

Where: MP 8.5, 600 South Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, NC

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m., seven days a week

Phone: 252.449.2739 (BREW)

On Google Maps:

Outer Banks Brewing Station on Facebook: Here

On Yelp: Here

On foursquare: Here

On Gowalla: Here

Jockey’s Ridge: Historic heights

In light of the fact that I have inadvertently turned this blog into a forum that seems to advocate a diet based on beer and fried foods (You’re welcome, America!), I’m going to offer an actual activity that involves neither.

If you want to stretch your legs, work off some barbecue and oysters, lace up your sneaks and hike the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Walk this wayWe do this at least three times a visit, and somehow I manage to see the Banks in a way I hadn’t before. The hike makes for a hot day, and you have to work for the jaw-dropping views you’ll see. It’s also likely the sun will be anything but forgiving, so make sure you take some water.

After you’ve hauled your newly expanded rear end up the dunes, which vary between 80 and 100 feet in height, you can take in the views of the Atlantic and the Roanoke and Albemarle sounds. It’s almost as if you’re on the edge of the earth, and in a way, you are because you’re on a tiny barrier island just a breath from the Atlantic. Jockey’s Ridge makes you forget all that. It’s downright other worldly.

If you come back the next year, the dunes might seem different. Jockey’s Ridge is the largest living sand dune system in the eastern United States, and the Outer Banks’ famous winds shift the dunes every year.

The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation explains how the sand stays put:Not quite the edge of the world, but close.

Shifting maritime winds blow billions of grains of sand in different directions, constantly changing both the shape and size of the dune. Why doesn’t the sand blow away? In the winter, the winds usually blow out of the northeast and in the summer out of the southwest; therefore, the sand is constantly blown back and forth.

Sometimes the dunes seem smaller to me; other times larger. There is always a bit of a mystery surrounding them. When I lived on the Banks in 1992, you could see a single turret with a smiley face among the sand drifts and hang gliders. (Surreal, but true.) Eventually the dunes shifted and shifted some more, and you could see the remains of a mini-golf course that had been consumed by the dunes. It took more than 10 years, but finally, that mystery was solved.

Too bad I didn’t think to ask my roommate — a native Banker — about turret in 1992.

Traveler’s Advisory: Do not even think about hiking the dunes barefoot — the sand can be as much as 30 degrees hotter than the temperature. Also, an unexpected — and highly possible — Outer Banks thunderstorm isn’t fun on the dunes, so be sure to check the weather.

Where: Mile Post 12.5, Off U.S. 158
Nags Head, NC 27959

No admission fee

Park hours: November-February, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
June-August, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
March-May & September-October, 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Visitor Center Hours: November-February, 9 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
March-October, 9 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

UPDATE: As I was writing this post, I stumbled onto this is a photo of the castle and the recently revealed turrets I used to wonder about when I lived on the Outer Banks. It’s by photographer Mike Hogan of Kill Devil Hills.