Sip Trips #121: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

With Christmas closing in, the Sip Advisor decided to take some time off work… but it certainly wasn’t spent relaxing. Here’s what we got up to in the lead up to the big day and how we fought off the post-holiday blues:

Last Thursday, the Sip Family crossed the border to do some last minute shopping in Bellingham. We hoped to start our visit with drinks at Menace Brewing, but it wasn’t open for the day yet. Lucky for us, Mrs. Sip spotted yet another brewery across the street. Melvin Brewing (a Jackson Hole, Wyoming brewery with a brew pub in Bellingham) hosted us for lunch. Mrs. Sip and I each ordered from their $10 lunch menu, with her selecting Fish & Chips, while I went with the Sandwich & Soup combo (Beef Dip with substituted Fries). For drinks, we passed around pints of their Block Away Brown Ale and Mash Murder Stout ($3 beer of the day special), while also sampling the Peaches Innit Pale Ale. All beers are brewed onsite and we quite good.

Christmas Shopping

On Christmas Eve, en route to a family dinner, we first met Sip Syndicate members at Central City Brewing in Surrey. Mrs. Sip and I had won a tour and tasting experience for six people at one of Central City’s trivia nights at their Downtown Vancouver brew pub in the summer and had to use the pass prior to the end of the year. For those keeping track, this was Baby Sip’s fourth craft brewery visit already. My flight of beers included the Smore Stout, Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine, Imperial IPA and Super Solar IPA. It was a very nice and relaxing setting to enjoy some drinks together and could become a yearly holiday tradition.

Finally, the big day arrived. As for liquor-based Christmas gifts, Mrs. Sip gave me the Central City/Parallel 49 Great White Wonder Adventure Pack (their annual collaborative advent calendar), which was marked down, given the month had come and gone. That doesn’t mean the beer can’t still be enjoyed, though. Last year, I picked up some of the individual bottles from this set and I’m hoping for some enjoyable beers this time around. Mrs. Sip also gifted me a Groupon for Andina Brewing, which provides a set of tasters for two people, as well as a growler and fill. I also received a bottle of Serbian Honey Brandy, which I’m looking forward to experimenting with. As for the gift of giving, I picked up the Erdinger Variety Pack for Mrs. Sip, along with a few other treats.

Christmas Spirit.jpg

The week ended with an impromptu visit to Craft Beer Market for a holiday wrap-up with friends. On Wednesday, the restaurant offers $8 wings and $5 BC craft beers, which is a terrific combo. Mrs. Sip and I split an order of Salt & Pepper Wings and their Gaucho Chicken Flatbread, while I selected the Torchlight Broadside IPA and Whistler/Craft Snowed In White IPA (with $1 going towards the Greater Vancouver Food Bank) for my beverages. Mrs. Sip went with the Storm Vanilla Whiskey Stout and Moody Ales Lusty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout for her drinks.

This weekend will be another busy one, with a birthday/housewarming to attend, drinks with the guys on the schedule… and, oh yeah, that minor hidden-on-the-calendar event we call New Year’s Eve!

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Sip Trips #52: Amazing Advent (Part 7)

Sadly, the craft beer advent calendar Mrs. Sip put together for me has come to a triumphant end. I will greatly miss the thrill that came with revealing each day’s selection and the enjoyment of sharing the experience with Mrs. Sip and all you little sippers. Let’s wrap things up:

Day 23: Parallel 49 Toques of Hazzard

I’ve always wanted to try this beer, but have never got around to it. Parallel 49 is known for their hoppy beers (Filthy Dirty IPA, Hopnotist, Corn Hops, etc.) and so it’s no surprise this seasonal release follows that trend. This Imperial White IPA comes in at a whopping 9.2%, but it’s not overwhelming. You have to love the brew’s name and label, featuring some good ol’ Canadian boys riding a Zamboni, rather than hopping into the General Lee.

Parallel 49 Toques of Hazzard

Day 24: Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

While most advent calendars provide a bigger treat on the last day, Mrs. Sip perfectly placed this one-litre juggernaut in the #24 spot. Howe Sound has a very unique bottle (re-sealable plug at the top, plus wide load, totalling three full glasses) and without even seeing the beer, just by feel, I had an inkling of what it was (perhaps a sad indictment for myself) and turned out to be right. Finishing with a true Winter Ale was also a nice touch, so thanks to Father John, Howe Sound’s original brewer.

Howe Sound Father John's Winter Ale

Final Thoughts:

I can’t thank Mrs. Sip enough for putting this advent calendar together for me. As the story goes, she almost didn’t get it done and was going to save it for next year, but I’m so very happy everything came together just in the nick of time. Always a giver, there are a couple beers from this season, deserving mention, that I’ve picked up for Mrs. Sip. These include the Dead Frog Nutty Uncle Peanut Butter Stout and Whistler Dunkel (the closest thing to drinking a Terry’s Chocolate Orange). There are many other brews on the market we’re hoping to try before they disappear from stores, including Steamworks Winter White Stout, Granville Island Cocoa Loco Porter, and Whistler Chestnut Ale.

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Christmas, full of quality time with family, friends, and your libation of choice!

Sip Trips #51: Amazing Advent (Part 6)

I have to keep saying how much fun this craft beer advent calendar has been and I implore anyone out there to do it for their significant other. Sure, it’s costly, but as I joked with Mrs. Sip, I probably would have spent the same amount throughout the month otherwise! Let’s look at days 19-22:

Day 19: Big Rock Rauchbier

When Big Rock opened their Urban Eatery location in Vancouver and Mrs. Sip and I were able to visit for the first time, I fell in love with this beer (or bier, if you will!). I have not been shy of the fact that I love smoky beers, spirits, and cocktails and this is a very good option for one of those categories. Having now tried a bottled version of this beer, I’m still hooked and love the caramel smoky campfire taste that finishes each sip.

Big Rock Rauchbier

Day 20: Wychwood Bah Humbug

In the past, I have at least once included this brew in the advent calendar I put together annually for Mrs. Sip, but this time I was the recipient. It doesn’t get much more Christmas-themed than calling your beer Bah Humbug and featuring Ebenezer Scrooge, himself, on the label. I wish more of Wychwood’s (based in Oxfordshire, U.K.) brews made their way to North American stores, as some look really neat. They even have a line of potato chips.

wychwood bah humbug

Day 21: Spinnakers Festive Saison

Having recently enjoyed their Oyster Stout (of all things!), I was happy to see a Spinnakers beer pop up in the advent calendar. The Victoria-based brew pub releases their Festive Saison – a blend of spiced saison and apple cider – annually. This beer was very good, one of my favourite from the entire month. The brewery suggests that the beer pairs well with a burger, but I can vouch for it working with bad Hallmark Christmas movies!

Spinnakers Festive Saison

Day 22: Granville Island Twisted Twin Dunkelweizen

Granville Island Brewing is Vancouver’s oldest micro-brewery and while some debate whether it still deserves a spot in this group, their small batch releases keep them in the conversation. I tried a sample of the Dunkelweizen at this year’s Hopscotch Festival and was impressed that GIB would bring such a unique offering and not just their flagship brews. I have still yet to try the brewery’s Cocoa Loco Chocolate Porter, but will remedy that before the season is done.

GIB-twisted-twin

The finish line of the craft beer advent calendar is now within sight, although I wish it would disappear amongst the inclement weather the season is typical of. Join us next time for the final two brews and the Sip Advisor’s final thoughts!

Sip Trips #50: Amazing Advent (Part 5)

With this post, we’ve hit the half century mark for Sip Trips articles and what better way to celebrate than with another look at the craft beer advent calendar that Mrs. Sip has put together for yours truly:

Day 15: Longwood Super G Cream Ale

This ginseng-infused beer is another that departs from the Christmas and winter theming, but was picked up because of its intriguing flavor profile. The fall seasonal is heavy on ginger taste, but not in an offending way. Prior to receiving this beer, I was unfamiliar with the Nanaimo-based brewery, but upon closer inspection, I’d love to try their Winter’s Own Weizenbock, if I can get my hands on it before it disappears at season’s end.

longwood super g cream ale

Day 16: Postmark Winter Red

With all the dark winter beers on the market, it’s nice to see something come out in the red variety, which seems a little more festive than dark browns and blacks. I’ve had some of Postmark’s seasonal beers (Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefe, BISA – Belgian India Session Ale, and Saisonella) in the past and this one may have been the best of the bunch. It was a very refreshing beer with good flavour.

postmark winter red

Day 17: Bridge Sleigh Booster Imperial Red Ale

Sticking with red ales, comes the second entry from Bridge Brewing to make its way into the advent calendar. The beer is 9%, but I would have never guessed that while drinking it. The brew goes down super easy and I’d say I liked this better than The Grinch that came before it (and stole Christmas!). Cousin Sip recently grabbed a Groupon to visit Bridge and do a tasting, so I look forward to that in the near future.

Bridge Sleigh Booster

Day 18: Steel & Oak Beechwood Smoked Honey Dopplebock

Mrs. Sip and I are big fans of Steel & Oak and with how close it is to Mrs. Sip’s place of work, this has made it a convenient brewery to visit. I’ve enjoyed many of the brewery’s smoked efforts, including their Hefeweizen and Lager and while I liked the smoky finish to this beer, it also cemented the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of honey in brews, as it results in a flavour I’m not a huge fan of and generally makes the beverage sweeter.

steel and oak doppleblock

One of the things I’ve learned throughout this advent calendar experience is that many winter seasonals are quite the mouthful to talk about and take up some quality real estate in my posts. I suppose that doesn’t matter so much, as long as the brew is good. Here’s hoping the last week of the advent calendar brings more enjoyment!

Sip Trips #49: Amazing Advent (Part 4)

Mrs. Sip has advised me that as we enter the second half of the craft beer advent calendar, some of her selections aren’t based on the beer having a winter or Christmas theme, but being intriguing brew styles that she knew I’d enjoy trying. So, let’s get right down to it!

Day 11: Hale’s Ales India Session Ale

Coming to you live from Seattle, this fall seasonal was a really awesome beer with hops that didn’t completely blow you away, but were prevalent enough to really be relished. At only 4.7%, this has been one of the lighter beers to come from the advent calendar, but that’s another fine change to have as the month progresses. This is the first beer I’ve had from the Washington company, but it advertises itself as the Northwest’s longest running independently owned brewery. I’ll have to find more selections.

Hale's Ales ISA

Day 12: Parallel 49 Sahti Claus Finnish Sahti

I don’t think I’ve ever had a Finnish Sahti style beer, but if they’re anything like Parallel 49’s version, it’s a pretty good variety. Traditionally, Sahtis are characterized by the flavor of juniper berries, sometimes used instead of hops. Apparently, Parallel 49 first released this beer in 2013 and it has somehow slipped under my radar these past few years. Like Phillips Brewing, Parallel 49 has some really unique labels and this is among them, featuring what can best be described as a European Santa Claus/bigfoot cross.

Parallel 49 Sahti Claws

Day 13: Phillips Thorny Horn Sour Raspberry Brown Ale

Speaking of Phillips, the Victoria brewery makes a second appearance in the advent calendar, thanks to another variety that I’ve never come across before. In recent times, I’ve enjoyed some really good brown ales and the addition of sour raspberry had me salivating after pulling this bottle from the calendar. I think the brown style ale gave the sour raspberries a perfect balance and this beer went down very easy. This may be one of the brewery’s tamest labels to date, though.

Phillips Thorny Horn

Day 14: 4 Mile Sweet Potato Harvest Spiced Ale

This was another very unique brew that had me excited from the moment it was revealed. I’m very impressed with Mrs. Sip’s choices for the advent calendar and her pushing me to experiment with many of these beers. After previously enjoying 4 Mile’s English Strong Ale, this brew had a fair bit to live up to and while it wasn’t as good as the Strong Ale, I still liked it. After looking more into 4 Mile’s seasonal brews, I’m looking forward to trying their Prickly Pear Cactus Wheat Ale and Tangerine Dream Ale, due out this spring.

4-Mile-sweet-potato-harvest-spiced-ale

I’m kind of sad to be halfway through the craft beer advent calendar, having really enjoyed it being part of my late evenings, revealing the next brew shortly after the clock turns over to start a new day. Mrs. Sip may have created her own monster here!

Sip Trips #48: Amazing Advent (Part 3)

This month has been rolling along and I think my craft beer advent calendar has played a substantial role in that. Each morning, I look forward to revealing that day’s brew and popping it into the fridge to be enjoyed that evening. On that subject, let’s look at what the rest of this week brought me:

Day 7: R&B Auld Nick Winter Ale

This beer packs one hell of a punch and the brewer’s at R&B are proud of that, tweeting back to me on Twitter: “It’s one of our faves for just that reason.” To be honest, I like it too, although each sip brings a slap to the face that will have beer amateurs backing away from the brew. The R&B crew are also quick to note that this is not your typical winter ale, lacking the spices one would normally experience. The logo is great with Saint Nick himself pouring beer for an eclectic group of tavern visitors.

R&B Auld Nick

Day 8: 4 Mile English Strong Ale

This is another beer that I had the luxury of trying at the Hopscotch Festival Grand Tasting Hall and it was one of my favourite samples from that day. The brew comes exactly as advertised: It is a strong style ale, but it is incredibly smooth. The website description for the beers flavours is very entertaining: “There’s a bit of a wrestling match going on to see who’s nuttier, but they decide on a harmonious truce, and call for an alliance of flavours where no one is the conqueror and everybody wins.”

4 Mile English Strong Ale

Day 9: Steamworks Blitzen

After a couple more dark seasonal beers, it was nice to venture into other territory again. Despite being on the market for a few years, I’ve never tried the Blitzen Belgian Tripel until now. I did enjoy it and it did not taste like a 9% brew. The bottle features lines from classic Christmas songs, geared towards the brewery, like “Let it steam, let it steam, let it steam!” If this beer doesn’t interest you (although it should), new to the Steamworks arsenal of brews this year is the intriguing Winter White Stout.

Steamworks Blitzen

Day 10: Powell Street Dunkelweizen

I have become a fan of dunkelweizens this winter season as it puts a spin on my favourite type of beers – wheats and weizens – and darkens them up for the holidays. That does beg the question why many winter beers are dark, when we’re trying our best to lighten everything up and avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder? Anyway, with flavours of chocolate, clove, and banana, this brew has me thinking of traditional German Christmases and celebrating the holiday in July.

Powell Street Dunkelweizen

I can’t thank Mrs. Sip enough for putting this together for me. If you’d like to look back at the rest of the advent calendar beers, so far, you can find those articles here: Amazing Advent (Part 1) and Amazing Advent (Part 2).

Sip Trips #47: Amazing Advent (Part 2)

With my awesome craft beer advent calendar continuing strongly, Mrs. Sip has suggested I profile the beers more frequently than the usual once-per-week format that the Sip Trips articles usually take. Therefore, I’ll be posting after every four beers or so. Let’s get the fun underway!

Day 3: Bridge Brewing The Grinch Winter Ale

I tried a sample of this beer at the recent Hopscotch Festival Grand Tasting Hall and enjoyed it, so I was happy to find a full-size serving amongst my advent calendar selections. Much like the famous Dr. Seuss story, this beer will make your heart grow three sizes (and no, that doesn’t mean you’ll be in need of emergency services) and change your tune from a Grinch into a Christmas lover and hero. If you go to the Bridge Brewing Seasonal Beers page and find this release, you will be treated to a great Seussian poem about The Grinch beer.

Bridge Brewing The Grinch

Day 4: Anderson Valley Brother David’s Double Abbey Ale

From Boonville, California, Mrs. Sip grabbed this beer because their logo of a bear with antlers gave her the impression that it was a Christmas-themed release. And while the mascot is very cute, we’ve since discovered that the bear (antlers and all) graces all Anderson Valley products. The beer’s label states that the Double Abbey Ale “may be the closest you’ll ever get to heaven on earth” and that “it is sure to raise your spirits!” This brew is currently my favourite from the advent calendar and it’s no surprise it won a gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

BrotherDavidDoubleAbbeyAle

Day 5: Townsite Biere d’Hiver

Biere d’Hiver roughly translates to Beer of Winter and features prune and plum essences, which is quite unique. As the bottle states: “The sugar plum fairy swings into the brewery on a zunga, bringing with her a delicious Belgian dubbel, full of spicy, plummy flavours.” This is the first beer I’ve had from the Powell River brewery and it’s a good place to start, given it won third place for strong beers at the 2013 BC Beer Awards and the same rank in the Belgian Style Abbey Ale category at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards. It’s suggested that you can age this beer for up to five years before consuming.

Townsite Biere d’Hiver

Day 6: Phillips Scarfface Cranberry Orange Wit

Given the winter beer season is largely comprised of dark, heavier brews, it was very refreshing to pull this selection from the advent calendar. When I was looking into BC winter and Christmas beers recently, I couldn’t find any entries from the Phillips Brewery, but Mrs. Sip was able to. Phillips has always had fantastic labels for their beers and this one is no different, featuring a nefarious figure with orange head, festive fedora and scarf, and candy cane weapon. The beer pours an orange, almost pink hue and you can really taste the citrus, with cranberry coming through in the brew’s tart finish.

Scarfface-Cranberry-Orange-Wit

This advent calendar has been a lot of fun so far and we’re not even through the first full week. Please continue to join us as we run the gamut!