Sip Trips #67: On the Trail Again

Last weekend, the Sip Family returned to the scene of the crime and tackled the Bellingham Tap Trail, once again. This summer voyage meant patio seating, open garage doors, and walking around in the fresh air, rather than relying on vehicle transportation.

Our first stop, was at Boundary Bay Brewing, which has long been home to one of Mrs. Sip’s favourite pub meals in their Tapenade. While she selected the brewery’s Wonderland Belgian Strong Golden to go along with her lunch, the Sip Advisor ordered their tasting flight, which features six brews, including their Blonde Ale, ESB, Amber Ale, Scotch Ale, IPA, and Oatmeal Stout. Of that sextet, I enjoyed the Scotch Ale the best, while Ma Sip and I shared the best Reuben Sandwich I’ve ever had.

Reuben Rye

Next up, was a short walk to the Schweinhaus Biergarten. When we were here in November, it was obviously chilly and they weren’t even able to turn their heat lamps on. That was no problem this time around, as the sun was shining and the music was rocking. I tried the Fremont Brewing Summer Ale, which was just right for the moment. Of note, was the best wine pours I have ever seen, as our server filled Stella chalices right to the top for both Ma and Pa Sip. While we didn’t play a round, the place also has a bean bag toss set up. The only downside was the outdoor attraction only has outhouses available to customers for bathroom use.

Another brief walk and we arrived at Aslan Brewing, where Mrs. Sip and I ordered their B’Ham Brown and Anniversary XIPA, respectively. For a little snack, we tried the brewery’s Gourmet Mac N’ Cheese, which included a bacon jam on top and broccoli within. We both enjoyed our pairings and had to fight each other to get the spoon back.

Our last stop of the day was our first visit to Structures Brewing. Mrs. Sip and I enjoyed a four ounce sample of each of their six offerings, including their Vivid IPA, Petronilo Coffee Stout, Destroyer of Light Black IPA, Recursion Simcoe Pale Ale, I See You Grapefruit-Hibiscus Saison, and Table Beer. To be honest, the whole lineup was pretty good.

Happy Liver Workout Day

Before Mrs. Sip and I made the journey back home on Sunday, we popped into one of the two Kulshan Brewing locations. Over a couple brews (Bastard Kat IPA for myself and Belgian Blonde for Mrs. Sip), we enjoyed their outdoor patio setting, which just doesn’t exist for the Vancouver craft beer scene. The brewery was hosting a run between their two sites, so live music was also featured, along with a couple food trucks.

This second trip to the Bellingham Tap Trail just confirmed how awesome the brewing scene there is. I’m looking forward to going back soon, perhaps starting a tradition of visiting every six months to sample the best of winter and the best of summer with each stay.

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BC Beer Baron #123 – Steel Toad Saison Sauvignon

From my earliest visits to the Steel Toad Brew Pub (Mrs. Sip and I were there on their opening weekend), this beer has been part of the company’s flagship lineup.

The Saison Sauvignon is a farmhouse-styled saison that is brewed with New Zealand hops, which result in the taste of white wine (sauvignon blanc) grapes. The beer is boozier than most saisons, coming in at 6.5% ABV. I’m not sure if that’s due to the wine attributes or something else in the beverage’s construction.

Steel Toad Brew Pub

Mrs. Sip and I both remember this beer from our earlier visits to the brew pub and with a change to its recipe (according to our server), it is now much more enjoyable. Mrs. Sip even picked it as her favourite of our most recent jaunt that way.

Located in the very recognizable red building on East 2nd Ave, Steel Toad comprises a network of breweries that are part of The Hoppy Hop (similar to Bellingham’s Tap Trail), allowing enthusiasts to tour the Brewery Creek region and win prizes after collecting answers to trivia questions at each stop.

For more BC Beer Baron articles, please visit our main page…

Sip Trips #53: Best of 2015

2015 was a great year for Sip Advisor adventures, many of which were documented in our new feature, ‘Sip Trips’. Here are the Top 15 experiences of 2015, in chronological order because it would be way too hard to rank so much awesomeness:

#1: Valentine’s Day Beer Tour

Is there a better way to celebrate you and your partner’s love than boarding a bus with other beer nuts and travelling around to a selection of breweries and other stops? Dubbed the ‘For the Love of Craft’ tour, this route featured stops at Strange Fellowes Brewing, Storm Brewing, Schokolade Chocolate Café, and finished at Odd Society Spirits. Best of all, the tour still allowed for some one-on-one time that night, so you could enjoy each other’s drunken splendor in private.

Valentine's Beer Tour

#2: Portland Beer and Wine Fest

This annual Easter treat is a favourite festival for the Sip Advisor. It’s just so well done, with options for beer, wine, and spirits connoisseurs alike. We especially enjoy the educational presentations, which allow for samples of drink, mixed with food, such as the tequila and chocolate truffle session. After a full day of drinking at the Portland Convention Center, we returned to our hotel for the manager’s reception and then things really got fuzzy.

#3: Bacchanalia

What happens when you drink wine all day and all night… you end up in a bar with a pint of beer as a nightcap! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy wine quite a bit, but I love breaking things up with some brews. It helps keep the palate refreshed. Bacchanalia is a very fun event, featuring countless wineries from around the Okanagan wine region. Best of all, it’s an excuse to get away and spend the weekend at a nice resort (also the site of the wine event)… until you return to a flooded apartment.

#4: Beer Trivia and This Sandwich/That Beer

This was another great weekend of sipping, as we combined Beer Trivia, followed the next day by This Sandwich/That Beer, all part of Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Our team fared well during trivia, which included a number of beverage servings, while the food and drink at This Sandwich/That Beer were both amazing and the venue (The Portside Pub) was a perfect place to host the extravaganza. I’d recommend both events to all beer fans.

Beer Trivia

#5: Tip N’ Taste

This is the only event on this list that did not include Mrs. Sip, who was gallivanting around Europe at the time. I’ve been a supporter of this festival for years and will continue to go back. The drinks offered are joined by great food from a number of local restaurants. You know a night of drinking went well when I wake up before Ma and Pa Sip – who I was sharing a hotel room with – the next morning, nearly missing the location’s continental breakfast.

#6: Galiano Beer and Wine Festival

I’m still amazed that this festival was occurring for the 23rd year in a row and yet most beer aficionados (people more connected than even I) hadn’t heard of it. Arriving early in the morning and having to kill a few hours before the event began was totally worth it. In future years, we may try to stay on the island longer and partake in the party bus transporting attendees from the event to a local pub afterwards for more boozing.

#7: Disneyland 60th Anniversary

Trips to Disneyland for Mrs. Sip and I have evolved from being all about the rides and attractions to being about the rides and attractions… while intoxicated. With each holiday, we find new places to enjoy drinks and new experiences to conquer, while under the influence. On this trip, we visited The Cove Bar for the first time, splitting lobster nachos and sampling drinks from their secret menu. Then, it was off to the Animation Building to try our hand at illustrating Disney characters.

Disneyland 60th

#8: Brewery Bike Tour and Brew Cruise

With a friend visiting from Toronto, I had to share Vancouver’s burgeoning craft beer industry and the best way to tackle the ‘Yeast Van’ region is by bike. We managed to visit eight different locations around the city. As if we hadn’t had enough beer, the next day we were back at it, boarding the S.S. Booze Cruise (okay, that wasn’t the real name of the vessel) for some debauchery on the open seas. In total, over the weekend, I tried over 60 different beers!

#9: First Night in Zambia

After 36 hours of travel, all Mrs. Sip and I wanted to do was crash and acclimatize ourselves to our new time zone. Following a six-hour nap, we hoped to see some of Zambia’s city core during our brief stay. The owner of our accommodation invited us to have a couple beers and offered to take us into town for dinner. What followed was a meal that included fried caterpillars, bottles of wine and beer, and a visit to a local club for a truly Zambian music experience.

#10: Chobe River Cruise

Floating down Botswana’s Chobe River, with beer in hand, was a ‘Welcome to Africa’ moment I will never forget. Everywhere the eye could see provided views of animals in their natural habitat, behaving (rightfully so) as if we were foreigners to their land. A meal shared with our boat’s crew, while watching the sunset and sipping wine made you feel more connected with the universe than ever before. Mrs. Sip has ranked this as her top moment of 2015, and I can’t really blame her.

Timon and Pumbaa Real

#11: Birthday Bus Party

My 32nd birthday was spent in amazing fashion, waking up to the sounds of thirsty elephant, heading to the man-made watering hole at Elephant Sands in Botswana. The festive day ended in similar fashion, aboard our tour bus with bomber-sized beers. The only hiccup was receiving a room without a fridge (while many of our tour compatriots had one), so I couldn’t keep chilled the beer I wanted to enjoy that night, as well as the cake I was given that morning.

#12: Etosha Waterhole

Watching elephants, rhinos, and giraffes come in and out of the waterhole, while jackals ran around wildly and even a lion could be spotted surveying the scene from a distance, as we sipped beers, wine, and bubbly, is an experience Mrs. Sip and I will never, ever forget. We did the waterhole right, developing our own schedule over our visits. Beer and chips in the afternoon; wine, cheese and crackers for sunset; and bubbly paired with dessert through the twilight.

#13: Last Night in Cape Town

We chose to spend our last night in beautiful Cape Town, bouncing around the city and exploring its beer, wine, and food culture. Cape Town is renowned for two of those things, but we found their budding craft beer industry to also hold some gems. When your day starts with breweries and taphouses and finishes with wine in a crypt beneath a church (with an amazing three course wine pairing meal in between) you know you’re living the high life.

Fine Dining

#14: Bellingham Tap Trail

As a belated birthday gift, Ma and Pa Sip treated Mrs. Sip and me to a fun-filled weekend in Bellingham, Washington (just across the Canadian-U.S. border). Bellingham has a great craft beer community and we made sure to completely immerse ourselves in it. Over the weekend, we visited eight different breweries and taphouses along the town’s Tap Trail and have plans to return early in 2016 for another go round.

#15: Unibroue Dinner

Mrs. Sip and I have been to a number of great beer events this year, but this dinner, featuring the beers of Quebec’s Unibroue Brewery and the food of the Devil’s Elbow Ale and Smokehouse might go down as the best. Set during the Vancouver Hopscotch Festival week, the meal featured generous pours of Unibroue’s fantastic line-up and servings of some amazing food. The gifts didn’t stop coming, though, as upon leaving, we were given a souvenir glass as a memento.

I probably could have filled this entire list with experiences from our trip to Southern Africa (missing is dinner at Mama Africa and wine tasting through the famed Stellenbosch and Franschhoek regions). Even outside of Africa, this list is far from complete, as I am neglecting a number of amazing days, nights and entire weekends. For those out there that played a role in my enjoyment, I humbly thank you and hope we can do it again in 2016!

Sip Trips #41

Trail Tapping

Over the weekend, the Sip Family (Mrs., Ma, and Pa) spent the weekend across the line in Bellingham, Washington, exploring their Tap Trail, which features 16 different breweries and tap houses. Over that time, the Sip Advisor enjoyed trying about 40 different beers. Let’s see the results of another epic weekend!

Our adventure started at the Oxford Suites hotel bar, for their manager’s reception. The bar had four different local brews on tap, which I made my way through over our two-night stay. This included Aslan Bellingham Brown, Boundary Bay Scotch Ale, Kulshan Session IPA, and Chuckanut Kolsch. The Bellingham Brown was particularly good.

hotel mini bar

With a few drinks in us, Mrs. Sip wanted to go for a walk to Bellis Fair Mall, across the street. I figured: “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then I got stuck in a Kohl’s store for about half an hour as she debated buying some items, followed by going to Target (our original intended destination) and trying to track her down as she roamed the store. At Target, I did find two of my favourite San Francisco treats (Rice-A-Roni be damned!) in 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer and Francis Coppola Pinot Grigio.

The next morning, we were off on our Tap Trail explorations. We started at Kulshan, which has two different locations. After sharing two taster paddles, which included each of the brewery’s 13 available beers, it was very hard to narrow down our consensus favourites. Mrs. Sip liked their Horseman’s Head Pumpkin Ale and Kittens Mittens Winter Ale, while I leaned towards the Smoked Stout and Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale. We did agree that the Trans Porter was quite good. One neat observance from Kulshan was that they didn’t have their own food available, but a food truck was outside that could bring eats into the brewery for those that ordered.

Next up, we headed over to Elizabeth Station, a beer store and tap house that was recommended to us by a friend. The store has a number of unique brews that you can purchase and even have opened by the staff to be served on site. I took advantage of this by purchasing a bomber of Justice Brewing Butterfinger Brown, which was brewed with Butterfinger candy pieces and was a fantastic beer. Mrs. Sip, on the other hand, tried a sample of Prairie Bomb from Tulsa, Oklahoma. At 14%, it packed a punch, but was also a very good drink.

The-Simpsons-butterfinger

We then made our way to Chuckanut where I was quick to order a serving of their Rauch. For those who are regularly readers, you know by now my affinity for smoky beers and cocktails. This brew did not disappoint. From there, our next stop was The Copper Hog, where we ordered samples of a couple interesting beers, including 21st Amendment Toaster Pastry Red Ale and Ninkasi R&D Mango IPA, as well as their Oktoberfest offering. The Toaster Pastry was the best among the bunch.

After that, it was a short jaunt to the Schweinhaus Biergarten, an outdoor beverage stop, which would be best enjoyed during the summer. Here, I tried a pint of Northwest Mango Hef because a German-style beer should be enjoyed at a German-themed location. The brew was decent, although Mrs. Sip’s actual selection from Germany was probably a better fit for the moment.

Another block walk landed us at Aslan, where we tried their Midnight Couloir, Pumpkin, Ginger Rye, and Cucumber Lager, all of which were good. This location was the busiest we experienced on the day, having to wait a short time for a spot, but that didn’t hinder our enjoyment.

cartman waiting

Things were getting kind of fuzzy by the time we hit our last brewery of the day, Wander. This place was actually suggested to us by the border guard we chatted with as we crossed into the U.S. Here, we enjoyed their Wanderale Blond, Global Mutt Porter, Belling-Hammer Wee Heavy, Together Belgian Dubbel, Plum Sour, and Boysenberry Fruit Puncheon. To be honest, I don’t even remember what logic went into me ordering like this, but I put a star next to the Porter, so I must have liked it the best! Mrs. Sip wanted to try their Pumpkin, but they had unfortunately sold out of that variety.

On Day 2 of our Tap Trail, we were a little tapped out, but we did manage to go to Kulshan’s second location, as they have a few beers only available there. We tried a set, with the Mountain Beaver Brown being our favourite. This last stop allowed us to get our eighth stamp for our Tap Trail passport. Completing half the map and returning it to a Bellingham tourism office allowed us to receive a Tap Trail Mason jar and bottle opener.

In closing, I have to thank Ma and Pa Sip for this belated birthday gift. Pa Sip deserves extra thanks for being our designated driver and putting up with us over the course of the tour, while Ma and Mrs. Sip should be commended for being awesome drinking partners!

Sip Trips #40

Coast Toasting

Mrs. Sip and I have finally returned to Vancouver from our epic travels to southern Africa and are getting settled back into the local drinking routine. I had to take some extra time this week, as we visited Legacy Liquor Store, to get acquainted with all the new releases that have hit the market while we were on vacation. A lot can change in a month, especially with the move from summer to fall, but it gives me some things to look forward to.

Speaking of things we were looking forward to, on Friday night, we attended the annual Toast to the Coast event at the Vancouver Aquarium. Mrs. Sip has wanted to go to this for a couple years, but previous engagements have always held us back from checking out the soiree, which sells out each season. A number of wineries, a couple breweries, and even reps from Russian Standard Vodka were on hand, as guests got to enjoy the various exhibits with a drink sample in their hand and an appetizer on their plate. My night began on the right note with a serving of Bomber Choqlette Porter, a delicious dark beer, with notes of chocolate and coffee. I also made sure to end my night with this brew.

cat aquarium

The night was frustrating at times, as the event was scheduled to go until 1am, but most vendors packed up their wares at 10pm, which I think blindsided some guests, myself included. Also, a number of the eats around the venue were in short supply. To begin the night, the sushi table was a free-for-all, but later featured such a diminished stock that a volunteer was handing out one piece at a time on napkins. There was also the Rocky Mountain Flatbread table, which couldn’t keep up with the demand, as each time they brought out one tray, it was gone and those in line, who hadn’t received a slice, had to wait for the next dish to cook up.

I also had to battle through one of my greatest festival pet peeves, where people either get a drink or food and just stand there, neglecting to move out of the way and let the next person be served. This especially occurs at the wine stations, as folks want to try each of the bottles available, before moving on. That is particularly why the Sip Advisor prefers to stick to beer vendors.

The worst part of the evening was getting home after the function concluded. Shuttles from the Aquarium to Waterfront Station downtown were supposed to be offered, with the last one leaving at 12:45am. We stood around from about 12:25am to 1:00am and didn’t see a single shuttle, which left tired and boozed up guests having to resort to calling cabs and then fighting for their reservation when the vehicle arrived.

legit taxi

Much of the food was good, particularly the various desserts, such as Rose’s Shortbread and Chocolatas chocolates. The worst food offering of the evening definitely had to go to Earl’s Kitchen & Bar, which was handing out cups of sea urchin ice cream. The dessert was absolutely awful and a total disappointment from the popular chain.

Tickets were $125 and I asked Mrs. Sip the next day (once she had a chance to recover!) whether she thought the cost was justified. She thought it was, explaining that given all we ate and drank, it would add up to $125 or more on the local market. My argument in opposition was equating the night to an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer and Marge go to an all-you-can-eat buffet and are kicked out at the end of the night before Homer has enjoyed all-he-could-eat. Our group ended up having drinks and pizza when we finally got home (the best meal of the night), which I didn’t think would be necessary after an all-inclusive drink and food fest. Perhaps we’re just that gluttonous!

My final thoughts on Toast to the Coast are a little mixed. I had a good time, but certainly had some qualms with the event, as well. The true decider is whether I would go again in the future and the answer to that is yes… but perhaps not next year. Also, if ticket prices went up without much substance being added, I would be very hesitant. That said, it was a charity event, so I guess we did our civil duty.

woman named charity

Saturday night was spent celebrating a friend’s birthday, beginning with pre-dinner drinks. Here, I was able to try the 33 Acres of Darkness, another new beer that I really liked. I also had a serving of Dead Frog Super Fearless IPA, which was quite enjoyable. I topped off the pre-party with Steel & Oak’s Satsuma Lager, another fine release from the New West brewery.

Our meal was at Minami Yaletown, which is an upper scale Japanese restaurant. Mrs. Sip tackled their Taste of Yaletown menu, including sake pairing. Each of the sakes utilized different ingredients and matched up nicely with their respective dishes. I ordered the Kaisen Soba Peperoncino bowl, while trying the restaurant’s Asian-themed Caesar, complete with wasabi pickles garnish and lemon-pepper rim. It wasn’t the best Caesar I’ve ever had, but was a decent cocktail.

The week was pretty quiet otherwise, but this weekend, Mrs. Sip and I are off to Bellingham, Washington to see what trouble we can get into across the border, working our way through the city’s Tap Trail and other locations. This is a belated birthday gift (we were out of the country) from Ma and Pa Sip and there will certainly be much to write about, so look forward to that in next week’s Sip Trips!