Sip Trips #82: Chowder Chowing

While the Sip Advisor managed to make it to four Vancouver breweries over the Remembrance Day long weekend, those exploits will largely be covered in BC Beer Baron articles. So, let’s get right onto the main event of the week: the Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Presented by Ocean Wise, the occasion offered participants 14 seafood chowders to try, each paired with a BC craft beer (save for the Steam Whistle Brewing partnership). While I love the concept, I’m not sure massive servings of chowder should be paired with carbonated beverages. There definitely came a point where I reached my chowder max, although it quickly subsided.

One other issue was that it wasn’t easy to juggle a cup of beer and piping hot serving of chowder, as you moved through the venue. At least there were a fair number of tables to stand or sit at, which helped with the risky maneuvering.


My favourite chowder of the evening came from The White Whale Restaurant, which also took home the people’s and judge’s choice awards. My MVP pick for best beer/brewery definitely went to the guys from Big Rock Urban Brewery, who brought with them their Winter Spice Ale. Some honourable mentions should go to Hoyne Brewing, whose Appleton ESB was paired with The White Whale Restaurant entry and The Vancouver Fish Company for their chowder poutine spin on the competition.

After the awards were announced, the event seemed to die quickly. By this point, a number of the chowder stations had run out of their wares and many of the breweries that attended had packed up their contributions. This left folks scrambling for final servings wherever they could be found.

This event probably wouldn’t have gone over too well for those who don’t like beer. There was a Caesar station, Gin & Tonic table and one wine vendor available, but that probably wouldn’t have been enough for people needing options to the breweries.


Ticket were $60 (plus tax) and we felt the event was more than worth it. We paid more than double that for last year’s Toast to the Coast (also at the Aquarium) and the Chowder Chowdown provided a far better bang-for-your-buck experience.

After being dropped off back downtown by the Vancouver Trolley Company, we finished the evening with a visit to Steamworks Brew Pub. Here, I finally got my hands on a beverage that has eluded me for much of the year: their Salty Caramel Ale. I first heard about the beer last February on Twitter, but when I arrived at the brew pub, there was none to be had. Most recently, when Mrs. Sip and I stopped in on Halloween night, it was on their menu, but again wasn’t yet being poured. All I can say is the wait was worth it!

Mrs. Sip returns from India this weekend and that will likely signify the start of the Christmas rush. Join us for all the fun and adventure that’s sure to occur over the holidays!

BC Beer Baron #218 – Big Rock White Rocket White IPA

On a recent trip to Big Rock’s Urban Eatery – while guiding out-of-town visitors around the Vancouver craft scene – my drink selection was a pint of this Big Rock Brewing release.

The White Rocket White IPA is unfiltered with a wit beer base. This provides a spiciness to the beverage, before IPA flavours (hops and citrus fruits) finish the tasting experience. At 7% ABV and 70 IBUs, the brew is strong, but doesn’t overwhelm. Big Rock’s BC brewmaster, Jody Hammell, says the White Rocket was the result of leftover Belgian wit yeast and an empty tank for experimentation.

Big Rock White Rocket White IPA

The Sip Advisor was served this beer from one of the Urban Eatery’s nano-taps, but it is also available in bomber-sized bottles. While many of Big Rock’s products can be found in other provinces, this brew is a British Columbia exclusive.

Suggested food pairings include spicy curries; Mexican dishes, such as cheese enchiladas; grilled chicken or fish; and sweet desserts, including crème brulée. I paired the drink with a feature dish, the Papas Bravas Poutine (fried potatoes covered in tomato sauce, truffle aioli, and cheese curds), and that seemed to work well, too.

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

BC Beer Baron #187 – Big Rock Traditional Ale

While hitting the Friends Pub in Kelowna, BC over the weekend to watch the Germany vs. Italy Euro 2016 quarterfinal match, the Sip Advisor enjoyed this beer (with some chicken strips and fries) from Big Rock Brewing.

The Traditional Ale features great flavours of caramel, roasted malts and nuts, perfect for watching some footy. I would have had a second serving, had I not volunteered to be the designated driver for the day. The 5% ABV beverage is smooth, with mild carbonation and hops. Big Rock calls the drink “comfort food in a glass”.

Picture 5098

The beer was one of the company’s original three offerings and one of the first English-style brown ales brewed in Canada. It remains Big Rock’s most recognizable release to this day and is available throughout Western Canada and as far east as Ontario.

I’ve always loved how the brewery pairs their beverages not just with food, but movies and music as well. The Traditional Ale is thought to work well with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles, for you viewing and listening pleasures, respectively. As for food, suggested unions include sharp cheeses, red meats, and stews.

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BC Beer Baron #63 – Big Rock Midnight Rhapsody

After completing our Dine Out Vancouver Festival menu at Big Rock Brewing’s Urban Eatery, Mrs. Sip and I found a more intimate spot to share a couple additional beers.

My choice was the Midnight Rhapsody dark ale, which I had been wanting to try for a while after spotting it in bomber form at BC Liquor Stores. On tap, the beer has a wonderful berry aroma and flavour (from currants and raspberry jam) and with its darkness, reminded me of a gourmet chocolate bar, only in liquid form.

Big Rock Midnight Rhapsody.jpg

At 5.5% and 25 IBU, this should fall in any drinker’s wheelhouse. Sadly (or amazingly if you’re a local) the ale is only available in British Columbia, so all beer lovers out there in this province should try to track a bottle or pint down.

Although I was a little late on the uptake of this beer, it might make for a perfect New Year’s Eve beverage in future years. As the brew’s description says: “Dance, sing, sway… to the tune of Midnight Rhapsody”!

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

BC Beer Baron #38 – Big Rock Dark Cherry Abbey Ale

Each month, as part of this 366-day BC craft beer extravaganza that I will be sharing with you throughout 2016, I will highlight a specific style or theme of beers for a whole week of articles. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, this month’s feature week will look at beers of a chocolate nature, perfect to celebrate the occasion.

En route to visit friends following an event at Big Rock Brewing’s Urban Eatery, Mrs. Sip and I were checking out the brewpub’s store when we came across today’s beer. Never ones to show up empty-handed and thinking the brew would serve as a bit of a hosting gift, we quickly made our purchase and moved on to our final destination.

The Dark Cherry Abbey Ale is strong (well duh, Sip Advisor… it is 9.5%) and sweeter than some might like. That sweetness comes from the brewmaster’s use of Belgian candi sugar to go along with the naturally sweet taste of fruits such as cherries, raisins, and plums, already in the recipe. Include four different malts (Belgian dark, wheat, caramel, and chocolate) and there’s a lot going on with this beer.

Big Rock Dark Cherry Abbey Ale

The 750ml bottle retails for $12, which given the serving size and alcohol content, is a fair price. It even comes in a box and would make for a nice Valentine’s gift for anyone with a beer lover on their arm. Single on V-day? Why not enjoy one for yourself and forget all your relationship troubles.

Mrs. Sip’s Take:

My Valentine is typically a fan of stronger beers from the Belgian family, but she can be put off by fruit-flavoured creations. She found the Dark Cherry Abbey Ale to be intense in taste, but since it was shared amongst a group of four, that was just about right and a bigger serving might be too much.

When researching this beer, I discovered that Big Rock’s staff have made movie and music pairing suggestions to go with some of their product line-up. Musically, this beer should be paired with Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt (TV’s Catwoman from the 1960’s campy Batman), while the film Mixed Nuts (starring an ensemble cast including Steve Martin and Madeline Kahn) has been picked for your viewing pleasure. As far as more traditional pairings go, such as of the food variety, Big Rock suggests washing down a slice of Black Forest Cake with this beverage.

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

Sip Trips #55: Dirty Dancing

The week that was, was incredibly busy with activities each night of the weekend and Mrs. Sip’s birthday on Tuesday. Things started off with a lot of laughs as we went to The Comedy Mix to see Last Comic Standing winner Iliza Shlesinger do her thing, sharing a bucket of beer over the evening.

Prior to the show, we made a trip to Romer’s Burger Bar for their ongoing Craft Bowl competition. The tournament sees each Romer’s location offering two to three beers for customers to choose their favourite in a blind taste test. The winners move on to the next round, with the ultimate champion crowned Super Bowl weekend.


The cost to play a role in the competition is only $6, which gets you a small sample of each brew, as well as a full serving of the one you choose as your pick. The three beers available for this trip were Strange Fellows Pale Ale, Postmark IPA and Driftwood Fat Tug IPA. I won’t go into too many details on the samples, as each will be featured as part of my BC Beer Baron project.

I will say that I ended up choosing the Postmark IPA, but two of our group went for the Strange Fellows Pale Ale, one went for Driftwood Fat Tug IPA, and one went completely off the board, so our tastes were quite varied. For the one who didn’t like any of the three options, Romer’s was nice enough to give him a sleeve of something else off their menu for his full serving. We will be back for another round of the Craft Bowl!

Moving on, the Dine Out Vancouver Festival (January 15-31) is currently taking over the city and when the event line-up was first released, I excitedly came home with about 10 activities penciled in for further research. Upon seeing the price of some of those proceedings, though, I whittled my list down to one activity: the Winter Beer Hall at Big Rock Urban Brewery, which we attended Saturday.

cat at table eating

For $40, we were treated to a three-course meal, accompanied by five 7 oz. cask beer samples. Big Rock was also responsible for brewing the Dine Out Van Fest Ale (a first for the annual foody festival), which was available at the Winter Beer Hall. The English-Style Brown Ale was joined by beers from some of the region’s top breweries, including Real Cask, Bridge, Doan’s, and Storm (a perennial favourite for Mrs. Sip and me). More on those selections when they come up in the 366-day BC craft beer project.

Once we were finished our meal, Mrs. Sip and I moved to a quieter part of the restaurant and ordered a couple other beverages in Big Rock’s Midnight Rhapsody (which I’ve been wanting to try for a while) and Winter Spice Ale (another choice I’ve been curious about). The night rounded out with visiting friends who live close by and sharing even more sudsy goodness.

Sunday morning, I was invited to watch the Seattle Seahawks game versus the Carolina Panthers at The Pint. While I arrived late, with the Seahawks down 31-0, the second half comeback provided some entertainment, while I enjoyed the pub’s Double Caesar, Rum and Coke and a pint of beer. All items were on special, so it wasn’t too much of a hit to the wallet, as Seattle came up short in their bid for another playoff victory.

football playoffs

The weekend wasn’t over yet, though. For Christmas, I bought Mrs. Sip tickets to the touring production of Dirty Dancing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Prior to the show, we sat down for dinner at Wild Tale, which on Sundays features a five-course lobster dinner for $50-$60. Mrs. Sip and I have become big fans of The Flying Pig chain of restaurants and Wild Tale is a member of that family. When Mrs. Sip heard about the lobster dinner, we made reservations quickly.

The meal began with seafood chowder, followed by mussels, and then a trio of salads (potato, coleslaw and mixed greens). Then, it was main event time, with your choice of one pound of lobster or one and a half pounds for $10 more. The restaurant could only procure the one and a half pound lobsters, so we received the larger size for the smaller price.

lobster delicious with butter

We made our reservation for 5pm, so as to enjoy as much of the restaurant’s 4-6pm happy hour and capitalize on discounted glasses of wine and beers. My Stanley Park Pale Ales paired quite nicely with a number of the dishes, particularly the chowder. Following dinner, it was off to the show, where one might say we had the time of our lives!

There’s never a dull moment at the Sip Advisor Offices and certainly no rest for the wicked. Tonight we will be attending Tapped Vancouver at the Yaletown Roundhouse, while this weekend will be spent celebrating Mrs. Sip’s birthday with blind wine tasting and drinks with friends. After all, there’s plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead!

BC Beer Baron #21 – Bridge Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale

As we continue to delve into the cask beers available at Big Rock Urban Brewery’s Winter Beer Hall (as part of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival), we come to Bridge Brewing’s contribution to the event.

The Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale incorporates organic Uganda Sipi Falls coffee beans (hence the name) into the recipe. The cask serving was decent with a nice malty taste and bitter finish. Overall, I didn’t get much of a coffee flavour from this beer, but the brew’s description does note that the aroma will be “soft” and perhaps that goes for the palate, as well.

Bridge Brewing Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale

Despite my dislike for coffee, I can find that flavour to work quite well in beers. As a result, I’ve been curious to try the Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale, after coming across bomber bottles of the brew in BC Liquor Stores. I’m curious to see if the bottle experience of the beer differs from the cask.

Mrs. Sip and I have only been to Bridge Brewing once before and not since they moved into a bigger facility. We’ve been meaning to do a self-guided tour of the North Van brewing scene for a while now, but just haven’t had the time. Patience is a virtue here, my little sippers!

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

BC Beer Baron #20 – Real Cask Burnley Bastard Mild

At the Winter Beer Hall that Mrs. Sip and I recently attended at Big Rock Urban Brewery, this was Real Cask Brewing’s contribution to the festivities.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Burnley Bastard Mild. At only 3%, it’s incredibly light and I’ve come to expect stronger flavours and profiles from my craft beers. I believe, though, that others will appreciate the brew for what it is. It just wasn’t in my wheelhouse. I do have to say, it has a hell of a name.

Real Cask Burnley Bastard Mild

Callister Brewing, which houses Real Cask, has a very interesting set-up in that it provides space and equipment for a number of independent brewers (both professional and amateur alike) in a collaborative effort to get their products out to a larger audience. Currently operating out of the space are Callister, Real Cask, Machine Ales, and Brewery Creek.

The one time Mrs. Sip and I have been able to get to Callister Brewing, we put together a sampler of every beer they had available and ended up with 13 different selections to choose from. It was fun going through each one, some of which were quite diverse from anything else on the market.

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

Sip Trips #54: Dinner and a Show

As the post-holiday blues subside we get back to our regular routine, Mrs. Sip and I have made sure to continue having fun, out and about, in this beautiful city we call home. Here’s what we got up to over the last week:

With tickets to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s ‘As Heard on TV’ concert last Friday, Mrs. Sip and I needed a spot for a date night dinner beforehand. Dunn’s Famous BC is located right next to The Orpheum concert hall and is perfect for pre-concert food and drink. The restaurant recently went through a prolonged renovation, morphing into more of a deli type eatery, similar to its original location in Montreal, Quebec.


We’ve enjoyed Dunn’s before, but haven’t visited since it reopened. While we had heard it was more of a takeout place now, that was incorrect and there was ample seating for guests who wanted to eat in. My concern was that alcoholic beverages could no longer be had, but that fear was quickly relieved by their advertisement of a bucket of beers deal on Fridays (among other offers, throughout the week).

Our drink order was a no-brainer. Their usual bucket of beer listing is $20 for four Steam Whistle bottles. On Fridays however, you can get five East Coast bottles of craft beer for the same price. Our bucket included three Unibroue selections (Blanche de Chambly, La Fin du Monde and Maudite) and two from Muskoka (Mad Tom IPA and Detour IPA). This all paired nicely with our order of Fried Chicken Poutine and a California Grilled Cheese, to share.

The next day, we made the long journey from Downtown Vancouver to Langley for Backyard Vineyards open house event. The gathering commemorated the winery’s release of their 2013 Syrah Reserve, which they were offering complimentary tastings of.

wine tasting randy marsh

Outside of enjoying the Syrah, Ma and Pa Sip ordered a couple bottles of Backyard’s Rose, which is a crisp, light and flavourful wine that goes down very easy… especially when you’re enjoying the music of Andrew Christopher and taking in the beautiful surroundings.

I almost hate saying this because the open houses are busy enough already, but the winery is great, the staff amazing and if at all possible, it should be experienced. Mrs. Sip has been a member of Backyard for a couple years now and we’ve managed to convert other family and even strangers to join the club.

The upcoming weeks are filling up quickly. This weekend, we’ll be at Big Rock Urban Brewery for the Winter Beer Hall (part of the annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival) and with Mrs. Sip’s birthday rapidly approaching, there will be much to discuss. Sip well, my friends!

Sip Trips #24: Easy Riders

I’ll cut right to the chase: the big event of this week was the bike and booze crawl Mrs. Sip and I organized for one of our friend’s birthday. While most of the pre-planned itinerary was quickly thrown out the window for one reason or another, the end result was a good time had by all (most importantly, the birthday girl) and everyone got home in one piece. I call that a success!

Bike Bar

Our first stop along the way was The Pirate Pub under the Burrard Street Bridge. Here, the pitchers of beer (Whistler Powder Mountain Lager) and sangria were flowing, as we all loosened up for the ride ahead. The place isn’t very big, but the staff did a great job of quickly accommodating our large group.

After a long ride around Vancouver’s seawall and through Stanley Park, we eventually landed at the Big Rock Urban Brewery. Once there, I quenched my enormous thirst with a pint of their Hefeweizen, which really hit the spot. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sip ordered a tasting flight. Of her beers, I particularly liked the Roggenbier and Scottish Heavy the best.

We then walked over to 33 Acres Brewing, where six packs of their Sunshine French Blanche, Life Amber Ale, and Ocean Pale Ale, were purchased. En route to the popular location, we came across a park where many revelers were taking in the beautiful weather and relaxing with a beer, so we decided to follow suit. It was a wonderful way to enjoy the afternoon, in the fresh air and amongst friends.

Drinking in Public Racoon

The evening portion of the day out began with drinks and food at Steel Toad Brewery. The experience was a mix of good and bad. Mrs. Sip and I arrived later than the rest of the group and waited about 40 minutes before we were asked for a drink order. During that time our table was brought a number of orders that didn’t belong to any of us and caused some confusion. On the plus side, all the beer we had was quite good – I had a Berliner Weisse and Oatmeal Stout, while Mrs. Sip tried their Berliner Weisse taster pack, which combined the beer with different syrups – and when one of our group members accidentally knocked Mrs. Sip’s beverage over, it was quickly replaced. I’ve had good times before at Steel Toad, so I’ll chalk the cons up to being an abnormality.

Our last stop of the night was Fantacity Karaoke, where we belted out the greatest songs of yesteryear with pitch perfect tones… or at least that’s how we’d like to remember it. It was a fun night singing our hearts out and losing our voices. I’m not sure what beer we kept ordering, but there sure was a lot of it. And we must have impressed someone, as we were invited into another group’s room for further musical interludes and pitchers of the sweet gold stuff, after our room rental had expired.

This was the Sip Advisor’s first foray into event planning on a larger scale and I think it all went pretty well. I have many other excursions planned for the future, so look out for those in upcoming Sip Trips articles!