Sip Trips #62: Portlandia

As the Sip Advisor and company packed up to celebrate the Easter weekend in Portland, we knew we were in for good times, but I’m still amazed at how many good beers I was able to cram into the short time.

Following a nice dinner at Mama Mia Trattoria (where I had a delicious Boneyard RPM IPA) on our first night, the Sip Alliance made our way to Tugboat Brewing, which claims to be Portland’s smallest craft brewery. There, we sampled each of Tugboat’s three own beers, as well as ordered some from their guest taps from around the state. As we enjoyed our beers, we were able to play one of the bars many board games, chat with the knowledgeable and jovial barkeep Linsel, and just take in the Portland scene.


The Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest is the main event of this yearly pilgrimage and while this year featured a mix of ups and downs, we all still had a great time. The first issue came as we tried to redeem our tickets. We each purchased the VIP package add-on, to go with the regular entry ticket bundle. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the ticket takers weren’t really trained on what kind of tickets they should expect to see, as it took a team of two to figure out that we had paid for both packages. With the regular ticket, visitors get entrance to the festival, a souvenir glass and 10 tokens. The VIP package provided an additional six VIP tickets to use on an advertised 20 special items.

Speaking of those special items, there only ended up being about a dozen to choose from, mostly comprised of cheeses and chocolates. One of the bonus beer items I had my heart set on was already unavailable, despite us all showing up at the very start of the second day.

In the end, it seemed as if there was absolutely no benefit to the VIP package and serious changes should be made to that option for next year, or it should be abandoned entirely. Admittedly, the Sip Advisor and Mrs. Sip ended up trading our VIP tickets in for normal tokens, just to get something out of them.


Not to harp on the event too much, but one other disappointment from the festival was the elimination of info/pairing seminars. These have been a highlight of our past visits to the Beer & Wine Fest and I really hope they are brought back.

Okay, enough of the negatives, let’s finish with some positives. I tried a number of very good beers over the afternoon, including wares from StormBreaker, Snipes Mountain, Leikam, Coin Toss, Gilgamesh, Krauski, Unicorn, Elysian, Lompoc, Rusty Truck, Old Town, Natian, and Sai What.

My choice for best booth of the show was the Thomas & Sons Distillery, where Mrs. Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and I spent a fair bit of time tasting each of the company’s tea-based liqueurs (I was particularly enamoured with their Smoke Tea Liqueur). This is where I used my one and only VIP ticket, trying their Boilermaker collaboration with Planktown Brewing. We also purchased one of Thomas & Sons liqueur sample packs for future cocktail experimenting.

Tea Kitty

The following day, we hit the town for a Portland brewery crawl, making our way to five different locations and experiencing the city’s public transportation (day passes were only $5!). Our first stop was Breakside Brewing, which has a few products that can be found on our side of the border. Mrs. Sip and I shared a flight of tasters, with my favourite being their Salted Caramel Stout.

Stop number two was Old Town Brewing, which we conveniently drove by en route to Breakside. Here, we ordered another flight, which was comprised of eight different beers. The tops among them for me, were the Law & Porter and Paulie’s Not Irish Red.

From there, we ditched the vehicles and hit public transport, where we first ventured to Burnside Brewing. I had another really good beer here, the Too Sticky To Roll India Red Ale. Next up, was Hair of the Dog, where I had their Adam beer, the brewery’s very first release. They even have servings available of that inaugural brew from 1994… which will only set you back $1500 (they call it the most sought after beer in the world).

Public Transit  Weird People

We then rushed to our dinner reservation at Der Rheinlander, where our ravenous group destroyed as much schnitzel as possible to go along with some great German beers. The only disappointment here was that two of us ordered a “boot” of beer and were simply served giant mugs. That’s what I call flagrant false advertising!

As we arrived at Der Rhinelander, Mrs. Sip spotted Laurelwood Brew Pub just up the street, so we decided to pop in following our meal. Here, we had another awesome server, who took care of all our beer needs, while also charging a couple of our phones and setting us up with an Uber ride back downtown. I enjoyed their Rando IPA #11, while playing with their set-up meant for small children.

The night ended with some burlesque at Dante’s Sinferno Cabaret. While watching a number of crazy acts, I took advantage of Dante’s decently priced line-up of Portland-based beers. Before officially packing it in, we also managed a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, which provided breakfast the next morning.

Before you knew it, it was time to return home. This weekend looks to be a little quieter, but every time I venture to say that, we end up going all out and comes across more than enough to document.

Sip Trips #35: All You Need is Love

This week got off to a bit of a rocky start, as Mrs. Sip and I (along with a crew of friends) were supposed to meet at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) and visit the Craft Beer Festival that the fair is hosting for the first time this year. Mrs. Sip and I hadn’t attended the PNE since our first year dating, 13 years ago, so we were excited to return. Sadly, as we arrived, we were informed that the park was closing due to inclement weather and would not reopen.

This was an epic fail, exacerbated given that we knew folks already inside the park who were never asked to leave and were enjoying snacks and such throughout. We didn’t bother to stick around long and although the park did reopen, the Craft Beer Festival did not, and weather remained sketchy the rest of the afternoon and evening. Still, I was really looking forward to trying deep-fried jellybeans!

jellybean flavours

On with the successes of the day! The evening began with meeting friends at Alibi Room, in Gastown, which has an extensive menu of craft beers that is updated daily. It can get very busy as the day rolls along, so my best advice is to arrive early. Here, I ordered one of their Frat Bats (tasting flights), including the Dageraad Randonneur Belgian Saison, Breakside Imperial Gold Ale IPA, Phillips Hazy Daze Apricot Witbier, and Strange Fellows Guardian White IPA. The latter two were most enjoyable for me, while Mrs. Sip liked the Callister Apricot Resurrection from her set.

From Alibi Room, we moved on to the Portside Pub for another flight of tasters. This time, I ordered the Fernie Quiet RyeT (the best of this bunch), Hearthstone Azacca Pale Ale, Persephone Dry Stout, and Delirium Tremens. The flights were more expensive here, which originally had us a little disappointed, but when we discovered this was because they included a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey, we were all-in! The Lobster nachos also seemed to be a hit with our group, although sitting beside Mrs. Sip meant I didn’t get to indulge too much. I’ve been married long enough to know not to get between Mrs. Sip and her lobster! I’ll have to come back another time for more of the nachos and to try some of the interesting Caesar recipes the pub also offers.

As fun as Saturday was, the main event of the week was unquestionably the Made with Love cocktail competition that I fell in love with (pardon the pun) last year. This time around, the venue switched to the Fairmont Hotel, allowing a little more space than last year’s Yaletown Roundhouse location. After receiving our welcome cocktail of Campari and Tropical Red Bull, our group travelled the room in a counter-clockwise direction. The first few drinks were decent, but weren’t really making an impact with me. I did, however, greatly enjoy the appies that were served, including teriyaki chicken skewers, veggie spring rolls, beef carpaccio, fajita chicken wraps, and pate.

appetizers before food

The second half of the room provided a number of top contenders for favourite drink. The premise of the event is that you’re given a dog tag to bestow upon the bartender of your favourite recipe. They’re also judged by a panel of experts. By the end of the circuit I had a short list of four drinks which I really enjoyed. They included Just the Pits (Disaronno, apple juice infused with ginger and black pepper, peach puree, lemon juice, honey syrup, and cherry bitters); Tequila Mockingbird (1800 Tequila, lemon juice, Jamaica and yellow flower syrup, and plum bitters); Caribbean in the Fall (three different Appleton Rums, peach syrup, allspice syrup, lavender tea, lemon juice, maple syrup, saline solution, pimento bitters, and garnished with a sorrel leaf); and my favourite of the competition (earning my dog tag), the BC Burro (1800 Tequila, “forest fire” flavour, ginger beer, elderflower, and wormwood bitters).

Of most importance was whether the event would still hold up for our sophomore experience and whether the cost ($55 early bird tickets/$65 regular tickets) was justifiable. In the Sip Advisor’s opinion, the event was wonderful again and I can’t wait to go for the three-peat next year. I have to say though, I’d love to go to a cocktail competition where there are no liquor sponsors and bartenders have free reign over what they use. I get that the sponsorship basically makes the event possible, but how cool would it be for the competition to be no holds barred!

We wrapped up the Sip Trips week with a return visit to the new Central City Brew Pub on Beatty Street, where I once again enjoyed the Crispy Crunch burger (combining all my favourites with a crispy chicken breast, bacon, potato chips, onion strings, and pickles), while putting together one of the best tasting flight lineups of my career. I ordered the Longwood Steam Punk Dunkel, Hoyne Off the Grid Red Lager, Fuggles and Warlock Smoked Hefeweizen, Bridge North Shore Pale Ale and I only hope that others get to taste my brilliance! Best of all, the flight only cost $6.50, which is a wicked price for a set of beer tasters.

This weekend, Mrs. Sip and I are away camping and plan to pick up a couple growlers at Storm Brewing, before making our way to the Okanagan. There’s no doubt that some mischief is ahead. Should be a great long weekend!