Sip Trips #86: Best of 2016

Each year, the Sip Advisor fondly looks back at the best drinking nights (in order of occurrence) of the previous calendar… at least what he can remember of them. Join us as we take a moment to dissect and celebrate 2016:

Libational Learning

When a night ends with the Sip Advisor passing out on the couch, sans clothing, you know it’s been a good one! The Science of Cocktails extravaganza was a fascinating and booze-fueled evening. We wanted to return this year, but Mrs. Sip has a trial starting the next day, so that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. #Responsibilities

Family Day Festivities

Over the Family Day long weekend, the Sip Alliance explored both the Fraser Valley and North Vancouver craft beer regions, hitting more than a dozen locations. Many of these, were first time stops for our group and it opened our eyes to all the wonders that exist outside of Vancouver.

family-time

Crawling Around

Just one day after the Portland Beer & Wine Festival, we were back at it, hitting the streets of the City of Roses and searching out some of its most popular breweries. Over the course of the day, we worked our way through a half dozen tasting rooms. Eventually, we ended the journey with an Easter-themed burlesque show and Voodoo Doughnuts… because why the hell not!?

Lion City Leisure

With three nights in Singapore to start our five-week Asian adventure, we decided to spend one of those nights at the swanky Marina Bay Sands. Our hotel package included their evening happy hour, which in true Mr. and Mrs. Sip fashion, we rocked until they kindly asked us to leave. We followed this with swimming in the resort’s rooftop pool, 63 floors above the city.

The Happiest of Valleys

The fun didn’t stop there, as our cruise made a two-day stop in the vibrant city that is Hong Kong. This allowed us the chance to enjoy some nightlife, helped along by Mrs. Sip having a few friends living in the city. Coincidentally, it was also Wednesday race night at the Happy Valley Racetrack. Over a couple pitchers of beer, the Sip Advisor even picked a winning horse and took home a small prize.

horse-racing-for-rich-people

So Many Options

Arriving in Tokyo, Japan, we chose to stay near the Golden Gai district of the city. For those unfamiliar with the area, it is home to approximately 300 little bars, within a six-block radius. Our exploration led us into a few uniquely-themed watering holes, such as the one centered around horror movie and metal music cultures.

Drinking Sky High

Our fun in Tokyo didn’t stop there. The moment Mrs. Sip discovered that this attraction existed, we knew it would be a highlight of our stay in the city. At the Park Hyatt, their Peak Bar offered visitors the chance to drink all-inclusive during sunset hours, while looking down at the bustling city below, from the 41st floor. We ended up sitting next to a couple from Australia and spent the night drinking with them, as I challenged the bartender to make me her best drink with each different alcohol available.

Tipping N’ Tasting

Among my favourite annual beer festivals is the Tip N’ Taste event in Langley. It provides a chance to sample brews from companies based more in the Fraser Valley region of BC, as well as other entries from around the province. This year, we stayed overnight at the Convention Centre Hotel, which hosted the event. That meant the after party quickly moved to our room!

beer-crisper

Island Wedding

While on Prince Edward Island for a friend’s wedding, Mrs. Sip and I were introduced to a number of great people, who we partied away the weekend with. Following a meet-and-greet barbecue on the eve of the wedding, we accompanied our new associates back into Charlottetown for an impromptu night on the town, which ended much later than we had anticipated.

All You Need is Love

The Made with Love cocktail competition has become an annual tradition (three years running) for Mrs. Sip and I. It’s always a fun night out, trying the drinks of some of Vancouver’s most popular bartenders. Best of all, we get to play a role in picking the winning entry, although none of our personal favourites ever seem to come out on top.

Cruise Credits

To celebrate Sis-in-Law Sip’s birthday, we booked a one-day cruise from Seattle to Vancouver. Over the course of the evening, the Sip Advisor took in parts of four bottles of wine, a half-dozen beers, a couple cocktails, and a bottle of bubbly to boot, won through a ‘Finish the Song Lyrics’ quiz.

cruise-captain-morgan

Irish Blessings

Over the last couple years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have celebrated my birthday in Hawaii, aboard a cruise ship, in Southern Africa, and now Ireland – although it was a couple days after the actual date. The Sip Syndicate was along for this ride and we celebrated in true Irish style with shots of Jameson Whiskey and pints of Guinness.

Fear and Loathing

Our trips to Disneyland nowadays typically include enjoying the sights and sounds (and lines) of the park with a cold beer or glass of wine in hand. In October, we were also primed for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, which involves getting a good buzz going, prior to entering. Once that was accomplished, all we had to deal with was psycho killer clowns, a rogue’s gallery of baddies and even some Jabbawockeez!

Award Season

My first year attending one of BC’s best craft beer shindigs proved why I had missed out in previous years. Unable to attend because of vacations and other commitments, we finally made it to the BC Beer Awards, where the Sip Advisor was able to sample about 20 different beers from the wonderful breweries that make up the province’s craft industry.

awards-season

Diamond Celebration

To commemorate Ma Sip’s 60th birthday, the entire family ventured to Disneyland, which also recently celebrated the same milestone. Mrs. Sip’s aunt also had her 50th birthday on that weekend, so there was much to revel in. That included a fair bit of drinking at the park and in our hotel rooms, as we made the change from day to night wear.

Traditional Tidings

To celebrate Christmas this year, the Sip Family stayed in Leavenworth, Washington, which is famous for being a little slice of Bavaria, hidden in the mountains. The town is a haven for Christmas lovers, and it’s here that we explored the many wine tasting rooms, a couple breweries and exuded as much festive spirit as one is allowed to, by law.

2016 was an amazing year… at least drinking wise. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has to offer, even though it has quite a bit to live up to!

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BC Beer Baron #71 – Red Truck Cherry Porter

The fifth and final stop of our Brewery Creek crawl brought us to Red Truck Brewing’s ‘Truck Stop’, located where the original Vancouver Brewery did business, many moons ago.

Given Red Truck is known for their mixed pack of lager, ale, IPA, and ISA flagship products, I made it a point to order only selections I hadn’t tried before. Among my samples was their Cherry Porter, a dark and delicious beer that passed both my and Mrs. Sip’s taste test.

Red Truck Brewing

I’ve never tried any of Red Truck’s darker beers, but my enjoyment of this brew, along with their Irish Stout, makes me very open to changing that stance. Not that it was a stance, per se, but I’ll be more interested in releases I find at local stores, such as the Swamp Thing Stout.

Red Truck’s new facility may be one of the best tasting lounges in the province. Here, live music accentuates a truck stop diner feel, with great food to pair with tasty beers. Their attention to details in decorating the place will have truck lovers (and non-fans alike) searching for the finer features.

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Sip Trips #59: Creek Crawl

Waking up Saturday morning, the sun was shining and Mrs. Sip and I decided to take advantage of that sneak peek at spring… at least after I let her sleep in just a little longer!

My plan for the day, was that if weather cooperated, we’d tour the brewing companies that comprise the Brewery Creek region of Vancouver. After making our way across the Cambie Bridge, en route to our first stop of the day, we noticed that a new wine tasting room had opened. Given she was about to visit a handful of breweries for me, I indulged Mrs. Sip’s interest in this impromptu discovery.

Wineorexia

Upon entering the City Side Winery, featuring wines from Mystic Pearl, we sampled four different styles (Semillon, Riesling, Merlot, and Cuvee – a Cab Sauv blend), with Mrs. Sip liking their Semillon so much that she purchased a bottle and put it aside for pick-up later. Staff at City Side said they’ve been quite busy on weekday evenings, thus far. Given their aren’t many Vancouver options for wine tasting, I can understand why.

With wine out of the way, we were off in search of suds, starting with Steel Toad Brew Pub and Dining Hall. It had been sometime since Mrs. Sip and I had visited the location and we were impressed with our tasting flight. From what we remembered, they have added some new beers to their line-up and improved on previously brewed recipes.

Next up, was R&B Brewing, which allowed us to sample each of their beers on tap at their growler fill station. In the very near future, R&B will finally open their long-awaited tasting room. We were lucky enough to peek inside and see what it will look like. There was still some rough edges to sort out, but it looks like it will be a prime spot for beer enjoyment, very shortly.

Moving on, we next popped into 33 Acres Brewing, which is a very popular spot, thanks to their wide array of beers, to go along with coffee, ice cream, and other treats. We lucked out and didn’t have to wait to enter the spot that often reaches its capacity. Our luck continued when we were able to snag a couple seats at the bar. Here, we tried a set of four samples and even got a bonus offering of their 33 Acres of Four Belgian Quad, after Mrs. Sip explained how much of a fan she is of Belgian-styled brews.

Belgian Beer

Our fourth stop of the self-guided tour was Brassneck Brewing, another extremely popular site in the area. After a short wait, we were able to get a spot and try a selection of Brassneck’s wares. I found it interesting that Brassneck has 473ml (good for a pint) containers for refillable beer, a size I have yet to see anywhere else on the market. They sell for only $3 and cost another $3.25, on average, to fill.

We wrapped up our crawl with our first trip ever to Red Truck Brewing’s beautiful facilities. Here, you can sample more experimental beers (as well as traditional releases) from the brewery, while also enjoying food and live music. Over our tasting flight, we munched on some very good garlic fries, while enjoying some tunes.

On this journey, we neglected Big Rock Urban Eatery and Main Street Brewing, which are also part of the Brewery Creek region. This wasn’t done out of malice, but we were tight for time and I wanted to focus on breweries that I hadn’t been able to feature so heavily in the BC Beer Baron project.

Will we be back to Brewery Creek in the future? Oh, you better believe it!

BC Beer Baron #70 – Brassneck Passive Aggressive Pale Ale

Stop number four on our Brewery Creek crawl brought us to one of Vancouver’s most popular beer destinations, Brassneck Brewing.

There, we enjoyed a flight of beers, highlighted (for myself at least) by the Passive Aggressive Pale Ale. And really, that’s no surprise as it’s the first beer one of the company’s brewers and founders tested and later became an original release and flagship for Brassneck.

Brassneck Passive Agressive Pale Ale

First brewed in September 2013, Brassneck says this beer falls somewhere between a pale ale and an IPA. If Passive Aggressive isn’t enough for you, the brewery still has you covered. Their Double Pale Ale is dubbed Massive Aggressive!

Brassneck is a hard place to get into sometimes. Mrs. Sip and I have been turned away by massive lines and long waits before. Part of that success was having their One Trick Pony named Best in Show at the 2015 BC Beer Awards. If you wish to check the place out, we were advised that Sunday through Tuesday results in shorter waits.

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BC Beer Baron #69 – 33 Acres of Euphoria

The third stop on our recent Brewery Creek crawl was 33 Acres Brewing, where Mrs. Sip learned that the company had a Belgian tripel, one of her favourite styles of beer and one that not every local craft brewery includes in their arsenal.

The 33 Acres of Euphoria was boozy (9.2% ABV) and flavourful, with notes of banana and spices. The beer is available on tap for samples, glasses and growlers, as well as in four-pack cases. 33 Acres write-up for the brew is something that needs to be read: “We say good things come in the power of threes, and when this magical concoction joyfully adorns the table an even three is still good company. A fruity lemon rind finish conceals what is pound for pound our most dangerous, yet very drinkable, Belgian. Eyes wide closed, the potency of this feverish blend remains a secret until one feels the creamy golden rush hiding inside 33 Acres of Euphoria. Boasting deep flavour and a hefty dose of celebration, we strongly encourage sharing amongst lovers, between friends, and the best of kin.”

33 Acres of Euphoria

I like 33 Acres style of naming products. Each beer begins with “33 Acres of”, before finishing with words such as Life, Ocean, Sunshine, Darkness, Nirvana, Courage, and Dusk. I’m not as big a fan of their logo work (pictured above), but it does fall into line with their other theming.

It might just be our luck, but we’ve always found it difficult to get into 33 Acres tasting room. Our very first visit accidentally coincided with the brewery’s first birthday, but successive visits haven’t been so fortunate. I suppose that’s good news for them, though.

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BC Beer Baron #68 – R&B Hidcote Purple Lavender Saison

The second stop on our Brewery Creek crawl took us to R&B Brewing, where we were able to sample a handful of beers at their growler fill station.

Mrs. Sip was a big fan of their Hidcote Purple Lavender Saison, which is very subtle in the lavender department. She liked it so much that she grabbed a bomber bottle for the road… which the Sip Advisor then had to carry around all day! Coming in at 5.7% ABV, the beer is a little boozier than most saisons I’ve encountered and I think that works for Mrs. Sip, who prefers Belgian tripels of all things.

R&B Lavender Saison

The saison is part of the brewery’s Mount Pleasant Series and is a limited release. This fifth entry into that series only hit taps earlier this month and the servers we spoke to over the weekend, didn’t expect the beer to last long. If saisons or experimental beers are your thing, I’d act fast on this intriguing product.

We may have visited R&B just a little too early, as they anticipate their tasting room to officially open in the next week or so. We were able to duck our heads quickly into the almost ready facility and it looks like it will be a highlight of future stops in the neighbourhood. All the best to the team that has worked so hard to get this up and running.

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BC Beer Baron #67 – Steel Toad Kermode West Coast IPA

Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather over the weekend, Mrs. Sip and I did a self-guided crawl through the Brewery Creek region of Vancouver, hitting five different locations. Our first stop was at Steel Toad Brew Pub & Dining Hall, where we sat down for a flight of their beers.

Among our tasters was the Kermode West Coast IPA. I thought this beer was quite good and had a tough time picking a favourite between this and the brew pub’s Farmhouse Double IPA. I gave the edge to the Kermode because it’s a favourite among patrons of the dining hall and Steel Toad has recently began bottling it (a first for the company), advising us that it should be hitting store shelves shortly.

Steel Toad Kermode West Coast IPA

Already, this is the second beer I’ve sampled as part of this 366-day BC craft beer project that has adopted the Kermode or Spirit Bear name. Well, I’m more than happy to drink in honour of the official provincial mammal of BC and you should be too.

This was our first visit to Steel Toad since the summer. I can’t really explain why we’ve neglected the place for so long, but we were impressed by the line-up we sampled, including some beers that have gone through a recipe change, resulting in a better product. Our very first visit was all the way back when the restaurant opened and due to a liquor licensing snafu, we ended up with free tasting flights!

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