Best of 2018

Weddings, birthdays, travel, moves and babies. These are some of the themes that make up the Sip Advisor’s annual look back at the best nights from the year that was. Without further ado, here is the Sip Advisor’s top 18 of 2018:

Winter Wedding

The year started off with a bang, as we spent an early January weekend celebrating the wedding of very close friends. With Mrs. Sip a bridesmaid and yours truly delivering a speech, we were busy, but also made ample use of the reception’s open bar. This was Baby Sip’s first wedding and she took in the craziness with her usual charm.

Down Mexico Way

San Diego has an amazing craft beer scene and that has spread across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. While we were staying in nearby Escondido, we booked a tour that would take us across the border for the day, visit a few breweries and then return us stateside in the evening. Our guide was very good and I recommend checking out places on both sides of the boundary.

Riding High

Baby Sip and I joined Mrs. Sip at the tail end of her annual girls trip to Las Vegas and one definite highlight was riding the High Roller, while inside one of the attraction’s Happy Half Hour (Open Bar in the Sky) cabins. For 30 minutes, we enjoyed the sights of the strip, while consuming as much booze as our bodies could handle in such a short time.

open bar

Mamma Mia

To celebrate Mrs. Sip’s first Mother’s Day, we flew to London. Okay, the trip was already planned with saluting Mrs. Sip’s efforts being a happy coincidence. To mark the occasion, we enjoyed an afternoon tea, complete with bottomless bubbly. We finished the day with a stop at the East London Liquor Company for a couple craft cocktails.

French Kissing

While in Lyon, France, our group enjoyed the Les Fleurs du Malt craft beer bar; a Beaujolais wine region tour; drinking in a park along the Rhone River; and an epic feast of McDonald’s goodies, paired with French craft beer. That’s my kind of culture!

Portuguese Pleasing

Next up was Porto, Portugal, memorable for the Food & Wine Tour Mrs. Sip found. After our afternoon of indulging, we explored the city, visiting the Calem Port Museum and Sandeman Cellars for Port tastings and cocktails. Lisbon and Sintra were also neat cities.

Satisfying Two Food Groups

In Brussels, Belgium, the Chocolate & Beer Tour we booked was absolutely decadent. Following a few stops at some of the finest chocolatiers in the city, it was time to get our drink on and enjoy a seemingly endless lineup of brews. After the tour wrapped, we ventured to the Delirium Café for even more beverages.

chocolate and beer

On the Battlefield

The only thing better than a good craft beer event is one that comes with free entry. Scratch that, Mrs. Sip and I were practically paid to attend Cask Wars at the Portside Pub, as entry included one free beer. Sure, once inside you paid for tasting tickets, but even that was at a very reasonable price. The competition saw 11 breweries work to drain their cask the quickest and earn a tap at the bar.

Wedded Bliss

What happens when you pack an entire wedding into a four-hour cocktail reception? A fury of fun… and drinking. Best of all, the rest of the day before and after the nuptials is yours to enjoy. When at the wedding, you can be solely focused on the party and that’s exactly how this went down, with Mrs. Sip calling it a night once we got home.

Maritimes Marriage

With friends tying the knot in their native Nova Scotia, Mrs. Sip and I (along with Baby Sip) made the cross-country trek to Halifax for a weekend of fun. While touring the city’s craft beer joints and devouring as much Atlantic seafood as we could get our hands on, we also took in some east coast culture in the form of a food tour and visiting some museum exhibits.

Adios Apartment

With just days remaining before we had to be out of our Downtown Vancouver apartment, Mrs. Sip and I decided to throw a final bash at the ol’ place, collecting our finest drinking buddies, with the hopes of depleting our liquor collection and having less bottles to pack and transport. Everyone brought their A-game to the festivity and we ended up retiring numerous bottles.

moving out

Return to the Battlefield

The next day, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary, enjoying a rare (my very first) night away from Baby Sip to attend the Battle of the Brews event in Surrey. The rain couldn’t dampen our merriment – or inebriation – and we ate and drank our way through as many tents as we could.

Cruise Control

Even with Baby Sip in tow, Mrs. Sip and I managed to live up to our cruise reputation as we travelled from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Giant margaritas, wine tasting and cocktail hours were enjoyed throughout the voyage, along with all the fine dining one stomach can handle.

Day in Disneyland

While I prefer longer visits to the Disneyland Resort, with only one day to spend at the happiest place in the world, we did pretty well with our stay. There to get Baby Sip her first taste of Disneyland and attend Mickey’s Halloween Party, we began with a trio of beers in the California Adventure park, launching us into the second half of our day, trick-or-treating with Mickey and the gang.

Brew Birthday

The Sip Advisor’s birthday, which should be a national holiday, celebrated across Canada, was at least celebrated in style by a select few of us, attending Trading Post Brewing’s Oktoberfest event. We honoured my German heritage with an impressive drinking exhibition and continued the party at our new home with friends and family.

birthday-beer.jpg

Bash for Baby Sip

While I didn’t drink as much as expected for this momentous occasion (I mean, I did create a small menu of cocktail delights to serve to guests), it is still a highlight of the year. First, the day meant we somehow managed to keep a kid alive for a full year and second, watching the sheer joy in Baby Sip’s eyes as everyone focused their attention and love on her, is something I won’t soon forget.

Open House

To show off our new abode, we hosted an open house wine and cheese party that stretched from midday to the early hours of the next morning. We had dozens of bottles on hand, as well as more food than has ever been in our fridge before or since. Guests flowed in and out through the day and at the end, we were just happy it went off without a hitch.

Christmas Day

The moment the Sip Family arrived at Ma and Pa Sip’s place for Christmas dinner, the drinking began. I can’t recall how many Dark N’ Stormy beverages I had over the stay, but my precious bottle of ginger beer was drained. At the end of the night, I passed out to Christmas episodes of my favourite animated comedies… a merry Christmas, indeed!

That wraps up another trip around the sun. I’m not entirely sure what 2019 has in store for this site, but I hope to bring back the Cocktail Corner and Love & Hate segments to this site. I’m also working hard to put together a much bigger project for 2020, so stay tuned!

Sip Trips #139: Exploring Europe (Part 4)

The final stop on our European expedition was Belgium, where we visited the cities of Brussels and Bruges, looking to get our fill of what the country is famous for: chocolate, beer, waffles and fries!

First up, was Brussels, where we began by eating at The Purple Rose. While we didn’t love the Croque Monsieur Mrs. Sip and I split, we did enjoy our Belgian Beer Tour of seven 4oz beers, served with a side of fries.

This was merely a warmup, as our big excursion of the day was a Beer & Chocolate Tour, which featured tons of chocolate and six beers. The 4.5-hour tour was very good value, costing 80-Euros per person. I liked being able to pick from a variety of chocolate combos, choosing my sweets based on ingredients I thought worked well in cocktails. Following the chocolate, we were treated to a walking tour of the city, prior to hitting three different bars for the beer portion of the outing.

Belgian Chocolate.jpg

Feeling quite jovial at the conclusion of the tour, we made our way to the Delirium Café for further beverages. I had hoped to drink from one of the bar’s massive fishbowl glasses (which you have to put down a 40-Euros deposit for), but they had sadly ran out of the goblets when we went to order. We still enjoyed a drink, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for.

The next day, we popped into Restaurant du MIM, located on the 10th floor of the Museum of Musical Instruments. There, I had a pint of Ramee Blanche, while we enjoyed the views from the outdoor seating section. I had the same beer at Café Georgette, famous for their fries, which can be eaten at the restaurant or as takeaway in a cone. We ordered our chips with Georgette Sauce, which completed the experience.

We then walked across town for drinks at the Brussels Beer Project, which had been recommended to us the day before by our Beer & Chocolate Tour guide. Mrs. Sip and I went with pints of the Delta IPA (Belgian IPA) and Jungle Joy (Mango and Passionfruit Blond). We had wanted to try the Grosse Bertha (Belgian Hefeweizen), but it was tapped out at the time. Mrs. Sip did get to try it when we had dinner across the street at Café Walvis. There, I paired some beef stew with fries and a bottle of Maredsous Bruin, as was recommended on the bistro’s menu.

belgian-beer

Before moving onto the Bruges portion of our vacation, I must mention that I really enjoyed the Grimbergen brand of beer, which we tried in Blond, Dubbel, and Tripel varieties. I found they worked particularly well with Belgian waffles, making for a fantastic breakfast and start to a day of exploring!

In Bruges (an awesome movie!), we began our activities by exploring the main square, while searching for a place to eat dinner. We landed at Huyze die Maene, where I selected from their 22-Euros set menu. My meal included another round of Flemish beef stew with fries, accompanied by a large serving of Kwak beer, which came in a very interesting glass that looked like something from a chemistry lab.

The next day, we toured the Brewery De Halve Maan, which finished with a glass of their Brugse Zot Blond. The tour cost 10-Euros per person, which may have been money better spent on just ordering a couple pints of beer. Mrs. Sip and I have grown tired of learning the process to make beer and really just want to sample the wares. At least we lucked upon a spot in the brewery’s courtyard to enjoy our beverages.

Missing Beer.jpg

While walking around the city, we stepped into one of the beer stores that Belgium is known for. These shops typically carry hundreds of different beers. Mrs. Sip wanted to try a couple from the Mongozo brand, including their coconut and banana-flavoured options. These brews were lighter on the alcohol percentage, but very tasty.

Before heading back to London and flying home the next day, we needed to return to Brussels to catch our Eurostar train. With time to kill, we walked to the nearby Cantillon Brewery, which specializes in sour beers. We ordered a glass of each of the four available brews, including the Gueuze, Kriek, Rose de Gambrinus, and Lambic.

That wraps our adventures from across the pond. Travelling such a long distance with Baby Sip went better than I expected, but it still had its fair share of hiccups, which I hope to delve into in a future Love & Hate article. Until then, at least we have the fuzzy memories!