Sip Trips #83: ‘Tis the Season

This past week saw nearly the entire Sip Family clan celebrating the Christmas season in Disneyland, where we also rang in the 60th birthday of Ma Sip and the 50th birthday of Aunt-in-Law Sip. Here’s all the shenanigans the Sip Advisor was able to get into, while at and around the parks.

Most notably, the California Adventure portion of the resort was hosting their Festival of Holidays, featuring 14 food and drink stands, offering yuletide treats. My most frequest stop, of course, was at the Brews & Bites stall, where I was able to get my hands on a number of California craft beers that the park typically doesn’t have on hand. This included: Mother Earth Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale, Saint Archer White Ale, Bottle Logic Tattered Prince (Spiced Saison), Karl Strauss Seven Sharks A-Circling Smoked Porter, and 21st Amendment Fireside Chat (Spiced Ale).

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While the new beverage options provided a lot of fun (as well as expense), the food available was disappointing. This wasn’t due to quality, but the pricing structure. Most servings were appetizer size, but came with a main dish price. For example, I enjoyed the Reuben Potato Smash, but paying $7 for two little potato balls seemed extreme. This made me question my list of the handful of items I had hoped to try. It seemed desserts (highlighted by the $4.25 Eggnog Cheesecake) were more reasonably priced, but only by comparison. Every dish could have been knocked down by a few dollars, allowing for more experimentation.

I also have to go on a little rant about how stupid the park’s policy is regarding Canadian visitors having to use their passports as ID, instead of their driver’s licenses. With the great number of folks from British Columbia (as well as the rest of the Great White North) coming to California to vacation, they should be more than familiar with our licenses. They also seems to be no consistency with their own policy, as sometimes my license was good enough and other times it wasn’t. I also note that only the festival booths were insisting on passports at any point, which is a pain because I had grown accustomed to not needing my passport on me in my early thirties.

Okay, back to the good. Other beers I enjoyed around the park included the usual smattering of Karl Strauss selections (Aurora Hoppyalis, Tower 10 IPA, Red Trolley Ale, Mosaic Session IPA, etc.), as well as the Grand-Am Pale Ale from Bear Republic Brewing. This brew has become my breakfast must-have beverage upon entering the park and lining up for the Radiator Springs Racers ride.

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A highlight of our celebrations was our meal at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. Here, our crew was given our own private dining room, although we joked it was more to do with keeping us from disrupting other guests. With my three-course meal, I enjoyed the Ernest Daiquiri, which for some reason the rest of our group viewed as a girly drink… pssh, amateurs. This experience also provided us with a special seating zone for the World of Color show that evening. Our server was spectacular, as was the staff assisting her. The only downside was the restaurant’s inability to split the bill more than into two, which made settling up a little difficult for a group of 13.

Mrs. Sip and I also managed to spend an evening at Dave & Buster’s where we had dinner and played some of their games over late night happy hour. This provided us half price cocktails (the mai tais and margaritas were flowing) and other drink deals, such as a very generously poured Jack & Coke for $3. Our appy of choice has always been the pretzel dogs, which even has Mrs. Sip using the honey mustard dipping sauce.

With Disneyland in the rear-view mirror, it’s onto the Christmas party season and we have a whack of them booked already. Should make for a very fun month!

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Sip Trips #79: California Screamin’

Fresh off of our trip to Ireland (seriously, Mrs. Sip returned Wednesday night and we were off again Saturday morning), the Sip Alliance took advantage of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday with a super quick jaunt down to California where a few days at Disneyland was just a warm up to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights!

Upon entering Disneyland’s California Adventure Saturday morning, the Sip Advisor made a bee line to Flo’s Café for a serving of Bear Republic’s Grand-Am Pale Ale. This is my favourite beer in the park and was a perfect way to start the short and sweet vacation. Mrs. Sip and I typically pair the breakfast brew with a cheddar garlic bagel twist, which is as fine and gluttonous as a morning meal can be. We also tried their pumpkin twist dessert for some additional excess.

breakfast-beer

Even before we could hit a single attraction, we were onto our second beers of the morning, visiting the Karl Strauss Beer Truck. Here, I tried one of the newer beers (at least new to me) available in the Aurora Hoppyalis IPA, which I found to be quite good and deserving of its awesome name. Mrs. Sip went with their seasonal Oktoberfest beverage, which was also a solid choice.

Finally, we rode a ride, but our thirst was not fully quenched. This resulted in a stop at the Sonoma Terrace Beer Garden, where Mrs. Sip selected the Brother Thelonious Belgian Ale from North Coast Brewing, while the Sip Advisor went with a serving of Bootlegger’s Rustic Rye IPA. My only complaint about the beer garden is that all servings are bottles, so you don’t get the same amount as the draft options and often pay more. That said, the available options are often boozier than their contemporaries.

For a late lunch, we made a reservation at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. With the park typically busy for a Saturday and unseasonably warm for October, we ducked into the Carthay Lounge a little early and enjoyed a round of drinks with Mrs. Sip’s favourite appy, the Queso Fundido dip. I ordered a glass of Anchor Mango Wheat because the server said it was a maple mango beer. While that wasn’t correct, it was still a decent brew. Anchor Brewing does have a Maple Autumn Red, which may have caused the confusion. Our three-course lunch was fantastic as usual, enjoyed with a bottle of chardonnay.

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Eating at the Carthay Circle Restaurant gave us a special seating area for the World of Color show that night and the Sip Alliance always comes prepared. While Mrs. Sip and Cousin Sip double fisted glasses of bubbly, the Sip Advisor and Cousin Sip’s husband were among the last served at the Beer Garden. My bevvy of choice was the Hopageddon Imperial IPA from Napa Smith Brewing. We wrapped the day with a late visit to McDonald’s, which I brought back to our hotel room to pair with a bottle of Samuel Adams Octoberfest. There was also a serving of Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA in the late evening, which deserves mention for being a good brew.

Sunday featured our main reason for doing this frenzied trip to California. Two years ago, Mrs. Sip and I attended Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and had a fantastic time. Part of the festivities, includes drinking our faces off prior to entering the spooky resort. As we did previously, we began our imbibing at the Karl Strauss Brewing location in the City Walk area outside the park. There, amongst a host of shared plates (pretzel bites, pork schnitzel sliders, cheese fondue, etc.), I enjoyed another serving of the Aurora Hoppyalis IPA, followed by the Tower 10 IPA. Mrs. Sip got a pair of Windansea Wheat glasses, which were also delicious.

Our last ditch effort to get a suitable buzz before being swarmed by zombies, maniac killers and all other forms of terrifying beings, came courtesy of the Saddle Ranch. Mrs. Sip and I went with double tequila shots, while I also pounded back a double rum and coke. To say I was ready to have the daylights scared out of me would be an understatement. Once inside, our favourite houses were Freddy vs. Jason, American Horror Story (thanks to following the series), and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Our front-of-the-line passes helped us get through the park with ease and we completed all attractions within a few hours.

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After a quick sleep, we were back at Disneyland for one more half day of fun. It was breakfast time, so you know what that meant: one more Grand Am Pale Ale for the road and a cheddar garlic bagel twist. We were always under the impression that beer wasn’t served until 10-10:30am, but learned at Flo’s, they are served all day, from 9am on. What a wonderful world we live in!

For lunch, we popped into the Cove Bar, which is situated at the entrance to the Paradise Pier area of the park. There, I had one of their secret menu cocktails, the Earthquake (a Long Island Iced Tea with Sprite, blue curacao and a float of 151 rum), while Mrs. Sip had the Black Pearl (a Long Island Iced Tea with Sprite and Chambord). Our crew shared a plate of Lobster Nachos over our drinks. Shortly thereafter, it was sadly time to head to the airport.

Normally, my Sip Trips involving vacations to California end there. LAX is one of the worst airports I’ve ever been to for guest amenities, but on this occasion, we ended up in a fantastic wing of the airport, which had a bar and a few other neat looking restaurants. We had dinner at Barney’s Beanery, where I was able to get a buffalo chicken sandwich and a couple pints of Strand 24th Street Pale Ale. Mrs. Sip was in the mood for Mexican, so she had a quesadilla and taco, as well as a serving of Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, which was a fantastic drink.

While we don’t have any travel plans for this weekend, we will be attending the BC Beer Awards for the first time, so that should provide some good stories for the next edition of Sip Trips!

Sip Trips #33: SIP A Dee Doo Da

When Mrs. Sip and I bought annual passes to Disneyland last September, I never could have imagined that we would visit the resort in August. The summer months mean packed parks and extreme temperatures. This year was a special case though, as the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ celebrated its 60th anniversary and we wanted to join in the festivities!

Upon arriving, Mrs. Sip and I went straight for beers at Flo’s Café in Cars Land. It’s the only place in the park where you can get the Bear Republic Grand Am Pale Ale (special to me because I used to drive a Grand Am), which Mrs. Sip ordered, while I got the 5 Racer IPA, also brewed by Bear Republic. We noticed that the Radiator Springs Racers ride was temporarily down at the time, but speculated it would be back up and running shortly. As we enjoyed our first few sips of beer, sure enough, the ride opened and we joined the line. We found out the wait would be 75 minutes, as the back-up of riders was cleared, so we decided to give the single rider line a shot and ended up going on the ride three times in a row, before it broke down again.

Go To Disneyland

This helped us decide whether or not to get another beer, which we did at the Karl Strauss truck in the Pacific Wharf area. With no line-up, we were feeling very fortunate and grabbed a couple servings of the Windansea Wheat Hefeweizen, which was a delightful summer beer and one I wish I could easily get my hands on back at home. Karl Strauss is the feature craft beer at the resort. The company was launched in 1989, starting San Diego’s craft beer industry. Karl Strauss was a long-time brewer for Pabst (before opening his own operation), after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939.

For lunch, we hit the Carthay Circle Restaurant for their 3-course menu, which also gives diners priority seating for World of Color show later in the day. Here, we were joined by Cousin Sip and her husband, splitting a bottle of Beyond Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, with our meals. The wine was very nice and easy to drink, but perhaps wasn’t the best to pair with my Angus Burger entrée. At least it worked with Mrs. Sip’s Seasonal Fish (salmon) dish.

The rest of the day was spent picking up beers from around California Adventure and jumping on a few of the rides, before we moseyed on over to Disneyland Park. With a good buzz going, we also visited the Animation Building and tried our hand at a few of the character animation seminars. My Cheshire Cat and Tigger did not look very good, but I really can’t blame any level of inebriation on that.

drawing to fridge

We began the next day on the side where you can’t drink (boooooooo), before crossing over to California Adventure. Looking for a respite from the overwhelming heat, we ducked into the beautifully air-conditioned Carthay Circle Lounge, this time grabbing seats in the bar area. I ordered the Carthay Diamond Manhattan, largely based on the fact that the ice cube was going to be diamond shaped. I know, I’m very easy to please! The drink was strong, as you’d expect, but was a classy, flavourful cocktail to enjoy in the elegant lounge.

Mrs. Sip and I have become experts of sorts when it comes to drinking at Disneyland, but old dogs can learn new tricks. We recently learned about The Cove, located in the Paradise Pier area of the resort, which has apparently existed all along, right under our noses. I think we always thought it was part of the Ariel’s Grotto restaurant and never investigated further. Here, I had the Smoked Turkey cocktail, which combined Wild Turkey Bourbon, Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon, Grenadine, Odwalla Lemonade, and was garnished with Gourmet Maraschino Cherries. Mrs. Sip and Cousin Sip ordered some off menu items (you have to know to ask the server about them, unless you get lucky and they mention them to you), including variations of the Long Island Iced Tea. To go with our drinks, we enjoyed some Lobster Nachos, followed by Quesadilla Rolls. The setting was beautiful (albeit in the sun at some points), while the food and drinks were very good. This is a new find that we will certainly return to in the future.

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Saturday is always a busy day in the park, so we did our best to stay cool and relaxed. This plan was highlighted by a trip to the Alfresco Tasting Terrace, where Mrs. Sip and Cousin Sip indulged in wine tasting flights from the select Disney “family” of wines (chardonnay and reds, respectively), while the fellas experimented with the beer menu. My first brew was the Anaheim Hef, which was another nice summer beer. I followed that with a glass of Napa Smith Hopageddon IPA, which was quite different, but equally enjoyable.

Later on and disappointed that we missed out on the drinks available during the Mad Tea Party, our crew decided to head for the Downtown Disney district for one last beverage, before ending the evening in Disneyland Park. We landed at UVA Bar, located outdoors, in the center of the mayhem. This was a perfect spot for a night cap and there were too many options to choose from. I ordered the Stone Cold beer cocktail, which blended Stone IPA, Hendricks gin, lime juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Other items that we tried or that looked interesting, included Mrs. Sip’s Hibiscus Mojito (which although made too sweet, was adjusted to her taste, with even an extra dash of rum, although all Mrs. Sip requested was a soda top up), a beer sampler that featured Bootlegger’s Spicy Blonde Ale and Mermaid’s Red Ale, and one which we didn’t order, but looked neat: a Bloody Mary popsicle (Tomato Lime Diablo Pop) to put in a beer and make a Michelada.

Disney Vacation Fastpass

On our last day, we managed to cram some more beers into our California Adventure afternoon. I started with the Windansea, which may have been my favourite brew of the weekend, followed by a pour of Green Flash Hop Head Red, which was a double IPA and as hoppy as one would expect. For old time’s sake, I finished my visit with a very refreshing Blue Moon, soaking in the sights and sounds of the resort.

Overall, the crowds at the park were not nearly as bad as we originally feared, except for Saturday. The heat, however, was intense and anytime you walked from one area of the park to another, you tried to duck into a shop just to cool down. With our annual passes set to expire next month, it may be a while before Mrs. Sip and I are back, but we sure took advantage of our year!