Sip Trips #121: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

With Christmas closing in, the Sip Advisor decided to take some time off work… but it certainly wasn’t spent relaxing. Here’s what we got up to in the lead up to the big day and how we fought off the post-holiday blues:

Last Thursday, the Sip Family crossed the border to do some last minute shopping in Bellingham. We hoped to start our visit with drinks at Menace Brewing, but it wasn’t open for the day yet. Lucky for us, Mrs. Sip spotted yet another brewery across the street. Melvin Brewing (a Jackson Hole, Wyoming brewery with a brew pub in Bellingham) hosted us for lunch. Mrs. Sip and I each ordered from their $10 lunch menu, with her selecting Fish & Chips, while I went with the Sandwich & Soup combo (Beef Dip with substituted Fries). For drinks, we passed around pints of their Block Away Brown Ale and Mash Murder Stout ($3 beer of the day special), while also sampling the Peaches Innit Pale Ale. All beers are brewed onsite and we quite good.

Christmas Shopping

On Christmas Eve, en route to a family dinner, we first met Sip Syndicate members at Central City Brewing in Surrey. Mrs. Sip and I had won a tour and tasting experience for six people at one of Central City’s trivia nights at their Downtown Vancouver brew pub in the summer and had to use the pass prior to the end of the year. For those keeping track, this was Baby Sip’s fourth craft brewery visit already. My flight of beers included the Smore Stout, Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine, Imperial IPA and Super Solar IPA. It was a very nice and relaxing setting to enjoy some drinks together and could become a yearly holiday tradition.

Finally, the big day arrived. As for liquor-based Christmas gifts, Mrs. Sip gave me the Central City/Parallel 49 Great White Wonder Adventure Pack (their annual collaborative advent calendar), which was marked down, given the month had come and gone. That doesn’t mean the beer can’t still be enjoyed, though. Last year, I picked up some of the individual bottles from this set and I’m hoping for some enjoyable beers this time around. Mrs. Sip also gifted me a Groupon for Andina Brewing, which provides a set of tasters for two people, as well as a growler and fill. I also received a bottle of Serbian Honey Brandy, which I’m looking forward to experimenting with. As for the gift of giving, I picked up the Erdinger Variety Pack for Mrs. Sip, along with a few other treats.

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The week ended with an impromptu visit to Craft Beer Market for a holiday wrap-up with friends. On Wednesday, the restaurant offers $8 wings and $5 BC craft beers, which is a terrific combo. Mrs. Sip and I split an order of Salt & Pepper Wings and their Gaucho Chicken Flatbread, while I selected the Torchlight Broadside IPA and Whistler/Craft Snowed In White IPA (with $1 going towards the Greater Vancouver Food Bank) for my beverages. Mrs. Sip went with the Storm Vanilla Whiskey Stout and Moody Ales Lusty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout for her drinks.

This weekend will be another busy one, with a birthday/housewarming to attend, drinks with the guys on the schedule… and, oh yeah, that minor hidden-on-the-calendar event we call New Year’s Eve!

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Sip Trips #120: Tidings of Joy

The holiday season in really ramping up, with parties and other festivities around every corner. Leading up to the big day, here’s what Mrs. Sip and I got up to over the week that was:

On Friday, we had another Vancouver Canucks game to attend. This time, friends of ours also had tickets, so we met with them at Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House prior to puck drop. At the Howe Sound Brewing restaurant, I had a pair of their Wee Beastie Scotch Ale, while ordering the Southern Fried Chicken sandwich for my meal. The fries at Devil’s Elbow come with a neat adobo ketchup, which I found myself lapping up like it was going out of style. Mrs. Sip tried their Gumbo, with a side of Mac n Cheese Cornbread (complete with cheese sauce drizzle), washed down by a Father John’s Winter Ale.

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As for the game, it was a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory for the Canucks. Mrs. Sip and I refused to let the ticket scanner snafu we encountered – which caused us and many others to miss some of the action and the first goal of the contest – dampen our spirits. Upsized servings of Central City India Pale Ale and Goose Island IPA helped with that.

The next day was our annual Sip Syndicate Christmas party and gift exchange. For my Secret Santa offering, I put together a themed package of things meant to keep you warm. This included a pair of Smart Gloves, which allow you to mess around with your phone while keeping your mitts toasty and the Postmark Brewing Winter Warmer. Our meal was fantastic, with each couple contributing a dish or two and everything turned out perfectly.

The weekend wrapped with Mrs. Sip and I meeting a friend in New West for brunch at The Hub. I tried the Hub Burger, which was very good and sipped on the Bomber Brewing Choqlette Porter. The beer was as tasty as I remember it being last time I enjoyed it.

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Tuesday evening offered our fifth and last Canucks game of December. Prior to the match, we grabbed dinner at the nearby Triple O’s restaurant, which on Tuesdays has a spectacular burger/meal deal. Original Burgers are only $3.69 each, while adding fries and a pop will set you back $8.19. On Canucks game days, you can get a burger, beer and fries for about $10, which would have been the route I took, had we not done takeout.

At our game, we may not have had the outcome we desired (a 7-5 loss), but the match versus Montreal was very entertaining and even included a hat trick for Thomas Vanek of the Canucks. Mrs. Sip and I shared an upsized Hoegaarden to start the game, which was a tasty first period treat.

This weekend is Christmas, of course. It’s always a crazy time for the Sip Family and that’s just the way we like it. From my family to yours, I wish all you little sippers a safe and merry holiday!

Snack Time #19 – Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs Gift Box

Mrs. Sip and I were recently gifted this Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs Gift Box. The 64-piece set includes bottles from Sauza Tequila, Jim Beam Bourbon, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, Canadian Club Whiskey, Galliano Vanilla Liqueur, Danzka Vodka, Borghetti Caffe Liqueur, and Remy Martin Cognac.

Despite not being a big dark chocolate fan, I do like these in small doses at one or two at a time. My favourites of the bunch seem to be the liqueur-flavoured options, while there aren’t any I dislike.

Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs Gift Box

The collection is sold in many different formats, so the treats can be sampled at varying price points. I know Walmart (at least in Canada) often sells a set around Christmas that is reasonably priced and I believe contains 16 pieces.

Anthon Berg also has a Chocolate Cocktails line, which I’d be interested in trying. Drinks include the Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Mojito, and Strawberry Daiquiri.

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Snack Time #1: Chocolate-Covered Licorice

The Sip Advisor is a snack fiend and in trying to make this world a better place, I want to share my discoveries with the general eating public. Therefore, I’ve launched this new platform in order to do just that. Today, we look at Chocolate-Covered Licorice from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

If have long-wanted to try this product and was finally able to do so when Mrs. Sip stuffed my Christmas stocking with a pack. My delay was due to not treating myself with the pricey delicacy ($10 for a one-pound pack, which is good for nine sticks of licorice).

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I must say that the chocolate is very nice and the combination of chocolate and Twizzlers is an ideal pairing. The end of the licorice stick that does not get covered by chocolate can get a little hard, but not the point that it’s uneatable. The rest of the stick stays quite soft in its chocolate case.

Having now finally had the chocolate-covered licorice, I must now satisfy my tangy taste buds and move on to Rocky Mountain’s Chocolate-Covered Sour Soothers. Look out for that in a future Snack Time post… possibly when Mrs. Sip treats me to them next Christmas!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Sip Trips #85: Leavenworth Love

Over the Christmas break, the Sip Family returned to a familiar destination: Leavenworth, Washington. That said, it had been about 10 years since we last vacationed in the Bavarian-themed town for the holidays and so much has changed since.

The journey started with a trip to BevMo, shortly after crossing the Canada-US border. Here, I picked up a collection of mini liquor bottles to give out as part of our stocking stuffer exchange, where each person was responsible for a small gift – around $5 – for each of the other 10 family members. I tried to select a perfect spirit for each person, including Jameson Whiskey for Father-in-Law Sip, Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum for Pa Sip, Peach Schnapps for Cousin Sip, and Chambord for Mrs. Sip.

We arrived late Friday night in Leavenworth, allowing us a full day to explore on Christmas Eve. We began by popping into a couple of the wine tasting rooms that line the very busy Front Street, before taking refuge at Icicle Brewing at the end of the road. Although we could only find seating outside, this was a definite highlight of the vacation for the Sip Advisor, as it made me feel as if we were enjoying a true European Christmas market.

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As for drinks, I started with the Bootjack IPA, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed a serving of their Christmas Spiced Altbier. I then moved on to what would become my favourite beer of the trip: the Dark Persuasion German Chocolate Cake Ale. I mean, does it get much better than sitting in a Bavarian-inspired town, drinking beers outdoors, and having one of them be of the German Chocolate Cake variety!? On another visit on Boxing Day, we also ordered pints of the brewery’s Colchuck Raspberry Wheat and Timbertown Brown.

For celebrating in the room, I picked up New Belgium Brewing’s Folly Pack. Included in the set was their Fat Tire Amber Ale, Citradelic Tangerine IPA, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale (a collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s), and 2-Degree Below Ale. I really liked each of the brews in this collection and particularly enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, which had the neat aftertaste of both chocolate chips and cookie dough.

Our stocking stuffer exchange was a lot of fun, including such gifts as a can of Big Rock Winter Spice Ale, can of Iron Horse Cozy Sweater Ale, flashlight, photo frame, lotto scratchers, Pez dispenser, mug, shot glass, and Starbucks gift cards. I look forward to doing this again in future years. As far as Christmas gifts with a boozy spin goes, Ma and Pa Sip provided me with a BC Liquor Stores gift card, while Mrs. Sip stuffed a bomber of Barkerville Demi-Mondaine Dunkelweizen in my stocking.

stocking-stuffer-present-appetizers

For Boxing Day, we did a bit of a drink crawl, which included another wine tasting room and the aforementioned secondary visit to Icicle Brewing. As we left Icicle, we serendipitously were approached by a family looking for Blewett Brewery. We decided to help them out in finding the place we didn’t know even existed and ended up at another great tap house.

While at Blewett, I tried their Winter Warmer Ale, while Mrs. Sip opted for the Belgian Wheat Ale. Ma Sip even grabbed a glass of one of the cider’s they had available. We also tried a taster of their Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Imperial Stout and chatted with one of the co-owner’s, Kyle, who mentioned the operation had only been open for a few months.

The vacation provided a wonderful way to get away from the usual Christmas pressures, while also allowing for a great deal of family time in one of the most amazing settings to enjoy the winter season. I would recommend anyone check out the area at some point in their life and particularly if you want a genuine Christmas experience.

BC Beer Baron #360 – Deep Cove Noel Belgian Strong Ale

The search for just the right beer to feature on Christmas Day was happily answered at a recent holiday gathering. There, a friend and I split a bottle of this Deep Cove Craft release and the clarity I had sought arrived.

The Noel Belgian Strong Ale features tastes of honey, spices and fruit. The brewery suggests cellaring the 8.4% ABV beverage, allowing its flavours to mature. Miraculously, Mrs. Sip and I have actually managed to cellar a beer before.

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The brew is available in 750ml bottles at private liquor stores. It can also be had at Deep Cove’s North Vancouver tasting room, where a limited quantity is on tap and growler fills of the product are not allowed.

This isn’t the first Noel Cellar Series single batch release, as previously the brewery had another Belgian-style ale, highlighted by rye and dark fruits, such as black currants and cherries. The drink was not available in bottles.

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