Sip Trips #178: Aloha Hawaii

Last week, the Sip Family enjoyed some rest and relaxation in the Waikiki area of Honolulu, Hawaii. We didn’t just laze poolside or at the beach, though. Here’s what we got up to while on the island:

Upon arriving at our hotel late last Sunday, I ran across the street to pick up a six-pack of Waikiki Hana Hou Hefe. Then I poured a couple back on our balcony, enjoying the late night humidity and wondering what time Toddler Sip would have us up in the morning, affected by the three-hour time change, including the daylight savings time adjustment from that morning. The answer: six-freaking-a.m. We all managed to survive, though, and it could have been worse.

During Toddler Sip’s first nap of the vacation, I spent my free time at Yard House for their excellent happy hour, which includes $2 off draft beers and half price appies, among other deals. My brews for this occasion were the Koholo Red Sand and Kona Koko Brown. Both were paired with a serving of Korean Boneless Wings, which were tremendous. The only thing that sucks whenever I’m at a place that has a large tap list (Yard House, Craft Beer Market, etc.) and I finally decide and order something, they’re always out of my first choice and I have to scramble to make a second pick. Also, drinking on your own when the urge to pee hits can cause some tough decisions.

cute cats

That evening, we walked down to Waikiki Brewing, where I satisfied my thirst for a spicy beer with their Jalapeno Mouth Amber Ale. I really liked this brew, as it featured more spice and flavour than some similar beers I’ve tried. For eats, we ordered their Prime Sliders and Giant Pretzel, which was impressively big. The meal was very good and set us up for the long walk to the nearest Walmart for some grocery shopping.

The next day, we returned to Yard House for happy hour again, this time with Mrs. Sip and a napping Toddler Sip tagging along. On this visit, I drank the Aloha Waimanalo Farmhouse Ale, completing a trifecta of good beers served up at the restaurant. Our appies were the Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Nachos, which we managed to complete right before Toddler Sip woke up and threw her one and only massive tantrum of the vacay. That’s the last time Mrs. Sip offers her water after a nap!

Finally, it was time to do some booze shopping for our room after some serious price comparison work throughout the area. On the cheap, I picked up a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum to use with Cherry Coke and later Tonic Water as mixers. Spiced Rum has become my favourite go-to elixir when travelling, thanks to its versatility with a number of drinks, from sodas to hot chocolate.

captain morgan

Day three happy hour was spent at The Street Food Hall within the International Market Place. I began at Beer & Be Merry, capitalizing on their $2 Kirin all day deal with a pair of servings. Before leaving the place, I also popped over to The Myna Bird Tiki Bar for a cocktail, ordering the El Diablo (mezcal, creme de cassis, lime, ginger, soda).

With Toddler and Mrs. Sip up from their naps, we ventured over to the O Bar, where my beverage of choice was the Karai Thai (tequila, pineapple, guava, Thai chili pepper syrup, lime). While the drink was very refreshing, it was not as spicy as I would have liked. We also tried to feed Toddler Sip dinner here, but she was too interested in the fish tanks and live music.

The next day, we returned to The Street Food Hall as a family to share some pepperoni pizza from Nana Lu Pizzeria. I also went back to the Beer & Be Merry bar for a pint of Aloha Red Zeppelin, which had caught my eye the previous day. When you bought a craft beer from this bar, the serving size was bigger than the $2 Kirins, while the price was cheaper than other locations, even while not a special deal.

cheap beer

Up next, was a visit to Maui Brewing, where I put together a flight of beer, including Pineapple Mana Wheat, Anada Hemp Brown Ale, Coconut Hiwa Porter, Imperial Dolce Porter (w/ Caramel and Salt). Once again, a place was out of my top choice beer, in this case, the Fully Pitted Habanero Milkshake IPA. For food, we shared a Pork Belly Bao, which we both liked. To wrap the stay, I ordered the Street Fighter (tequila, watermelon, sour mix, Hawaiian chili salt rim) cocktail, which packed the heat I was looking for.

Following this stop, we walked a little further to the Top of Waikiki rotating restaurant. Sitting in their lounge area for happy hour, I had the Kona Winds (tequila, mezcal, hibiscus, mole bitters) cocktail. To restock my beers, I grabbed a six-pack of Kona Wailua Wheat from a nearby store, before we returned to our room for our evening tradition of Netflix and falling asleep with Toddler Sip. No more Netflix and chill for us!

On Friday, we enjoyed happy hour at our hotel’s Splash Bar (at the Sheraton PK), ordering a round of Kalua Pork Nachos, as well as their Homemade Potato Chips to scoop up all the nacho toppings. I finally ordered a Mai Tai for the occasion, as well as a pint of Kona Castaway IPA. With Toddler Sip napping, we were able to pull out the Sushi Go cards and play a few rounds following the meal.

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For dinner, we ate at The Cheesecake Factory, sharing some Roadside Sliders and a slice of the spectacular Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake. To quench my thirst, I had the Kona Gold Cliff IPA, which complimented the food nicely.

Saturday saw us do another long walk to the Ala Moana Center mall, then over to Dave & Busters for dinner and some arcade games. Our server here was nice enough, but did not provide the usual service we get when at the chain (didn’t explain how things work with the games, etc. and never asked if we wanted dessert, just brought the bill). Another complaint from me is that their drink menu doesn’t include prices… Cheesecake Factory does the same and I’ve decided I will no longer enjoy a beverage at places that hide the cost. What we did enjoy was our food, including Pretzel Dogs, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and Goldfingers. It was also neat to see Toddler Sip play some of the games, as her last visit to D&Bs occurred when she was only four months old.

Sadly, all great vacations must come to an end. After a morning swim, I took care of my liquor buying business by grabbing bottles of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and Kula Toasted Coconut Rum. I also picked up a couple massive cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for the day because I just can’t help myself when it comes to PBR!

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Our final meal of the trip was enjoyed at Duke’s Waikiki, where we enjoyed an epic feast. My fish entrée was prepared in a mouthwatering Spicy Gochujang-Ginger Roasted sauce, while I sipped away at a Hawaiian Time (strawberry basil lemonade with Absolut Mandarin and Kai Lemongrass Ginger Shochu) cocktail. For dessert, we shared the Specialty Hula Pie (Oreo crust, peanut butter cup ice cream), which was truly decadent and we all overate prior to our redeye flight home.

We hope to return to Hawaii soon and wish our stay there was longer than a week. For now, it’s back to cold weather, but at least the Christmas season is ramping up and that will provide much festive joy!

Sip Trips #127: San Diego Sipping (Part 3)

Part three of our time spent in San Diego County began with a trip to Temecula. Our first stop of the day was Walmart, where I grabbed the Trouble Brewing A Pack of Trouble Variety Pack. I learned after the fact that this is actually a Walmart brand that has encountered some controversy over whether or not it’s actually craft beer. The case contained the Cats Away IPA, After Party Pale Ale, ‘Round Midnight Belgian White, and Red Flag Amber Ale, all of which I thought were decent brews.

Next up was Garage Brewing for lunch. We tried visiting here the last time we were in San Diego, before tragically discovering the place is closed on Mondays. Redemption is sweet, my little sippers, and this place is so good that we returned for a second meal later in our vacation. They have a fantastic fast-fired pizza idea, where you can build your own pie, similar to a Subway sandwich. On both stopovers, I ordered a pint of Hatch Chile IPA. Mrs. Sip tried tasters of their Mango Hefeweizen, Belgian Triple, Cherry Chocolate Stout, Marshmallow Milk Stout (Nitro), Spiced Coconut Porter, Apple Pie Pale Ale, and Holidation over both occasions. We also bought a bomber of Apricot Wit for the road. As for the pizzas, they were all amazing, with their Red Hot Mustang Pizza being particularly delicious.

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The day wrapped with a quick jaunt into Temecula Valley Wine Country, popping into Wilson Creek Winery, which was recommended to us by a friend, who called the place the Disneyland of wineries. Of particular note were their flavoured champagnes, including Almond and Peach Bellini. Upon leaving, we bought a bottle of Rose Champagne, which nicely priced at only $10.

Our next day trip was to Carlsbad, beginning with a Sip Family favourite: Dave & Busters. With our lunch of Pretzel Dogs and Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart, I enjoyed an upsized pint of Belching Beaver Mango IPA. Mrs. Sip went with the Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, adding a little dessert to her meal. As we played some of their games, I drank a Firestone Walker 805 Pale Ale to Mrs. Sip’s standard go-to Blue Moon.

Before returning to the resort, we also managed to stop at the Pizza Port chain’s Carlsbad location. Here, I tried their Hakunama Tatas IPA, which came in a colour I never expected. The beer was very good, although it took a bit to reconcile the thought of drinking a pink brew (thanks to the addition of pomegranate juice) with an ABV of 8.5%. We also ordered a serving of their Garlic Beer Buddies, which were quite tasty.

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Our final stop with Mrs. Sip’s parents was BK Cellars, which we bought Groupons for prior to leaving home. Each Groupon included a tasting for two (five wines each) and bottle of either Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, of which we got one of apiece. My favourites among their offerings were the Fume Blanc and Syrah, which was especially memorable.

Part four will look at the last leg of our journey, as Mrs. Sip and I settle into downtown San Diego to explore the city’s vast and booming craft beer scene, as well as a few local landmarks.

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).

wonderful-time-for-a-beer

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.

drink-and-drive-kid

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!

Sip Trips #6 – Disney Drinking

Well, Mrs. Sip and I completed another successful trip to the Happiest Place on Earth this past week, taking advantage of B.C.’s Family Day holiday. In recent years, the park has become a completely different experience for us, thanks to California Adventure’s beer, wine, and spirit offerings. Here’s a wrap-up from our recent extra-long weekend:

Pier Beers

The first stop we usually hit after getting to the park is the Pacific Wharf, where Karl Strauss beer can be had. While the $8 price point isn’t ideal and lines can be pretty long, there are a variety of styles worth trying and Karl Strauss has become a favoured brewer for Mrs. Sip and me. On this visit, we enjoyed both the Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale and the Tower 10 IPA.

Wine with a View

Then, we were off to the Alfresco Tasting Terrace, so Mrs. Sip, along with Ma and Pa Sip, could get their wine on. While my drinking partners enjoyed their vino, I grabbed the Brother Thelonius Abbey Ale, which came in at a whopping 9.4%. As you can imagine, we were all flying pretty high by the time we were lining up for attractions!

wine-tasting olympics

Downtown Dining

The next day finished with a meal at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. It was here that I finally got to try Shock Top’s Shockolate, which mixes chocolate and their traditional wheat beer. The blend was very nice and I enjoyed the mix of cocoa and hefeweizen colliding. I don’t think I’d drink a six pack in one shot, but a couple per drinking evening would make a good beer nightcap.

Also, while there, I had an absolutely epic Smokehouse Burger, complete with three-pepper bacon, tangy barbecue sauce, crispy onion straws, and I even broke my own rules, throwing some cheese on the massive sandwich!

Classy Cocktails

After a busy trip, we were all in need of a little downtime, while still getting to enjoy the sights and sounds of the park. In this case, there is no better stop than the Carthay Circle Lounge, home to spectacular hand-crafted cocktails and the finest beers and wines the resort has to offer. As for food, Mrs. Sip and I always order the Queso Fundido dish, which blends melted Monterey Jack cheese with Ranchero Sauce and tortilla chips for dipping. It is a perfect complement to the high-end alcohol options.

Sis-in-Law Sip decided to go off the board and order a tasting flight of tequilas, consisting of Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Don Julio Reposado Tequila, and Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Extra Anejo Tequila (damn, that’s a mouthful!). Each was great for sipping and had such unique scents, that it made for an incredibly different experience. Despite all my boozing, I’ve never done spirit flights like that.

tequila escalation

Games and Goodies

We ended the vacation with a visit to Dave & Buster’s, a place that has quickly become a favourite for Mrs. Sip and me, giving us a chance to harness our inner-child, playing video games, while downing fun food and great drinks. My Strawberry-Watermelon Margarita, for example, came with strawberry-flavoured ice cubes, which were creative and delicious. After 10pm, the joint goes into happy hour, where deals on cocktails, beer, and other items can be had.

On this visit, we got into a good video trivia battle, playing multiple rounds with a couple locals. The Sip Advisor, whose greatest attribute is having a head full of useless information, won a bunch of these matches, earning oodles of prize tickets that will surely eventually be used on candy and stuffed toys!

Do you have any suggestions for our next jaunt down to Disneyland and the surrounding area?

Sip Trips #2 – Best of 2014

Well, Mrs. Sip and I didn’t get up to too much this last week in the booze realm, including a rare well-behaved weekend. We did make time to enjoy a couple craft beers, including Unibroue’s La Resolution and Wychwood’s Bah Humbug. This does give me the opportunity to finally publish my Best of 2014 Drinking Nights article. Some of the memories are fuzzy, but they made for an amazing year. Since all drinking days/nights are wonderful, I will not be ranking these… they will merely be listed in order of occurrence!

#1: Dominican Republic

Sadly, I got sick a couple days after arriving in the Dominican, but the first two nights of all-inclusive partying for Mrs. Sip’s 30th birthday were tropical bliss!

#2: New York

Bourbon followed by as true a cab ride as you can have in New York. Our buzz was killed a little by a snafu with picking up our City Pass tickets, but that was merely a bump in the road on an otherwise awesome first visit to the Big Apple.

#3: Portland Beer & Wine Fest

One of the best booze events I’ve ever attended and we were even the happy recipients of a pile of free tokens. When we returned to our hotel, I ended up triple fisting a few drinks to take advantage of the complimentary happy hour and the party just kept going. Late at night, I was the sole survivor, heading out to pick the family up some Voodoo Doughnuts for the morning!

Portland Guide

#4: Edmonton Airport

One would normally think that being stuck in Edmonton for six hours would be tragic. But the city’s airport – or at least their International Terminal – has one of best selection of bars I’ve ever seen. We made a point of turning our layover into a pub crawl, which certainly helped with falling asleep on the plane from Edmonton to Reykjavik, Iceland!

#5: Hamburg Garden Party

While visiting Hamburg, Germany, a garden party provided the setting for a family reunion. The craft beers Mrs. Sip and I brought with us from Vancouver helped loosen everybody up and the well-stocked party (highlighted by a bottle of Jack Daniels that I made sweet love to) kept the festivities rocking through the night. A torrential downpour of rain couldn’t stop our revelry!

#6: Self-Guided Vancouver Brewery Tour Weekend

Ever the adventurers, Mrs. Sip and I decided to take ourselves on a tour of Vancouver’s best bars and breweries, with stops at the Alibi Room, Postmark Brewery/Urban Winery, Brandywine Bartending School, 33 Acres Brewery, and Brassneck Brewery. Our typical good fortune was emphasized when we arrived at 33 Acres Brewery just in time for their first anniversary party!

#7: Made with Love

While I have some reservations about liquor events, I have nothing but love for Made with Love. Mrs. Sip and I bought tickets to this all-inclusive craft cocktail competition, in part because it fell on our 2nd wedding anniversary and seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate the occasion… oh, how right we were!

Bartender Juice

#8: Las Vegas Strip Drinking

Given that entire trips to Las Vegas are booze-fueled, it’s hard to narrow down any one day to highlight, but this one does stick out in my memory. It all started with an innocent game of Battle Shots at the PBR Rock Bar and then featured Hyde Lounge, gambling wins, Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity, dueling pianos at New York, New York, and a host of things I probably can’t remember.

#9: Surprise Birthday

Imagine my surprise when we showed up for what was supposed to be a friend’s birthday brunch and it turned out that the whole thing was meant for little ol’ me! I wish someone had captured the look on my face when the realization set in. Mrs. Sip always seems to find a way to outdo herself!

#10: Birthday Cruise Embarkation

Before the ship even set sail, we were all pretty loose (the bucket of beers, bottle of wine, and cocktails may have helped with that!), which made for a very fun muster drill. I can say with complete conviction that I’ve had worse! 😉

#11: Dave & Busters

I absolutely love this place, having visited three different locations (Honolulu, New York, Anaheim) in the last year and a half. It’s so much fun to play all the games while having a full-service bar at your disposal. Of course, the day started with Disneyland drinking, before we moved on to the fun and games at D&B’s.

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#12: Bellingham Visit

All I can say is thank god we had a driver (Pa Sip), because I was pretty fuzzy after our tasting at Boundary Bay Brewery and it certainly made for some interesting shopping.

#13: Canucks game in Anaheim

When your day begins with an upscale bar (Disneyland’s Carthay Lounge) and ends with a fun sports bar in JT Schmid’s, everything else in the middle must be pretty good. In between, was a day of drinking at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” including California beers, wine tasting, thrill rides, and even animation tutorials!

#14: Hawaii

To celebrate Ma Sip’s birthday, we began at the Kona Brewery for tour and tasters. Next up, was Huggo’s on the Beach, where happy hour was in full swing and we were only too happy to join!

Some honourable mentions include an earlier trip to Portland for some beer tourism; traversing the Hamburg Reeperbahn; and surviving the wild Marrakesh market square. After all, it’s always fun drinking in a country that discourages alcohol consumption and I make it a point of every voyage to foreign lands!