Sip Trips #166: The Last Frontier

The Sip Family is back from our Alaskan cruise and what a time it was. We managed to visit eight breweries, two distilleries and three saloons (a goal I had outlined prior to the trip). With so much to cover, let’s get right to it:

Our journey started in Anchorage, where after settling into our hotel, we walked to the nearby Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse, an eatery suggested to me by Ma and Pa Sip. There, I ordered a pint of King Street Hefeweizen to go with my delicious Crabby Patty Melt. The restaurant has over 50 beers on tap and is known for their halibut fish and chips meal, but I was intrigued by the Crabby Patty, partly because of my fondness for SpongeBob SquarePants.

krabby patty

After dinner and not quite ready to pack it in for the night (and with the sun nowhere near ready to set), we popped into Midnight Sun Brewing, which seemed appropriate. Our pints included the I’ll Have Another Belgian Wheat (with Alaskan blueberries) for me, while Mrs. Sip went with the Panty Peeler Belgian Tripel (with orange peel and coriander). We also split an order of their Soft Pretzel Sticks and were provided a sample serving of the Sockeye Red IPA from the very nice server.

Our last stop before returning to the hotel was Brown Jug Downtown Wine & Spirits. Interestingly, at this liquor store, your ID is checked both at the door and when making your purchase. I bought a bomber of Kassik Brewing’s Morning Wood IPA for a night cap beverage. The beer’s tagline is “Never let a Morning Wood go to waste!” Amen to that!

Speaking of mornings, upon waking up, we went for breakfast across the street at the Glacier Brewhouse. My Biscuits and Gravy were very good and quite filling. We also ordered a flight of beers, consisting of the Bavarian Hefeweizen, Passion Fruit Wheat, Imperial Coconut Ale, Pomegranate IPA, and Blood Orange Double IPA, to go along with our meal.

biscuits-and-gravy.png

Afterwards, we walked to 49th State Brewing, enjoying a seat on their patio, which overlooks the water. Here, we split another flight of beers, including the Fallen Comrade Red Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Vagabond Saison, Moose Joose IPA, and Kingslayer Braggot. The brewery’s Smoked Marzen Glazed Popcorn was actually good, according to this anti-popcorn curmudgeon.

After travelling from Anchorage to Whittier – which included a close call, where a driver going the opposite direction crossed into our lane and around our vehicle at a decent speed, driving through the road shoulder to our right before returning to their own lane – we finally boarded our cruise. We came packing, bringing aboard three bottles of wine, a handful of mini liqueur bottles and a bottle of Lemon Hart Blackpool Spiced Rum, which was so very tasty. I used the rum in the cruise-offered lemonade and hot chocolate, as well as with mixers I bought during port stops.

Proving that miracles do occur, the Sip Advisor only purchased one cocktail onboard the ship through the entire cruise. It was a good drink, but my original choice was denied because they were doing a menu that could only be ordered at select times. I had narrowly missed the window and the bartender wasn’t willing to help a brother out. My paid for beverage was the Mint Divine (gin, ginger beer, mint, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup), which reminded me of a Mojito and Gin Buck rolled into one.

mojito smoothie

Our first port stop was Skagway, where I had outlined two breweries to visit, as well as the infamous Red Onion Saloon. As we explored, we also learned about a new distillery in the town, so added that to our itinerary. Up first was Klondike Brewing, where a flight of their five beers set you back a whopping $17. This is also where we first learned Alaskan law allows folks to only purchase 36oz of beer per person, per day at locations. At distilleries, the limit is 3oz of spirits. Up next was Skagway Brewing, where we order a 4oz sample of each of their 10 beers on tap for $2 apiece. The Spruce Tip Blonde was particularly good and is a style that must be tried in Alaska.

Moving on, we walked what seemed to be the length of the town to end up at Skagway Spirits. After sampling their vodka and gin, we ordered some finely-crafted cocktails in their Rhubarb Collins, Rosemary & Grapefruit, Fireweed Cosmopolitan and Bloody Mary. I typically don’t like Bloody Mary’s, preferring the Canadian Caesar, but this was a good rendition of the Caesar’s American cousin. Our last stop was the Red Onion Saloon, a former bordello that was built in 1897. Along with a shared plates of Nachos with Chicken, I enjoyed a pint of Alaskan Icy Bay IPA, while propositioning the gorgeous Mrs. Sip.

The next port was Juneau, where we began our day at the Alaska Fish & Chips Company for pints, as the bartender was very helpful with directing us to some attractions around the city. While Mrs. Sip drank an Alaskan Blonde Ale, I had the Alaskan Hazy Bay IPA (only available on draft). We never made it to the Alaskan Brewing Tasting Room, as it cost $25 each (including guided tasting) to take the shuttle there and back, with Baby Sip being charged full fare.

expensive poor

Instead, we stuck to touring downtown Juneau, popping into Devil’s Club Brewing. Mrs. Sip went with a three-beer flight (Mile 37 Belgian Tripel, Silt Milk Stout, Tangerine Dream), while I ordered a 12oz serving of Princess Peach Milkshake IPA. The server also provided us with a taste of their Summer Lights Cucumber Berlinerweisse Sour Ale, which was light and refreshing.

After that, we moved on to the Amalga Distillery. Following samples of their gin, we got their Sixth & Seward (gin, lilac, lemon, simple syrup) and Rosemary Collins (gin, rosemary, lemon, simple syrup, soda water) cocktails. A gentleman at the bar, who owned a distillery in Indiana, ordered a specially made drink, comprised of rhubarb, mint and other ingredients, which he shared with us.

Our crawl continued with the Red Dog Saloon, the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Juneau. Here, I enjoyed the Alaskan Husky IPA, completing my trifecta of the company’s IPAs. Mrs. Sip had a glass of wine, which seemed a little out of place given the setting, but she’s a classy broad.

classy

We then returned to Barnaby Brewing, which we had stumbled upon earlier in the day when it was closed. I had The Goods from the Woods Spruce Tip Pale, which was satisfying. On the way back to the ship, we briefly stopped at the Pier 49 beer garden for a can of Kenai River Brewing Spruce Tip Double IPA. This was recommended to us back at Alaska Fish & Chips Company and was a very good beer.

Our final port was Ketchikan, where we visited Bawden Street Brewing to begin the day. I had a 16oz serving of their Hooktender Saison, while Mrs. Sip went with a 12oz serving of Berliner Weisse. After some touring of the town, including the scandalous Creek Street, we wrapped the day at the First City Saloon, enjoying a Single Engine Red and Twister Creek IPA, both from Denali Brewing.

Finally, the last day of our cruise was upon us, which typically means finishing off whatever bottles still remain. We began our activities with the Pub Lunch, where Fish & Chips were combined with a bottle of Piraat Belgian Ale. Next up was a wine tasting, featuring a champagne, one white, two reds, and a dessert wine. I was largely dealing with Baby Sip during the tasting, so didn’t get to spend much time savouring the vino.

wine tasting

In the evening, we used the new cruise ship app to order a couple free cocktails. I went with a Manhattan, which was disappointing in both taste and presentation, while Mrs. Sip had a Mai Tai, which wasn’t drank until we had Baby Sip in bed, so had become watered down by that point. My Duty Free bottle purchases for this vacation were the Edward Gunpowder England Spiced Rum and Anchorage Distilleries Ghost Pepper Vodka. I look forward to using both in future recipes.

In closing, I would recommend cruising Alaska to anyone interested. It was great to get off the ship in each port and not have to travel too far to explore the area. People were very friendly and helpful and enjoyed talking to visitors to their state. Mrs. Sip and I are looking forward to returning one day and doing some of the sites we didn’t get to this time around, but feel we made a pretty good dent into the last frontier.

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Sip Trips #76: One-Day Cruise Done Right

Mrs. Sip and I took it relatively easy this week, with our journey to Ireland rapidly approaching. Last weekend, however, we were aboard a one-day cruise from Seattle to Vancouver, celebrating Sis-in-Law Sip’s birthday.

As soon as we boarded the ship, we were in search of our first drink. Luckily, we stumbled upon an ad for a bucket of five Seawitch Red Ales (brewed by Alaska’s Denali Brewing for Princess Cruises) for only $15. This was basically a half-price deal, compared to buying single bottles. In true Sip Advisor fashion, I procured one for our quartet of revellers and promptly grabbed a second round solely for my own enjoyment!

bucket-list

After a buffet lunch, it was back to our room for the first of four bottles of wine. Each passenger is allowed to bring one bottle with them and we had a well-rounded collection of one white, one rose, one red, and one bubbly. Rather than pay for a bottle with our later dinner seating, we simply each poured a glass to bring with us to the meal.

As platinum members of the cruise line, Mrs. Sip and I were able to get our crew access to the Elite Lounge. There, we ordered a round of their El Major Margaritas, which are priced at only $5. I’ve never seen the Elite Lounge so busy, with food running low and few seats available to late arrivals. In comparison, when we were on our cruise of Asia in May, there were times our group were the only ones in the lounge.

smoothies

Another perk of being platinum-level guests is that Mrs. Sip and I were each given a complimentary drink ticket. I used mine on the Kentucky Kiss, which has always been a favourite of the Sip Advisor. To cap our evening of boozing, we managed a first-place tie amongst 14 teams playing the ‘Finish the Song Lyrics’ quiz, earning a bottle of bubbly, courtesy the ship.

In total, the only drinks we bought over the course of the evening were those buckets of beer and a round of cocktails in the Elite Lounge. Not too shabby, given the Sip Advisor was up until 3am, drinking solo and enjoying the ocean breeze on our balcony! Emerald Isle, here we come!

Sip Trips #43: California Dreamin’ (Part 1)

With many of our family and friends asking, “Do they ever work?”, Mrs. Sip and I were out of town again the past week and a half, enjoying a coastal cruise aboard the Star Princess, followed by a few days with her parents at a resort in Escondido, California. Here’s part one of all the fun we got up to:

One of the first things we do after boarding our ship is search out potential drinks deals and get a lay of the land. One of these deals came to us, as our steward dropped off two complimentary drink tickets upon meeting us. We used these later to grab a couple of their cocktails. While Mrs. Sip ordered an Ultimate Mai Tai – her favourite Princess beverage – I tried The Isaac, designed for Princess Cruises 50th anniversary, by the man who played the bartender on The Love Boat. The drink combined Bacardi Rum with lime and pomegranate juices and it was fun to have a drink made by the fictional liquor slinger.

Isaac The Love Boat

Mrs. Sip and I are platinum members with the cruise line and therefore have access to their Elite Lounge from 5-7pm each day of the voyage. This includes feature drinks and appies. While there used to just be one drink on the menu priced at $5, they now feature a line of about a half dozen cocktails that are discounted. We worked our way through the list over our four-day cruise, which included the Chairman of the Board; Rob Roy; Mojito; Japanese Slipper; Brezza Marina; and Cosmopolitan. I like that they picked strong drinks for the lounge options.

Another trick of the trade was the ship’s new BOGO hours, which allowed passengers to buy one drink and get a second of the same for only one dollar more. We used this on a couple occasions, to get Mojitos and Beverly Hills Iced Teas.

As far as bringing alcohol on board the ship, passengers are allowed one bottle of wine each, but we always bring on a little more. To cover the entire gamut, we brought on one red, one white, and one bubbly. We also typically tuck a couple mini liquor bottles into our toiletry kits, which go perfectly with the complimentary lemonade you can get at the buffet. On this cruise, we combined the soft drink with Evan Williams Cherry Liqueur, Smirnoff Watermelon and Camarena Reposado Tequila, Absolut Raspberri and Camarena Reposado Tequila, and Pinnacle Peach Vodka and Cruzan Coconut Rum.

pirate cruise

As previously mentioned, Princess Cruises is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary and had some specially designed drinks to ring in their golden anniversary year. Mrs. Sip and I splurged and tried a couple – at $12 per cocktail, we couldn’t enjoy them all – including the Anniversary Bliss (Bulleit Bourbon, Peach Schnapps, Frangelico, simple syrup, mint leaves) and 50 Years More (Don Julio, Blue Curacao, White Creme de Cacao, Galiano, lime juice). Both drinks we nicely crafted and blended some interesting ingredients.

Despite being on international waters, craft beer could still be found. We tried both the Seawitch Denali Red Alaska Style Red Ale and the Seawitch West Coast IPA, brewed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Denali Brewing and Strike Brewing, respectively. The Red Ale was the better of the two, as the IPA had a copper aftertaste, although that dissipated as you consumed more of the beer.

A new find for the Sip Advisor on this cruise was the Margarita Bar, which featured a number of great recipes. Mrs. Sip and I shared their Strawberry & Black Pepper (Cazadores Reposado, strawberry juice, black pepper) and Chocolate & Chili (Don Julio, White Creme de Cacao, fresh jalapeños) options. I loved the Chocolate & Chili, as the chocolate really balances out the jalapeños. There was also a Sweet & Smokey (Tequila, Scotch, Grand Marnier, orange juice) I was interested in, but did not get a chance to try.

margaritas archer

On our final evening of cruising, we went to the Vines wine bar, where they were advertising a wine and chocolate pairing. Unfortunately, they only had one set of the chocolates left, so I let Mrs. Sip be the fortunate recipient (chivalry is far from dead, my little sippers!) of the truffles designed by chocolatier Norman Love. Her pairing combined one light, medium and heavy red with chocolates using cocoa from five different countries (Venezuela, Tanzania, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ghana). On the server’s recommendation, I did New World wine flight which included Wild Horse Pinot Noir (USA), Caliterra Carmenere (Chile), and McPherson Shiraz (Australia).

I suppose my only complaint from the cruise would be that near the end, they had run out of a number of supplies, such as the aforementioned chocolates to pair with the wines and some other chocolate ingredients that were meant to go with a menu of cocktail concoctions intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Only half way through our little vacation, part two will look at our time spent in the San Diego County area, with a journey into the Temecula Valley Wine Country and time spent exploring the city’s craft beer community!