Sip Trips #165: European Escape (Part 2)

After stops in London and Sicily to start our European vacation, we made our way to Malta for the final leg of the getaway. Promptly upon arriving in the country, we collected our rental vehicles and drove to the ferry, transporting ourselves to the sub-island of Gozo. After boarding the ferry, Mrs. Sip retrieved a can of Hopleaf Pale Ale for me, as I waited with a sleeping Baby Sip.

For dinner that evening, we went to the Zebbug Rovers Bar & Grill. Here, I enjoyed the Zebbug Rovers Special pizza (topped with chicken, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni, sausage and BBQ sauce drizzle) with a large serving of Paulaner Weissbier.

The next day, after checking out some of the sites around Gozo, we stopped for lunch at the seaside Churchill Restaurant. For our meal, I enjoyed a Grilled Angus Burger, along with a glass of House Rose. Afterwards, upon being challenged, I performed a near-perfect cannonball into the adjacent Xlendi Bay!

cannonball

Our big stop the following afternoon was a visit to Lord Chambray Brewery. Thanks to a group effort, we all got to try everything they had on tap, with my pint selection being the Sun Blas English IPA. Other favourites included the Fungus Rock Stout and Blue Lagoon Belgian Wheat.

That evening, we managed to finally get our hands on the final two episodes of Game of Thrones – as well as a TV we could view them on – and sat back to enjoy the spectacle. My enjoyment was enhanced by the addition of beers such as the 8.6 Original Intense Blonde Beer, which I became a big fan of during the Maltese portion of our trip.

The next day, we were off to the main island of Malta, staying in the marina area. On our first night, we had a late dinner at the nearby Mamma Mia, known for their Chicken Dippers meal, which was very, very good and really hit the spot after another long day of driving and sightseeing. A pitcher of Cisk Lager was a nice, if not underwhelming, accompaniment to the feast.

pitcher longer

Our next attraction was the walled city of Mdina, where we had lunch at the Palazzo de Piro Café. My Clubhouse Sandwich was unique in that it included boiled egg, but that didn’t detract from the meal. We also split a bottle of Medina Sauvignon Blanc to wash down our food.

Next up, was a visit to Meridiana Winery, where for 12 Euros, we received a four-glass tasting, including the vineyard’s Isis Chardonnay, Fenici Rose, Nexus Merlot, Melqart Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. With a bottle of the rose coming home with us, we can recreate the serene experience anytime we want.

To celebrate the return of our rental cars and no longer having to drive, we had another late dinner at Uncle Matt’s Kitchen. There, I had another meaty pizza with the Chicken Farm option. A tall can of Blue Label Amber Ale and glass of house rose completed the feast.

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We next explored Valletta, the capital of Malta. Our day of exploring ended with drinks at the 200-year-old Caffe Cordina, where I drank a bottle of Farsons Double Red Ale. Baby Sip liked the stop, as she got to chase birds in the small square, as well as receive numerous packs of cookies from the servers.

On our last day, we bought tickets for Malta’s hop-on, hop-off bus. Our main stop was the Marsaxlokk Fishing Village, where we explored and dined at Carrubia, along the waterfront. Mrs. Sip and I weren’t very hungry, but shared a really good breaded cod and chips plate. The restaurant also offered free bruschetta for the table. A bottle of Green Label Delicata made the picturesque spot a perfect ending to the journey.

As mentioned earlier, Alaska is up next, a cruise I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I’m hoping to get some breweries in while there and the typical cruise ship shenanigans are bound to occur. I’ve made it my goal to hit at least one saloon in each port, so that should make things interesting!

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Sip Trips #164: European Escape (Part 1)

The Sip Family has wrapped our seemingly annual trek to Europe and have a few days to recover and repack for our next adventure aboard an Alaskan cruise. With so little time at hand, let’s get right to the wrap-up of our most recent crossing of the pond. Part one, will look at our stops in London and Sicily:

Our group of three couples, three babies and two grandmas began our travels in London. On our first evening, weary from the journey, we ventured to The Spencer Pub, located near our Airbnb. Despite the rest of the group each ordering Fish & Chips, I was craving a beef burger. It was delicious and a good choice, although no one was complaining about their meal. To pair with the dinner, I ordered a pint of Watney’s Sarcasm Citrus Pale Ale, which was tasty.

proper pub

After a night’s rest, we visited Windsor Castle. Following a self-guided tour of the grounds, we popped into the Tower Tea Room at the Harte and Garter Hotel & Spa, as the ladies wanted to enjoy an afternoon tea. Being the only guy in the group, I didn’t have much choice, but made the best of the situation, ordering a bottle of Windsor & Eton Guardsman Best Bitter.

With all our group finally amassed, including friends living in London, our next endeavour took us to Hampton Court. The day began with a meal at The Bishop Pub, where I enjoyed a Buttermilk Chicken Burger and pint of Meantime London Pale Ale. I always marvel at how low the alcohol percentage is on beers in London with it being rare to see something surpass 5%. Certainly not what I’m used to at home.

With babies in tow and the girls wanting to see a theatre production, the guys spent a night in on the Saturday, while we would get our turn out on Sunday (on Mother’s Day of all days). We took full advantage of our evening though, stocking up on beers to be enjoyed. My brews included Camden Hells Lager, Gipsy Hill & Yeastie Boys Bogan Bogan Double IPA, Drygate Disco Fork Lift Truck Mango Pale Ale, Drygate Gladeye IPA and Vocation Pride & Joy Pale Ale.

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To celebrate Mother’s Day, we convened at Ting in the infamous Shard building for their Shangri-La Royal High Tea. To start, Mrs. Sip and I ordered one of each of their cocktails, which included the Little Miss Royal (vodka, ratafia, isake classic and egg white) and The Little Prince (gin, blue curacao, pineapple, lemon and pastis glacial mint). These drinks were very boozy, which turned some of our group off, but that’s just the way I like my libations.

Then, it was time for the guys to take off and watch the end of the English Premier League season. My two comrades are Liverpool supporters and picked The Comedy Pub to watch the games amongst fellow fans. There, we drank quite a bit, remaining at the bar well after the crowds cleared. Over the session, I tried pints of the Camden Pale Ale and Doombar Amber Ale.

Our next stop was Waxy O’Connors, which is a very cool place with multiple levels and nooks buried underneath the city. After a few more rounds, we decided some food was in order and stopped at the nearest Pizza Hut (cause we’re classy like that) for a couple pies and, you guessed it, even more beers!

pizza hut

The next day, we were off to Sicily, Italy for the second leg of our journey. After a day of travel and some settling in to our place, we went for a late dinner at Ristorante Borgo dell’Etna. There, I enjoyed a serving of their Pasta al Ragu, while a few of us split an 8-Euro litre of house white wine. Gotta love Italian vino pricing!

On day two, we visited the city of Taormina. Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily that day (as it did nearly every day of our Italy stay, despite our friend’s guidebook saying it rarely rained in Sicily), so we took refuge at La Cisterna del Moro. With a great view, I dined on a scrumptious Calzone Saporito (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke), paired with a half-litre Moretti Rossa beer.

Day three in Sicily finally brought mostly good weather, so we partook in wine tastings at both Firriato Winery and Gambino Vini. Both places had their own charms and we very much enjoyed this day, which offered some easier road circumstances for us drivers. Baby Sip also liked running around the ground, collecting corks and pinecones.

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On our final day in Sicily, we booked a Godfather Tour, as a number of scenes from the trilogy were filmed around the island. Getting off to a rough start, due to more inclement weather and traffic gridlock, a portion of our tour was altered from an outdoor wine tasting to a meal at Il Padrino Restaurant. There, we were served about 15 different seafood dishes, with my favourites being shrimp in thousand island dressing and breaded mussels. The desserts were also nice, accompanied by homemade Limoncello, Grappa and Amaro, which you could pour as much as you wanted for yourself. The tour wrapped with a stop in the village of Savoca, where we enjoyed a couple beers to end the day.

Taking advantage of our beautiful Airbnb property, we did a few meals in, enjoying a number of Italian beers and wines to unwind after each busy day of sightseeing. My selection included: Cavaliers Birra Speciale Rossa Artigianale; Arcana Golden Ale, Red Ale and White Ale; Patronus Weissbier; Birotti Weissbier; and Briere De Haute Fermentation La Blonde De Ch’nord, which was my favourite of the bunch.

Upon leaving Italy for Malta (part two of this Sip Trips review), I bought a bottle of Fuoco dell’Etna at the airport, lured in by the bottle’s design which looks like a volcano has erupted (complete with a rocky texture), as well as the liqueur’s 50% alcohol percentage. The booze is supposed to include flavours such as strawberry, citrus and Sicilian herbs, so I’m looking forward to experimenting.

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!

Sip Trips #138: Exploring Europe (Part 3)

Our arrival in Porto, Portugal, unfortunately occurred on a Sunday afternoon, meaning all stores and most restaurants were closed. We didn’t let that deter us though, finding Bao’s Taiwanese Burger. I had the Pulled Pork Bao, while splitting an order of Fries 101 with Mrs. Sip. To drink, I had a bottle of Opo Gyroscope IPA and we both finished our meal with a Happy Ending Shot, made with Licor 43.

As we ate, our laundry was going through a wash cycle at a nearby laundromat. So, as we waited for the load to dry, we popped into Café Candelabro for a beverage. There, I had a bottle of Cristal Preta, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed a glass of wine and Baby Sip gnawed on a drink coaster!

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The next day, we went on an excellent Food & Wine Tour. The trek began with traditional egg tarts at Manteigaria, before cod cakes and veal pockets with a generous serving of wine at Imperio. Next, we were off to O Pretinho Do Japao for a charcuterie platter and more wine, followed by Port tasting (white, red and tawny) at Pouriga. The main event was a fantastic bifana em pao sandwich, paired with a Super Bock Lager at Conga. This sandwich, with meat marinated in a mix of beer and peri-peri sauce, was the highlight of the tour, as far as Mrs. Sip and I were concerned. McDonald’s actually has their own version, which I also tried, but obviously it was just not the same.

Following the tour, we made our way to the city’s riverside area, where we joined an English tour of the Calem Port Museum. The tour and five tastings cost us 27€ for me and Mrs. Sip. Unfortunately, Baby Sip was being really fussy during this tour, so we didn’t get to fully enjoy it, but the tastings kind of made the difficult experience a little more tolerable.

Looking to get back on track, we continued along the riverside, ending up at Sandeman Cellars outdoor patio area for some Port cocktails. Mrs. Sip had their Vau Nilla (Sandeman Branco Port, apple, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, bitters), while I went with the Club Ruby (Sandeman Ruby Port, red fruit puree, pepper, lemon juice, mint). The drinks were delicious and the setting spectacular.

Wine Flu

Sadly, our short stay in Porto was over and we were onto the capital city of Lisbon via train. Upon arriving, we ventured to LisBeer, home to a variety of Portuguese craft beers. En route, we passed a Napoleao wine and spirits shop, so decided to have a looksee. There, we found a bottle of Sharish Blue Magic Gin to bring home. While I have yet to use the liquor, it apparently turns pink when you add ice, tonic water or another mix to it. When we finally made it to LisBeer, we selected a pair of 8a Colina Brewing products in the Urraca Vendaval IPA and Ze’ Arnaldo Porter. This bar had a very relaxed atmosphere and we enjoyed our brief visit.

For dinner, we made our way to Lisbon’s Hard Rock Café. The busy restaurant provides priority seating for guests with babies and young children, which was a nice bonus. I ordered the Original Legendary Burger, with a pint of Sagres Bohemia Beer, while Mrs. Sip had the Tupelo Chicken Tenders and a bottle of Sagres Bohemia Wheat Beer. Our food was very good and the staff at the eatery were top notch in our books.

We wrapped the long day with some cherry liqueur tasting at Ginginha do Carmo. While I enjoyed the booze straight up, Mrs. Sip had hers out of a chocolate cup, adding a whole new element to the experience. While these venues are very small, patrons are able to enjoy their drink outside the establishment. Our next morning also began with cherry liqueur, this time from A Ginjinha Registada, the oldest of these hole-in-the-wall shops.

Pace Yourself

Our main tourist activity on this day was a two-hour walking tour of the city. Afterwards, we joined the guide and a few fellow tourists for a drink at Noobai Café. Upon entering the place, I spotted what looked like a beer tasting opportunity, so promptly ordered that menu item. My flight was comprised of four Super Bock Seleccao 1927 varieties, including a Munich Dunkel, Bavaria Weiss, Bengal Amber IPA, and Thames Porter.

We wrapped our second day by visiting a marketplace in the center of the town, sitting down to a plate of various sausages and glasses of red and white sangria. We also picked up a bottle of Rose Wine, which the vendor opened up for us right there, allowing us to walk the stalls of the market with glasses of vino.

Before travelling to Belgium, the final stop of our expedition, we visited Sintra, Portugal, a beautiful little town, highlighted by Pena Palace and a Moorish Castle. Given all the pushing of Baby Sip’s stroller I was doing up and down cobble stone streets, I enjoyed a couple Super Bock cans to reward my efforts.

Sip Trips #137: Exploring Europe (Part 2)

Lyon, France was the second stop on our European expedition. Upon arriving, our group of six (seven if you count Baby Sip… and you better!) settled into our Airbnb, before heading out to explore the city. As we wandered through the Old Town area, we stopped at Les Banana’s for some French cuisine. I went with a Napolitaine Crepe, which was very good and hit the spot, washing the meal down with a pair of Stella pints.

Our next stop was one of my favourites from the entire vacation: Les Fleurs du Malt. This bar, specializing in craft beer from around the world, had an amazing happy hour concept, where if you correctly guessed the flip of a coin, you got your choice of beer for half price. I guessed correctly twice (always opting for tails!) for my orders of Piggy Brewing Paradise Peppers and Coursendonk Rousse. The location had really funky art throughout and I really enjoyed our experience there.

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The next day, our crew travelled to the Beaujolais wine region via a private tour provided by Tasty Lyon. The trek stopped at Chateau de Corcelles and Domaine de la Madone, where we sampled a total of about 10 wines. At our second stop, we bought bottles of Viogner and Domaine du Niagara, which we enjoyed at a park along the Rhone River later that afternoon.

Our dinner that evening was a McDonald’s feast of burgers, fries and chicken nuggets. To make the meal a little more French, I drank some of the craft beers I had picked up the day prior, including Licorne Blonde Bio and Ninkasi (the French company) Tripel and French IPA.

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On our last day, we returned to the old town for a long walk. We stopped at La Mouss’tache for lunch, where we just got our orders into the kitchen before their afternoon break. My Bacon Burger was quite good, paired with a pint of Paulaner Salvator Ambree. This place was neat, with beer taps at each table, but we never figured out how the system worked. We returned later that day to watch the FA Cup Final and enjoy 5-Euro per pint happy hour, where I drank servings of Paulaner Weissbier and La Chouffe.

That wrapped our stay in Lyon and next up we were off to Portugal. Our time there started in Porto and ended in Lisbon, but there was much fun to be had as we journeyed through the country for the first time.

Sip Trips #136: Exploring Europe (Part 1)

The Sip Family’s four-country, six-city European expedition has come and gone. Travelling with Baby Sip added a whole new element to traversing the continent and while she was very well-behaved, we were lucky to have a pit crew of friends helping us out along the way. Here’s part one of our journey:

Starting in London, where we have good friends living in the east end of the metropolis, our first full day happened to fall on Mrs. Sip’s inaugural Mother’s Day. With that event in mind, I worked with our friends to book an Afternoon Tea at the Hilton Hotel Park Lane. We opted for the bottomless prosecco option and enjoyed drinking for two and a half hours. As for tea, I went with the Black Currant and Hibiscus variety, while enjoying the collection of sandwiches and desserts before me. The service from staff at the Podium Restaurant & Bar was fantastic and made for a special celebration for Mrs. Sip.

To wrap up our excursion, we stopped into the East London Liquor Company for Baby Sip’s very first distillery visit. The cocktail I selected was the Black Garlic Matters, comprised of the company’s own Demerara Rum, along with maraschino, cold brew coffee, black garlic, cola, and orange. The drink was delicious and I savoured every sip.

modern-art

The next day, we took a long walk around London, visiting Tower Bridge and dropping into the Tate Modern. I hate this art gallery, but was bribed by Mrs. Sip’s promise of having a beer in their cafeteria, if I behaved myself. I didn’t, but she still let me have a drink anyway! The cafeteria provides a beautiful view of the city, which I enjoyed with a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA.

From there, we met our friends for dinner at Wagamama. I had a very good order of Chicken & Prawn Yaki Soba, paired with a pint of Asahi. For her beverage, Mrs. Sip ordered a can of Nix And Kix Mango & Ginger Soda (with a touch of Cayenne Pepper), which was very tasty and I tried to track down another can to bring home for the purpose of making a cocktail with it, but came up empty handed.

On our final night in London, we met for dinner at Bubble Dogs, which combines hotdogs with champagne. The concept seems odd, but kind of works. Over a couple bottles of Rose bubbly, I had their Fourth of July Hotdog (barbecue sauce, coleslaw, crispy bacon), while we also split a number of the restaurant’s side dishes, including sweet potato fries, Horny Devils (corn and jalapeño fritters) and tater tots.

Cat with Hotdogs

Having Baby Sip with us limited some of our drinking activities, as some bars were unable to accommodate a little one, sometimes due to their liquor licence and sometimes to do with available space and us using a stroller. For example, I really wanted to do the Beefeater Gin Distillery Tour, but we weren’t able to with Baby Sip in tow.

As for craft beer, London has a bit of a bizarre scene, where most locations are only open for a few hours… and that’s not per day, but each week. We wanted to do the Bermondsey Beer Mile (10 breweries within a mile-long stretch), but it’s only an option on Saturdays. Regardless, I did pick up a number of bottled beers to enjoy, including Sharp’s Doom Bar Amber Ale, Adnam’s Ghost Ship Pale Ale, Young’s Special London Ale, and St. Austell Proper Job Cornish IPA.

Next up, we were off to Lyon, France to meet up with another set of friends. Part two will look at that brief stay, which included a tour into the Beaujolais wine region.