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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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!

BC Beer Baron #247 – Old Abbey Ales Sour Raspberry Ale

When Mrs. Sip and I visited Chilliwack’s Chaos & Solace Brewing recently, we enjoyed a tasting flight that was rounded out by this guest tap from Old Abbey Ales.

With a reddish-pink hue and tart finish, the Sour Raspberry Ale is very juice-like in taste and colour. That’s not a bad thing in this case. The beer does come with a strong alcohol content of 7% ABV, which works in its favour. The brew’s low bitterness of 7 IBUs allows the drinker to focus on the flavour, making for a refreshing drinking experience.

Old Abbey Ales Sour Raspberry Ale

Made with local Abbotsford raspberries, brewmaster Steve Black notes: “The Fraser Valley is Canada’s top raspberry producer, and now we have the beer to go with it.” The beverage is perfect for enjoying on hot summer days, preferably with a body of water close by.

Part of Old Abbey Ales’ Innovation Series, the Sour Raspberry Ale is available in bomber-sized bottles. The beer received a gold medal earlier this year, at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards, in the Fruit Beer category.

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BC Beer Baron #220 – Foamers’ Folly Hot Box IPA Nitro

While recently visiting another brewery, I was able to try a guest tap from Foamers’ Folly Brewing. Based out of Pitt Meadows, it is the city’s first craft beer establishment.

The Hot Box IPA Nitro was just fine, but I’ve found that I’m just not a fan of nitro brews. I know this style of beer – nitro refers to the type of gas used in the carbonation process – is preferred by many, but every time I’ve had one, it just hasn’t agreed with me. The 6.6% ABV, 80 IBUs beverage is clearly on the stronger side (a result of the nitro practice), so some drinkers may want to proceed with extreme caution.

Foamers' Folly Brewing

This was my first experience with Foamers’ Folly and I’ve always been curious about the company’s name. Apparently a ‘foamer’ is someone who is a train nut. That said, the folks at Foamers’ are obsessed with the craft beer, instead. As for the ‘folly’ part of the name? Well, as the brewery writes, “that’s where things get interesting”, as the three-brewer team is big on experimentation.

Next time the Sip Alliance is touring the Fraser Valley, we’ll have to pop into the brewery and try more of their products. I’m particularly curious about their Railspike Black IPA, Blacksnake Porter, Bandit Brown Ale, and Heat Kink Saison.

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BC Beer Baron #115 – Dead Frog Cold Brew Red Ale

Mrs. Sip is a tea drinker by nature, while beer is the beverage of choice for the Sip Advisor. With this Dead Frog Brewing release, we were able to satisfy both of our preferences at the same time.

The Cold Brew Red Ale is infused with cold brewed vanilla bourbon tea, handmade by North Vancouver’s The Tea Guy. When I first saw the term cold brewed, I assumed we’d be getting something with a coffee flavour, but instead was pleasantly surprised by the notes of vanilla that coated my palatte. There was also some chocolate taste, thanks to the malts used in the beer’s creation.

Dead Frog Cold Brew Red Ale

Suggested food pairings with this beer include barbecue ribs and chicken wings, as well as corned beef. The product is available in six-packs and Dead Frog’s Winter Mixer case (if you can still find it at this time of year).

We enjoyed this beer on our recent tour of the breweries that make up the Fraser Valley region of BC. Dead Frog was stop number one of seven different locations we visited that trip, with more beer goodness to come in the following days.

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BC Beer Baron #114 – Ridge Black Mamba Milk Stout

The final stop of our recent Fraser Valley brewery crawl brought us to Ridge Brewing, where we had a very enjoyable visit, chatting with the staff and owner of the operation.

Among the samples I tried while there, was the Black Mamba Milk Stout. Normally, I’m not a fan of snakes, but history has shown that I will let that trepidation slide when beer is on the line!

Ridge Black Mamba Milk Stout

This 5% ABV, 27 IBUs offering is light and easy to drink, with hints of the flavours (chocolate/coffee) one would typically expect from a stout.

Ridge’s newest release is the Ay Caramba! Jalapeno IPA, which I can’t wait to try. Perhaps I can have my agents out that way assist me in pursuing this product.

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BC Beer Baron #112 – Mission Springs Lemon Ginger Radler

I’m not much of a fan of light beers, but I can still appreciate a good one, such as this release from Mission Springs Brewing.

The Lemon Ginger Radler comes in at a minute 3% ABV, but all the flavours are nice and complement each other. The recipe takes the brewery’s Trailblazer Pilsner and adds California lemons and ginger root infusion to the mix. This results in a refreshing, well-balanced beverage, featuring a ginger bite on the finish.

Mission Springs Lemon Ginger Radler

For those unfamiliar with the Radler style of brewing, it’s basically a beer-lemonade hybrid. Mission Springs suggests serving the drink over ice and as they say, what else should you do when “When Life gives you lemons…”

We stopped at the Mission Springs Brew Pub for some nourishment along our recent Fraser Valley brewery crawl. I thought the bar had a cozy feel to it and would love to return to try other items on their menu.

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BC Beer Baron #111 – Field House Salted Black Porter

One of the highlights of our recent run through the Fraser Valley brewing region, was stopping at Field House Brewing. Despite only recently opening, the place was packed and better yet, the beers were good.

Among those, was the Salted Black Porter, which had a fair bit going on with it. There was some sweetness, some spiciness and, of course, some saltiness. The salt wasn’t overwhelming, though, if that is a concern to any folks out there.

Field House Brewing Logo

The 7% ABV, 25 IBUs beverage gets its feature flavour from salted black licorice drops, which complete this easy-to-drink porter of the Baltic variety.

Abbotsford has a burgeoning craft beer industry, with Field House joining the already established Old Abbey Ales and Ravens Brewing. If beer isn’t your thing, Field House also offers vino from Mt. Lehman Wineries.

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BC Beer Baron #110 – Ravens Farmers Ale

While the Sip Advisor will never be a fan of birds of any type, I can make peace with those companies that choose to use fowl in their name/logo… especially when they put out great beers. Such is the case with Ravens Brewing.

The Farmers Ale is a solid and complex beer, highlighted for me by the spicy notes the beverage holds. In their first year of operation, Ravens and their Farmers Ale took home a third place finish at the BC Beer Awards in the Belgian/French Farmhouse class.

Ravens Farmers Ale

Just recently, Ravens announced that the 5.75% ABV, 27 IBUs Farmers Ale (as well as their West Coast Pale Ale) will now be available in four-packs of 473ml cans. The Farmers Ale could already be found in bomber-size bottles, at the brewery’s Abbotsford location.

Like other operations, Ravens is proud to brew based on “European inspiration and West Coast innovation.” They describe their beers as ‘ground to glass’, thanks to ingredient partnerships with their neighbours throughout the Fraser Valley.

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BC Beer Baron #109 – Old Abbey Ales Hazelnut Vanilla Coffee Blonde

One look at this Old Abbey Ales beer’s name and you would think you’re at some fancy coffee joint ordering a morning pick-me-up.

The Hazelnut Vanilla Coffee Blonde is pure brewing goodness, though. With so many different flavours competing for attention, you’d think something would get lost in the shuffle, but with each sip, I could distinctly taste hazelnut, vanilla and coffee. The smell of the beverage was also quite inviting.

Old Abbey Ales

That said, I’m under the impression that experiences with this beer may vary depending on the batch. All I can say is that I enjoyed my serving, going so far as to suggest it to someone from our group that joined the fray late. To be fair, they didn’t enjoy it as much as I did and they’re a coffee drinker, whereas I loathe the stuff.

This was the second stop of our recent jaunt through the Fraser Valley’s brewing region. Old Abbey Ales has a very impressive line-up of experimental beers and one could definitely spend a fair bit of time at their Abbotsford facility trying each and every tap.

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BC Beer Baron #52 – Ridge Hairy Donut Irish Amber Ale

What was supposed to be the last stop of our Fraser Valley craft brewery crawl, Ridge Brewing, turned into one more respite on the way home, thanks to all the fun we had at the Maple Ridge tasting room.

There, we tried a bit of everything the brewery had available, including the Hairy Donut Irish Amber Ale. The Hairy Donut was a decent beer and the kind that drinkers of all types can get into and appreciate. It’s perfect for those that just want a solid beer and nothing too crazy.

Ridge Hairy Donut Irish Amber Ale

While I enjoyed some of Ridge’s beers (Green Eyes White IPA, Black Mamba Milk Stout and Café Morena English Brown Ale) more than today’s entry, there’s a great story to go along with the Hairy Donut. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically describes a man’s furry belly button region… or, at least that’s the PG version and the one Ridge was able to sell to the group that approves beer names. As for the R-rated version, I’ll let your imagination run wild and do the work on that. It should be noted, the name is also a tribute to the owner’s late brother… or so the story goes!

We had a great time at Ridge Brewing (not to be confused with Big Ridge Brewing in Surrey), chatting with our server Duncan and the brewery’s owner Carlos (not to be confused with Maple Meadows owner Carlo). Ridge even offers customers specially designed growlers, with sayings such as ‘Corporate Beer Sucks’, ‘Cerveza Por Favor’, ‘Magical Drinking Juice Inside’, and ‘I Like Hairy Donut’.

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