Best of 2018

Weddings, birthdays, travel, moves and babies. These are some of the themes that make up the Sip Advisor’s annual look back at the best nights from the year that was. Without further ado, here is the Sip Advisor’s top 18 of 2018:

Winter Wedding

The year started off with a bang, as we spent an early January weekend celebrating the wedding of very close friends. With Mrs. Sip a bridesmaid and yours truly delivering a speech, we were busy, but also made ample use of the reception’s open bar. This was Baby Sip’s first wedding and she took in the craziness with her usual charm.

Down Mexico Way

San Diego has an amazing craft beer scene and that has spread across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. While we were staying in nearby Escondido, we booked a tour that would take us across the border for the day, visit a few breweries and then return us stateside in the evening. Our guide was very good and I recommend checking out places on both sides of the boundary.

Riding High

Baby Sip and I joined Mrs. Sip at the tail end of her annual girls trip to Las Vegas and one definite highlight was riding the High Roller, while inside one of the attraction’s Happy Half Hour (Open Bar in the Sky) cabins. For 30 minutes, we enjoyed the sights of the strip, while consuming as much booze as our bodies could handle in such a short time.

open bar

Mamma Mia

To celebrate Mrs. Sip’s first Mother’s Day, we flew to London. Okay, the trip was already planned with saluting Mrs. Sip’s efforts being a happy coincidence. To mark the occasion, we enjoyed an afternoon tea, complete with bottomless bubbly. We finished the day with a stop at the East London Liquor Company for a couple craft cocktails.

French Kissing

While in Lyon, France, our group enjoyed the Les Fleurs du Malt craft beer bar; a Beaujolais wine region tour; drinking in a park along the Rhone River; and an epic feast of McDonald’s goodies, paired with French craft beer. That’s my kind of culture!

Portuguese Pleasing

Next up was Porto, Portugal, memorable for the Food & Wine Tour Mrs. Sip found. After our afternoon of indulging, we explored the city, visiting the Calem Port Museum and Sandeman Cellars for Port tastings and cocktails. Lisbon and Sintra were also neat cities.

Satisfying Two Food Groups

In Brussels, Belgium, the Chocolate & Beer Tour we booked was absolutely decadent. Following a few stops at some of the finest chocolatiers in the city, it was time to get our drink on and enjoy a seemingly endless lineup of brews. After the tour wrapped, we ventured to the Delirium Café for even more beverages.

chocolate and beer

On the Battlefield

The only thing better than a good craft beer event is one that comes with free entry. Scratch that, Mrs. Sip and I were practically paid to attend Cask Wars at the Portside Pub, as entry included one free beer. Sure, once inside you paid for tasting tickets, but even that was at a very reasonable price. The competition saw 11 breweries work to drain their cask the quickest and earn a tap at the bar.

Wedded Bliss

What happens when you pack an entire wedding into a four-hour cocktail reception? A fury of fun… and drinking. Best of all, the rest of the day before and after the nuptials is yours to enjoy. When at the wedding, you can be solely focused on the party and that’s exactly how this went down, with Mrs. Sip calling it a night once we got home.

Maritimes Marriage

With friends tying the knot in their native Nova Scotia, Mrs. Sip and I (along with Baby Sip) made the cross-country trek to Halifax for a weekend of fun. While touring the city’s craft beer joints and devouring as much Atlantic seafood as we could get our hands on, we also took in some east coast culture in the form of a food tour and visiting some museum exhibits.

Adios Apartment

With just days remaining before we had to be out of our Downtown Vancouver apartment, Mrs. Sip and I decided to throw a final bash at the ol’ place, collecting our finest drinking buddies, with the hopes of depleting our liquor collection and having less bottles to pack and transport. Everyone brought their A-game to the festivity and we ended up retiring numerous bottles.

moving out

Return to the Battlefield

The next day, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary, enjoying a rare (my very first) night away from Baby Sip to attend the Battle of the Brews event in Surrey. The rain couldn’t dampen our merriment – or inebriation – and we ate and drank our way through as many tents as we could.

Cruise Control

Even with Baby Sip in tow, Mrs. Sip and I managed to live up to our cruise reputation as we travelled from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Giant margaritas, wine tasting and cocktail hours were enjoyed throughout the voyage, along with all the fine dining one stomach can handle.

Day in Disneyland

While I prefer longer visits to the Disneyland Resort, with only one day to spend at the happiest place in the world, we did pretty well with our stay. There to get Baby Sip her first taste of Disneyland and attend Mickey’s Halloween Party, we began with a trio of beers in the California Adventure park, launching us into the second half of our day, trick-or-treating with Mickey and the gang.

Brew Birthday

The Sip Advisor’s birthday, which should be a national holiday, celebrated across Canada, was at least celebrated in style by a select few of us, attending Trading Post Brewing’s Oktoberfest event. We honoured my German heritage with an impressive drinking exhibition and continued the party at our new home with friends and family.

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Bash for Baby Sip

While I didn’t drink as much as expected for this momentous occasion (I mean, I did create a small menu of cocktail delights to serve to guests), it is still a highlight of the year. First, the day meant we somehow managed to keep a kid alive for a full year and second, watching the sheer joy in Baby Sip’s eyes as everyone focused their attention and love on her, is something I won’t soon forget.

Open House

To show off our new abode, we hosted an open house wine and cheese party that stretched from midday to the early hours of the next morning. We had dozens of bottles on hand, as well as more food than has ever been in our fridge before or since. Guests flowed in and out through the day and at the end, we were just happy it went off without a hitch.

Christmas Day

The moment the Sip Family arrived at Ma and Pa Sip’s place for Christmas dinner, the drinking began. I can’t recall how many Dark N’ Stormy beverages I had over the stay, but my precious bottle of ginger beer was drained. At the end of the night, I passed out to Christmas episodes of my favourite animated comedies… a merry Christmas, indeed!

That wraps up another trip around the sun. I’m not entirely sure what 2019 has in store for this site, but I hope to bring back the Cocktail Corner and Love & Hate segments to this site. I’m also working hard to put together a much bigger project for 2020, so stay tuned!

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Sip Trips #147: Maritimes Musings

This past week, the Sip Family was away in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a wedding. While on the other side of the country, we got up to our usual brand of mischief, touring the city and a number of fine attractions. Here’s what we got up to in the Maritimes:

Upon arriving late last Thursday, our first order of business was to invest in some beverages for the duration of our stay. With Baby Sip in tow, we were set to do a little more drinking at our AirBnB, rather than out and about, as minors can’t be in breweries or pubs past 9pm in the city. After settling in, we made our way to the nearby NSLC liquor store, where we grabbed a six-pack of Hell Bay Dark Cream Ale and a tall can of Nine Locks Watermelon Blonde. Both beers were good, with the Dark Cream Ale being a new style to me and the Watermelon Blonde being very refreshing in the Halifax heat and humidity.

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The next night, we also visited RockHead Wine & Beer Market to pick up more supplies, including J.D. Shore Spiced Rum from Halifax Distilling and a tall can of Tusket Falls Smoked Kiack Smoked Ale. The Spiced Rum went well with a bottle of Dr. Pepper we got the night before with our pizza order, while the Smoked Ale made its way home with us and will be cracked open in the near future.

Earlier on this day, we left our apartment en route to the city’s waterfront area. As we made the 20-minute journey, we stumbled across Propeller Brewing and despite only being five minutes into our walk, the stifling temperature forced us into the brewery for a dose of air conditioning and a flight of beers. Our set included the Stone Fruit Summer Ale, Lemon Pie Sour, Rye IPA and Porter. We had a great time here, chatting with staff and fellow patrons. I was even given bonus sips of the IPA and DIPA, so I could compare all three IPAs on tap.

Since our afternoon had turned into a bit of a brewery crawl, we decided to also pop into the nearby 2 Crows Brewing for another flight. Here, we sampled the Ramble Wild Table Witbier, Good Air Buckwheat Saison, Slam Jam Blueberry Brut IPA and Pollyanna Wild NE IPA. The price for a flight jumped up here compared to Propeller, but to a fare that was more common around the area. The Brut IPA was interesting and seemed to be a popular style in Halifax.

Nova Scotia

Finally reaching the harbour, next up was a late lunch/early dinner at Waterfront Warehouse. Mrs. Sip and I shared orders of the Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese and Fish & Chips, which paired very nicely with my pick of Boxing Rock Hunky Dory Pale Ale. Our meal on the patio was very nice and Baby Sip even got her first taste of Atlantic lobster.

Saturday was highlighted by the wedding, with the ceremony taking place across the water in Dartmouth. Following the nuptials, we explored that city a little bit, first stopping at Ace Burger (also home to North Brewing). We split their Jughead Burger with Spicy Fries, followed by an spectacular Ice Cream Sundae for dessert. For drinks, I selected the North Perseid IPA, while Mrs. Sip went with the Off Track Wheat in the Knees. With a 15% discount at North Brewing, thanks to eating at Ace Burger, we took home a bottle of Midnight Strong Dark Belgian, which also made its way back to Vancouver with us. Mrs. Sip loves her Belgian strong beers, so hopefully this hits the mark once we crack it open.

Before returning to Halifax, we visited New Scotland Brewing, which only opened its doors a month ago. As a result, some of their concoctions were sold out, but we did manage to put together a flight comprised of their Bonnie Kolsch, Strawberry Peppercorn Mead, Beachcomber IPA and All the Fuss Gose. It was interesting to throw the mead in there and it turned out to be my favourite from the collection.

Mead

The wedding reception took place at the Waegwoltic Club, which offered an amazing setting to party the night away and celebrate the newlyweds. Among the open bar lineup was the Garrison Tall Ship East Coast Ale, which I indulged in a few times throughout the festivities.

The next day featured our Downtown Food Tour, through Local Tasting Tours. Mrs. Sip and I have grown to love doing organized food tours in the places we travel to and find them to be highlights of any city we visit. This circuit was no different, expertly hosted by our guide, Rachael. The itinerary included seven stops, each with its own special treat for us connoisseurs: Prince George Hotel (Poutine), Tempo (Banh Mi Slider), The Split Crow (Queen’s County Chowder), The Old Apothecary Bakery (Salted Caramel Brownie), World Tea House (Black Tea from Kenya), Snappy Tomato Pizza (Donair), Sugah/Rum Runners (Chocolates, Salt Water Taffy, Sponge Toffee, Rum Cakes). I liked that there was a mix of options, from food to dessert and even a tea break, which Mrs. Sip was really into. The value for this tour was also quite good, as for $50 each, we left comfortably full and with a new appreciation for places around the city.

After letting our stomachs settle and giving Baby Sip a chance to exert some energy and explore at a waterfront playground (she was such a good trooper throughout the food tour), we met with a friend at the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden, along the water. The beer garden has both full-service and self-service sections, with numerous picnic tables for folks to sit at. I started with a tall can of Garrison Jalapeno, which was a little disappointing, as despite a nice pepper taste, there was no heat to the brew. I switched to a Big Spruce Tim’s Dirty IPA for my next beverage, which was good. Mrs. Sip went back to the Propeller Stonefruit Summer Ale and we split a delicious Lobster Roll that was stuffed with meat from the crustacean.

lobster pick me

On Monday, we added some more culture to our vacation, with an afternoon spent at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The museum’s most popular collections include one about the Titanic, as Halifax played a large role in the recovery of bodies from the doomed vessel, and the Halifax Explosion, which killed thousands and injured many more. This was a fascinating stop amongst all our eating and drinking.

For dinner, we returned to Tempo, home to my favourite bite from our food tour, the Banh Mi Slider. With Mrs. Sip wanting to return to indulge in their Lobster Dinner special (only $29), it offered the opportunity for me to get a full serving of the dish. We also ordered a serving of their Calamari, which also won us over. For drinks, Mrs. Sip had a small jug of Sangria, while I went with Keith’s IPA from the happy hour menu. The beer really hit the spot, pairing well with my meal.

Following dinner, we travelled to Unfiltered Brewing, which doesn’t do flights, but offers any of their beers in a four-ounce serving. Therefore, we got tasters of the Daytimer Berliner Weisse, Exile on North Street IPA, Marcus Junius Brut IPA, Dementia DIPA and Warning Label Aged DIPA. Unfiltered is known for their IPAs and it showed with how good these options were, my favourite being the Exile on North Street.

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Before calling it a night, we made it to Good Robot Brewing before their 9pm curfew for minors. We really enjoyed the brewery’s beautiful outdoor space and also liked that flights were served in muffin tins. Our selections here, included the 5th Chamber Fruit Gose, Sorry Coconut Coffee Blonde, El Espinazo Del Diablo Mexican Lager and Bingo Bronson Chocolate Porter. We also ordered a round of Butter Chicken Nachos to complete the visit.

On our final day, we rented a vehicle and travelled to Peggy’s Cove along with the couple that got married. They also hosted us for a fantastic lobster feast, with bowls full of claws, tails and legs. Mrs. Sip was in seafood heaven and our glasses of mimosas made the meal even more decadent.

lobster.jpg

Upon returning to Vancouver – following excruciating flight delays and lost luggage (nice try calling it “delayed” luggage Air Canada) – and getting a few hours of sleep, we crossed the border to the United States, so Mrs. Sip could do some shopping for a baby shower she’s hosting this weekend. Taking advantage of the trip to Bellingham, we had lunch at Kulshan Brewing, eating from the Hot Mess Food Truck, which was on-site. We both greatly enjoyed Philly Cheesesteaks, as well as our beverages, a German-Style Kolsch for Mrs. Sip and their Beer Prom IPA for moi.

That wrapped a very busy week for all of us and things heat up again this weekend. On the schedule thus far is a family gathering, the aforementioned baby shower, Caskapalooza 2018 at Craft Beer Market and probably a few events I can’t even remember!