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.

family-time

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.

horse-racing-for-rich-people

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!

beer-crisper

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.

cruise-captain-morgan

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.

awards-season

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!

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Sip Trips #85: Leavenworth Love

Over the Christmas break, the Sip Family returned to a familiar destination: Leavenworth, Washington. That said, it had been about 10 years since we last vacationed in the Bavarian-themed town for the holidays and so much has changed since.

The journey started with a trip to BevMo, shortly after crossing the Canada-US border. Here, I picked up a collection of mini liquor bottles to give out as part of our stocking stuffer exchange, where each person was responsible for a small gift – around $5 – for each of the other 10 family members. I tried to select a perfect spirit for each person, including Jameson Whiskey for Father-in-Law Sip, Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum for Pa Sip, Peach Schnapps for Cousin Sip, and Chambord for Mrs. Sip.

We arrived late Friday night in Leavenworth, allowing us a full day to explore on Christmas Eve. We began by popping into a couple of the wine tasting rooms that line the very busy Front Street, before taking refuge at Icicle Brewing at the end of the road. Although we could only find seating outside, this was a definite highlight of the vacation for the Sip Advisor, as it made me feel as if we were enjoying a true European Christmas market.

frost-bite-ice-tan

As for drinks, I started with the Bootjack IPA, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed a serving of their Christmas Spiced Altbier. I then moved on to what would become my favourite beer of the trip: the Dark Persuasion German Chocolate Cake Ale. I mean, does it get much better than sitting in a Bavarian-inspired town, drinking beers outdoors, and having one of them be of the German Chocolate Cake variety!? On another visit on Boxing Day, we also ordered pints of the brewery’s Colchuck Raspberry Wheat and Timbertown Brown.

For celebrating in the room, I picked up New Belgium Brewing’s Folly Pack. Included in the set was their Fat Tire Amber Ale, Citradelic Tangerine IPA, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale (a collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s), and 2-Degree Below Ale. I really liked each of the brews in this collection and particularly enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, which had the neat aftertaste of both chocolate chips and cookie dough.

Our stocking stuffer exchange was a lot of fun, including such gifts as a can of Big Rock Winter Spice Ale, can of Iron Horse Cozy Sweater Ale, flashlight, photo frame, lotto scratchers, Pez dispenser, mug, shot glass, and Starbucks gift cards. I look forward to doing this again in future years. As far as Christmas gifts with a boozy spin goes, Ma and Pa Sip provided me with a BC Liquor Stores gift card, while Mrs. Sip stuffed a bomber of Barkerville Demi-Mondaine Dunkelweizen in my stocking.

stocking-stuffer-present-appetizers

For Boxing Day, we did a bit of a drink crawl, which included another wine tasting room and the aforementioned secondary visit to Icicle Brewing. As we left Icicle, we serendipitously were approached by a family looking for Blewett Brewery. We decided to help them out in finding the place we didn’t know even existed and ended up at another great tap house.

While at Blewett, I tried their Winter Warmer Ale, while Mrs. Sip opted for the Belgian Wheat Ale. Ma Sip even grabbed a glass of one of the cider’s they had available. We also tried a taster of their Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Imperial Stout and chatted with one of the co-owner’s, Kyle, who mentioned the operation had only been open for a few months.

The vacation provided a wonderful way to get away from the usual Christmas pressures, while also allowing for a great deal of family time in one of the most amazing settings to enjoy the winter season. I would recommend anyone check out the area at some point in their life and particularly if you want a genuine Christmas experience.

December 18 – Holiday Hopper

Christmas Vacation

I prefer to spend Christmas at home with family and friends, but that’s not for everyone. Some like to get out and see the world, leaving the comforts of familiarity far behind. If that sounds like you, here are some of the best places to travel to for Christmas joy!

Leavenworth, Washington

This quaint little Bavarian-themed town is great to visit at all times of the year, but it particularly comes alive at Christmas, beginning with its annual lighting festival. The Family Sip spent a few Christmases in Leavenworth when the Sip Advisor was a wee little sipper. We enjoyed many hours playing in the snow, going cross country skiing, and causing a general ruckus in the hotel halls. It’s hard to not be in the full Christmas spirit when you’re so surrounded by it.

leavenworth-lighting

New York, New York

One would probably start by visiting Rockefeller Center for outdoor ice skating and ogling the giant Christmas tree placed in the center of the plaza, but I for one would try to relive Kevin McCallister’s adventures from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York… especially if I can convince a couple cons to provide me with willing Wet Bandits impersonators! For Pa Sip, there’s also the Holiday Train Show, featuring numerous model trains rumbling through an intricate New York landscape.

Lapland, Finland

Home to Santa Claus Village and Santa Park and located near the Arctic Circle, this area has long been considered Santa Claus’ base of operations, where reindeer and polar bears (of the Coca-Cola swilling variety) can be found inhabiting the region. It’s here that you can get a photo with one of the most legit looking Santa’s I’ve ever seen… perhaps he is the real thing. Whoa, mind blown, I’m off to Lapland!

Disney Theme Parks

You never need a specific reason to go to a Disney park, but seeing the resorts at Christmas is a must at some point in every person’s life. I love how rides like the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World are updated for the holiday season and the park’s Christmas Parade and Christmas Fireworks Extravaganza are spectacles that should be witnessed. Add to that all the Christmas treats, merchandise, lights, costumes, and everything else and it’s a holiday overload… in a good way!

Christmas-at-Disney

Bethlehem, Israel

Birthplace of Jesus Christ and home to the nativity scene, thousands make pilgrimages to Bethlehem each year to celebrate the holiday where its roots stem from. The Church of the Nativity sits upon the spot where Jesus is said to have been born (a silver star within the church marks the exact location of Jesus’ birth) and empties out into Manger Square. Numerous religious events take place around the Christmas holiday and regardless of your denomination, you can celebrate at some point in the area.

Reykjavik, Iceland

With its proximity to the North Pole, this may be the closest you ever come to Santa’s workshop. In fact, just outside the Icelandic capital is The Christmas Village, which offers everything from live musical performances to shopping opportunities to the Yuletide Lads (not one or two, but 13 Santa’s). Apparently their ‘mother’ can also be found nearby, but can you imagine the hardships she’s gone through raising 13 boys who are all unemployed and want to hand around children all day?

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dubbed ‘The Christmas City‘ this place has taken celebrating the holiday season to new heights. They even have a live advent calendar, where each day, a different shopkeeper comes out the Goundie House door with treats for those attending. Christkindlmarkt is molded after the traditional European winter market and offers visitors the chance to buy arts and crafts and food. It doesn’t say anything about booze, but you hope that’s there too. I mean, you really, really, really hope they have that, as well!

Drink #352: Holiday Hopper

Holiday Hopper Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Melon Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Crème de Menthe
  • 0.5 oz Crème de Cacao
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with Mint Leaf and Chocolate

After researching for this list, it’s clear that there aren’t many places that would be bad to spend Christmas. Perhaps war-torn areas and such should be avoided, but so many cities have something to offer for those looking to get away for the holidays.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This is one of those drinks that really surprises you. Given my aversion to Crème de Menthe, I can never really trust it, especially when it’s expected to play nice with other more normal ingredients like Melon Liqueur. Here, they all come together for a wonderful and enjoyable taste, perfect for a dessert beverage.