This week got off to a bit of a rocky start, as Mrs. Sip and I (along with a crew of friends) were supposed to meet at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) and visit the Craft Beer Festival that the fair is hosting for the first time this year. Mrs. Sip and I hadn’t attended the PNE since our first year dating, 13 years ago, so we were excited to return. Sadly, as we arrived, we were informed that the park was closing due to inclement weather and would not reopen.
This was an epic fail, exacerbated given that we knew folks already inside the park who were never asked to leave and were enjoying snacks and such throughout. We didn’t bother to stick around long and although the park did reopen, the Craft Beer Festival did not, and weather remained sketchy the rest of the afternoon and evening. Still, I was really looking forward to trying deep-fried jellybeans!
On with the successes of the day! The evening began with meeting friends at Alibi Room, in Gastown, which has an extensive menu of craft beers that is updated daily. It can get very busy as the day rolls along, so my best advice is to arrive early. Here, I ordered one of their Frat Bats (tasting flights), including the Dageraad Randonneur Belgian Saison, Breakside Imperial Gold Ale IPA, Phillips Hazy Daze Apricot Witbier, and Strange Fellows Guardian White IPA. The latter two were most enjoyable for me, while Mrs. Sip liked the Callister Apricot Resurrection from her set.
From Alibi Room, we moved on to the Portside Pub for another flight of tasters. This time, I ordered the Fernie Quiet RyeT (the best of this bunch), Hearthstone Azacca Pale Ale, Persephone Dry Stout, and Delirium Tremens. The flights were more expensive here, which originally had us a little disappointed, but when we discovered this was because they included a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey, we were all-in! The Lobster nachos also seemed to be a hit with our group, although sitting beside Mrs. Sip meant I didn’t get to indulge too much. I’ve been married long enough to know not to get between Mrs. Sip and her lobster! I’ll have to come back another time for more of the nachos and to try some of the interesting Caesar recipes the pub also offers.
As fun as Saturday was, the main event of the week was unquestionably the Made with Love cocktail competition that I fell in love with (pardon the pun) last year. This time around, the venue switched to the Fairmont Hotel, allowing a little more space than last year’s Yaletown Roundhouse location. After receiving our welcome cocktail of Campari and Tropical Red Bull, our group travelled the room in a counter-clockwise direction. The first few drinks were decent, but weren’t really making an impact with me. I did, however, greatly enjoy the appies that were served, including teriyaki chicken skewers, veggie spring rolls, beef carpaccio, fajita chicken wraps, and pate.
The second half of the room provided a number of top contenders for favourite drink. The premise of the event is that you’re given a dog tag to bestow upon the bartender of your favourite recipe. They’re also judged by a panel of experts. By the end of the circuit I had a short list of four drinks which I really enjoyed. They included Just the Pits (Disaronno, apple juice infused with ginger and black pepper, peach puree, lemon juice, honey syrup, and cherry bitters); Tequila Mockingbird (1800 Tequila, lemon juice, Jamaica and yellow flower syrup, and plum bitters); Caribbean in the Fall (three different Appleton Rums, peach syrup, allspice syrup, lavender tea, lemon juice, maple syrup, saline solution, pimento bitters, and garnished with a sorrel leaf); and my favourite of the competition (earning my dog tag), the BC Burro (1800 Tequila, “forest fire” flavour, ginger beer, elderflower, and wormwood bitters).
Of most importance was whether the event would still hold up for our sophomore experience and whether the cost ($55 early bird tickets/$65 regular tickets) was justifiable. In the Sip Advisor’s opinion, the event was wonderful again and I can’t wait to go for the three-peat next year. I have to say though, I’d love to go to a cocktail competition where there are no liquor sponsors and bartenders have free reign over what they use. I get that the sponsorship basically makes the event possible, but how cool would it be for the competition to be no holds barred!
We wrapped up the Sip Trips week with a return visit to the new Central City Brew Pub on Beatty Street, where I once again enjoyed the Crispy Crunch burger (combining all my favourites with a crispy chicken breast, bacon, potato chips, onion strings, and pickles), while putting together one of the best tasting flight lineups of my career. I ordered the Longwood Steam Punk Dunkel, Hoyne Off the Grid Red Lager, Fuggles and Warlock Smoked Hefeweizen, Bridge North Shore Pale Ale and I only hope that others get to taste my brilliance! Best of all, the flight only cost $6.50, which is a wicked price for a set of beer tasters.
This weekend, Mrs. Sip and I are away camping and plan to pick up a couple growlers at Storm Brewing, before making our way to the Okanagan. There’s no doubt that some mischief is ahead. Should be a great long weekend!