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 #72: Everything Under the Sun

It’s been a surprisingly busy past couple weeks. I thought I could take a week off from Sip Trips articles, as I do from time to time when there’s nothing to report on, only to realize I should have written something last week. Time to make amends!

Buckin’ Bronco

With Ma and Pa Sip, as well as the Sip-in-Laws coming to visit for a big family dinner, we needed a place to go. Using Open Table, Ma Sip chanced upon the Yale Saloon and good thing she did. There, we were treated to amazing food (southern barbecue dishes like pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches and fusion cuisine, such as mac n’ cheese popsicles) and terrific service. The restaurant’s manager even inflated the ring so the Sip Advisor could ride the mechanical bull a couple times. The only criticism I can lob at the Yale Saloon is that they have absolutely no local craft beer on their menu. Perhaps that will come in time.

Bull Riding

New Brews

A couple of impromptu brewery crawls over recent times have yielded some new discoveries. This included my first visits to Vancouver’s Faculty Brewing as well as Old Yale Brewing and Chaos & Solace Brewing – which we didn’t even know existed – in Chilliwack. We also popped into the long-awaited R&B Ale and Pizza House for some drinks and food. Now all I need to do is finally get around to doing another bike tour of the Yeast Van region, where a few new operations have launched lately. For more details on our beer tours, check out the BC Beer Baron listings.

All You Need is Love

We began this week with a bang, as one of my favourite events of the year finally came around again. The Made with Love cocktail competition at the Fairmont Hotel featured not only amazing drinks, but also some great food, including freshly shucked oysters, spring rolls, tuna tartare cones, and chicken wraps, among other hors d’oeuvres. The food seemed to stop being served about halfway through the event, which is too bad because that’s exactly when some guests need it the most, as they realize just how much they’re actually drinking.

Cocktail Super Glue

My favourite cocktail of the night came from Reece Sims of Per Se Social Corner, while Mrs. Sip’s preferred bevvy was provided by Mia Gianz of Odd Society Spirits. Best of all, in a world where prices seem to rise annually, this year, early bird tickets were the cheapest I’d ever seen them, at only $45. I can’t wait for the 2017 edition.

This weekend, the Sip Advisor and Mrs. Sip celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary and the return of my annual beer pong tournament takes place. After that, there’s the Labour Day long weekend, which although we’re stay-cationing, there will be much to report on. Looks like I won’t be taking any more weeks off for a while!

Sip Trips #34: Beer Baron

Well, this was a beer-soaked weekend if there ever was one – and there have been many! With a self-guided bike and beer tour, as well as a brews cruise on the docket, there’s much to discuss, so let’s get right to it.

With friends visiting from Toronto this weekend, I wanted to show them as much of Vancouver’s amazing craft beer scene as possible. I settled on a bike and beer tour of the affectionately named ‘Yeast Van’ area, which is home to numerous breweries.

Our first stops of the day were Bomber Brewing, followed by Off the Rail Brewing, located right across the street. Both locations offer some good beers and a totally different vibe. With so many stops planned on our itinerary, we largely split tasting flights between couples. My favourite beer at each stop was the Dunkelweizen and Raj Mahal IPA, respectively.

bike and beer

Next up was a short ride to Callister Brewing, which features a number of Real Cask brews, as well. With 10 beers on the menu, our crew ordered one of everything, providing many opportunities to find the perfect beer. I particularly enjoyed the Seshuinox and Apricot Resurrection varieties.

Another short jaunt and we arrived at Powell Street Brewing. When originally constructing the plan for the day, I had marked Powell Street as a stop that was optional. I’m very glad we made it there, though, as each of the four beers I sampled were quite good. This included the Wayne Grisettesky (awesome name!), Amarillo Sour, Right Kind of Crazy Double IPA, and Ode to Citra Pale Ale.

After a few tasting rooms to loosen us all up, it was time to visit what I considered would be our main event: Storm Brewing. Mrs. Sip and I love this place for its great staff (the Heathers!), funky atmosphere, and amazing beers. I really enjoy trying the brewery’s  ‘Brainstorms’, an ever-changing list of creative and unique beverages. On tap this time was a Pineapple Upside Down Cake Ale, Gin and Tonic Pilsner, Cream Soda Pilsner, Iced Mocha Stout, Raspberry Berlinerweisse, Dry Hopped IPA, and Vanilla Whiskey Stout. I gave high rankings to each of these options and can’t wait to go back and try the next batch of conceptions. Perhaps best of all, doing a tasting at Storm is by donation and with that, you get up to six samples.

Our last stop of the beer and bike tour was Doan’s Brewing, another first visit for the Sip Advisor. Here, we tried each of the four beers available, including their Kolsch, Alt Bier, Rye IPA, and German IPA. Nothing against Doan’s (their brews were decent), but the stop was a little anti-climactic after Storm.

anticlimatic

We had also hoped to get into Parallel 49 and Strange Fellows, but by the time we hit either place, later in the day, they both had long waits to get in and those in our group who had rented bikes, had to return them. The day was long from over, though, as after dropping off our rides, we walked over to Big Rock Urban Eatery in the Olympic Village area.

For this trip to Big Rock, I was more enamored with the food than the beer. I ordered what I describe as the ‘Eric Cartman Special’: crispy fried chicken skin, called Chickeronnes. The waitress pointed out to me that there was no meat involved in the dish and I told her that’s exactly how I wanted it! They didn’t blow my mind or anything, but now I can say I tried them. One of our party was celebrating their birthday, so the restaurant brought her a serving of their Fiasco Smores. I thought this dish was fantastic, with boozed up ingredients, including chocolate stout gelato, rauchbier ganache, and bourbon vanilla marshmallow.

We finished the day at Craft Beer Market, a must for any visitor to the city, as far as the Sip Advisor is concerned. Sadly, a few of the beers I wanted to try were already tapped out. We also tried to order some samples of beers we were curious about, only to receive a full serving. Despite that, the beer (Hoyne Dark Matter, Dieu Du Ciel Rosee D’Hibiscus, Hilliard’s Chrome Satan) was still good and it seems they improved on their Fast Food Sushi appetizer.

As if that wasn’t enough beer for a lifetime, we had purchased a Groupon earlier in the week for the Vancouver Craft Brew Cruise. Thanks to an additional discount, the originally priced $50 tickets only cost $24 per person. The cruise featured 17 craft breweries and with entry, you got five drink tickets. Each additional ticket was only $1, which is cool with the Sip Advisor. Through my own choices, sharing, and a couple freebies, I managed to try 16 different brews (or at least that’s what I recorded). I gravitated towards options I hadn’t experienced before and there were many available on the boat. My favourites included the Black Kettle IPA, Hoyne Summer Haze, Dageraad Burnabarian, and Phillips Short Wave.

female boat

Following the cruise, we were on the hunt for food and conveniently came across some reps for Central City, who advised us of their new downtown location on Beatty Street. What luck, as they were featuring half price burgers. Our group ordered five different options and all were good. My choice was the Crispy Crunch chicken burger, which was absolutely delicious and paired very nicely with my Steel & Oak Smoked Hef.

As if the week wasn’t busy enough already, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on Tuesday. To commemorate the day, we had dinner at the Pan Pacific Hotel, which was special because that’s also where we stayed on our wedding night! Sadly, Mrs. Sip wasn’t feeling well, but I have largely recovered from a similar cold and ordered their Caliente cocktail, which mixes tequila, smoked serrano peppers, cilantro, and pineapple juice. It was muy bueno!

Next week looks busy again, with a visit to the Pacific National Exhibition and their craft beer fest scheduled for Saturday and one of my favourite events of the year, the Made with Love cocktail competition, on Monday.

Sip Trips #2 – Best of 2014

Well, Mrs. Sip and I didn’t get up to too much this last week in the booze realm, including a rare well-behaved weekend. We did make time to enjoy a couple craft beers, including Unibroue’s La Resolution and Wychwood’s Bah Humbug. This does give me the opportunity to finally publish my Best of 2014 Drinking Nights article. Some of the memories are fuzzy, but they made for an amazing year. Since all drinking days/nights are wonderful, I will not be ranking these… they will merely be listed in order of occurrence!

#1: Dominican Republic

Sadly, I got sick a couple days after arriving in the Dominican, but the first two nights of all-inclusive partying for Mrs. Sip’s 30th birthday were tropical bliss!

#2: New York

Bourbon followed by as true a cab ride as you can have in New York. Our buzz was killed a little by a snafu with picking up our City Pass tickets, but that was merely a bump in the road on an otherwise awesome first visit to the Big Apple.

#3: Portland Beer & Wine Fest

One of the best booze events I’ve ever attended and we were even the happy recipients of a pile of free tokens. When we returned to our hotel, I ended up triple fisting a few drinks to take advantage of the complimentary happy hour and the party just kept going. Late at night, I was the sole survivor, heading out to pick the family up some Voodoo Doughnuts for the morning!

Portland Guide

#4: Edmonton Airport

One would normally think that being stuck in Edmonton for six hours would be tragic. But the city’s airport – or at least their International Terminal – has one of best selection of bars I’ve ever seen. We made a point of turning our layover into a pub crawl, which certainly helped with falling asleep on the plane from Edmonton to Reykjavik, Iceland!

#5: Hamburg Garden Party

While visiting Hamburg, Germany, a garden party provided the setting for a family reunion. The craft beers Mrs. Sip and I brought with us from Vancouver helped loosen everybody up and the well-stocked party (highlighted by a bottle of Jack Daniels that I made sweet love to) kept the festivities rocking through the night. A torrential downpour of rain couldn’t stop our revelry!

#6: Self-Guided Vancouver Brewery Tour Weekend

Ever the adventurers, Mrs. Sip and I decided to take ourselves on a tour of Vancouver’s best bars and breweries, with stops at the Alibi Room, Postmark Brewery/Urban Winery, Brandywine Bartending School, 33 Acres Brewery, and Brassneck Brewery. Our typical good fortune was emphasized when we arrived at 33 Acres Brewery just in time for their first anniversary party!

#7: Made with Love

While I have some reservations about liquor events, I have nothing but love for Made with Love. Mrs. Sip and I bought tickets to this all-inclusive craft cocktail competition, in part because it fell on our 2nd wedding anniversary and seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate the occasion… oh, how right we were!

Bartender Juice

#8: Las Vegas Strip Drinking

Given that entire trips to Las Vegas are booze-fueled, it’s hard to narrow down any one day to highlight, but this one does stick out in my memory. It all started with an innocent game of Battle Shots at the PBR Rock Bar and then featured Hyde Lounge, gambling wins, Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity, dueling pianos at New York, New York, and a host of things I probably can’t remember.

#9: Surprise Birthday

Imagine my surprise when we showed up for what was supposed to be a friend’s birthday brunch and it turned out that the whole thing was meant for little ol’ me! I wish someone had captured the look on my face when the realization set in. Mrs. Sip always seems to find a way to outdo herself!

#10: Birthday Cruise Embarkation

Before the ship even set sail, we were all pretty loose (the bucket of beers, bottle of wine, and cocktails may have helped with that!), which made for a very fun muster drill. I can say with complete conviction that I’ve had worse! 😉

#11: Dave & Busters

I absolutely love this place, having visited three different locations (Honolulu, New York, Anaheim) in the last year and a half. It’s so much fun to play all the games while having a full-service bar at your disposal. Of course, the day started with Disneyland drinking, before we moved on to the fun and games at D&B’s.

GIFSec.com

#12: Bellingham Visit

All I can say is thank god we had a driver (Pa Sip), because I was pretty fuzzy after our tasting at Boundary Bay Brewery and it certainly made for some interesting shopping.

#13: Canucks game in Anaheim

When your day begins with an upscale bar (Disneyland’s Carthay Lounge) and ends with a fun sports bar in JT Schmid’s, everything else in the middle must be pretty good. In between, was a day of drinking at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” including California beers, wine tasting, thrill rides, and even animation tutorials!

#14: Hawaii

To celebrate Ma Sip’s birthday, we began at the Kona Brewery for tour and tasters. Next up, was Huggo’s on the Beach, where happy hour was in full swing and we were only too happy to join!

Some honourable mentions include an earlier trip to Portland for some beer tourism; traversing the Hamburg Reeperbahn; and surviving the wild Marrakesh market square. After all, it’s always fun drinking in a country that discourages alcohol consumption and I make it a point of every voyage to foreign lands!

October 22 – Angry Dan

Festival Phooey

My little sippers, my thesis is simple: the price of some liquor events is insane!

Case in point, Mrs. Sip and I were looking forward to attending our first Vancouver Hopscotch event this November, even making peace with the $50 (plus tax and service charge) cost that came along with the whiskey and scotch lover’s dream experience. That is, until we began looking into just what exactly our near $60 entrance fee entailed.

All you get for your little nest egg of an investment is a souvenir glass and five drink tokens. FIVE tokens! That works out to more than $10 a pop for a little tiny sample. Sure, they bring in stuff from around the world (around 300 products), including some libations you may never have the chance to taste otherwise, but that’s ridiculous value for your hard-earned cash. It also sounded like some booths could charge you more than one token per sample. That could translate to paying $20 or more for a little sip of liquor that you might not even enjoy.

Similarly, I turned down invites this summer to go to the Vancouver Craft Beer Week Beer Festival, not because I had other plans, but because I didn’t agree with the perks of the event. For $35 (plus taxes and fees, of course), attendees received a miniscule three tokens and the typical commemorative taster glass. Why in the world would I pay $10-plus per beer sample, when I could go to many local bars and get the same brews in pint-size servings for the same price? Hell, why wouldn’t I invest that $10 towards an entire pack or case of beers, at any nearby liquor store?

expensive-taste-low-budget

Sure, it only cost $1.10 (they couldn’t just round it off at a buck!?) at Hopscotch and $1.25 at the VCBW Beer Festival, for additional tokens, but that’s just added charges on top of your already high dowry. And guess what, if you happen to get a little hungry, you still have to pay extra for any food that may or may not be available.

For events like these, I’d rather they nix the bands or other entertainment and souvenir glass (how many of these do I really need cluttering up my cupboards?) and give everyone 10 tokens… even then, you’re not getting good bang for your buck. I know many vendors don’t even ask for your ticket or token, but some people (ie. your faithful Sip Advisor) usually gives it up willingly, in order to avoid that awkward moment between server and drinker.

Liquor events aren’t all bad, though. Mrs. Sip and I, along with Ma and Pa Sip, attended the Portland Beer and Wine festival last Easter and what an amazing event that was. For only $20, we received a souvenir glass and a whopping 10 tokens that could be spent on beer, wine, spirits, food items, a used vehicle (okay, not that one), etc. And additional tokens were only $1! Not to mention the live entertainment and info sessions that were all part of the spectacle. We will be back, as info for the 2015 event is already online with deals such as $22 for entry, a glass (wine or beer), and 10 tokens. That’s on top of free entry to the first 500 visitors on the Friday.

bender beer festival

Even in Canada, you can come across great events. In August, to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary, Mrs. Sip and I attended the Made with Love cocktail competition. We paid only $55 (the early bird price, but even full fare was only $65) and were treated to unlimited cocktail samples from 13 of the city’s top bartenders. On top of that, food was included and damnit, it was good. It still has me craving fried plantains!

Earlier the same summer, the Sip Alliance went to the annual Tip N’ Taste event in Langley, B.C. We had been a couple times many years before, but had lost interest when event organizers lost their way and dramatically raised prices to the event. This year, the price was back down to what it should be, $25. With that, attendees received five drink tokens and five food tokens with a great variety of vendors on both sides of the equation.

Well, now that I’ve cleared my conscious and had my little rant, let’s have a little drink together!

Sip Commentary #1: Angry Dan

Angry Dan Cocktail

  • 2 oz Southern Comfort
  • 2 oz Fireball Whiskey
  • Top with Cola
  • Garnish with a Lime Wheel

Want to get your own displeasure with liquor event pricing off your chest? Feel free to vent with a profanity-laced comment below!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
For this inaugural commentary (aka rant) post – more to come in the future – I wanted a drink that had the word “Angry” in it and coincidentally, this cocktail actually includes the Sip Advisor’s first name! The drink was quite nice with a soft burn at the end of each sip. The only downside is that it’s a typical liquor and mixer cocktail, lacking any real complexity.