Sip Trips #15: Back to Basics

This last week wasn’t as jam-packed full of events as the last month or so has been, which has allowed for some rest and rejuvenation, as well as a chance to catch up on some recent developments. This may be a briefer than usual Out and About than most, but that doesn’t mean the quality won’t be there!

Our big trip of the week was to visit the Big Rock Urban Brewery and Eatery location, which is finally open. We first heard about this project last July at the Langley Tip N’ Taste event and it has at last come to fruition. Although the place had been opened a couple weeks already, this was to be the “grand opening” weekend, but there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. Even the live music that was supposed to be playing that night never started up.

Grand Opening Fail

That said, Mrs. Sip and I each found beers we really enjoyed. I liked the smoky flavour of the Rauchbier, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed the richness of the Chocolate Malt Stout. We also tried a couple of the eatery’s appetizers and generally had a good time at the place. I can see the potential for the Urban location, as a great hangout and place to enjoy live music, and hopefully another visit will provide these additional elements.

The Out and About week ended with splitting a couple pitchers of Russell Pale Ale, while scarfing down a feast of smoked meat and other goodies at Dunn’s Famous, along with Ma and Pa Sip and Cousin Sip. Sadly, my Vancouver Canucks lost their opening playoff game in the dying seconds of the third period, but there is much more hockey to be played in the coming days.

Onto some news items, late last week, the schedule of events for the Vancouver Craft Beer Week in late May-early July was released and there were so many great options to choose from. Mrs. Sip and I were quick to grab tickets to the “What the Hop?” Beer Trivia, This Sandwich That Beer Throwdown (pairing sandwiches and beers together), and the Beer Cocktail Competition. We may make even more plans, but tickets to some events have sold out already, so we’ll have to be quick on the uptake.

Cocktails Super Glue

Observant booze shoppers have likely noticed recently that BC Liquor Stores are touting their new extended hours and, for many, being open on Sundays. These are wonderful changes and one can only wonder why it took so long for the government-operated stores to catch up with the times. I mean, who wants to live in a world where alcohol is harder to locate on one of the few days most of us don’t have to drag our asses to work!?

Speaking of the weekend, this one looks a little crazier than the last one, so look forward to next week’s more robust Out and About. Maybe we`ll even pick up some Sunday liquor, just for the heck of it!

Sip Trips #14: City of Roses

As if Easter weekend and its four days off from work weren’t good enough, the holidays bring with it one of the Sip Advisor’s favourite drinking events of the year: the Portland Spring Beer and Wine Fest. The 2015 edition did not fail to live up to expectations, so let’s look back at all the fun we had!

The journey began with a breakfast pit stop, en route to Portland, at the Train Wreck Bar, in Burlington, Washington. Ma Sip has wanted to split their Bloody Mary breakfast platter, which combines a number of appetizers growing out of a Bloody Mary beverage, for a while. Despite being more of a Caesar man – and it being very early in the day – I was game for this challenge. We went with Absolut Peppar Vodka in our cocktail, as I wasn’t sure my stomach was ready for Sriracha Vodka in the wee hours of the morning.

Bloody Marys

We arrived in Portland in the afternoon and checked into our accommodation. One of the benefits of staying at an Embassy Suites is the daily happy hour, which allows guests to enjoy some snacks and drinks, on behalf of the hotel. And enjoy, we certainly did, with beer, wine, and cocktails flowing on each of the days of our stay. As for the appies, one odd combo was peanut butter that you could add Nerds candies to, which gave it a sour jelly flavour and made for an intriguing dip for pretzels and Goldfish crackers.

Our first meal in Portland was at Der Rheinlander German Restaurant, which provided me and Mrs. Sip the opportunity to each try and share samplers of German beers while enjoying a schnitzel club sandwich and cheese fondue. We put together a nice mix of wheat and dark beers, which complimented our meal quite fantastically.

Saturday was the big day of the Beer and Wine Fest. Mrs. Sip and I were proudly rocking our CAMRA BC t-shirts (where the province’s outline is depicted as a mug of beer) and received numerous compliments on them, as we made our way around the convention floor. Of all the products I sampled, my favourites included Calapooia Brewing Chili Beer (which I went back for seconds and thirds!), Wild Ride Brewing Maple Brown, and Ambacht Brewing Ginger Farmhouse.

Has the province of British Columbia ever looked better!?

Has the province of British Columbia ever looked better!?

We also love the festival for all of the other things going on, such as the information and tasting sessions. Our favourite involves the combination of chocolate truffles, paired with various spirits. It’s also a pleasure to meet our fellow enthusiasts, from volunteers, to wine makers, to brewmasters, and the general public, who love beer, wine and spirits.

On Sunday, we traversed Portland’s downtown core, taking advantage of a nice day, for a mini pub crawl. Our stops included Rogue Distillery and Public House, Henry’s Tavern, and Fat Head’s Brewery. This was my second time going to Rogue and everything is great there, from the staff, to the beers and spirits, to the food. Henry’s Tavern had a neat Portland beer taster pack, which went well with some massive bar pretzels. Finally, we learned of Fat Head’s the day before, at the festival, where we were told that great beer could be combined with the best fried pickles in existence. Mrs. Sip and I specifically enjoyed the process of writing in our beer sampler choices, rather than reading them out to the server.

A highlight of any trip across the border is the chance to do some serious liquor shopping. On this occasion, we grabbed bottles of Ardbeg Scotch, Viniq Shimmery Liqueur (which may be the most fascinating alcohol concept I’ve seen in some time), Wild Roots Apple-Cinnamon Vodka, Southern Tier Brewing Crème Brulee Stout, and the Shock Top Winter Mixer pack, I previously mentioned wanting to track down. I also nabbed a couple odd sodas for future mixing, including Peanut Butter & Jelly and Bacon flavours.

baking-soda

We wrapped up the vacation with a visit to The Yardhouse in Seattle. With 110 beers on tap, making menu decisions isn’t easy, but I quickly gravitated towards the Avery White Rascal, which was a very good decision, if I don’t say so myself.

After a weekend that featured so many new and delicious brews, you would think that we’re all beer’d out, but another week brings a whole new set of opportunities, such as the opening of Big Rock’s Vancouver location and perhaps a little rest!

Sip Trips #13: And Many More

While Mrs. Sip and I have only been married for two and a half years, this week, we celebrated our 13th dating anniversary. Why bother celebrating a dating anniversary when you’re already married, you might be asking? Why not, is my reply! Life should be full of merriment, so why swap one occasion for another? I’ll get back to the anniversary events later, but let’s look at the weekend that was first.

Thursday night, following our Urban Rec sports, we visited Milltown Bar, which is great looking building in a beautiful location. The food and drink was pretty good and the service was wonderful. Mrs. Sip and I each enjoyed a Dark N’ Stormy cocktail, as I was really in the mood for some ginger beer.

anniversary-celebrate-gave-up

On Friday, we visited Backyard Winery, where Mrs. Sip is a member. Musician Andrew Christopher was doing a one-man show of various covers, which provided the perfect entertainment to enjoy some rose wine and bubbly and welcome the weekend.

Saturday saw us head to Maple Ridge for a friend’s housewarming party. As true Suburban Commando’s, we made the point of visiting Maple Meadows Brewing, one of the regions newest beer outlets. The place had just opened the weekend before and only had two beers on tap, but both (a Blonde Ale and Amber Ale) were good. Carlo, a former home-brewer who owns, operates, and is a general jack of all trades at the facility said that two more selections, an IPA and Honey Brown Ale, will be available this weekend.

Onto the main event of the week, our big lucky number 13 anniversary! We started the day with lunch at Big Ridge Brewing, where we enjoyed a flight of their beers. I liked each of the Red Ale, IPA, ESB, and Imperial IPA, but wasn’t thrilled with the Lager. Hey, four out of five ain’t bad.

Love-we haz it

From there, we were off to Castle Fun Park for some mini golf. Each game was incredibly close and we ended up playing each of the place’s three courses, thanks to both Mrs. Sip and me each winning a free game by sinking a hole-in-one on the final hole of the previous course. We’ve had a number of great moments and earlier dates together at Castle Fun Park, so it was nice to return and let our kid-side come out and play for a little bit.

In the evening, we finally checked out Blackbird Public House, which I’ve wanted to try for a little while now. Mrs. Sip ordered their Standing Stonefruit cocktail, while I asked for their And Everything Nice drink. The two of us ended up swapping libations and I loved the peaty aroma and taste coming from my beverage, provided by the Ardbeg 10-year-old Scotch in it.

We ended the evening in search of food and decided on Hidden Bar and Lounge at the Westin Grand Vancouver Hotel. Mrs. Sip ordered a glass of wine, while I grabbed a pint of beer and we gorged ourselves on their Breads and Dips appy, before dishes of Lobster Poutine and their Hidden Burger for me. Our server, Jude, was fantastic in helping us decide what to order and keeping us well-served throughout the meal. All in all, that makes for one hell of a dating anniversary!

anniversary card

In booze news, government liquor stores in B.C. have recently – as of April 1 – changed their pricing practices, where instead of listing the price of a product, including taxes, they are now listing the price before adding tax. Some private liquor stores have followed suit, as well. I suppose it doesn’t make a huge difference, but I liked knowing exactly what I’d be paying for something, before approaching the cash register. Getting the final total after the fact can be a shitty experience.

Aside from that little note, it’s been an awesome week of visiting new places and returning to old favourites; a wonderful mix of celebrating where we’ve come from and where we’re going. There’s no rest for the wicked, though, as Easter weekend sees us heading to Portland (the mecca of craft beer) for a series of boozy adventures!

Sip Trips #12: Ales of March

You’d think that with St. Patrick’s Day in the rear-view mirror, the partying would come to a stop, or at least a gradual slowdown. Not so with the Sip Advisor! Last weekend was just as busy, if not more so than the one before and that’s not a bad thing… that’s a good thing!

The weekend got started off on the right note with friends coming over for some drinks and games. I picked up a pack of the St. Ambroise variety collection, as my contribution for guests. This set contained two each of the company’s IPA, Double IPA, Scotch Ale, Blonde Ale, and Oatmeal Stout. I’m still working my way through the case, but have enjoyed the offerings thus far. The Scottish Ale is particularly good and will knock your socks off with its bold flavour.

scottish_drinking_game

On the same shopping trip that I picked up the beer, I finally grabbed the UV Sriracha Vodka I’ve had my eyes on (to be featured in an upcoming Flavour Revolution post). I really like this spirit and have invented a great Cosmopolitan variation, using it and mixing with Cranberry-Lemonade juice. Based on Sriracha’s nickname of Cock Sauce – due to the rooster logo on the bottle, of course – I call my creation the Cock Buster! It was a hit with my guests/customers all weekend.

The booze highlight of the week was Yaletown Brewery’s Ales of March Caskival, which offered samples of 11 different beers for only $22. At the event were breweries from around B.C.’s Lower Mainland region, including Dead Frog, Strange Fellows, Red Truck, Big Ridge, Persephone, Powell Street, Moody Ales, Bridge, and, of course, Yaletown. This Caskival was far less populated than February’s IPA showcase, but that is not a complaint, as we were able to move much more freely and even snagged a table this time around. Mrs. Sip wonders if the Ciderwise event (featuring ciders and gluten-free beers) going on at the same time caused the split audience.

Not content to let Sunday be a day of rest, we went for a leisurely drive out to Port Moody, to visit Yellow Dog Brewing. The place was packed when we arrived, but we managed to get Mrs. Sip a seat at the front bar, while sharing a taster set that included their Play Dead IPA, Chase My Tail Pale Ale, Lightly Smoked Pilsner, Shake a Paw Smoked Porter, and Tripel Dog Dare Belgian Tripel. As you can see, Yellow Dog has some of the most creative brew names I’ve come across on the scene. We enjoyed each of the beers, with my personal favourite probably being the Pale Ale. That’s saying something because I usually don’t gravitate towards this type of suds.

beer afternoon

Our mid-week break (who am I kidding, we’re always having fun!) featured a stop at The Winking Judge Pub, where Mrs. Sip and I got to sample some of East Van Brewing’s beer options. I ordered their Wheel Bite IPA, which was a really good drink. Best of all, some proceeds from my purchase went to charity… now that’s the kind of philanthropy I can get down with!

Who knows what this coming weekend has in store, but it certainly has a lot to live up to. With a winery event, housewarming party, WWE WrestleMania, and my and Mrs. Sip’s 13th dating anniversary on the horizon, I can say with some certainty that there will be much to discuss!

Sip Trips #11: Luck of the Irish

The greatest drinking holiday of the year has come and gone and you know the Sip Advisor celebrated in style! We started the weekend off by attending an early St. Patrick’s Day party at the Jericho Garrison. Both Monster Energy Drink and Red Truck Beer were at the event, along with live music and other entertainment. It didn’t take long for the beer pong to get started up and the Sip Advisor made his usual strong contributions to his teams.

Beer Pong Grandma

On Sunday, with a touch of bad weather hitting the ‘Wet Coast,’ we decided to make a jaunt across the border to Bellingham, Washington, for a little shopping and a visit to the Boundary Bay Brewery. Mrs. Sip and I shared a sampler of their beers, which included six varieties to try. Our consensus favourite among the collection was the Oatmeal Stout, further expanding my burgeoning love for darker beers. It also comes in at a whopping 9.6%, so you’ll feel it soon enough!

It was also at Boundary Bay Brewery that the Sip Advisor finally joined the Instagram world. Feel free to follow me and my adventures in boozing… so long as I can find a wireless signal to get attached to. No data plan for this guy, I’m a free internet man!

Tuesday, of course, was St. Patrick’s Day… a national holiday for some and what should be for others, such as the Sip Advisor! The occasion brings up a lot of the same questions you hear around New Year’s Eve: Who will you celebrate with? More importantly, where will you take your partying ways? We decided, in that case, to repeat our New Year’s Eve plans, by celebrating at Craft Beer Market.

St. Patrick's Day Next

Decked out in our best emerald ensembles – or for some of us, the only green clothing option we have hidden away – we did what the Irish do best and drank our faces off! Mrs. Sip tried the just tapped Stanley Park Brewery Irish Stout Cask, while we also ordered one rack of Craft’s Around the World Sampler, which featured a grouping of wheat beers, followed by the Local Sampler, comprised of stouts and porters.

The sampler menus don’t always hit home for me, but these two sets looked good, with the Around the World containing four of six beers that I’ve tried before and are among my favourites, while the Local had some dark beer options that go perfectly with St. Patrick’s Day. Us guys topped the evening off with a shot of chilled Jameson Irish Whiskey, which was the perfect nightcap!

The fun didn’t stop with St. Patrick’s Day ending, as Mrs. Sip and her ladies met at their usual Joey’s Restaurant stop prior to a theatre evening and somehow, the Sip Advisor got invited along for a drink and a snack. Joey’s has the best skinny fries this side of McDonald’s and a bunch of their other eats are pretty good. Their happy hour specials are a highlight, although we’ve found that the deals vary depending on which location you’re at.

Drinking Time Sun

In liquor news, a lot of hullabaloo was made recently about how much water craft breweries are using. This is an absolutely ridiculous attack on the industry. Does Starbucks get any guff for how much H2O they’re pilfering for their disgusting beverages? And what about macro breweries which, by the nature of their name, have to be using more water than smaller operations?

As Ma Sip pointed out, the craft breweries are responsible for creating a ton of new jobs (from brewery staff, to servers at their tasting rooms) and you also have to consider Mrs. Sip’s arguments about increased tourism and all the benefits that can have on an area. Just look at how well Portland is doing, as well as other communities that are growing the industry.

Lastly, there’s one local product the Sip Advisor was made aware of this week: a collaboration brew between Persephone Brewing and Yellow Dog Beer. This Lightly Smoked Pilsner has me salivating for a taste and I’ll have to be vigilant in tracking it down!

Sip Trips #8 – Bachelor Business

Well friends, Mrs. Sip took off on me. It was a long time coming, to be honest. Oh, did that last line make you think she left me for good? No, she just went away for the night on a girl’s trip to Seattle. That did allow me a little bachelor time, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.

Prior to our Urban Rec sports night on Thursday, Mrs. Sip and I met at the Flying Beaver in Richmond, to enjoy a quick beer before playing bench ball. What’s bench ball, you ask? Well, it’s a pretty fun little activity, where you throw dodge balls to your teammates on benches on the other side of the court. Perhaps this will better explain the game. Anyhoo, we enjoyed a couple Kronenbourg Blanc pints before heading to the Olympic Oval. In the end, we lost, but it was all in good fun.

Drunk Sports

This is what you get when you have one too many Zima’s at the country club!

The next night, was the drinking highlight of the week. We attended the Science World After Dark event, which is run every two to three months and allows adults to return to their kid-like selves and play on the Science World displays without worrying about budging in front of little kids. All the while, you can purchase beer and wine, which for the Sip Advisor included the recently released Parallel 49 Jerkface 9000, which is a hoppy wheat beer, which basically combines my two favourite styles.

On Sunday, with Mrs. Sip still out of town, I attended the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Vancouver Branch annual general meeting, to learn more about the association Mrs. Sip and I joined last summer. They had a few casks available to sample and I tried the Yellow Dog Raspberry Smoked Porter. Two out of three of those words really spoke to me: Raspberry and Smoked. The issue was that I’ve never been much of a Porter fan, but I have to say that this beer was pretty good. No wonder Yellow Dog picked up a number of the member-voted awards at the AGM.

In product updates, the Crown Royal Regal Apple Whiskey that I mentioned all the way back in Out and About #1, has finally made its way into our liquor cabinet. While I’ve been a little too busy this week to try any recipes involving the spirit, I think that this will be the start of a beautiful friendship, which will only accentuate my love for the Canadian classic that Crown Royal already is!

Whiskey Comfort Food

Also, I grabbed the recently mentioned Schweppes Dark Ginger Ale, when I found it on sale and quickly tried it in a couple simple recipes (ie. rum and ginger and whiskey and ginger). The ginger flavour is much more pronounced in this soda and I’m undecided if that’s a good thing or not. I will have to assemble a panel of fellow ginger mixer lovers (sounds like speed dating for redheads!) to decide and will report the results in a future Out and About article.

Lastly, after recently enjoying Shock Top’s Shockolate Wheat, I did a little research and found that the company’s Seasonal Taster Pack has some other interesting brews, most notably a Twisted Pretzel Wheat and a Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat. Now, all I need to do is track down the collection, before it disappears from store shelves. Of course, it can’t be found on Canadian liquor store shelves, so I’ll have to hope to locate it south of the border, perhaps during Easter weekend, in Portland. We’ll be there for the Spring Beer and Wine Fest and I absolutely can’t wait!

Sip Trips #7 – Lover’s Lane

Well, Valentine’s Day has come and gone and it was a great day for Mrs. Sip and me. We were quick to snap up tickets for Vancouver Brewery Tours “For the Love of the Craft,” which combined breweries, with a distillery and a chocolatier.

One of the drawing features of the tour was that it visited a number of places Mrs. Sip and I had yet to haunt, although we had been meaning to for some time. This included Strange Fellows Brewing and Odd Society Spirits. Other stops included Storm Brewing and Schokolade Café.

With a cost of $83 per person, we were curious to see if the tour value matched the investment. With all transport, two beer flights, numerous chocolate samples, a cocktail, and a free drink voucher include, I’d say it was quite fair. I wish we had been able to taste more of the spirits at Odd Society, rather than receive a Gin & Tonic, but other than that, I was quite satisfied with the itinerary and perks. Ryan, the owner and operator of the company and tour was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful during the trip.

True Love Food

I have no doubt that Strange Fellows (only opened in late 2014) will be one of the city’s biggest craft breweries in due time, as there is much they can do with their expansive property. Storm Brewing, on the other hand, has been around for a long time and is one of the funkiest businesses we’ve ever been in. A combination of rubber rats as mascots and an cornucopia of experimental beer flavours, including the spicy Hot Night in Thailand IPA and Cream Soda Pilsner, has captured the attention of beer drinkers for two decades.

The second half of the tour meant chocolate and spirits, which I’ve learned over my years with Mrs. Sip, are not mutually exclusive! Schokolade had many tasty chocolate varieties and I enjoyed them so much, I snuck away to pick up a box for my valentine. Odd Society has a handful of craft liquors, which as I mentioned above, I still need to try. We did order a cocktail called The Drive, which apparently is comprised of each of their alcohols. It was quite tasty and I’ll have to go back for future liquid libations.

We finished our evening by using our free drink ticket at Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar, where I enjoyed a meal that has quickly launched to the top of my favourite burgers list. To wash that deliciousness down, I tried the High Tea beer cocktail, which combined IPA beer, gin, Earl Grey syrup, grapefruit juice, and bitters… a very interesting blend that complemented my awesome sandwich.

Best Burger

Continuing the weekend filled with hitting places we’ve been meaning to visit for some time, Mrs. Sip and I went for a long walk Sunday, in the gorgeous, but unseasonably sunny weather. I mean, this is mid-February! At least the beautiful skies allowed for us to get around to so many stops, sans umbrella or taxi.

Mrs. Sip and I always seem to get lucky when we go on our walkabouts. This time, while en route to Bomber Brewing’s first anniversary celebration, Mrs. Sip spotted its neighbour and newest microbrewery in the city, Off the Rail Brewing, which was enjoying their first day in operation. We only hope that next year, to celebrate their mutual birthdays, they shut down the street for a massive beer-fueled block party!

Dogs Birthday Party

Mrs. Sip and I shared a set of tasters at each location, while enjoying speaking with the friendly staff at Bomber, the new surroundings of Off the Rail, and the jovial atmosphere at both locations. I think Pa Sip, a true train nut, would enjoy Off the Rail, based solely off the name of the company and some of their beer offerings, including the Crazy Train IPA and Derailer Pale Ale.

This outing was capped with a long-awaited visit to Devil’s Elbow Ale House, the occasional home hangout of the CAMRA craft beer group. The bar is an offsite tasting room for Howe Sound Brewery and offers the company’s collection of brews for tastings and true pints, among other menu items, including a beer, bourbon, and bacon trio that I must try.

It was a weekend chock full of beer flights, gluttony, and quality time spent with my love. Really, that’s the way things should always be!