Sip Trips #128: San Diego Sipping (Part 4)

Our three weeks in San Diego wrapped up with us moving from Escondido to the downtown area. After arriving at our hotel, we journeyed to Liberty Public Market, home to Stone Brewing’s Liberty Station location. There, we took part in the brewery’s Cookies on Tap cross promotion with the Girl Scouts. For $15, we received a flight of four beers (5oz pours), each paired with a Girl Guide cookie. Our favourites of the set were the White Ghost Berliner Weisse with Savannah Smiles and Exalted IPA with Samoas combos.

The next day was largely spent exploring Balboa Park, prior to visiting Modern Times Brewing. After a brief wait to get into the popular site, Mrs. Sip and I shared their OG Edition Flight, containing the Lomaland Saison, Black House Stout, Fortunate Islands Wheat, and Blazing World Amber. This was a pretty good deal for $8.

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For dinner, we returned to Liberty Public Market and the Corvette Diner. For beverages, I got the Mike Hess Corvette Grazias, while Mrs. Sip went with a very tasty Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake. As for food, we both went with burgers, with my selection being the Brenda variety and Mrs. Sip choosing the Breakfast at Tiffany’s option. We also received a free appetizer (Ginormous Chicken Fingers), thanks to signing up online through the Cohn Restaurant Group. The diner was a lot of fun with video games and other entertainment going on throughout our meal.

The next day, we tried to stop at Ballast Point Brewing in the Little Italy area of San Diego, but had trouble finding parking and also noticed the place was quite busy. When we finally found a spot for our vehicle, I wasn’t willing to pay $15 to park and then wait to be seated when all we wanted was a drink, so we abandoned the visit. We will have to try again another time.

Instead, we made our way to Coronado Island, home to Coronado Brewing. Although we were told getting a seat would take half an hour, we were seated almost immediately. We decided to split a flight of their brews, picking the Coco Chaos IPA, Large Barge Weizenbock, Mean Tajin Mango IPA, R&D Blonde Stout (Nitro), and R&D Peach IPA. We also added a taster of Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake on the side. Our favourites were the Coco Chaos, Large Barge and Blonde Stout.

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After walking around the Coronado Island marina for a bit, we played a bit of craft brewery roulette with Mrs. Sip selecting Little Miss Brewing, simply because of the name and having Baby Sip in tow. What a random choice this was, as we ended up at funky little joint, with a neat vibe. Here, we split another flight, including the Kilroy Irish Red, Riveter American Wheat, Havoc American IPA, Indie Coconut Porter, and Ida Belgian Tripel. The Irish Red was the best of the bunch for both of us.

On our last day, prior to heading to the airport, we ventured to San Diego’s Old Town. Our first stop was Cafe Coyote for lunch, which is a must-hit eatery. Mrs. Sip ordered their Sangria, while I went with an El Burro (tequila, ginger beer, lime) cocktail. For food, we split the Tres Coyote Taco meal (shredded beef, shredded chicken, carnitas), as well as a Cheese Quesadilla, which we received for free, thanks to a coupon from our hotel.

At the airport, we enjoyed a pre-flight beverage at Stone Brewing. Mrs. Sip went with a guest tap of Refuge Brewing Blood Orange Wit, while I went with Stone’s Mammoberries Golden Stout. I had previously seen this brew at the Liberty Station location, but neglected to order it. Thankfully, I remedied that glaring error here, as it was a tremendous ale, with flavours of coffee and raspberry. This was a nice liquid bow on our February in San Diego County and the start of my eight months of parental leave!

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Sip Trips #127: San Diego Sipping (Part 3)

Part three of our time spent in San Diego County began with a trip to Temecula. Our first stop of the day was Walmart, where I grabbed the Trouble Brewing A Pack of Trouble Variety Pack. I learned after the fact that this is actually a Walmart brand that has encountered some controversy over whether or not it’s actually craft beer. The case contained the Cats Away IPA, After Party Pale Ale, ‘Round Midnight Belgian White, and Red Flag Amber Ale, all of which I thought were decent brews.

Next up was Garage Brewing for lunch. We tried visiting here the last time we were in San Diego, before tragically discovering the place is closed on Mondays. Redemption is sweet, my little sippers, and this place is so good that we returned for a second meal later in our vacation. They have a fantastic fast-fired pizza idea, where you can build your own pie, similar to a Subway sandwich. On both stopovers, I ordered a pint of Hatch Chile IPA. Mrs. Sip tried tasters of their Mango Hefeweizen, Belgian Triple, Cherry Chocolate Stout, Marshmallow Milk Stout (Nitro), Spiced Coconut Porter, Apple Pie Pale Ale, and Holidation over both occasions. We also bought a bomber of Apricot Wit for the road. As for the pizzas, they were all amazing, with their Red Hot Mustang Pizza being particularly delicious.

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The day wrapped with a quick jaunt into Temecula Valley Wine Country, popping into Wilson Creek Winery, which was recommended to us by a friend, who called the place the Disneyland of wineries. Of particular note were their flavoured champagnes, including Almond and Peach Bellini. Upon leaving, we bought a bottle of Rose Champagne, which nicely priced at only $10.

Our next day trip was to Carlsbad, beginning with a Sip Family favourite: Dave & Busters. With our lunch of Pretzel Dogs and Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart, I enjoyed an upsized pint of Belching Beaver Mango IPA. Mrs. Sip went with the Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, adding a little dessert to her meal. As we played some of their games, I drank a Firestone Walker 805 Pale Ale to Mrs. Sip’s standard go-to Blue Moon.

Before returning to the resort, we also managed to stop at the Pizza Port chain’s Carlsbad location. Here, I tried their Hakunama Tatas IPA, which came in a colour I never expected. The beer was very good, although it took a bit to reconcile the thought of drinking a pink brew (thanks to the addition of pomegranate juice) with an ABV of 8.5%. We also ordered a serving of their Garlic Beer Buddies, which were quite tasty.

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Our final stop with Mrs. Sip’s parents was BK Cellars, which we bought Groupons for prior to leaving home. Each Groupon included a tasting for two (five wines each) and bottle of either Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, of which we got one of apiece. My favourites among their offerings were the Fume Blanc and Syrah, which was especially memorable.

Part four will look at the last leg of our journey, as Mrs. Sip and I settle into downtown San Diego to explore the city’s vast and booming craft beer scene, as well as a few local landmarks.

Sip Trips #44: California Dreamin’ (Part 2)

Part one of this week’s Sip Trips looked at our time aboard the Star Princess, travelling from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Part two sees us arrive at our final destination, Escondido, California, for a few days of R&R at the Lawrence Welk Resort.

Shortly after arriving in San Diego, we were off in search of some of the city’s craft beer to enjoy during our stay. I picked up Stone Brewing’s variety pack, which included their Cali-Belgique IPA, Pale Ale 2.0, Coffee Milk Stout, and Ruination Double IPA 2.0 (including the slogan “A liquid poem to the glory of the hop”). My favourite of the lot was the stout and the entire collection made for some good drinking, while relaxing and catching up on TV viewing.

cats watching lion king

Our Lawrence Welk Resort also had a couple of their own craft beers, brewed by Iron Fist. This included the Renegade Blonde and Stout. The beers were decent, but expensive, coming in at $10 and $14, respectively. That said, they did come in 750ml bottles, so we were open to experimenting.

The weather during our stay was a mix of warm, sunny days and chilly nights (it even rained one day), so we managed to get a little pool time in. While soaking up some sun at one of the resort’s pools, we ordered a couple drinks from the pool bar. Mrs. Sip got a Mai Tai, while I enjoyed a Cucumber-Jalapeno Margarita. The cool of the cucumbers provided a nice balance to the heat of the jalapenos and it was a good tanning beverage.

That same day, we toweled off and made our way to the Temecula Valley Wine Country, a beautiful region chock full of wineries. We randomly selected Bel Vino Winery to start our journey and were shocked by the very expensive tastings prices ($17 each for 6 one oz pours), which are not waived with bottle purchase. I’m not sure if other California wine regions operate similarly, but you have to understand that Mrs. Sip and I are accustomed to paying $5 for a tasting, which is typically waived with the purchase of a bottle.

unpretentious wine taster

Hell, for the $17 tasting, I could just buy a bottle and call it a day. Mrs. Sip and I found this business tactic to not be very conducive in encouraging guests to buy wine. After sharing our first tasting, I didn’t even bother participating at our next stop, Leoness Cellars, which was suggested by someone we talked to at Bel Vino, and also operated under a similar pricing structure, with tastings costing $18.

The wineries we visited and drove by we all packed with people – some very, very intoxicated – so perhaps doing a tour bus would be the better way of hitting the region and saving money with whatever package you pay for. Joining the winery’s respective clubs is also an option and includes perks that make the prices more tolerable. All in all, I was pretty disappointed with how the Wine Country operated and their business practices.

We travelled back to Temecula a couple days later to visit Garage Brewing, but sadly, they are closed on Mondays. I had looked them up after returning from our wine afternoon and they had some interesting brews on tap. It just wasn’t meant to be, but another time will hopefully provide more success.

start drinking on monday

While we were visiting, San Diego was enjoying their annual Craft Beer Week, but being located outside the city, we didn’t get to attend any of the festivities. We made up for it on our journey to the airport by stopping at a few locations, starting with Lost Abbey and Port Brewing. There, we tried some samples of their Red Barn Saison, Witch’s Wit, Serpent’s Stout, and Mongo IPA. I thought each beer was quite good, with the Saison perhaps edging out the others as my favourite, thanks to its ginger bite on the back end.

Our final stop was to Stone Brewing, which has a new beautiful facility, although signage is hard to find, save for the gargoyle mascot that represents the company on bottles and other products. We sat down and had some drinks and snacks in the brewery’s restaurant, testing out beers such as Xocoveza for the Holidays, Sawyer’s Triple, Smoked Porter, and Go to IPA w/ Lemon Peel and Vanilla Bean. The Xocoveza winter ale and IPA were my favourite of the bunch. As we were leaving, we splurged on a bottle of Locoveza (produced in wine and tequila barrels) to bring home. At close to $20 for the brew, we’re saving it for a special occasion.

The return to the real world is always harsh, but next week’s Sip Trips will be full of goodies (they always are!), as Vancouver’s Hopscotch Festival has been ongoing and Mrs. Sip and I have been busy attending a number of the event’s proceedings!

 

Sip Trips #43: California Dreamin’ (Part 1)

With many of our family and friends asking, “Do they ever work?”, Mrs. Sip and I were out of town again the past week and a half, enjoying a coastal cruise aboard the Star Princess, followed by a few days with her parents at a resort in Escondido, California. Here’s part one of all the fun we got up to:

One of the first things we do after boarding our ship is search out potential drinks deals and get a lay of the land. One of these deals came to us, as our steward dropped off two complimentary drink tickets upon meeting us. We used these later to grab a couple of their cocktails. While Mrs. Sip ordered an Ultimate Mai Tai – her favourite Princess beverage – I tried The Isaac, designed for Princess Cruises 50th anniversary, by the man who played the bartender on The Love Boat. The drink combined Bacardi Rum with lime and pomegranate juices and it was fun to have a drink made by the fictional liquor slinger.

Isaac The Love Boat

Mrs. Sip and I are platinum members with the cruise line and therefore have access to their Elite Lounge from 5-7pm each day of the voyage. This includes feature drinks and appies. While there used to just be one drink on the menu priced at $5, they now feature a line of about a half dozen cocktails that are discounted. We worked our way through the list over our four-day cruise, which included the Chairman of the Board; Rob Roy; Mojito; Japanese Slipper; Brezza Marina; and Cosmopolitan. I like that they picked strong drinks for the lounge options.

Another trick of the trade was the ship’s new BOGO hours, which allowed passengers to buy one drink and get a second of the same for only one dollar more. We used this on a couple occasions, to get Mojitos and Beverly Hills Iced Teas.

As far as bringing alcohol on board the ship, passengers are allowed one bottle of wine each, but we always bring on a little more. To cover the entire gamut, we brought on one red, one white, and one bubbly. We also typically tuck a couple mini liquor bottles into our toiletry kits, which go perfectly with the complimentary lemonade you can get at the buffet. On this cruise, we combined the soft drink with Evan Williams Cherry Liqueur, Smirnoff Watermelon and Camarena Reposado Tequila, Absolut Raspberri and Camarena Reposado Tequila, and Pinnacle Peach Vodka and Cruzan Coconut Rum.

pirate cruise

As previously mentioned, Princess Cruises is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary and had some specially designed drinks to ring in their golden anniversary year. Mrs. Sip and I splurged and tried a couple – at $12 per cocktail, we couldn’t enjoy them all – including the Anniversary Bliss (Bulleit Bourbon, Peach Schnapps, Frangelico, simple syrup, mint leaves) and 50 Years More (Don Julio, Blue Curacao, White Creme de Cacao, Galiano, lime juice). Both drinks we nicely crafted and blended some interesting ingredients.

Despite being on international waters, craft beer could still be found. We tried both the Seawitch Denali Red Alaska Style Red Ale and the Seawitch West Coast IPA, brewed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Denali Brewing and Strike Brewing, respectively. The Red Ale was the better of the two, as the IPA had a copper aftertaste, although that dissipated as you consumed more of the beer.

A new find for the Sip Advisor on this cruise was the Margarita Bar, which featured a number of great recipes. Mrs. Sip and I shared their Strawberry & Black Pepper (Cazadores Reposado, strawberry juice, black pepper) and Chocolate & Chili (Don Julio, White Creme de Cacao, fresh jalapeños) options. I loved the Chocolate & Chili, as the chocolate really balances out the jalapeños. There was also a Sweet & Smokey (Tequila, Scotch, Grand Marnier, orange juice) I was interested in, but did not get a chance to try.

margaritas archer

On our final evening of cruising, we went to the Vines wine bar, where they were advertising a wine and chocolate pairing. Unfortunately, they only had one set of the chocolates left, so I let Mrs. Sip be the fortunate recipient (chivalry is far from dead, my little sippers!) of the truffles designed by chocolatier Norman Love. Her pairing combined one light, medium and heavy red with chocolates using cocoa from five different countries (Venezuela, Tanzania, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ghana). On the server’s recommendation, I did New World wine flight which included Wild Horse Pinot Noir (USA), Caliterra Carmenere (Chile), and McPherson Shiraz (Australia).

I suppose my only complaint from the cruise would be that near the end, they had run out of a number of supplies, such as the aforementioned chocolates to pair with the wines and some other chocolate ingredients that were meant to go with a menu of cocktail concoctions intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Only half way through our little vacation, part two will look at our time spent in the San Diego County area, with a journey into the Temecula Valley Wine Country and time spent exploring the city’s craft beer community!