Sip Trips #105: Went By in a Blur

This past week was incredibly busy for Mrs. Sip and I. So busy, that my head is still spinning… and that’s not from all the booze consumed! Let’s get right down to it…

On Friday, we wrapped up work and immediately hit the road to Tacoma, Washington to watch comedian Christopher Titus perform at the Tacoma Comedy Club. We made it just in time for the 10:30pm show and beers were desperately needed for us weary travellers. Cousin Sip’s husband and I split a couple pitchers of Manny’s Pale Ale from Georgetown Brewing out of Seattle. The show was amazing, as expected. As we waited in line to meet Mr. Titus afterwards, the bar was selling pints of Budweiser for $2 and we figured, “Ah, why the hell not!”

I had also picked up a bomber of Alaskan Brewing Icy Bay IPA at a gas station en route to Tacoma, so that acted as my nightcap before grabbing a few hours of sleep and returning to Vancouver Saturday morning. I wish we didn’t have to rush the stay across the border, but with friends visiting from London, we had to be back for more fun.

morning sunglasses

After meeting up with our guests, the ladies went their way, while the gents searched for craft beer. Our first stop was at Central City’s Vancouver location. There, I paired some Chicken Strips and Fries with the brewery’s Super Stellar IPA, which made for a great combo. For dessert I ordered their Hefeweizen, bringing to mind thoughts of summer, as we wait patiently for the weather to cooperate.

Next up was a short walk to Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House. Here, I was able to try the Britannia Brewing Sirens Chai Saison, which was available as a guest tap. Following that, I had the Howe Sound Jam Session Raspberry Cream Ale, another successful selection. Then, the night took a turn for the extreme with a round of tequila shots.

Feeling suitably buzzed, we rejoined the ladies for dinner at The Keg in Yaletown. Sitting on the restaurant’s rooftop patio, I enjoyed a pair of Caesar Diablo servings, made even better given their $5 daily special pricing.

Drinking Problem

On Monday, Ma Sip met me for lunch at Tap & Barrel in North Vancouver. Unfortunately, I was working, so was not able to imbibe as I usually would when visiting a T&B location. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my PB&J Burger, which made for a nice substitute to my traditional meal of a PB&J Sandwich during the work week. The burger was messy, but totally worth the experience.

Tuesday, we finally had a meal at the Homer Street Cafe, which is located kitty-corner to my and Mrs. Sip’s humble abode. There to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I ordered their rotisserie quarter chicken meal, which was highlighted by their chicken jus for dipping. To wash it all down, I had a trio of brews, including the Howe Sound Summer Saison, Powell Street Old Jalopy Pale Ale and Storm Black Plague Stout. For a small beer menu, they sure packed some quality selections in.

It should be noted that this week’s wrap up doesn’t even include two games of baseball, Father’s Day celebrations, a trip to the theatre and another meal with our visitors from London. Busy times, for sure.

Sip Trips #104: Babymooning (Part 2)

Yesterday, we took a look at the first portion of our Rome to Dubai babymoon cruise, with stops in Rome, Naples, Athens, and Santorini. Today, we make our way through the Suez Canal to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, with many ships hijinks in between:

While our ship was brand-spanking new with some great updates to behold, I missed some of the charms of the older vessels in the Princess Cruises line. For example, the Explorer’s Lounge has been replaced by the Princess Live Studio. This is where many trivia events take place, respectively, but the studio is lacking tables, so there’s no surface to write on. Even worse, there’s nowhere to rest a drink… heck, the place doesn’t even have a bar, which is practically criminal.

Also, the Skywalker’s Lounge – home to the Elite/Platinum Lounge – is gone from the newer ship design and so the lounge time for loyal guests now takes place in a windowless room of the ship, with servers having to travel some distance to hook passengers up with the daily drink special. As a result, one of my favourite parts of the day on most cruises, was only attended twice by me and Mrs. Sip. The experience just didn’t feel special at all.

Fix Your Own Drinks

Another missing piece from other ships we’ve sailed on was the line’s Crooner’s Martini Bar. Apparently, we weren’t the only guests to notice, as a few days into the cruise, the Juice Bar was turned into a pop-up Martini Bar each evening. On its opening night, we dropped by for their Tropitini (Bacardi Oakheart, Malibu, Creme de Banana), which was very tasty and far better than a health smoothie.

As we docked in Aqaba, Jordan, I tallied my 50th country visited. With a Rob Roy ordered in the Elite/Platinum Lounge, I was also able to cross off country number 50 that I’ve drank in. This is a feat I’m very proud of and just may make the cut to be immortalized on my headstone: Here lies the Sip Advisor… he drank EVERYWHERE!

That evening, as Mrs. Sip and I were checking out what the buffet had to offer, we were stopped by the team selling shots of Limoncello and souvenir shot glasses. Eventually, they coerced me into buying a glass and shot for $3. Then, the lead of the group offered to give me a second pour on the house, if I downed the concoction right there. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before I knew it, I was four shots deep – one for me, one for Mrs. Sip, one for Baby Sip, and one just for the hell of it – and I had still only shelled out $3.

Shots You Take

The next day brought the British pub lunch that seems to occur at least once per cruise voyage. I paired my delicious fish and chips with a Blue Moon, which got the ball rolling on it being a beer day. Afterwards, while laying in the sun and watching Queensland vs. New South Wales (National Rugby League) on the pool deck with a horde of Aussie passengers, I delved into a bucket of Heineken beers, which all made for an entertaining and relaxing afternoon.

With my stock of mixers depleted at this point, I purchased cans of Tonic Water and Barq’s Root Beer. For whatever reason, I was really craving a Gin & Tonic (perhaps I needed to stave off scurvy) and after getting a couple lime wedges from the pool bar, I had all the ingredients needed to make some really good beverages for myself.

Nearing the end of our cruise, we attended the Captain’s Circle Party, which is hosted for Elite/Platinum passengers and provides free drinks. I had a few beverages here, but they weren’t of the best quality, as usual for this event. We did however win a bottle of champagne, amongst hundreds of entries. As soon as they said Mr. and Mrs. I knew they were going to announce our names, since Mrs. Sip isn’t drinking much at this point.

Champ in Champagne

We were also invited to a Farewell Cocktail Party, as the ship’s captain was also taking leave in Dubai. Hosted in the Hollywood Pool (an indoor, adult’s only area they unsuccessfully tried to turn into a night club setting in the evenings) this was an absolute drinkfest for the Sip Advisor. With Mrs. Sip’s help, I grabbed a few really good Cosmos and Gimlets, as well as some other treats.

Upon arriving in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it was time for Mrs. Sip and I to sadly disembark the cruise. While Dubai was an absolutely fascinating place to visit, drinks are pretty difficult to find. I did manage to have one cocktail at our hotel’s bar, the Double Decker Pub. I ordered the Eldery Flower (Elderflower-infused Gin, topped with Lime, Apple and Cranberry Juices), which was very refreshing, but expensive (45 Dirham = approx. $16 CDN) . It was worth it, though, as consuming drinks in “dry” countries is a guilty pleasure of mine.

That wraps up our babymoon, our last big trip before we move from a family of two to three. I can promise all you little sippers, though, that the fun is far from over!

Sip Trips #103: Babymooning (Part 1)

Back in 2012, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our honeymoon with a cruise through the Panama Canal. Nearly five years later and with a little girl on the way, we decided to take our babymoon from Rome to Dubai – through the Suez Canal – aboard another luxury liner. Here’s part one of that expedition:

Our first stop of the journey was Rome, Italy, a favourite city for both Mrs. Sip and myself. Friends from London joined us for this portion of the vacation and after some sightseeing, we journeyed to the 404 Name Not Found bar, which one of our companions had researched. There, complex cocktails (and a mocktail for Mrs. Sip) awaited us. Always a fan of spicy drinks, I tried the 666, complete with Jalapeno-infused Tequila, Cointreau, Lime Juice and Honey.

The next morning, I was able to cross an item off my drinking bucket list, when I enjoyed my first ever McBeer (Beera Moretti Baffo D’oro) at the McDonald’s just outside the walls of the Vatican City. Despite beer being available at a McDonald’s stop or two prior, this was the first time I’ve imbibed in the option and it was a great experience with my set of famous hamburgers.

McBeers

Later that day, we were off to board our ship at the Civitavecchia Port, over an hour outside Rome. After checking in, we arrived at our room (which had been upgraded from a balcony to a mini suite) and were promptly given glasses of sail away bubbly. It was a very nice start to our two-week journey aboard the Majestic Princess.

Mrs. Sip surprised me with bottles of Bacardi Rum, Skyy Vodka and Gordon’s Gin to go along with the two bottles of wine I had just grabbed at the Termini train station. I also brought a handful of Grey Goose mini bottles, so giving I was drinking solo, I was quite set for the voyage. I never buy the all-inclusive pop package available on the cruise, so having mixers for my booze can be challenging, but I’ve picked up some tricks along the way. I did purchase a soda set, which provided me with six cans of pop, while also taking advantage of free orange juice for breakfast and lemonade throughout the day. This allowed me to create an array of drinks, enhanced by some clever fruit pick-ups at the buffet.

Our first stop of the cruise docked in Naples, Italy. Our excursion for the day would take us to the island of Capri, where I got to do a little Limoncello tasting, followed by lunch in Sorrento (where I chugged back close to a bottle of house wine) and finishing with a tour of the historic Pompeii.

Pompeii Stoned

Our next port of call was in Athens. Mrs. Sip and I elected to take a hop-on, hop-off bus into the city, where we visited the 360 Cocktail Bar. With views of the legendary Acropolis from the bar’s rooftop patio, I sat back and enjoyed servings of their Heat Wave (Russian Standard Vodka, Mezcal, Jalapeno Chillies, Oregano, Herbs, Agave, Lime) and The Journey of Chivalry (Chivas Regal 12-year, Noilly Prat Vermouth, Cashews, Smoked Salt, Coconut Water) cocktails. I had also tried to order the Summer Loading (Bacardi White Rum, Watermelon, Orgeat, Lime, Three Cents Agean Tonic), but sadly it was not available.

As we continued to explore the area, we popped into a store where I purchased a bomber-sized bottle of Alfa Weiss Beer and cans of Fanta Strawberry-Kiwi and Tuborg Orange-Cinnamon Soda to add to my mixer collection. The greatest treat came as we returned to the port. There was a duty-free shop in the terminal and after confirming purchases wouldn’t be taken away, as there was no security check to go through boarding the ship, I popped back into the store before we set sail to snag a half-liter bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon.

Our stop the next day on the Greek island of Santorini was one I was greatly looking forward to. We had visited for a week 10 years prior and it became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to. Sadly, this trip wasn’t nearly as good, as the tiny island was hosting three different ships and was overrun. To salvage the day, Mrs. Sip and I sat down in a tiny bar in the capital city of Fira, where I had an Alfa Beer and enjoyed the sights. Then we travelled down 700 steps to the port, dodging donkeys and their droppings along the way.

That wraps up part one of our expedition. Join us tomorrow for the second half of an amazing holiday.

Sip Trips #102: True North Strong and Free

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, Central City Brewing has released the Red Racer Across the Nation case, featuring collaborative beers from 12 of the country’s provinces and territories (only newest territory Nunavut is left out). Always a fan of collaboration beers, I just had to pick up the set, going straight to the source to do so, before it was even rolled out to liquor stores. Each 330ml beer was brewed at Central City’s Surrey facility and was inspired by the province or territory it comes from. Here’s the lineup of the pack:

  • Left of the Divide IPA (with Four Winds Brewing from Delta, British Columbia)
  • Berry Light Berliner Weisse (with Last Best Brewing from Calgary, Alberta)
  • Wide Open Spaces Kellerbier (with Black Bridge Brewing from Swift Current, Saskatchewan)
  • Land of Rice and Honey Saison (with Half Pints Brewing from Winnipeg, Manitoba)
  • Upper Reaches Pale Ale (with Beau’s Brewing from Vankleek Hill, Ontario)
  • Bouclier Canadien Pilsner (with Le Trou Du Diable from Shawinigan, Quebec)
  • Restored Hop(e) ESB (with Picaroons Traditional Ales from Fredericton, New Brunswick)
  • “New” Scottish Ale (with Garrison Brewing from Halifax, Nova Scotia)
  • Bière d’ici Honey Ale (with PEI Brewing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island)
  • Hop To The East Hefeweizen (with Quidi Vidi Brewing from St. John’s, Newfoundland)
  • Swift Currant Dark Ale (with Yukon Brewing from Whitehorse, Yukon Territories)
  • Miner’s Refresh Grissette (with NWT Brewing from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories)

Central City Across the Nation Case

Hitting store shelves in early May, the beer sets were released in two formats: a 12-pack of the entire collection and two six-packs, featuring the East and West releases bundled together. Tasting events in each province have been arranged for the case’s launch. Sadly, the Sip Advisor will be out of town for both BC occasions. For a full listing of upcoming tastings, please view Central City’s press release.

The price tag of just under $35 (with tax and deposit) is quite a bit more than one would pay for the average case of craft beer, but this is a special release. I’m looking forward to trying a number of these beers and getting to know some of the breweries from across the nation.

“There is a great sense of comradery amongst us craft brewers in Canada, and what better way to show our pride in our country than to bring together some of Canada’s best breweries on a celebratory mix-pack to commemorate this huge Canadian milestone,” said Gary Lohin, brewmaster of Central City. “We all know Canada is renowned for our great beer and it has been such an honour to work with each of the breweries. We can’t wait to showcase some spectacular beers and the brewing talents of all 12 breweries.”

Sip Trips #101: Hop Circuit

This weekend, the Sip Alliance made our way to Yeast Van Brewery District for the 2nd annual East Van Brewery Open House. The event ran from 1-5pm, featuring 14 breweries. Although we got off to a late start, we managed to hit a handful of places and had a fantastic time in doing so.

Our journey began at Coal Harbour Brewing, which I’ve never been inside, as they don’t traditionally operate a tasting room. While they are in the process of changing that, it was great they opened the doors to the public and joined the rest of the neighbourhood for this event. While at Coal Harbour, I enjoyed free samples of their Rye Pale Ale, Mango Saison Cask and Smoke & Mirrors Imperial Smoked Ale, which is a favourite of the Sip Advisor. Drinkers could also pay $5 for a glass etched with Coal Harbour’s logo and a pour of beer.

Beer Glass Not Going to Work

Moving on, we travelled to Andina Brewing. This was another inaugural visit for me, as the company is one of the newest additions to the landscape. Hard to miss given it’s bright yellow exterior, we’d like to return and enjoy some South American food in their tasting room. On this stop, we tried their Session Ale, which was available in 12-ounce pours for $3.

Next up was Bomber Brewing, which came with a brief lineup, as they have a very limited capacity. The wait was worth it, though, as I was able to enjoy a pint of their Super Pest Double IPA with Pomegranate (7.5% ABV, 80 IBUs). They were also selling Girl Guide Cookies, so you can bet we snagged a box and feasted on the treats.

After finishing our drinks, we crossed the street to check out Off the Rail Brewing. There, you could buy drink tickets, good for either the SMASH Pale Ale or Raj Mahal India Ale. Mrs. Sip also purchased one of the cheese twists that are popular icons of BC craft breweries and pair ever so nicely with beer.

Girl Guide Cookies Box

Our final brewery stop was Luppolo Brewing, yet another first time seating for yours truly. We split a flight of their wares, comprised of the Agreste Wild Farmhouse Ale (which has recently become the company’s first bottled release), Belgian Blonde, Pale Ale and West Coast Farmhouse. Each variety brought something else to the game and was enjoyable to drink.

To sum up, we particularly liked the places that opened up their brewing spaces to accommodate more visitors. I know serving laws likely hindered some locales, but we weren’t willing to wait outside any operation that had a long lineup. This included some of our favourite places within the industry. While it was busy, we liked seeing so many people out and enjoying the neighbourhood. Of particular note, was how many babies were out with their parents, something Mrs. Sip and I will likely be doing when the 3rd annual Open House occurs in 2018.

Sip Trips #100: Easter Eggs (Part 2)

Part one of our Easter long weekend expedition to Las Vegas can be found here

Day three of our trip began with us finally buying some show tickets. With the task of having to redeem our seats – starting at Bally’s and then travelling all the way to the Luxor (Blue Man Group), before traversing nearly the entire strip and hitting Treasure Island (Cirque du Soleil: Mystère), then finally returning to The Linq… all while Mrs. Sip relaxed poolside – I knew I needed some good stiff drinks for the trek.

That was achieved by popping into the Fuel Bar, using one of their 2-for-1 drink coupons. For only $14, I was able to get two very strong Melon Mules, while enjoying the skilled flair bartenders. To say I set out on my expedition feeling good and fuzzy, would be an understatement!

Shut Up Liver

My arduous two-hour journey complete – to be fair, I actually like doing these missions… just don’t let Mrs. Sip know – I collected Mrs. Sip from the pool and we made our way to Hyde Lounge for drinks and the Bellagio fountains. I had wanted to order their Smore cocktail, but they were out of the Graham cracker rim. I settled for the Love Unit (Vodka, Vanilla Vodka, Thai Basil, Lime, Grapefruit, and Bell Pepper Juices), which was pretty good. I would also like to try their Mexican Hot Coffee in the future.

From there, it was off to see the Blue Man Group at the Luxor. This show was non-step energy and entertainment. I totally blue myself! Following the spectacle, we were given 2-for-1 drink coupons at the Centra bar, where we were able to mix and match some cocktails. I ended up with their Smoked Salt Margarita and Hrdara, which featured Jameson Whiskey.

Not content to end the night, we ventured to New York New York’s The Chocolate Bar, which had caught our eye a couple nights earlier. My beverage of choice was the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini (Castries Peanut Butter Rum, 360 Chocolate Vodka, Marie Brizard Chocolate Liqueur), which was every bit as decadent as it sounds.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

After a slow start to the next day, we took advantage of the Yard House’s weekday happy hour and grabbed a set of cheap appies: Buffalo Boneless Wings, California Roll, and Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds. To wash down all the delicious nibbles, I ordered a pint of the Ninkasi Tricerahops, which lived up to its awesome name.

Next up was our Cirque du Soleil: Mystère show, which combined a nice mix of acrobatics and comedy. Forgive me for going on a little rant, but I have to call out the loser who sat in front of us at the show. First, his family showed up after the opening act and then he proceeded to constantly turn his phone on and off throughout the show, even sending photos via messaging. The kicker was that he then left just minutes before the show was over, causing yet another disturbance. The phone constantly lighting up was so distracting and I wish Cirque would just outright ban the use of them at their presentations. Okay… breathe.

Not letting some asshole ruin our night, on our way back from the show, we passed The Piano Bar at Harrah’s. Noticing that their outside patio was open, we decided to watch some of the dueling pianos. I ended up ordering a bottle of Ballast Point IPA for a whopping $9, but at least I can justify the charge as part of being entertained.

Piano Lesson

Having always wanted to try eating at In-N-Out Burger and in need of a midnight snack, Mrs. Sip and I visited the location in the Linq’s Promenade area. We thought the burgers were decent and Mrs. Sip enjoyed a Chocolate Milkshake (seriously, she’s really into milkshakes and ice cream lately), but I found the name of the burger joint does give me some reservations.

On our last day, we decided to revisit our top choices from the trip. First, after enjoying the drinks and atmosphere so much, we returned to the Fuel Bar for a pair of Lynchburg Lemonades that made for a good day drunk buzz. For lunch, we revisited the PBR Rock Bar to repeat our usual menu selections, while also trying their House Made Chili, which was a very nice addition.

After a long walk along the strip, we popped into AmeriCAN for one last beverage. While I like their concept of offering largely canned craft beers, I think they will have to make some changes to survive in the uber competitive market. For example, there is no happy hour to speak of. Also, they don’t even offer guests water, instead trying to charge them $3 for a bottle. That is a cardinal sin in the Sip Advisor’s books. After being out of my first few choices, I selected the Joseph James Weize Guy Hefeweizen, which was quite refreshing, especially after our extensive walk in the Vegas sun.

That wrapped another amazing trip to Sin City. Given this is likely the last time Mrs. Sip and I will get to enjoy the adult Disneyland prior to kids arriving, I think we went out with a bang!

Sip Trips #99: Easter Eggs (Part 1)

The Easter long weekend found Mrs. Sip and me back in Las Vegas for another wonderful stay on the strip. With Mrs. Sip being pregnant, things are a little different than other vacations, but we still managed to have a ton of fun, despite her not being able to imbibe like the Sip Advisor.

This journey started with our Lyft driver offering to take us to the Total Wine store to pick up supplies. Not wanting to make her regret her very generous offer, I raced around the store grabbing some provisions, such as a bottle of Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum and a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo Tropical IPA. Mrs. Sip bought a couple non-alcoholic items, but I don’t think either the beers or wine were much of a hit with her.

Non-Alcoholic-Vodka

After dropping off our luggage and buying some walking drinks (Coconut Water for the well-behaved Mrs. Sip), we decided to go for lunch at what has become our traditional first meal landing spot: the PBR Rock Bar. We promptly ordered our favourite dishes in the Doritos Crusted Mac N Cheese for Mrs. Sip and Bucking Bull Fries for moi. Mrs. Sip added a plate of their Cornbread Muffins, just to spice things up.

Given we had stayed up all night, driving from Vancouver to Seattle to fly out early Friday morning, both of us were in the need of a little nap. Staying at The Linq, this was easier said than done, given our room looked out onto the hotel pool and made sleeping difficult throughout the stay, thanks to the 9am-6pm thumping music. I’d stay at the resort again, but request a room as far away from the pool as possible.

Once we did get some rest in, we returned to the strip at night, capitalizing on the free burger coupons we were given in February for the Shake Shack. We both went with the Shack Burger option and split a serving of their Bacon BBQ Cheddar Fries. To drink, I tried the Shackmeister Pale Ale, while Mrs. Sip satisfied her frozen dessert craving with a Peanut Butter Chocolate Shake.

cats-with-milkshake

We wrapped up the night sitting outside the Bar at Times Square, enjoying the dueling pianos with a drink (at least for the Sip Advisor), before Mrs. Sip needed to catch up on some more sleep.

The next morning, it was time to see what all the fuss and thumping was about at the hotel pool. In between tanning, cooling off and people watching, I did hit the bar. I elected to try the Cucumber Kick cocktail (Sauza Cucumber Chili Tequila, Watermelon-Cucumber Juice, Lime, Cucumbers), which was pretty tasty. I did get upsold to the $24 souvenir glass version, which did come in handy for later walks with my previously-purchased supplies.

For dinner, we made our way to the Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops and put our names in at The Cheesecake Factory. With only a short wait to endure, we were quickly sat down. I really enjoyed my Southern Fried Chicken Sliders, paired with a Great Basin Icky IPA, while Mrs. Sip went with the Avocado Toast. The meals provided a decent amount of leftovers, which we were actually able to take away for a change, as The Linq has very rare fridges in their rooms.

Back in the room for the night and halfway through our vacation, this seems like a good point to wrap up part one of our trip summary. Join us tomorrow for part two, highlighted by shows and sips!