Sip Trips #165: European Escape (Part 2)

After stops in London and Sicily to start our European vacation, we made our way to Malta for the final leg of the getaway. Promptly upon arriving in the country, we collected our rental vehicles and drove to the ferry, transporting ourselves to the sub-island of Gozo. After boarding the ferry, Mrs. Sip retrieved a can of Hopleaf Pale Ale for me, as I waited with a sleeping Baby Sip.

For dinner that evening, we went to the Zebbug Rovers Bar & Grill. Here, I enjoyed the Zebbug Rovers Special pizza (topped with chicken, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni, sausage and BBQ sauce drizzle) with a large serving of Paulaner Weissbier.

The next day, after checking out some of the sites around Gozo, we stopped for lunch at the seaside Churchill Restaurant. For our meal, I enjoyed a Grilled Angus Burger, along with a glass of House Rose. Afterwards, upon being challenged, I performed a near-perfect cannonball into the adjacent Xlendi Bay!

cannonball

Our big stop the following afternoon was a visit to Lord Chambray Brewery. Thanks to a group effort, we all got to try everything they had on tap, with my pint selection being the Sun Blas English IPA. Other favourites included the Fungus Rock Stout and Blue Lagoon Belgian Wheat.

That evening, we managed to finally get our hands on the final two episodes of Game of Thrones – as well as a TV we could view them on – and sat back to enjoy the spectacle. My enjoyment was enhanced by the addition of beers such as the 8.6 Original Intense Blonde Beer, which I became a big fan of during the Maltese portion of our trip.

The next day, we were off to the main island of Malta, staying in the marina area. On our first night, we had a late dinner at the nearby Mamma Mia, known for their Chicken Dippers meal, which was very, very good and really hit the spot after another long day of driving and sightseeing. A pitcher of Cisk Lager was a nice, if not underwhelming, accompaniment to the feast.

pitcher longer

Our next attraction was the walled city of Mdina, where we had lunch at the Palazzo de Piro Café. My Clubhouse Sandwich was unique in that it included boiled egg, but that didn’t detract from the meal. We also split a bottle of Medina Sauvignon Blanc to wash down our food.

Next up, was a visit to Meridiana Winery, where for 12 Euros, we received a four-glass tasting, including the vineyard’s Isis Chardonnay, Fenici Rose, Nexus Merlot, Melqart Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. With a bottle of the rose coming home with us, we can recreate the serene experience anytime we want.

To celebrate the return of our rental cars and no longer having to drive, we had another late dinner at Uncle Matt’s Kitchen. There, I had another meaty pizza with the Chicken Farm option. A tall can of Blue Label Amber Ale and glass of house rose completed the feast.

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We next explored Valletta, the capital of Malta. Our day of exploring ended with drinks at the 200-year-old Caffe Cordina, where I drank a bottle of Farsons Double Red Ale. Baby Sip liked the stop, as she got to chase birds in the small square, as well as receive numerous packs of cookies from the servers.

On our last day, we bought tickets for Malta’s hop-on, hop-off bus. Our main stop was the Marsaxlokk Fishing Village, where we explored and dined at Carrubia, along the waterfront. Mrs. Sip and I weren’t very hungry, but shared a really good breaded cod and chips plate. The restaurant also offered free bruschetta for the table. A bottle of Green Label Delicata made the picturesque spot a perfect ending to the journey.

As mentioned earlier, Alaska is up next, a cruise I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I’m hoping to get some breweries in while there and the typical cruise ship shenanigans are bound to occur. I’ve made it my goal to hit at least one saloon in each port, so that should make things interesting!

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Sip Trips #164: European Escape (Part 1)

The Sip Family has wrapped our seemingly annual trek to Europe and have a few days to recover and repack for our next adventure aboard an Alaskan cruise. With so little time at hand, let’s get right to the wrap-up of our most recent crossing of the pond. Part one, will look at our stops in London and Sicily:

Our group of three couples, three babies and two grandmas began our travels in London. On our first evening, weary from the journey, we ventured to The Spencer Pub, located near our Airbnb. Despite the rest of the group each ordering Fish & Chips, I was craving a beef burger. It was delicious and a good choice, although no one was complaining about their meal. To pair with the dinner, I ordered a pint of Watney’s Sarcasm Citrus Pale Ale, which was tasty.

proper pub

After a night’s rest, we visited Windsor Castle. Following a self-guided tour of the grounds, we popped into the Tower Tea Room at the Harte and Garter Hotel & Spa, as the ladies wanted to enjoy an afternoon tea. Being the only guy in the group, I didn’t have much choice, but made the best of the situation, ordering a bottle of Windsor & Eton Guardsman Best Bitter.

With all our group finally amassed, including friends living in London, our next endeavour took us to Hampton Court. The day began with a meal at The Bishop Pub, where I enjoyed a Buttermilk Chicken Burger and pint of Meantime London Pale Ale. I always marvel at how low the alcohol percentage is on beers in London with it being rare to see something surpass 5%. Certainly not what I’m used to at home.

With babies in tow and the girls wanting to see a theatre production, the guys spent a night in on the Saturday, while we would get our turn out on Sunday (on Mother’s Day of all days). We took full advantage of our evening though, stocking up on beers to be enjoyed. My brews included Camden Hells Lager, Gipsy Hill & Yeastie Boys Bogan Bogan Double IPA, Drygate Disco Fork Lift Truck Mango Pale Ale, Drygate Gladeye IPA and Vocation Pride & Joy Pale Ale.

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To celebrate Mother’s Day, we convened at Ting in the infamous Shard building for their Shangri-La Royal High Tea. To start, Mrs. Sip and I ordered one of each of their cocktails, which included the Little Miss Royal (vodka, ratafia, isake classic and egg white) and The Little Prince (gin, blue curacao, pineapple, lemon and pastis glacial mint). These drinks were very boozy, which turned some of our group off, but that’s just the way I like my libations.

Then, it was time for the guys to take off and watch the end of the English Premier League season. My two comrades are Liverpool supporters and picked The Comedy Pub to watch the games amongst fellow fans. There, we drank quite a bit, remaining at the bar well after the crowds cleared. Over the session, I tried pints of the Camden Pale Ale and Doombar Amber Ale.

Our next stop was Waxy O’Connors, which is a very cool place with multiple levels and nooks buried underneath the city. After a few more rounds, we decided some food was in order and stopped at the nearest Pizza Hut (cause we’re classy like that) for a couple pies and, you guessed it, even more beers!

pizza hut

The next day, we were off to Sicily, Italy for the second leg of our journey. After a day of travel and some settling in to our place, we went for a late dinner at Ristorante Borgo dell’Etna. There, I enjoyed a serving of their Pasta al Ragu, while a few of us split an 8-Euro litre of house white wine. Gotta love Italian vino pricing!

On day two, we visited the city of Taormina. Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily that day (as it did nearly every day of our Italy stay, despite our friend’s guidebook saying it rarely rained in Sicily), so we took refuge at La Cisterna del Moro. With a great view, I dined on a scrumptious Calzone Saporito (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke), paired with a half-litre Moretti Rossa beer.

Day three in Sicily finally brought mostly good weather, so we partook in wine tastings at both Firriato Winery and Gambino Vini. Both places had their own charms and we very much enjoyed this day, which offered some easier road circumstances for us drivers. Baby Sip also liked running around the ground, collecting corks and pinecones.

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On our final day in Sicily, we booked a Godfather Tour, as a number of scenes from the trilogy were filmed around the island. Getting off to a rough start, due to more inclement weather and traffic gridlock, a portion of our tour was altered from an outdoor wine tasting to a meal at Il Padrino Restaurant. There, we were served about 15 different seafood dishes, with my favourites being shrimp in thousand island dressing and breaded mussels. The desserts were also nice, accompanied by homemade Limoncello, Grappa and Amaro, which you could pour as much as you wanted for yourself. The tour wrapped with a stop in the village of Savoca, where we enjoyed a couple beers to end the day.

Taking advantage of our beautiful Airbnb property, we did a few meals in, enjoying a number of Italian beers and wines to unwind after each busy day of sightseeing. My selection included: Cavaliers Birra Speciale Rossa Artigianale; Arcana Golden Ale, Red Ale and White Ale; Patronus Weissbier; Birotti Weissbier; and Briere De Haute Fermentation La Blonde De Ch’nord, which was my favourite of the bunch.

Upon leaving Italy for Malta (part two of this Sip Trips review), I bought a bottle of Fuoco dell’Etna at the airport, lured in by the bottle’s design which looks like a volcano has erupted (complete with a rocky texture), as well as the liqueur’s 50% alcohol percentage. The booze is supposed to include flavours such as strawberry, citrus and Sicilian herbs, so I’m looking forward to experimenting.

Sip Trips #131: Strip Show (Part 2)

Part two of our travels to Las Vegas began with the holiest of drinking days: St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve actually celebrated the holiday in Dublin, Ireland, but being in Las Vegas was sure to be unique in its own way. We began the day with cracking open a few Guinness Nitro IPAs from the six-pack I bought at Walmart as we were out the day before. The beers were an interesting blend of a smooth and non-carbonated, yet hoppy ale.

Our first stop of the day was Ketchup Premium Burger Bar, to use the Groupon we had purchased prior to our trip. Our $10 got us $20 worth of food and drinks. With beverages already in hand (and more chilling in Baby Sip’s stroller!), we elected to go with a few food items, such as their Bacon Cheese Fries, Pretzel Bites and Crunch Dog. I was particularly fond of the fries, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed the hotdog.

As we travelled around the Miracle Mile Shops, we passed Sin City Brewing, which was serving up green beers to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Since this was something Mrs. Sip and I wanted to check off our list for the day, I grabbed us a pair of 24oz German Weisse Beers, which was a great way to enjoy the odd tradition.

Green Beer

After some more exploring, we had a late dinner Dick’s Last Resort in the Excalibur. This restaurant boasts servers that will treat you with contempt, as well as an eclectic food menu. Using a dining credit we had for staying at the resort, we ordered their Wicked Gator alligator bites, BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos and Crabby Balls with fries. To drink, I selected the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. The alligator bites were particularly awesome and it’s no wonder the chain is known for this menu item.

The next day, we snagged last-minute tickets (through StubHub) to the Vegas Golden Knights game versus the Calgary Flames. We had always hoped to attend this contest, but when we first saw tickets for only $45 each, we hadn’t taken Baby Sip to a hockey game yet and weren’t sure how she’d handle the experience. Once we knew she’d be okay, prices to Golden Knights games had drastically risen, thanks to the team’s success. So we bided our time and when seats popped up for only $40 an hour before puck drop, we jumped. The 4-0 Vegas win, hat trick by William Karlsson and shutout for Marc-Andre Fleury made for one hell of a contest. All NHL teams should study the Golden Knights in-game experience, which is something I will never forget.

While we didn’t indulge in any drinks at the game, as we were returning to our hotel, we passed by the Pour 24 bar in New York New York, with Mrs. Sip spotting an ad for their own Golden Knights Game-Day Beer. This ended up being a delicious 16oz serving from Hop Nuts Brewing, which I believe was their The Golden Knight Belgian Golden Strong Ale, but I could be mistaken.

Golden Knights Bandwagon

As we ventured out into the night again, we had to pick up some more formula for Baby Sip. After all, she’s allowed to enjoy some beverages just like mommy and daddy. As we shopped, I picked up another walking beer, this time a pint of Oskar Blues Brewing Dale’s Pale Ale. At the checkout, Mrs. Sip spotted a bottle of Kona Longboard Lager for only 99 cents, so we added that to our basket, as well.

We enjoyed these beverages en route to PBR Rock Bar. No Vegas vacation is complete for me and Mrs. Sip without a stop here. Sadly, the Doritos Crusted Mac N Cheese that I have raved about in past Sip Trips is no longer on the menu, replaced by Bacon Mac & Cheese Balls, which are equally delicious. Our other favourite menu item, the Bucking Bull Fries have also been adapted, now including a fried egg. This may be the best serving I have had of these fries, thus far. To drink, I cashed in a 2-for-1 offer Mrs. Sip had picked up earlier to receive a couple servings of Hop Valley Citrus Mistress IPA. The large serving was very tasty and lasted for a while.

After having such a good meal last time we were in town, we next made our way to The Cheesecake Factory for some dessert. Mrs. Sip ordered the Fresh Basil, Tomato and Cheese Flatbread for a small bite, while we agreed we had to try the Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake. This delicious and decadent treat features caramel, peanut butter, Butterfinger bits and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Cheesecake Love

For a nightcap on the evening, we popped into the Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan, home to a drink I just had to try after hearing about it. The Verbena Cocktail is a hidden menu item that just has to be tried by anyone who fancies interesting drinks. It is by far the most interesting beverage experience I’ve ever had, as my entire mouth was first number by chewing on the Sichuan flower. The drink then changes in taste and flavours as your taste buds are incredibly sensitive and feel like they’re actually growing back. I will be back to try it again, despite the high price when converted into Canadian dollars.

Sadly, the time to return home had finally come, but we had time for one more great experience at Lilia’s Mexican Cuisine & Cantina in Bellingham, Washington. My order of Tacos Al Pastor was wonderful. Just as fantastic was my beer selection of Iron Horse Quilter’s Irish Death Dark Smooth Ale, which was on special for just $4.

In closing, my main goal with this vacation was to disprove an article we read prior to our trip where a mother proclaimed that people should not travel to Las Vegas with babies. Sure, the trip could have been different, perhaps even easier, but I wouldn’t trade in the time we shared together for anything.

Sip Trips #130: Strip Show (Part 1)

Well, it’s back to reality after our recent trip to Las Vegas. The town is definitely a little different with Baby Sip in tow, but we still managed to have an amazing time. Here is part one of our experiences from the strip and beyond:

Mrs. Sip was already in the city, having left a few days before me for a girl’s trip. That meant I was flying solo with Baby Sip for the first time and while she was pretty well-behaved on the flight, it was still an exhausting experience. When I arrived, I was in desperate need of a drink and Mrs. Sip must have read my mind. As we met up, she had a bottle of Victory Brewing Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel in hand for me. At least I had a limited edition New York Cheesecake Kit Kat Chunky to surprise her with, in return.

Kit Kat Chunky

Next up was grabbing a walking beer, which I enjoyed as we dined at Il Fornaio within New York New York. Following dinner, we visited The Chocolate Bar for some dessert cocktails. I selected the Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel Martini, while Mrs. Sip chose the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini. Both drinks were pure decadence and very boozy. We were feeling pretty buzzed after these beverages, but the night wasn’t over yet.

One girl from our group had money to be used at Nine Fine Irishmen, so she ordered as many drinks as would cover the credit. From this collection, I picked out a pint of Blue Moon, which I then enjoyed while watching the dueling pianos show from outside the Bar at Times Square. A fine way to end my and Baby Sip’s first day in Sin City.

As the girls went off to enjoy their last night together, I took Baby Sip back to our room, stopping for a road beer along the way. I didn’t get to immediately enjoy my New Belgium Brewing Dayblazer Easygoing Ale, thanks to my aforementioned fatigue and Baby Sip needing to be put to bed, so it made for a great first treat the next morning.

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The beer was enjoyed as Mrs. Sip and I went to ride the High Roller in one of their Happy Half Hour (Open Bar in the Sky) cabins. Mrs. Sip’s girl group had done this a few days earlier, but one of their crew chose not to use her ticket. That ticket was then given to me, with Mrs. Sip picking up another one for herself through Expedia for $35. This made our experience very reasonable when split between the two of us.

As for the ride itself, it was a lot of fun. Our bartender was very personable, although with the constant drinking and chatting, I had to remind myself to take in the view, as well. Mrs. Sip had consumed five drinks during her first ride, so my goal was to top her personal best and I did so with six beverages. These were all simple mixes, such as rum and cola and gin and lemon-lime soda, but we were also allowed one shot each, with the bartender serving up a round of tequila-Chambord shooters. Wine and beer was also available onboard, as well as a variety of sodas and juices, covering all the bases. Riders were allowed to leave with one drink at the end of the revolution.

As if we hadn’t drank enough already, we rejoined the girls – who were looking after Baby Sip because she wasn’t allowed to ride with us – and popped into the Fuel Bar, home to amazing flair bartenders and boozy 2-for-1 cocktails. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the place was packed with a bunch of guys smoking in the small space. As I waited outside with Baby Sip, the girls grabbed drinks, with Mrs. Sip selecting a pair of Mai Tais for us. The rest of the afternoon was spent riding the wave of our buzzes, while I added to mine with a pint of Founder’s Brewing All Day IPA Session Ale, as well as working on a bottle of New Amsterdam Vodka the girls hadn’t finished, implementing a variety of mixers.

Water and Vodka

For dinner that night, we visited Mon Ami Gabi, figuring we’d be able to get a fancier meal in while Baby Sip napped in her stroller. No such luck, as she has a habit of waking up as we’re about to eat. Luckily, we had a very helpful and understanding server, as well as restaurant manager. We split the restaurant’s Chilled Seafood Platter (lobster, jumbo shrimp, oysters, and salmon), paired with a bottle Vidal-Fleury Viognier. The meal wasn’t cheap, but it was nice to treat ourselves on this special occasion of Mrs. Sip being able to have the platter again, which she couldn’t do when we last visited Vegas while she was pregnant.

To prove we here at The Sip Advisor are not all about getting hammered, we spent our third day travelling to the Valley of Fire State Park (via rental car) to do the scenic drive the area is famous for. We weren’t able to do any of the small hikes, as Baby Sip fell asleep and we didn’t want to disturb her, but the sights were amazing and the drive was a nice break away from the strip. Part two of our travels will look at St. Patrick’s Day spent in Las Vegas among other shenanigans!

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!

Sip Trips #125: San Diego Sipping (Part 1)

Mrs. Sip, Baby Sip and I spent most of the month of February in San Diego County, which meant a lot of craft breweries, a few wineries and other adventures. Here’s part one of our experiences:

Upon arriving, we did some grocery shopping to stock up on supplies. While deciding on a case of beer, Mrs. Sip came across the New Belgium Blend Like A Brewer Variety Pack. This set has an amazing concept with a recipe guide that allows drinkers to blend the six beers (Black Lager, Sour Ale, Belgian White, Tangerine IPA, Belgian Dubbel, and Belgian Trippel) that comprise the case to make some very good mixes. Our favourite was the Monk’s Pajamas, which combined the Belgian Dubbel and Black Lager. I would get this pack again, just to do my own experimenting.

Abs Craft Beer

The resort we were staying at offered a weekly craft beer tasting, followed by pub trivia. We attended the tasting once, which allowed for a sampling of six different beers for $12. The brews offered were Belching Beaver Me So Honey Blonde Ale, Mother Earth Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale, Latitude 33 Blood Orange IPA, Novo Brazil The Mango Beer, Ballast Point Mocha Marlin Porter, and Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout. This was a great introduction to the San Diego craft beer scene, some breweries which I was familiar with and others I was not.

Following the tasting, we won the pub trivia, earning us a prize pack that included a bomber of one of the beers we had just tasted. We selected the Belching Beaver Me So Honey Blonde Ale. The next two weeks, we would also come out on top at trivia, earning us bottles of AleSmith My Bloody Valentine Ale and Coronado Orange Ave Wit.

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A few days later, we travelled across the US-Mexico border into Tijuana for the craft beer tour we had arranged with Border Tours. Once we made it to downtown Tijuana, we hit four different breweries, getting to enjoy a flight or pint at each. The breweries included Norte, Border Psycho, Teorema/Ludica, and Mamut. We also stopped for delicious goat meat street tacos in the middle of the tour, which made sure we didn’t end up too blitzed. The tour cost us $108 each, after getting a special discount through the vendor. A Groupon for the tour also exists. Mrs. Sip and I both recommend the company, who provided us with a knowledgeable guide and was always quick to respond to any questions we had.

At this point, our vacation was just ramping up. In part two of our travels, we continue to explore San Diego County, including a self-guided craft beer tour for Valentine’s Day and a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo!