Sip Trips #86: Best of 2016

Each year, the Sip Advisor fondly looks back at the best drinking nights (in order of occurrence) of the previous calendar… at least what he can remember of them. Join us as we take a moment to dissect and celebrate 2016:

Libational Learning

When a night ends with the Sip Advisor passing out on the couch, sans clothing, you know it’s been a good one! The Science of Cocktails extravaganza was a fascinating and booze-fueled evening. We wanted to return this year, but Mrs. Sip has a trial starting the next day, so that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. #Responsibilities

Family Day Festivities

Over the Family Day long weekend, the Sip Alliance explored both the Fraser Valley and North Vancouver craft beer regions, hitting more than a dozen locations. Many of these, were first time stops for our group and it opened our eyes to all the wonders that exist outside of Vancouver.

family-time

Crawling Around

Just one day after the Portland Beer & Wine Festival, we were back at it, hitting the streets of the City of Roses and searching out some of its most popular breweries. Over the course of the day, we worked our way through a half dozen tasting rooms. Eventually, we ended the journey with an Easter-themed burlesque show and Voodoo Doughnuts… because why the hell not!?

Lion City Leisure

With three nights in Singapore to start our five-week Asian adventure, we decided to spend one of those nights at the swanky Marina Bay Sands. Our hotel package included their evening happy hour, which in true Mr. and Mrs. Sip fashion, we rocked until they kindly asked us to leave. We followed this with swimming in the resort’s rooftop pool, 63 floors above the city.

The Happiest of Valleys

The fun didn’t stop there, as our cruise made a two-day stop in the vibrant city that is Hong Kong. This allowed us the chance to enjoy some nightlife, helped along by Mrs. Sip having a few friends living in the city. Coincidentally, it was also Wednesday race night at the Happy Valley Racetrack. Over a couple pitchers of beer, the Sip Advisor even picked a winning horse and took home a small prize.

horse-racing-for-rich-people

So Many Options

Arriving in Tokyo, Japan, we chose to stay near the Golden Gai district of the city. For those unfamiliar with the area, it is home to approximately 300 little bars, within a six-block radius. Our exploration led us into a few uniquely-themed watering holes, such as the one centered around horror movie and metal music cultures.

Drinking Sky High

Our fun in Tokyo didn’t stop there. The moment Mrs. Sip discovered that this attraction existed, we knew it would be a highlight of our stay in the city. At the Park Hyatt, their Peak Bar offered visitors the chance to drink all-inclusive during sunset hours, while looking down at the bustling city below, from the 41st floor. We ended up sitting next to a couple from Australia and spent the night drinking with them, as I challenged the bartender to make me her best drink with each different alcohol available.

Tipping N’ Tasting

Among my favourite annual beer festivals is the Tip N’ Taste event in Langley. It provides a chance to sample brews from companies based more in the Fraser Valley region of BC, as well as other entries from around the province. This year, we stayed overnight at the Convention Centre Hotel, which hosted the event. That meant the after party quickly moved to our room!

beer-crisper

Island Wedding

While on Prince Edward Island for a friend’s wedding, Mrs. Sip and I were introduced to a number of great people, who we partied away the weekend with. Following a meet-and-greet barbecue on the eve of the wedding, we accompanied our new associates back into Charlottetown for an impromptu night on the town, which ended much later than we had anticipated.

All You Need is Love

The Made with Love cocktail competition has become an annual tradition (three years running) for Mrs. Sip and I. It’s always a fun night out, trying the drinks of some of Vancouver’s most popular bartenders. Best of all, we get to play a role in picking the winning entry, although none of our personal favourites ever seem to come out on top.

Cruise Credits

To celebrate Sis-in-Law Sip’s birthday, we booked a one-day cruise from Seattle to Vancouver. Over the course of the evening, the Sip Advisor took in parts of four bottles of wine, a half-dozen beers, a couple cocktails, and a bottle of bubbly to boot, won through a ‘Finish the Song Lyrics’ quiz.

cruise-captain-morgan

Irish Blessings

Over the last couple years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have celebrated my birthday in Hawaii, aboard a cruise ship, in Southern Africa, and now Ireland – although it was a couple days after the actual date. The Sip Syndicate was along for this ride and we celebrated in true Irish style with shots of Jameson Whiskey and pints of Guinness.

Fear and Loathing

Our trips to Disneyland nowadays typically include enjoying the sights and sounds (and lines) of the park with a cold beer or glass of wine in hand. In October, we were also primed for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, which involves getting a good buzz going, prior to entering. Once that was accomplished, all we had to deal with was psycho killer clowns, a rogue’s gallery of baddies and even some Jabbawockeez!

Award Season

My first year attending one of BC’s best craft beer shindigs proved why I had missed out in previous years. Unable to attend because of vacations and other commitments, we finally made it to the BC Beer Awards, where the Sip Advisor was able to sample about 20 different beers from the wonderful breweries that make up the province’s craft industry.

awards-season

Diamond Celebration

To commemorate Ma Sip’s 60th birthday, the entire family ventured to Disneyland, which also recently celebrated the same milestone. Mrs. Sip’s aunt also had her 50th birthday on that weekend, so there was much to revel in. That included a fair bit of drinking at the park and in our hotel rooms, as we made the change from day to night wear.

Traditional Tidings

To celebrate Christmas this year, the Sip Family stayed in Leavenworth, Washington, which is famous for being a little slice of Bavaria, hidden in the mountains. The town is a haven for Christmas lovers, and it’s here that we explored the many wine tasting rooms, a couple breweries and exuded as much festive spirit as one is allowed to, by law.

2016 was an amazing year… at least drinking wise. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has to offer, even though it has quite a bit to live up to!

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Sip Trips #62: Portlandia

As the Sip Advisor and company packed up to celebrate the Easter weekend in Portland, we knew we were in for good times, but I’m still amazed at how many good beers I was able to cram into the short time.

Following a nice dinner at Mama Mia Trattoria (where I had a delicious Boneyard RPM IPA) on our first night, the Sip Alliance made our way to Tugboat Brewing, which claims to be Portland’s smallest craft brewery. There, we sampled each of Tugboat’s three own beers, as well as ordered some from their guest taps from around the state. As we enjoyed our beers, we were able to play one of the bars many board games, chat with the knowledgeable and jovial barkeep Linsel, and just take in the Portland scene.

Italian-Food

The Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest is the main event of this yearly pilgrimage and while this year featured a mix of ups and downs, we all still had a great time. The first issue came as we tried to redeem our tickets. We each purchased the VIP package add-on, to go with the regular entry ticket bundle. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the ticket takers weren’t really trained on what kind of tickets they should expect to see, as it took a team of two to figure out that we had paid for both packages. With the regular ticket, visitors get entrance to the festival, a souvenir glass and 10 tokens. The VIP package provided an additional six VIP tickets to use on an advertised 20 special items.

Speaking of those special items, there only ended up being about a dozen to choose from, mostly comprised of cheeses and chocolates. One of the bonus beer items I had my heart set on was already unavailable, despite us all showing up at the very start of the second day.

In the end, it seemed as if there was absolutely no benefit to the VIP package and serious changes should be made to that option for next year, or it should be abandoned entirely. Admittedly, the Sip Advisor and Mrs. Sip ended up trading our VIP tickets in for normal tokens, just to get something out of them.

VIP NOT

Not to harp on the event too much, but one other disappointment from the festival was the elimination of info/pairing seminars. These have been a highlight of our past visits to the Beer & Wine Fest and I really hope they are brought back.

Okay, enough of the negatives, let’s finish with some positives. I tried a number of very good beers over the afternoon, including wares from StormBreaker, Snipes Mountain, Leikam, Coin Toss, Gilgamesh, Krauski, Unicorn, Elysian, Lompoc, Rusty Truck, Old Town, Natian, and Sai What.

My choice for best booth of the show was the Thomas & Sons Distillery, where Mrs. Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and I spent a fair bit of time tasting each of the company’s tea-based liqueurs (I was particularly enamoured with their Smoke Tea Liqueur). This is where I used my one and only VIP ticket, trying their Boilermaker collaboration with Planktown Brewing. We also purchased one of Thomas & Sons liqueur sample packs for future cocktail experimenting.

Tea Kitty

The following day, we hit the town for a Portland brewery crawl, making our way to five different locations and experiencing the city’s public transportation (day passes were only $5!). Our first stop was Breakside Brewing, which has a few products that can be found on our side of the border. Mrs. Sip and I shared a flight of tasters, with my favourite being their Salted Caramel Stout.

Stop number two was Old Town Brewing, which we conveniently drove by en route to Breakside. Here, we ordered another flight, which was comprised of eight different beers. The tops among them for me, were the Law & Porter and Paulie’s Not Irish Red.

From there, we ditched the vehicles and hit public transport, where we first ventured to Burnside Brewing. I had another really good beer here, the Too Sticky To Roll India Red Ale. Next up, was Hair of the Dog, where I had their Adam beer, the brewery’s very first release. They even have servings available of that inaugural brew from 1994… which will only set you back $1500 (they call it the most sought after beer in the world).

Public Transit  Weird People

We then rushed to our dinner reservation at Der Rheinlander, where our ravenous group destroyed as much schnitzel as possible to go along with some great German beers. The only disappointment here was that two of us ordered a “boot” of beer and were simply served giant mugs. That’s what I call flagrant false advertising!

As we arrived at Der Rhinelander, Mrs. Sip spotted Laurelwood Brew Pub just up the street, so we decided to pop in following our meal. Here, we had another awesome server, who took care of all our beer needs, while also charging a couple of our phones and setting us up with an Uber ride back downtown. I enjoyed their Rando IPA #11, while playing with their set-up meant for small children.

The night ended with some burlesque at Dante’s Sinferno Cabaret. While watching a number of crazy acts, I took advantage of Dante’s decently priced line-up of Portland-based beers. Before officially packing it in, we also managed a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, which provided breakfast the next morning.

Before you knew it, it was time to return home. This weekend looks to be a little quieter, but every time I venture to say that, we end up going all out and comes across more than enough to document.

Sip Trips #2 – Best of 2014

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

#1: Dominican Republic

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

#2: New York

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

#3: Portland Beer & Wine Fest

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

Portland Guide

#4: Edmonton Airport

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

#5: Hamburg Garden Party

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

#6: Self-Guided Vancouver Brewery Tour Weekend

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

#7: Made with Love

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

Bartender Juice

#8: Las Vegas Strip Drinking

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

#9: Surprise Birthday

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

#10: Birthday Cruise Embarkation

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

#11: Dave & Busters

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

GIFSec.com

#12: Bellingham Visit

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

#13: Canucks game in Anaheim

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

#14: Hawaii

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

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