Best New Bottled Beer | Best of Chicago 2012 | Food & Drink | Chicago Reader

Best New Bottled Beer 

Pipeworks Brewing's Ninja vs. Unicorn Double IPA

I've been banging the drum for Pipeworks, the nanobrewery founded by Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, for more than two years now—ever since I sampled their Russian imperial stout, Abduction, at the Goose Island Stout Fest in March 2010. I wrote about their Kickstarter campaign that December, and for the Reader's 2011 Best of Chicago issue I declared them the Best Craft Brewery That Doesn't Exist Yet. Well, now Pipeworks exists: they've got a brewery at 1675 N. Western (where their bottle shop will open late this summer, if city bureaucracy allows), and in late February 2012 their beer finally started hitting shelves. (I've spotted it at several Binny's locations, W Grocer, and West Lakeview Liquors.) At press time they'd shipped nine varieties (no Abduction yet!), and based on the four I've tried, my faith in Oslon and Lewis was well placed. My favorite is the Ninja vs. Unicorn Double IPA, so far bottled once per month. Brewed with more than five pounds of hops per barrel, it has a pleasantly funky and fruity aroma dominated by peach, mango, and pineapple. The malts are light and sweet, with a touch of scorched caramel that's not quite drowned out by a flood of red grapefruit, dried apricot, pine resin, and blood orange—and of course a punishing, persistent bitterness from all those hops. Ninja vs. Unicorn belongs in a class with Three Floyds' infamous Dreadnaught, currently rated the 46th best beer in the world at Beer Advocate—and it's cheaper, too!

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