Successful breweries start with a vision, and so Pipeworks began its life as a mental manifestation in the minds of Gerrit Lewis and Beejay Oslon as they stood in line during Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Day in 2008. Oslon quit his job at West Lakeview Liquors when he secured an apprenticeship at De Struise Brewery in Belgium, where he trained with brewer Urbain Coutteau for three months.
The two eventually embarked on a killer Kickstarter campaign, raising $40,000 and doubling that figure with Paypal donations. In March 2012, four years of preparation culminated to a five-year lease on North Western Avenue in Chicago. Lewis and Oslon began brewing with their proposed gypsy-brewery model of brewing every beer once and in limited quantities. The model worked extremely well; today, Pipeworks beers fly off store shelves at cutthroat speeds. And it’s not all just hype: we tried four of Pipeworks' DIPAs to prove otherwise.
We’re rooting for the unicorn, because let’s face it: magical rainbows beat shurikens (that's a Japanese sword, for those who don't know anything about ninjas) any day. Pipeworks’ first-ever gypsy brew is a barrage of mythical hops; Centennal, Flaconner’s Flight, Zythos, Cascade, Chinook and several more comprise this unfiltered beast. The pour is a murky cider-like hue, hazy and furtive. The nose pierces the senses with massive hop aromas that overshadow the citrus fruit aromas. The palate doesn't disappoint: resinous and thick, with a smack of pine and citrus. Don’t take Ninja Vs. Unicorn lightly -- it will wreck your palate, and you will love it.
Pipeworks’ hop-showcasing bombers aren’t all single-hopped, like this Michigan-hopped beer, but each exhibit their own distinguishable characteristics. Pouring a lightly carbonated and murky amber color, the faint nose of the Cascade Ninja gives off a sugary sweet, honey-like and subdued hop aroma. The palate gives way to a smooth, refreshingly bitter mouthfeel, but although Pipeworks’ hoppy essence lingers in the bowls of Cascade Ninja, the hops are comparatively reserved.
The darkest of the ninjas (and thus most likely to sneak up on you undetected), Centennial Ninja pours a murky amber, nearly brown hue. The nose gives off a mildly fruity, resinous aroma, but like a deceiving ninja disguise, Centennial pulls off its mask to reveal a cold, sharp and smooth mouthfeel, with an earthy, bitter body and a hint of roastiness.
Simcoe Ninja hides in plain sight, showcasing its chief hop on all fronts. Yet it still is able to strike anybody who dares take it for granted with a one-two punch of hops. True to the unfiltered nature of its ninja brethren, Simcoe pours a hazy honey orange. Sticking to its hoppy roots, a tropical fruit aroma punctuated by an intense piney hoppiness wafts from the glass. The palate is smooth and intense, with thick, resinous hops cascading down the tongue. It's balanced out with a caramel malt presence. This brew is at the forefront of today’s hop-showcasing trifecta of ninjas.