With all of the craft beers there are to choose from these days, drinkers have to be selective with their palates — and their wallets. It’s easy to spend a paycheck nabbing up all the latest releases. Likewise, it’s easy to get burned out on an old favorite once it becomes available a lot more often than when a brewery was still in its relative infancy. It’s always fun to go back and revisit those beers you haven’t had in a while, and that’s what we’re doing here.
Almost two years ago, Paste News Editor Jim Vorel first reviewed Pipeworks Ninja Vs. Unicorn. Back then, the Chicago-based brewery was bottling this double IPA in 22-ounce bombers on a regular basis throughout the year. As he noted in his review, Ninja Vs. Unicorn is probably the closest thing Pipeworks has to a flagship. In the two years since, the beer has made the transition from large-format bottles to four-packs of 16-ounce cans. Along with this 8.0% percent IPA, the brewery also cans six other beers, ranging in style from a hoppy stout to a Mosaic-hopped pale ale and two session brews.
Ninja Vs. Unicorn pours a golden orange color with a white pillowy head that takes its time receding to the edge of the glass. That head never disappears completely, though, leaving a thin ring of white around the outside. The nose is dominated by the smell pine and a dash of citrus, with the slightest hint of malt aroma. This Double IPA smells like it’s a hop bomb, and the flavor doesn’t disappoint after the initial tease from my first sniff.
When folks say they like hoppy beers, I can easily point them to selections like this. Pipeworks’ double IPA bursts with hop flavors and with little else to distract from those flavors. I’ve had a lot of IPAs in the past year or so that leaned towards the malty side, and that’s not the case here. If you’re looking for balance, you’ll want to go somewhere else as this beer is brewed with five pounds of hops per barrel. However, if you’re looking to get your daily dose of hops, Ninja Vs. Unicorn will certainly fill that void.
The flavors follow the nose with piney notes on the palate and just the right amount of dry bitterness. Sure, this beer has some bite to it, but the bitterness never becomes overpowering, even at the end of a 16-ounce can. I don’t get quite as much citrus as was noted in the previous review, but there are definitely some subtle notes of orange peel and the like. I do get the same earthy, grassy flavors which are a natural complement to the bitterness and ever so slight fruitiness of the hop profile here.
This is a hop lover’s beer, one that the IPA purists will surely love. For me, it’s a breath of fresh air after a run of malty IPAs that lack the light body I prefer in the style. Ninja Vs. Unicorn is a great example of what a double IPA should be: a punch of hop flavor and aroma, a decent amount of bitterness and a touch of alcohol heat. The packaging may have changed, but the quality of this beer remains top-notch. Sure, you likely won’t be tossing back the entire four-pack of it in one sitting, but the can or two you do drink will be highly enjoyable.
Brewery: Pipeworks Brewing Company
City: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Double IPA
**Availability: **Chicago, Colorado and New York City
Billy is the host of The Brewcast, a beer podcast that never records on a regular schedule. You can follow his drinking habit @beardbrews on Twitter.