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Monday, June 24, 2013

Pipeworks Brewing's Ninja Vs. Unicorn


  • Style: IIPA/DIPA (Imperial Indian Pale Ale aka Double IPA)
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Season: Rotating.  My batch number was unreadable, but according to their website the latest batch was #138 and bottled on 5/23/13.  
  • Ease to locate: Pipeworks still only delivers to Chicago area locations (and some suburbs)  So plan a road trip or make a friend 
  • Color: Hazy, straw yellow with hints of orange
  • Head: A half a finger of white foam that settles immediately.  Light lacing.
  • Aroma: Like a grove of fruit trees.  Lots of orange and grapefruit, with a bit of tropical fruit and malt sweetness. A hit of lemon and pine as well.  
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with lots of carbonation.
  • Finish: Long.  Citrus merges smoothly into a little malt sweetness that glides to a bit of resin on the end.  Not over powering at all.
  • Food friendly: Yes.  Barbeque, grilled meats and poultry. Even a mild white fish comes to mind.  Serve it with peppery cheese such as pepper-jack.  



Unicorns and ninjas are elusive mythical creatures that I will likely never get to encounter in real life. Much like fairies, leprechauns and Portsmouth Brewery's Kate the Great.  Pipeworks Brewery has always struck me as a bit of a fabled Brigadoon sort of brewery so it's understandable that they should name their double IPA after such mysterious beings.  Now exactly why a ninja would want to take on a unicorn in a fair fight is beyond me ( and I think we all know that unicorns rarely ever fight fair.  Plus, they're notorious sore losers.)


                                                                              I'm pretty sure that this is not how the Pipeworks guys make Ninja Vs Unicorn.  But I could be wrong.  This dude does seem to have a lot of fruit,

Imperial or Double IPAs are becoming more and more popular as beer enthusiast seek out bolder flavors and higher ABVs.  A DIPA takes the basic profile of an Indian Pale Ale, a hop forward yet still malty pale ale, and knocks it up a notch or twelve.  Most IPAs clock in an ABV of 7.0% and under, while DIPAs start at 7.5% and can go up to at least 10.5%.  Ninja Vs Unicorn comes in at an ABV of 8.5%, which still makes it stronger than an average IPA, but accessible to a vast majority of drinkers who aren't looking to fall off of their chairs after having a pint or two.  In order to balance out the stronger hop content, a bolder malt content  must also be used.  The trick is keeping the ale dry and crisp while elevating the hop and malt notes.  Honestly, I'm not the type to think that bigger equals better.  If you are going to go big, do it right or else just go home and let me drink a stout.  Pipeworks got it right, so I guess that they can stay.

Like a misty morning on the battle fields of Aragon, both ninjas and unicorns ready for a hazy skirmish.

My Ninja Vs. Unicorn poured an almost saison looking hazy straw yellow color.  This was an unfiltered DIPA and it showed.  I loved that it almost announced it's bold flavor profile through it's cloudy, solid appearance.  You could see a hint of orange in the light.  The head was nothing special, maybe a half a finger of white foam that immediately settled. There also wasn't much lacing to speak of, but what was there was shallow and loose.  The aroma was amazing.  If I had closed my eyes it would have been easy enough to imagine that I was sitting in a citrus grove, chocked full of orange, grapefruit and lemon trees.  OK, with a lone pine lurking around somewhere (like a ninja?)  There was a sweetness from the malts that mingled perfectly with the bitterness.  The taste didn't let down the nose at all.  Lots of grapefruit and orange flavors up front, with a bit of tropical notes underneath.  The sweetness from the malt accomplished the tricky balancing act of counteracting the heavy bitterness.  A slight profile of pine sneaked in on the tail.  The mouthfeel was just lovely, a bit slick and solid with a dryness to it that made it very easy to drink.  The carbonation, while not huge, worked it's bubbly magic creating the needed effervesce to deal with such a large beer.  The finish was long and dry, with the pine flavor riding off into the sunset on the tail end. 


Ninjas and unicorns are known for their stealthiness.  Apparently so is this beer's head.

I would serve Ninja Vs. Unicorn with a lot of summer meals.  When it's warm out and you need something stronger than a typical pale ale, an IIPA like this beer could enhance a run of the mill pulled pork sandwich ( although, if you want a really good one, try this one from Alton Brown.)  It would also elevate a boring old grilled fish dinner into something special (try a simple grilled halibut marinated with garlic, lemon and fresh parsley.) Basically, this isn't the type of beer that you want to serve with a complex and labored dish.  Like all legendary feuds (think Hatfield & McCoys, Al Capone & Elliot Ness, Amanda Byrnes & Reality) inserting anything complicated into the picture just upsets the delicate eccosytem.  .  It's always best to let the ninjas and unicorns duke it out while you sit back and sip something tasty.  My money's on the unicorn, in case you're wondering.