Pipeworks Ninja Series: Funzino and Lupine
Everywhere in the country has their own unique beers. I think I have a pretty good situation. I live in Wisconsin which allows me ready access to New Glarus and Central Waters, in addition to whatever out of state breweries distribute here. Beer distribution is growing every year but there are notable exceptions. Thankfully I live close enough to the Illinois border to drive down and get Stone and Firestone Walker, which aren’t found in Wisconsin. But there are other Illinois breweries that only distribute in-state. One of my growing favorites is Pipeworks.
Their flagship is Ninja vs. Unicorn, which features one of my favorite label designs of all time. It’s a terrifically balanced double IPA that reminds me of Maharaja; it’s not quite the hop bomb but it’s pleasantly bitter and malty with a bright hoppiness that is easy to overlook. Pipeworks puts out a ton of IPAs throughout the year and they seem to have three series: the Unicorn series, the Ninja series, and the Fish series. The Unicorn series seem to be a little more on the malty and earthy side with less juicy hop flavor. The Fish series (one of which I mentioned previously) are mostly hop carpet-bombing palate wreckers made with fruit added. The Ninja series is probably my favorite. They have a late hop addition profile which produces a clean, simple juicy hop aroma and flavor. Many in the Ninja series feature one particular variety of hop. Last winter I got a bottle of the Citra and it might be my favorite IPA of all time.
Anyway, Pipeworks is a pretty small brewery with limited distribution, and they seem to be bought up rather quickly (especially the Fish and Ninja series) so relatively few people get to try them. A side benefit, though, is that they are always fresh in the store. They make a mosaic-heavy pale ale called Lizard King that I was able to buy in a nearby liquor store the day after it was canned! That’s right, it was canned one day and in stores the next day (I hope I don’t have to explain how important freshness is for hoppy beers). That’s amazing! Last week I bought two bottles each of the Funzino and Lupine Ninja IIPAs that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. I started with the Funzino. It was dank and resiny and refreshing but wasn’t my favorite. Tonight I opened a bottle of Lupine and it smelled unmistakably like pineapple. It’s not much for looks, very pale, basically a straw-colored liquid with white head. But it’s as sweet and fruity as can be. I could have gotten the Simcoe a few weeks ago but I decided against it. It was probably the right decision at the time but I don’t want to miss another Ninja release. I have yet to regret a purchase of Pipeworks. Definitely worth a trip to their brewery one day.