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!
Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.More by Philip Montoro