IF THE PROVERBIAL room full of monkeys must eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare, along the way they’ll undoubtedly type out truly bizarre original copy. Some of it may even be genius. This experiment will never be tested in the real world, but at least we have Chicago’s Pipeworks, whose founders Beejay and Gerrit are fortunately more canny than any primate. Since 2011 the madly industrious duo has brewed dozens of recipes (most notoriously the ongoing feud between imperial ninjas and unicorns) and show no signs of slowing down. Earlier this month they bottled and hand-numbered their 200th batch: called Pineapple Bling, it’s an off-shoot from the preexisting Ca$h 4 Gold recipe. Both are strong pale ales with prominent pineapple overtones from a “number one stunna” Belgian yeast. Also like Ca$h 4 Gold, Bling’s branding is deliberately tacky, featuring a diamond-studded cartoon pineapple and garish font. But the beer inside is no joke, a notch stronger than its forebear at 10.5% ABV and topped with a splash of lime juice.
Even a faint sniff will reveal actual pineapple juice, too, instead of just the yeast’s suggestive esters. This tropical punch isn’t like the crystalline sugar of a vodka mixer, though, but rather the musty goop at the bottom of a can of diced Dole. As an unfiltered ale, Bling’s yeasty dregs further enhance the sensation of fullness in a technically dry body. But its effervescence is lagging and it took a vigorous pour to generate a significant head; 25% more carbonation would have cleared up the mouthfeel and kept things livelier. The lime juice helps somewhat in this regard, though, and was really a very clever addition. After the aroma’s pineapple preamble, florid fruit esters of the body and occasional malt aside (rye is in here somewhere), lime tartness lasers in with a piquant yet subtle boost in the coda. Unlooked-for but welcome.
That final spurt isn’t quite enough to give Bling the Bard’s transcendence, though. ‘Juicy’ is sometimes used to describe bursting fresh hops or complex dark ale malts, but in Bling it is all too literal, suppressing the beer’s fundamental qualities. The idea remains sound, though and with a few tweaks Bling could upgrade from ‘worthwhile experiment’ to ‘unreservedly refreshing’. If, that is, Pipeworks ever returns to this folio in their rapidly expanding archives.
Served: 750 ml bottled 9/9/13