ARGUABLY UNDERRATED among their diverse qualities, Pipeworks Brewing are champions of freshness. They reward the impatient drinker, especially in those imperial IPAs of the ongoing cosmic battle between Ninjas and Unicorns.
The latest arrival to the shuriken death squad is another bottling of their Cascade Ninja. Not two weeks in the bottle at tasting time, the beer’s bouquet is heady and verdant, hugely grapefruity with subordinate floral, lemon, and pine notes. Specific malts are hard to pick out in the aroma aside from a general slab of sweetness, but on the palate come through more specifically as light caramel and honey on the backpalate. Dextrose was also added to the bill, likely to help boost the ABV to 9.5% without pushing the body past medium or contributing much malt flavor. The beer still has a deep hue, nearly auburn yet still transparent, that reflects a varied grain bill including Munich and several specialty malts. Head retention is a little sub-par, but carbonation is commensurate with the body (just upwards of medium) and receives a late kick from a peppery and piney dose of hops that carries into the finish. Not exclusively Cascade-hopped, this beer also includes Centennial and Warrior to enhance its aromas and bolster its leafy late bitterness, though overall Cascade Ninja is considerably more balanced than many DIPAs of comparable strength. As it warms, some symptoms (or endearing idiosyncrasies?) of its aggressive fermentation begin to emerge, such as a slight ethyl acetate solvency in the nose almost evocative of a racy Belgian strong golden ale, albeit lacking the yeast to counter it.
A well-composed and richly flavored beer, Cascade Ninja still feels slightly slapdash, as if each flavor was checked out against its immediate neighbors without as much concern for the entire experience. Its flavors are consonant, but not symphonic. Yet. It takes considerable skill to produce so many appealing recipes at such a pace—it takes even greater skill and patience besides to refine those recipes into a higher splendor.
Served: 22 oz bottle (Batch #239, bottled 11.4.13)