Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

North & Western

Pipeworks Brewing Co.
Chicago, IL

Style: Saison
ABV: 7.0%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Pipeworks Brewing is one of the “new wave” of Chicago craft breweries to open in the last few years in the wake of Goose Island’s wholesale devouring by AB-InBev. Unlike your standard brewpub or brewery operation, however, Pipeworks only makes one-off specialty brews—no repeats—with the stated goal of coming out with a new beer every week.

From a business standpoint, I don’t know how smart pandering to the “two ounce” beer culture—that subset of beer dorks only interested in trying that next new beer— is and whether it’s sustainable over the next few years as the craft beer market matures. Will not having a flagship beer—like an Alpha King, Spotted Cow, or Oberon—or a signature beer—like a Kentucky Breakfast or Dark Lord—be their undoing in the long run? Or will it help them stand out in a craft beer world that’s becoming more and more crowded every day?

I, for one, have no fucking clue. In the short run, Pipeworks’ strategy seems to be working, as the quality and inherent scarcity of their brews has generated a good buzz among beer dorks, leading to their 22-ounce bombers disappearing relatively quickly off liquor store shelves.

And then how to deal with them from the standpoint of professional (no laughing, please) beer reviewers like us here at Is there any point in reviewing a beer that will be gone in a month—or even a week? Since you’re reading this review, I think you can probably guess what the answer will be. While a review won’t help anyone decide whether to sacrifice some hard-earned cabbage to try this particular beer—unless you’re lucky enough to still find it somewhere out there, and it isn’t skunked due to age (this one came out damn near nine months ago [but don’t worry, I drank and took notes on it damn near six months ago])—a group of reviews about a brewery can, as a whole, help fans of good beer gauge a brewery’s proclivities and strengths, to paint a picture of what a brewery is about and its philosophy of what it thinks is good beer. Or something like that, I don’t know.

Pipeworks calls this North & Western Dry Hopped Saison Style Ale. It pours with a big creamy head atop a straw colored body. Sniffs supply a heaping dose of spiciness, lemons, and citrus notes.

I really like some funk and tartness in my saisons, but North & Western doesn’t have much of either. This being a Belgian style, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a saison, per se, but just not what I was expecting. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course. What Pipeworks’ take on the style (this time) is is light in body with muted spice and fruitiness. There’s a bit of barnyard funk in there, but waaay in the background. A bit of tartness comes in to mix with a light, sweet-ish malty middle, making for a refreshing if unassuming drinking session.

While North & Western looks- and ABV- (7.0 percent) wise falls into what you’d call a saison, I was unimpressed with their subdued take on the style. The dry hopping advertised in the title was pretty much undetectable, unless it was covering up any grassiness/funkiness that shoulda-coulda-woulda been in the nose. Admittably drinkable and refreshing, but ultimately unfulfilling. I’m going to have to say I was a bit disappointed in my first encounter with Pipeworks.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on July 22, 2013.
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