When it comes to my tasting notes, things are done a little haphazardly, I must admit. I have a tendency to drink a beer and take a few notes, and then immediately forget about those notes for some number of months until I thumb through them in a notebook and realize that I never posted them as a tasting note. Sorry. For what it’s worth, I don’t really care what you think.

Anyway. This was my second-ever Pipeworks beer*, and I believe it was also the second one that they officially made after opening in the spring. I’ve been a big fan of what they do for quite a while, so I was super excited to try this, as I also was to try their first DIPA, Ninja vs. Unicorn.

*It appears that they’ve just gotten a new website recently, and it looks like there are a lot of kinks to be worked out. Namely, the fact that none of the tabs go anywhere and are all broken links. I tried multiple browsers, but it’s no dice. The good news is that the beer is great.

I also think it’s telling that we’re in an age of craft beer awareness among the geeky that a new brewery will show up and make its first two beers a DIPA and an imperial stout. Like it or not, that’s the kind of landscape we’re living in now. I’m sure that with time, just as many session-focused breweries will make themselves successful, but this was an industry founded on pushing the boundaries, and breweries like Pipeworks are the natural evolutionary point of that mode of thinking.

Pipeworks Close Encounter

Notes: 22 oz bomber poured into a tulip glass. Neat label art, which is something all their products seem to share. Interplanetary cheesecake.

ABV: 8.5% abv, imperial stout.

APPEARANCE: Black, with one finger of very persistent, tan, creamy foam. “Milkshake foam” is the best term for it.

AROMA: Rich, boozy and fruity. Smells like candied, sugar-dipped fruits, and dark chocolate. Chocolate-covered cherry?

TASTE: Not quite as sweet in taste as it is in aroma, nor does that fruitiness come through. Actually, the strongest flavors are cocoa and bitter, black espresso roastiness. Very strong roast, moderate sweetness. There’s also a good charge of citric hops and strong bitterness, making the most prominent flavors roast and hops. In short, this is a very “American-style stout,” without a doubt.

MOUTHFEEL: Full? I have to admit I didn’t really make a note about this.

DRINKABILITY: I finished the bomber, but it took a while. It’s strongly flavored stuff.

OVERALL: I have a tendency to like roast-heavy stouts, but this is almost a little much for me. I think maybe the flavor could have used some of the fruitiness that is in the aroma to go along with some of its roasty and bitter elements. It’s still quite good, but it falls short of spectacular. I’d like to have it again sometime to have another opinion. For now, 3 hops.


As always, I’ll be on the lookout for more beers from Pipeworks, one of Chicago’s breweries that everyone should be paying attention to.


  1. After seeing the “Hoppy Double Stout” on the label I was very interested to read your notes. If there’s one thing that keeps me away from enjoying Imperial Stouts to their fullest it’s the tendency of the brewer to over-booze and over-sweeten the product, thus killing the natural bitterness that the huge IBU’s should be showing. I think I’d like this one.

    1. I’ve rarely met an Imperial Stout I didn’t like and this sounds pretty solid to me. I know you hate sugar-bombs, Doc. What’s your opinion on super-“hot” RIS’s like Avery’s the Czar?

      1. Been a while since I’ve had the Czar but I do remember enjoying it. You know what I like? Old Rasputin. Make a RIS just like Old Rasputin and I’m completely sold. Storm King Stout would fit the bill too. And while you’re at it, make it coffee infused.

        1. I had an Old Rasputin last night. It’s definitely on the drier and less sugary end of the imperial stout spectrum.

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