Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewing has staked its reputation on its intensely popular double IPA Unicorn vs. Ninja. It’s an abounding beer, flush to the margins with fruit flavor and aroma. But the Mosaic-hopped Lizard King pale ale has risen to challenge for the title of Pipeworks’ flagship. Lizard King is here to prove that Pipeworks has just as much mojo when it comes to brewing bitter IPAs.
I gasped when I emptied my first can of Lizard King into a glass. The color is luminescent, glowing like a golden elixir. Pale ales typically lean toward the amber/orange section of the color wheel, but Lizard King is a gorgeous, lager-like yellow. The can comes emblazoned with Jeff Kuhnie’s signature art, showing the titular king at war with a skeleton soldier.
The color and body of the beer leave a lasting impression, but the aroma can’t live up to the anticipation that the appearance creates. You go in expecting a bouquet of mango and pine, but the highly billed Mosaic hop is subdued. Only a faint nose of grass comes through. It’s certainly an enjoyable beer to sniff, but if Lizard King had an aroma as arresting as its appearance, it’d be infallible.
If it weren’t for a lackluster nose, Lizard King would be a transformative beer.”
Pipeworks doesn’t disclose an official IBU for Lizard King, but it’s been listed elsewhere in the mid-30s. That seems low, as Lizard King is scintillatingly bitter. It won’t scrape your tongue the way that some West Coast styles will, and that’s due to the Mosaic hops, which smooth out the beer with their characteristic juiciness.
Lizard King is captivating. From the moment you lay eyes on it, you know that you’ve just encountered something from another dimension—bitter and juicy in equal measure. If it weren’t for a lackluster nose, Lizard King would be a transformative beer.