Santa Vs. Unicorn
Pipeworks Brewing Company

Santa Vs. UnicornSanta Vs. Unicorn
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Barleywine - American
Ranked #114
Ranked #7,923
4.01 | pDev: 9.98%
Pipeworks Brewing Company
Illinois, United States
Very Good
Santa Vs. UnicornSanta Vs. Unicorn
Notes: Father Christmas, Head Beardo, St. Nicholas Cage, a man of many names he may be, yet he has but one true foe... This Holiday Season, the Unicorn is back bearing his mantle of rainbowed chaos, and this time, it’s seasonal bitches. An Imperial Red Ale, American Style Barleywine or Red Double IPA call it what you will, grab one and get your Jollies while the holiday fight is on...
Reviews: 47 | Ratings: 261 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

3/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Unknown vintage; drank 6/14/14 @ Yuss Haus.

Dark orange rust murkiness.

Off-white head; thick lace.

Pine hops in the nose; hints of caramel.

Thick mouthfeel.

Caramel, citrus, pine & booze battle for supremacy; the result is a mess with no cohesion.

Not good.

Sep 08, 2019
Photo of PatrickCT
PatrickCT from Connecticut

3.77/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Thanks for the beer, Matt!

Rich copper body, cloudy but not turbid. Beige head disappears as I pour leaving a thick ring around the glass.
Caramel malts, grapefruit and pine hop aroma.
The taste is toasted malts, caramel and toffee. This barely wine has a good dose of hops. Citrus rind and and fresh pine.
Medium bodied. Lighter than I would have expected. Smooth over all but with an alcohol presence in the finish along with a good spicy bite from the hops. Highly carbonated for the style.

Winsome, like most Pipeworks.

Dec 25, 2018
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Phyl21ca from Canada (QC)

4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a copper color ale with a medium size off-white foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of caramelized malt with some light green hoppy notes is quite enticing. Taste is a nice mix of caramelized malt notes with some light dry green hoppy notes, small residual sugar notes with a somewhat dry finish. Body is about average with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. I prefer English style barleywine but this version is well balanced with hops and quite enjoyable.

May 14, 2018
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michaelsmith11 from Illinois

4.02/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not sure what this is. I was expecting a barley wine but it's more like and ale. That's not to say it not good, just not what I expected. Way more hoppy than I expected with a medium mouth feel and a dry finish.

Dec 24, 2017
Photo of stortore
stortore from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle into a tulip snifter. Bottled 11/18/16, had 2/14/17.

Pours a medium amber/garnet, mostly clear, with a one and a half inch foamy head and a good amount of foamy lacing. The smell is pine, resin, some grapefruit, floral hops, yeast, malt, toffee. The taste is more substantial. Grapefruit, pine, malt, caramel, light yeast. A little bready. A good amount of hop bitterness throughout, a sweet spot midway. The malt takes over when fully warmed. Smooth, good level of carbonation, a good, medium body, but a touch light for the style.

Very good flavor and good aroma. No dark fruits here, seemed more like a DIPA or amber/red than barleywine at times. Reaper kicks Santa's butt, if you compare. Worth a try, though. It's still pretty good.

Jun 23, 2017
Photo of tigg924
tigg924 from Massachusetts

3.86/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours clear, bright reddish-brown in color with 1/3 inch head. Taste is caramel, toffee, grapefruit rind, and piney hops. Bitter, but not overly so. Sticky heavy body. I like other American barleywines more, but this is very tasty.

Feb 20, 2016
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BEERchitect from Kentucky

4.06/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ringing in the holiday season, Pipework's does Christmas without the threat of added spice which plagues most of the genre. Instead, the toasty, hoppy flavors that greet the palate are caught right smack-dab between American barleywine and imperial IPA.

Deep amber in color, the ale's rusty presentation is capped with a rich ecru lather. Billowing scents of citrus and pine mingle upward to the nose while its initial taste is boldly caramelized with seared toffee, bread crust and an overall nutty character.

Underneath it all, its bready-sweet maltiness lays a malty foundation with toasted sweetness, peanut skins and savory grilled bread. As its honey-like taste drifts, the hops waltz in, bringing their sharp grapefruit and orange-laced citrusy power and its gripping bitter pine resins to finish.

Lightening its body just enough to suggest the dryness of imperial IPA, the medium-full ale is malty-dry on the late palate with simmering bitterness of dried citrus peel and torn pine needles for a Christmas ale that's off the beaten spicy path.

Feb 19, 2016
Photo of Beaver13
Beaver13 from Colorado

4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle. Pours hazy copper brown with a medium creamy light tan head that retains well and leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is sweet caramel malts with fruity resiny hops and some alcohol and nuttiness.

The flavor is sweet caramel malts with fruity resiny hops and some sharp alcohol. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with smooth carbonation.

Overall, nice balance of malt and fruity resiny hops. A bit sharp on the alcohol.

Feb 02, 2016
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Atlas1 from Texas

3.9/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This bomber was a gift from my sister and her husband for Xmas. Thanks, guys. We don't get Pipeworks in TX so this is a treat.

Pours a beautiful light mahogany color with hues of golden amber and copper mixed in. The perfect color of fall. If Autumn was a beer, it would look like this. Two finger head leaves good lace. The nose is dense. Notes of herbal pine, cherry, fig, various spices. Nice enough, but not astounding. The taste is quite nice. High ABV beers are often too boozy in flavor, but this one is able to mask the alcohol content fairly well. Not completely, but well enough. Flavors of dark fruit, pine, mild citrus, apples. Finishes nice and hoppy. Mouthfeel is firm and slightly chewy.

I like this beer. A good holiday brew for sure. It has a ridiculous name and label, but I can appreciate that. So glad I got to try this one. Merry Christmas indeed.

Jan 06, 2016
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Jugs_McGhee from Louisiana

2.59/5  rDev -35.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Bottle into tulip:

HEAD: 3 inches wide. Off-white colour.

BODY: Glowing amber. Nontransparent. No yeast is visible within.

Looks decent for a barleywine.

AROMA: Heavily hopped. Amber malts, bready malts, grapefruit, bitter rind, and light pine.

Aromatic intensity is above average.

Suggests an overhopped barleywine with no unique or special features.

TASTE: Candi, caramel, amber malts, bitter melon rind, grapefruit bite, floral notes, and pale malts. Imbalanced. Subpar build.

Not gestalt, nor very cohesive.

Its low quality and relative simplicity renders it difficult to elaborate on.

TEXTURE: Irritatingly coarse, medium to full-bodied, thick, and unrefreshing. Poor execution. Overcarbonated.

OVERALL: A disappointment coming from the well regarded Pipeworks Brewing. Not strong work, nor is it noteworthy. I'd caution against buying it.


Jan 02, 2016
Photo of novamat
novamat from Illinois

4.61/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This beer is criminally underrated (as of the date of this review). Bottled and bought within the last 30 days. Hop forward in the aroma and palette with very interesting notes, which altogether provide a very well balanced beer. Probably not a traditional barleywine in the strictest sense, but goddamn is this drinkable. Will definitely buy again.

Dec 26, 2015
Photo of PicoPapa
PicoPapa from Connecticut

4.17/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle. Pours a dark brown color with very little head. Lots of lacing. The aroma is really hoppy, surprisingly. Lots of sweet citrus and pine. Caramel malts and sweet grapefruit. The taste is lots of caramel malts and piney hops. Earthy and sweet. Bread crust with piney and citrus hops. Dry mouthfeel with a medium amount of carbonation. This one tastes almost like a blend of an Imperial Red and a Barleywine. Weird beer, but I really dig it. Overall, I'd like to try this with some age on it but I think it'd work best fresh since it's so hoppy.

Dec 25, 2015
Photo of mschrei
mschrei from Illinois

4.48/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into Pipeworks NvU snifter. Dirty brown, big time sediment. Get the usual Pipeworks ale smell and base taste, but much more malt than hop. Slight spice, full mouth tang,
Tasty beer.

Dec 24, 2015
Photo of Billolick
Billolick from New York

4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bomber bottle, w/o freshness/vintage/bottling date info to be had...

Pours murky darker amber, limited cap, leaves a fine film, thin colar and minor fine lacing.

Caramel malted up nose

More caramel, toffee, malty goodness, some smoke and quite a dry hoppy finish....thick, richly flavorful and well worth a try. Quality winter night capper

Dec 21, 2015
Photo of ArrogantB
ArrogantB from Colorado

2.86/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

22oz bottle, I think it was $8.99. I have enjoyed the pipeworks beers I've had thus far and this was the first to disappoint. Dark red, not much head. Aroma was malty, hoppy, ok. Flavor had a slight tinge of buttered popcorn that bothered me enough that it distracted me from the rest of the beer. I would nto buy this one again.

Dec 20, 2015
Photo of dbrauneis
dbrauneis from North Carolina

3.99/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours a hazy mahogany in color with moderate amounts of active visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and moderate ruby red + cola brown highlights. The beer has a two finger tall sudsy foamy tan head that reduces to a large patch of thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of citrus/grapefruit and pine hops with slightly lighter aromas of caramel + toasted malts.

T: Upfront there are moderate flavors of toasted + caramel malts with a light to moderate amount of caramel sweetness. That is followed by moderate to strong flavors of citrus/grapefruit and pine hops which impart a moderate amount of lingering bitterness.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Hints of alcohol warming in the finish.

O: I might classify this as a Hoppy Imperial Red IPA than an American Barleywine but it definitely has a very enjoyable hop aroma and flavor and lacks the cloying sweetness I associate with barleywines. Enjoyable and easy to drink with well hidden alcohol.

Dec 14, 2015
Photo of metter98
metter98 from New York

3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: The beer is hazy very dark amber in color (dark brown when viewed from afar). It poured with a short beige colored head that consistently remained on the surface.
S: Light to moderate aromas of piney hops are present in the nose along with notes of caramel malts.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has flavors of pine resin hops along with notes of caramel malts and toffee. The hops lend a moderate amount of bitterness. No alcohol is perceptible.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. The alcohol lends some warming to the back end of the mouthfeel.
O: This beer is quite hoppy for a barleywine, and the bitterness really cuts through the underlying malts, masking any sweetness in the taste and stickiness in the mouthfeel.

Serving type: bottle

Dec 14, 2015
Photo of Greywulfken
Greywulfken from New York

4.43/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Basically, what I want and expect in an american barleywine. Big flavors of boozy fruits drenched in caramel; full-bodied, rich, soft, and smooth. Modest carbonation. Hoppiness is subdued and somewhat suggestive of sweet resin. Definitely worth the buy.

Dec 13, 2015
Photo of GoBearsWalter34
GoBearsWalter34 from Illinois

4.25/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a rich, dark red with a thin, white head. No carbonation that can be seen. Just a generally sweet malt smell. A wonderful malt taste with toffee, carmel and malt notes in which the hop shows up in the end. An extremely smooth drinker. This is a wonderful hoppy barleywine. Pipeworks, you keep winning me over and look forward toward paying you a visit shortly.

Dec 13, 2015
Photo of StonedTrippin
StonedTrippin from Colorado

3.74/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

a good one from pipeworks. huge barleywine here, very american in nature, almost drinks more like a red double ipa, as there is quite a bit of amber malt sweetness running through it, and then a huge dose of bittering hops that come on all at the end. it looks amazing in the glass from the tap, shiny amber color, elegant creamy white head an inch high on top, and holding on for a long time for the style. smells like booze, almost hot and harsh on the nose, but once i get past that, i get citrus from the hops, grass too, and then a bunch of layers of sweet grain that lead the way in terms of flavor. caramel and nut brittle and toffee and butterscotch and bran muffins and molasses and honey all seem to be in there, a really really cool malt flavor to this. i dont know why i expected it to be spiced, maybe the santa thing, but it isnt, and i almost miss it there in the middle. a little ginger and orange peel or something would add depth and seasonal appeal, but instead its all hops. those work too, but they are pretty bitter, and with all the alcohol bursting out of this one, its an awfully intense drink all up. it was a trudge though even a small pour, and it gets tougher and tougher as it warms up. super alcoholic, but tasty and layered, and worth trying this season.

Dec 12, 2015
Photo of Tucquan
Tucquan from Pennsylvania

4.09/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on 2015-02-01 in Columbia, PA. Batch 567-568 (gifted for Christmas, 2014).

A - Lightly hazy, medium ruby-brown with a 1/2-finger tan head that fades quickly leaving mild lace.

S - Lightly roasted grain, hop spice and floral/perfume (like a bath soap). Mild-moderate intensity.

T - Mmmm. Rich flavors of caramel, toffee, dark bread, pine, woody, citrus flesh and earthy spice. Finishes with caramel/grain sweetness and a good bit of pine and citrus zest bitterness. Good balance and surprisingly dry, which encourages the next sip. Very tasty.

M - Medium-heavy body and light-medium carbonation. Thick, syrupy feel, which I quite like.

O - A really good barley wine; definitely leaning to a West Coast style (Sierra Nevada Bigfoot) but with its own spice/pine twist. Nice.

Feb 01, 2015
Photo of rlee1390
rlee1390 from Indiana

4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Clear deep amber orange, one finger head.

S-Caramel, toffee, almonds? vanilla, rather sweet, some hops.

T-Rather sweet, vanilla, caramel, toffee, dirt, mild hop notes.

M-Medium bodied with some carbonation.

O-A decent American Barleywine, that could come together a little more.

Jan 04, 2015
Photo of kkleu357
kkleu357 from Wisconsin

3.84/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big grainy smell. Some fruit notes. Hazy red body. Lots of sweet fruit tastes. Little too much alcohol taste to be great. Did get better as the beer warmed up.

Dec 08, 2014
Photo of Sparty1224
Sparty1224 from Michigan

4.25/5  rDev +6%

Serving: 22 oz. bomber poured into a snifter. Batch 567-8, no date on the website yet, though very fresh.

A: Pours a dark, murky red. Small, cream colored head lingers around the glass.

S: Lots of hops. Pineapple, mango, tangerine. Definitely smells more DIPA than barleywine.

T: Big aggressive hops and tropical fruits up front. Pineapple, tangerine. Finish is rather malty and smooth. Lots of sweet bread notes.

M: Big, full mouthfeel. Sticks to the tongue.

O: So the description text on the bottle nails it, talking about how this could be a DIPA, double red, or American-style BW. Either way, this is big, true to PW style. Very reminiscent of Sam vs. Unicorn (same beer?). I like this quite a bit. Very hoppy and fresh, but not a bruising aftertaste. Goes down very smooth for a 10% beer. Nicely balanced. One of the better PW offerings, and surely one of my favorite seasonals from them. Happy Holidays!

Recommendation: Worth seeking out for the casual PW fan.

Dec 01, 2014
Photo of HuskyinPDX
HuskyinPDX from Washington

3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle opened on 1.27.14
Batch # 266 67 68 69

A - Pours a very dark amber red with a pretty bubble tan head that just sits atop.

S - Hoppy pine and citrus.

T - Hoppy pine and citrus, then a bitter sweet malt backbone.

D - Good carbonation with a nice medium body.

O - Hop forward with a big barley wine background. Decent.

Jan 29, 2014
Santa Vs. Unicorn from Pipeworks Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 261 ratings