Clusters Last Stand (Smuttynose Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Comp…

Style: Double India Pale Ale
8.8% ABV
62 IBU’s
OG: 17.5° Plato
Malt: North American 2-Row, Flaked Maize, Munich 10L, C-60
Hops: Bitter-Clusters, Flavor-Brewers Gold, East Kent Goldings, Dry Hop-Bullion
Yeast: White Labs WLP-001 American Ale
Brewery’s Note: “Old, new? It’s all the same, really. Cluster’s Last Stand defies the commonly accepted notion that strong, hoppy beers are recent arrivals on the US beer landscape. Smuttynose has teamed up with Stone Brewing Company to recreate the original, post-Prohibition Ballantine IPA recipe. That’s right; strong, 60 IBU beer brewed in the 30’s. How do we know? We read it in Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele’s excellent and well-researched book, IPA Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale./ The only difference between this beer and more contemporary IPA’s are the hop varieties: Cluster, Brewers Gold, Bullions and East Kent Goldings. None of these are trendy and we were a little surprised to find out that all four were readily available. The result is a rich, copper-colored ale with a strong, refined hop profile of spiciness with a hint of grapefruit.”

The beer pours a golden orange with brown and amber highlights and a smaller head of tiny white bubbles with mediocre retention. As the head fades, it leaves a nice, thin, well-connected sheet of lacing behind on the walls of the glass. In body, the beer is crystal clear, clean, and gorgeous. It takes an almost ruby hue in the light, which is rather lovely. On the nose, the beer smells of a dank, post-rain pine grove. Pine needles, pine cones, spice, weed, moss, earthy caramel, and nettle scents work their way across the nose. There are even brief flashes of mango and tropical fruit that blend their way in with the caramel scents. As it warms, there are slight hints of DMS and diactyl, but they are well integrated in with the rest of the nose and may just be coming from the corn that was literally used in the grist of the beer. On the tongue, the beer tastes of grassy bitters and spice, with a slight caramel/bread sweetness that gives balance, while keeping the beer on the bitter side of the fence. Flavors scream of old fashioned IPA things like pine, dirt, spicy hops, slight grapefruit, and subtle onions. The finish gives a brief burst of sweet caramel blended in with the herbal/piney hops. In the mouth, the beer feels medium + bodied with a middling carbonation that gives a nice scrub to the tongue. The mouthfeel has a nice grittiness to it, which I can only assume is coming from the corn in the grist. There is a certain amount of crispness to the sip that makes it hugely drinkable for the 8.8% ABV count. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left sticky with resin, and minimal spittle pools just beneath the edges of the tongue. Overall, this is an easy drinking DIPA. In fact, it is far too easy to drink for its ABV. It is not the most hop expressive, nor does it challenge the palette like some of those ‘new-age fruit bomb IPA’s’, but it is a damn fine easy drinker with a bitter bite to please the tongue, and a hidden booze kick to leave you happy at the end of the night. This is a drinking beer for sure!

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