Something new and something old

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First Posted: 12/29/2014

Description– Cluster’s Last Stand pours a rich amber-copper color with bright white frothy head that leaves behind a thick lacing on the glass. The aroma is filled with hop notes leaning more towards the floral and pine spectrum with hints of grapefruit. The taste follows the nose with a wonderful malt backbone. The hops wash over the palate first with spicy notes and grapefruit making an appearance before a hit of sweet malts follow to refresh the palate and sooth the hop bite. The medium body and moderate carbonation are perfect for the style and aid in the exemplary dry finish. The 8.4 percent ABV is also non-apparent with no hint of alcohol heat and in fact this beer drinks much like a 4 to 5 percent ABV beer. Smuttynose and Stone certainly know their way around the IPA and a collaboration recreating a historic version of this beer makes for a beer that simply must be experienced.

Food pairing– The wonderful hop notes and strong malt backbone take this IPA outside of the standard food pairings with IPA’s and opens it to a whole new spectrum of pairings. Spicy foods are of course a welcome sight with this beer anything Mexican or Indian with a spice kick make for a great match-up with Cluster’s. The sweet malt backbone though makes this a great pairing with a traditional Fish n Chips meal. The batter will find a wonderful matchup with the malt while the hops will sink their teeth into the fish and the carbonation will scrub the palate clean in between bites. Another great pairing which is not typically thought of with IPA’s is with ice cream. The sweet malts in this beer make for a wonderfully sweet marriage with ice cream. The sweet creamy ice cream, preferably vanilla bean, adds a thick body to the beer while the hops still shine through and don’t disappear in the thick creaminess. Instead this pairing is more like hop ice cream and who doesn’t love the sound of that ice cream flavor?

The Final Word – Cluster’s Last Stand is collaboration beer from Smuttynose and Stone Brewing, two breweries that arguably brew the best IPA’s currently available (Stone IPA and Smuttynose Finest Kind) is a dream partnership for hop lovers. The idea came about when Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele was writing his wonderful book on IPA’s and researching the history of the style. The recipe for the beer came from a historic IPA, specially the right-after-Prohibition Ballantine IPA and is proof that strong hoppy beers are not a recent invention. The recipe from this beer is from the 1930’s and features all the hoppy goodness that is expected from today’s IPA’s. The main difference between this beer and many modern varieties is the hop choices, Cluster, Brewers Gold, Bullion and East Kent Goldings for those true beer geeks who long to know. These are hops which are neither trendy nor fashionable but are delicious and make for a fantastic beer. This beer is not only a wonderful history lesson in a glass but proof that brewers have long known how to brew great beer! However, be warned that this is a special limited release beer and may be difficult to find, but the hunt with most certainly be worth it!

Where can I get it?– Currently available in 22 oz. bottles at: Backyard Alehouse- Scranton

Remember, enjoy responsibly.