Cluster hops have a very long and interesting beer history. In 1629, when the Massachusetts Company brought their cargo of Puritans to the New World, they also brought a supply of European hops. These hops, cultivated by English and Dutch farmers, bred with the native American hops to create one of the most popular hops of the time — the Cluster hop. Fifty years ago, Pacific Northwest hop growers concentrated on Cluster hops for their bittering characteristics, but its susceptibility to downy mildew caused it to drop in popularity while also promoting hops research. Cluster leads to floral, spicy and earthy flavors. Peaks and Pints highlights this old American cultivar in today beer flight: Craft Beer Crosscut 5.17.17: A Flight of Cluster.
5.5% ABV, 28 IBU
T’was 24 years ago that Adam Avery (blessed be his name), smiled upon Boulder, Colorado and the world at large by opening Avery Brewing, which begat White Rascal Ale, which begat Out of Bounds Stout, which begat Ellie’s Brown Ale. This beautiful, deep russet brew has the sweet and somewhat nutty character of Avery’s late (1992-2002) Chocolate Lab, for which it is named. Adam adds Cluster hops at the beginning of the 60 minute boil primarily to add bitterness. Cascade and fuggles hops are added at the middle and end of the boil respectively for their aromatic contributions. Ellie’s Brown has a rich maltiness with a complex caramel and roasted combination in the flavor profile for a lovely, balanced beer. Overall, a flavorful and sweet brown ale, almost too much so for an English Brown — more of an American Brown in flavor and English brown in its malty balance.
9% ABV, 75 IBU
According to legend, it took copious amounts of poison, three gunshots, a beating and a drowning to take down Grigori Rasputin. Fortunately, North Coast Brewing‘s Old Rasputin is more refined than its namesake and easier to drink than most of the imperials we’ve come across. Old Rasputin is a giant beer, true to style, with an alcohol content of nine percent by volume and a huge hop bitterness of about 85 to 95 IBUs, thanks to Northern Brewer, Cluster and Centennial hops. Black as night and tasting of dark roasted malts and bitter chocolate, this is a complex, strong beer, both in flavor and alcohol content. Though slightly astringent, Old Rasputin finishes clean and refreshing.
6.2% ABV, 80 IBU
In 2008, Doug and Christine Ellenberger took their more than 20 years of professional brewing and restaurant experience and opened Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, Washington. Their Country Boy is just a classic styled IPA. The body is pretty dry, with just enough sweetness to make it very drinkable. The Chinook, Cluster and Centennial hops give a nice bitter flavor, and clean grassy notes.
6.7% ABV, 90 IBU
Hop Valley’s Alphadelic IPA pours an orange/copper hue for a citrus nose leading to an abundance of hop flavor (Simcoe, Cascade, Cluster, and Palisade) and enough malt to back it up (Great Western two row and Munich). Graham cracker malts smooth out a piney hop bouquet. On the tongue, sweet, bready malts connect with dynamic resiny, piney hops that flourish and linger into the finish. It has the threat of intense bitterness, you can feel it coming on, but it stops just short and delivers smooth, even hop character without overpowering the palate.
8.3% ABV, 100 IBU
Three Creeks Brewing‘s beefy Northwest-style IPA is built on a base of German Munich and British Maris Otter malt then heavily hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Cluster. Crystal, Special B and Carabohemian malts along with a three-hour boil contribute loads of plum-like, dark fruit flavor. It pours a golden color with very little head or lacing. Nose is earthy and taste a bit malt forward, which gives it some sweetness. The beer is well balanced and easy drinking.