Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Smuttynose Stone Cluster's Last Stand - Smuttynose Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Smuttynose Stone Cluster's Last StandSmuttynose Stone Cluster's Last Stand

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

59 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 59
Hads: 426
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 29.58%
Wants: 16
Gots: 88 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Smuttynose Brewing Company visit their website
New Hampshire, United States

Style | ABV
American IPA |  8.30% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: johnnnniee on 07-28-2013

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 was 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 IPAs are the hop varieties: Cluster, Brewers Gold, Bullion 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.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 59 | Hads: 426
Photo of Tilly
3.94/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice orange colour with a small white head.
Fruit and hop aroma.
Nice taste of tropical fruits, caramel, citrus, and slightly peppery.
Crisp, slight bitter finish. Very nice drinks.
Great collaboration from Smuttynose and Stone.

 236 characters

Photo of rapayn01
3.99/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The bottle was a bit past the "best by date" (March 2015), but the beer was tasty. The hop was a bit out of the norm, but it is definitely an IPA. A DIPA, actually, packing a real wallop.

 187 characters

Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours into an impy nonic a dull hazed burnt orange with a thinner but well sustained white head atop.More of a juicy fruitiness to the hop aromas like orange and tangerine,big caramel and sweet dough as well.A big malt forward IPA I have to say here,yeasty and doughy,almost like a sweeter midwestern style pizza dough,some juicy tangerine and orange hoppiness comes in the finish.This is a big MALTY IPA,maybe the most malt driven of the style I have had.

 456 characters

Photo of delta490
3.94/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice orangey-amber with a thick off-white head that has moderate retention and leaves some nice sticky lacing. The aroma is mild but has nice tropical fruit hops and bready malt notes. The taste is similar to the aroma with the nice addition of pine and a little caramel sweetness. The body isn't too heavy and his a nice bitter bite on the finish.

 356 characters

Photo of scootny
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A golden amber ale that pouurs frrom a 22 oz bottle. Huge head and chunks of lace on the glasss. Lovely nose offers up aromas of lighe malt, a bakery full of bread, light caramel and tropical fruits. Light citrus and mild peppery alcohol. Taste is caramel and doughy white bread. Crisp bitter finish leaves lingerig notes of alcohol. Supremely drinkable and surprisingly light and crisp. Mild but pleasant carbonation. This seems like a great approximation of old classic Ballentine IPA

 487 characters

Photo of metter98
3.56/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is slightly hazy yellow in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a half finger high bright white head that quickly died down, leaving a thin layer of bubbles on the surface and a collar consisting of large bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: Moderate aromas of catnip-like hops are present in the nose. Notes of caramel malts become apparent as the beer begins to warm up.
T: As in the smell, the taste seems to be dominated by Cluster hops, having flavors of catnip and notes of spiciness from the Brewers Gold hops. There is a moderate amount of bitterness.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a little crisp on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer was nice and bitter, but the "catty" flavors from the hops weren't really my cup of tea. It's not often that you see Cluster hops so I'm not sure if this becomes an acquired taste.

Serving type: bottle

 926 characters

Photo of Tsar_Riga
3.94/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Orange, clear, with a dirty white head that forms up full and is quite persistent. Laces in fat bubbly lines.

S - Slightly medicinal, pine hops, lemon drops and honey. Sugars. Floral.

T - Following the nose as to pine, lemon, citrus zest, honey and floral elements. The close is more bitter as it warms, but the honey and lemon notes are this beer's core.

M - Moderate carbonation, but strong drying. A bit of alcohol volatility.

O - Interesting collaboration of heavy IPA, but with the floral notes and honeyed malts and sugars dominating. Reminds me strongly of traditional English IPAs, over the West Coast or even New England treatment. Glad I gave this one a try.

 683 characters

Photo of jlipin8622
2.88/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Pours a beautiful opaque golden orange. In a beer-clean IPA glass, the head maintains at least ten minutes without taking a sip. After taking my initial tasting notes and sipping some more, the head still maintains very well in the glass.

Nose shows orange peel, melon, the slightest bit of overripe banana, and other citrus fruits.

The body is light-medium. Flavors of orange peel and other citrus immediately engulf the palate and linger long after the finish. Wouldn't be able to tell by flavor by itself that this beer comes in at 8.3% ABV, but the body gives more of an indication.

Overall, it's a nice beer, but not something I would continually seek out. The packaging is really cool, but it gave me no indication whether this would be a strong ale or double IPA, and no indication of why they chose "Cluster's Last Stand" as the name. I'm sure it's on the website, but part of the allure of these beers is why they chose the name (even though I bought it anyway!)

 974 characters

Photo of bobhits
2.57/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

An aggressive pour yields a nice creamy white head, a bit lighter and thinner than a double IPA, but at 8.3% this seems right. I'd assume it won't be overly sugary. Color has a slight hint of amber, but remains the lighter side of the IPA range.

Citrus and light sugars. There's more here but I"m not able to get too much more, perhaps the burnt pizza is messing with me, but honestly I'm just not getting a lot here.

The flavor is a bit "off balance" of course in the perfect way, very hoppy. Citrus, orange flavors, grape fruit, pretty much a west coast IPA. Pale malt gives off sugar cane notes. Could use more hop flavor, different malt flavor, and/or less bitterness.

The body is light, easy to drink, really easy to drink.

I'm not sure what I paid for this one, Around 9 or so bucks I'd guess based on the bill and my assumptions on other items. It's good enough, but honestly for two brewery's that make really great IPA's I'm not blown away. If you aren't a huge IPA fan, just pass on this one. If you love IPA's, well it's something a bit different. I can't remember a direct comparison.

 1,113 characters

Photo of RonfromJersey
3.31/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Burnt orange, a bit murky, lots of carbonation in the body, but a rapidly decaying head that converts to an oil slick with in minutes.

Floral aroma, but weak and unimpressive.

Solid semi-sweet beginning. Earthy hops. Good big bitterness with a snap.

Prickly medium mouthfeel.

An interesting curiosity. Been there, done that, moving on.

 339 characters

Photo of Brad007
3.53/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

I've read about this ale and figured I'd finally pick it up.

Pours a cloudy reddish-blonde hue with a big, frothy head into my glass. I didn't realize how strong this was.

Lots of pine bitterness in the nose. Relatively fresh. A hint of buttered bread underneath.

Pine tar on the tongue followed by bitter citrus and buttered bread at the back of tongue.

Bitterness dominates the mouthfeel and it stands out with the use of clusters.

I've seen this beer and Ballantine IPA mentioned in the same breath. I believe the Cluster hops are just one thing in common. This is an old school IPA, perhaps a DIPA in the eyes of some. Worth a shot.

 645 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.39/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: A nice bubble show produces a two inch head; the liquid underneath is hazy and honey colored; spotty lacing abounds

Smell: Caramel and dough tones forward, with vegetal, earthy hop tones; just a touch of pith

Taste: Doughy with with a tilt toward the caramel, up front, with vegetal, earthy hop tones building; there is a touch of stone fruit and pith in the middle but the finish brings a return to the sweeter malt tones; surprisingly, the assertive balsa wood bitterness is what lingers in the aftertaste; very bitter but not particularly flavorful

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: Can't say I much care for this and if this is what the Ballantine IPA tasted like, it is no wonder that macro lagers took over

 757 characters

Photo of kojevergas
2.88/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

BOTTLE: 650ml brown glass. Generally appealing label art. Branded pry-off pressure cap. Best by: 03/05/15.

Reviewed live as an IPA, as Smuttynose's website identifies it as such (specifically as a post-prohibition Ballantine IPA recreation). Expectations are average; I like Smuttynose but Stone's involvement always makes me suspicious.

Served cold into a pilsner glass.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Off-white/beige colour. Decent creaminess, frothiness, fullness, and consistency. Nice (~3-4 minute) retention. Leaves an uneven coating of lacing on the sides of the glass as it recedes.

BODY: Standard for an IPA: clean copper colour of average vibrance. Translucent and transparent. Clean, with no visible yeast particulate or hop sediment.

Appears well-carbonated. Very average looking for the style, with no stand-out characteristics. There's nothing egregiously wrong with it.

AROMA: Has more tropical leanings than I anticipated given this is a recreation of a Ballantine brew. Tangerine, melon, clementine, orange, orange zest. It really overdoes it on the caramalt, which concomitantly brings way too much sweetness into play. Thankfully, though, the hop profile seems robust enough to check that malty sweetness with enough bitterness. Pale malt is also present. Some floral character.

I find the fruitiness raw and bit rindy, with an undeveloped young feel to it. It's nicely zesty, though.

Aromatic intensity is below average, but it's not a reticent aroma.

To style, no overt booze, yeast character, or off-notes are detectable. Fortunately, it's not soapy or anything. Suggests a slightly imbalanced brew with some nice fruity tones.

TASTE: The abovementioned rindy raw hop bitterness dominates, to the beer's detriment, with plenty of tropical fruit and zesty character in there as well: tangerine, melon, orange, clementine, orange zest. Hopwise, it also has some floral notes and maybe a bit of overly bitter grapefruit. Lime emerges more and more as it warms. Heavy on the pithiness and bitterness.

It has too much caramalt, which lends the beer too much sweetness towards the end of its second act. Otherwise, the beer is imbalanced in the other direction (i.e. it's overly bitter on account of the overhopping). Pale malts fill out the body nicely but lend little in terms of flavour.

It's uneven structurally and imbalanced throughout, but I do find myself drawn to some of its flavours - particularly the clementine. It does veer briefly into that stale orange juice character you usually find in older IPAs, which I despise.

It's an unpleasantly aggressive brew, and suffers for it. If this is an authentic recreation of a Ballantine IPA, consider me shocked - I had no idea beer was this aggressive back then. But I suspect the overhopping is all Stone's doing, and that this isn't really authentic (regardless of what Mitch Steele has to say on the matter).

Average depth and duration of flavour, with an unexpectedly high flavour intensity. It's the opposite of mellow, and is hard to enjoy as a result. It's complicated for an IPA - which is to say it has plenty of complexity, there's just not much order or focus to it.

I can't say I care for it much, but it does have attributes I appreciate.

TEXTURE: Overcarbonated to the point where it's biting - an unpleasant characteristic especially alongside its overaggressive hop bitterness. That aggressive edge is manifested in the texture as much as it is in the taste, with an unwelcome coarseness emerging in the mouthfeel. Wet but unrefreshing. Medium-bodied but too weighty and thick on the palate. If it had more depth of flavour, its heaviness might be warranted.

Overall, this texture fails to elevate the beer or accentuate any of the constituent notes in the flavour profile (or at least any of the pleasant ones), but it suits the taste decently in a general sense. Some custom-tailoring is needed.

OVERALL: I'm not a big fan of the hop profile showcased here, nor do I think it's an authentic recreation of Ballantine's IPA (but take that with a grain of salt, as I never tried Ballantine's IPA). The whole Ballantine IPA recreation premise does fit Stone's ruthless marketing focus, though, and I don't think it a stretch that Stone - more a marketing company than a brewery - would take advantage of older drinkers' awareness of a historical recipe to ship product. (For the record, other recreations of Ballantine IPA put the ABV much lower than 8.3%). With that in mind, it's nowhere near as drinkable as it should be if it's truly 8.3% ABV. Far from a great brew in the style, and far from Smuttynose's best brew, but I'm not unhappy I tried it once. I've had worse and I've had better, but this is ultimately an average brew. I wouldn't recommend it to friends, and I won't be buying it again.


 4,838 characters

Photo of Chickenhawk9932
4.27/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a light golden amber with a frothy white that hangs around a little and leaves some nice lacing.

Smell is pine and citrus vying for dominance with some subtle floral notes and underpinnings of musty earth giving it a dank aroma.

A bitter punch of resinous pine and bitter citrus up front with a faint malt middle and some ghost like biscuit notes. It finishes with a dry oily floral hop coating. This was not love at first sip but was enjoying it thoroughly half way down the glass. Not the greatest IPA but very good and unique. This one Stands Alone.

 562 characters

Photo of utopiajane
3.54/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Poured attractively enough and had minimal nose. Candied citrus peel and some malt sweetness. Drank mild;y too. Fruity and with some sweet hop herbal. No alcohol on the nose or on the palate. This tastes fine. Light caramel and grapefruit. Earthy and has plenty of citrus flavor. A very unobtrusive bitter finishes this one quietly. It was good but nothing really stood out about it or made it unique.

 410 characters

Photo of Kendo
3.89/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Poured from the bomber into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body is hazy orangey-amber with a small whitish film on top.

S: Nose is very subdued: touch of florally hops is about it. Some modest caramel malt underneath.

T: Begins with a honey/caramel malt foundation. Followed by juicy, fruity hops - not overwhelmingly bitter, just fruity. Touch of bitterness at the finish and lingering into the aftertaste.

M: Medium-to-full in heft; carbonation is smooth and fine, though bringing a touch of sharpness.

O: Good, but not great.

 539 characters

Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Hazy apricot peach. Big fluffy off white head. Nice, messy lacing.
Smell: Subtle pine and floral. a little fruit.
Taste: Much like the nose. Mostly dry. Something different in the finish that must be the Cluster hops.
Overall: Interesting brew.

 251 characters

Photo of tjdrewry
4.5/5  rDev +17.8%

Drank this one side by side with the recreation of Ballantine's IPA. Both are excellent beers, and the malt profiles are remarkably similar. Cluster's differs in an enjoyable raw piquancy to the hop flavor- Ballantine's reliance on more contemporary hop varieties lends smooth, subtle pine notes whereas Cluster's use of traditional hops highlights flavors reminiscent of sharp fermented berries. I love the straight-up west coast hop-bombs, but these throw-back IPAs offer some nice diversity.

 497 characters

Photo of craftbeersweden
4.11/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Clear amber beer with a two finger high, beige head. A lot of lacing stays on the glass.

Nose: Orange, apricot, sweet malt, pine, herbs, citrus and grass in the background.
Taste: Hops, great bitterness with enough sweet malt that balance the bitterness. Grapefruit, orange and citrus. Floral hops, grass.
Body: Medium to full body. Medium carbonated. Just right "crispyness" from the carb. A high but balanced bitterness. The 8.8% ABV is very well hidden.

This is such a great IPA! Smuttynose and Stone has done it again! But on the other hand, what would you expect...?

 576 characters

Photo of Ego
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%

marked by 3/5/15
2 fingers of foam, lots of bubbles in the cauldron, dark yellow to mellow orange hue, head retention is very good as this thing is alive with bubbles, did I mention bubbles ? lacing is also really impressive here, a great looking glass of suds

mild earthy/brown hops with some sweetness, reminds me of some english ales but kicked up a notch, not much to offer but not bad

taste etc...
the carbonation is bright but not prickly, it keeps this drinking light but yet with medium heft,
the alcohol is well hidden and only pops up with some mild warming in the stomach, the flavor tends toward malt (sweeter), there is some mild bittering but it is very much in balance with the sweeter flavors, the "earthy" nature of the hops really does come through, this is an extremely balanced beer on all levels

not bad, not for me, I like the high alpha hop in your face stuff but then again I love me some habanero peppers (not for everyone). There is nothing wrong with this beer and some might find they like this mix of hops versus pallet
destroyers/hop bombs.

 1,101 characters

Photo of templar316
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%

Great hop songs and name. Empty out your pockets. Sleepy as sockets. Didn't expect this to be near as good as it is. Balanced pine and toasty make. Smooth finish, give it a try.

 177 characters

Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle into tulip glass, best before 3/5/2015. Pours lightly hazy/cloudy bright orange color with a 1-2 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon zest, orange peel, herbal, floral, grass, light pine, light caramel, toasted biscuit, and floral/grassy earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of citrus/floral hops and moderate dark/bready malt notes; with good strength. Taste of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon zest, orange peel, herbal, floral, grass, light pine, light caramel, toasted biscuit, and floral/grassy earthiness. Fair amount of herbal/grassy bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon/orange zest, herbal, light caramel, toasted biscuit, and floral/grassy earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice complexity and robustness of citrus/floral hops and moderate dark/bready malt flavors; with a great malt/bitterness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth and fairly creamy/sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is a damn nice historical IPA recreation. All around great complexity and balance of citrus/floral hops and moderate dark/bready malt flavors; and very smooth and crisp to drink for the big ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

 1,496 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.05/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the Old Toad in Rochester, NY.

Pours a hazy, nearly opaque orange, with a small, half inch head, and a little bit of lacing.

Smells quite piney and earthy, "dank" would be the word, with some bitter-smelling grapefruit.

This definitely somewhat mirrors the new Ballantine IPA, but is a bit more fruity, than the all-out bitter/oak assault that Ballantine was. I do get lots of pine, flowers, and grassy flavors here, earthy but tasty, with some bitter grapefruit, and juicy orange. There is a sturdy malt backbone here, bready and toasty, but not sweet at all, which is nice. This is quite a steely beer, which I like.

This is medium bodied, with a crisp mouthfeel, and a higher level of carbonation. It is really drinkable, I gulped it down quite quickly.

I think I like the Ballantine IPA better, but this is a really good effort anyway.

 854 characters

Photo of are_doubleyou
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

L: Pours a rich golden orange with a moderate white head that vanishes into a fine lace exactly as I want from an IPA. But the beer is more opaque than I would like an IPA and there are minimal signs of carbonation bubbles.

S: A bit of a change from most of the American IPAs that I have been drinking lately. Strong herbal and earthy notes up front with citrus behind them. I don't smell any malt backbone, but it is a very enticing aroma.

T: A bit duller up front than the very crisp flavors that I am accustomed to from AIPAs, but the flavor there is very good and unique. Very nice balance between a bready malt and earthy herbal hops. There are some light citrus notes in the body, but they are more subtle than they are in the aroma. The finish is very earthy with some herbal and light pine resin notes. Very nice and a solid change from the fruity and resiny hop bombs that dominate this style.

F: The mouthfeel is thick and bready. Not what I would expect from an AIPA, but there is a nice tang to it.

O: I think the name says it all. I've heard that Cluster hops are unpopular these days and this beer is a nice showcase for them, but unlikely to convince brewers or consumers to demand more of it. I think this is a very pleasant spin on the American IPA and it's a very refreshing change up for me after the fresh hop season has been bombarding me with fruit and resin. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes the more subdued English style IPAs or wants to widen their hop palate.

This beer was poured from a 22oz bottle into a Blind Pig mug and enjoyed at apx. 60F.

 1,592 characters

Photo of HipCzech
4/5  rDev +4.7%

Serving: 650 mL bottle poured into an IPA glass (marked "best before 03/03/15").

Appearance: Deep, clear golden amber. Frothy, lasting white head with good lacing.

Smell: Herbal, resinous hops with a bit of citrus.

Taste: Malty body with slight honey sweetness and herbal, earthy notes (sweet tea). Dry, hoppy bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium body and low carbonation.

Overall: A very drinkable, balanced and malty IPA. Plenty of hop character, but more herbal than assertive citrus.

 488 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Smuttynose Stone Cluster's Last Stand from Smuttynose Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 59 ratings.