Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine?

Learn more about beer and save over 53% with a 3-year subscription.

Subscribe 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: 422
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 29.32%
Wants: 16
Gots: 87 | 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: 422
Photo of maximum12
1.9/5  rDev -50.3%

Thanks to Joe_Grizzly for this extra in a recent trade box that should really have exploded from the force of the hops contained within. 22 oz. doomed bottle split with my wife.

The pop brings foam fizzing right up to the edge of the bottle: these two breweries didn’t skimp on the carbonation bill. Fake tan orange. Smells orange too, and mango, sweet.

Cluster’s Last Stand is a pretty good name for a beer, but this brew falls to LCCD syndrome (least common collaboration denominator). Butter-sweet malts greet my palate. Sourdough pretzels, orange Tang, nasty earthiness which roars in mid-palate & drowns out everything else. I’ve let it warm up a bit to confirm, but doctor, the patient is dead.

Separately, these two breweries kick some serious IPA ass; together, I’m not sure their foot could reach my ankles. A collaboration gone seriously wrong. Drain pour.

 879 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 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 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 sourd
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%

12 oz on tap at the beach club

light orange, like a proper nuevo style double ipa

smells like a mango...not mango scented hops, an actual mango.

boozy...tropical boozy

thin and boozy, stickier and stickier as it comes to temp...relatively dry for the style. not a lot of residual sweetness

a slightly above average new style dipa (dirtwolf, sucks, chillwave, etc...). not quite ready to play with the big boys, but close.

 427 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 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 ColdOneKev
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%

A - Slightly hazy copper with a fluffy white head, leaves moderate/heavy lacing.

S - Dank hops, some light biscuit coming through from the malt, very light citrus.

T - More malt than the nose led me to believe, spicy hops, and yes some chalk and metallic characteristics. Slight warmth from the ABV appears very late after the sip.

M - medium body, low carbonation. Dry finish. Bitterness tickles the senses.

O - Definitely a good English style IPA, or pre-prohibition, as indicated by the label. I see more of the Smuttynose contribution than Stone in this brew.

 569 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 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 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 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 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 ryan1788a5
3.63/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle poured into a Dogfish Head IPA glass. No date on the bottle, but I know this was released only about two to three months ago. Bottle numbered 551/1044.

A: Coppery golden color, very slight haze. Massive rocky white head forms atop the beer and never budges an inch. Lots of thick, clumpy lacing stubbornly clings to the glass.

S: Oily, green, and floral hop aromas. Earthy and leafy. Lemon head candy. Grainy and toasty malt base. Very clean.

T: Hops are very earthy. Pine, leaves, maybe even some bark. Somewhat tea-like and herbal. Ample bitterness. Floral and pithy too. Hit of lemon zest. Toasted grain in the malt base, a touch steely. Hint of caramel and broth. Alcohol peeks out just a bit. Bitter, earthy hop finish with toast and grain.

M: Medium-full body. Full and creamy with a bit of heft. Mild prickling carbonation. Some hop astringency, subtle prick of alcohol.

O: So this is supposed to be a recreation of the old Ballantine Ale, from what I'm told, complete with Cluster hops. Long before my time, but it's always nice to try these historic recipes. It's a bold and flavorful beer, if not a little one dimensional and bland. I appreciate the attempt at reviving this old recipe, but it's rather dull and middle of the pack by today's standards. Shows how far we've come and how spoiled we are, especially with all these new hop varieties.

 1,375 characters

Photo of VelvetExtract
3.69/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A-Pours a hazy orange color. Body still glows however. Big, fluffy white head that refuses to flatten out and laces with incredible consistency.

S-So apparently this is what Cluster hops brings to the table. Clementines, oranges, lemon zest and some flowers and herbs. The aroma is interesting but its not very strong. I do enjoy the doughy malt backing.

T-The hops start off sweet and orangey but then the get very grassy and piney. Its an interesting transformation on the tongue. The hops also present a spruce, herbal and spicy element which is very noticeable. The hoppiness is quite odd and I am unsure if I enjoy it. The malt has texture and plays with notes of dough and caramel.

M-A bit chewy. Sneaky bitterness. Soft bubbles. Booze comes off pretty hot.

O/D-Definitely unique. The hop profile is strange and the malt is very forward. I probably wouldn't buy this again but I am happy I tried it once.

 915 characters

Photo of PicoPapa
3.71/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle pours a dark brown with orange hues and a small amount of head. Minimal lacing. The aroma is pine and floral hops. A hint of citrus and maybe vanilla. The taste is piney hops and a bit boozey upfront. Some floral bitterness with a bit of oak. Some bready malts as well. Finishes with some more piney hops. Floral aftertaste. Medium bodied. Decent but I prefer the recent Ballantine IPA offering over this one.

 421 characters

Photo of RickS95
3.72/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a golden copper color. Reasonably clear liquid but still dark enough to keep most light out. The head is a dirty white up front, then invisible as it dissipates quickly, leaving just tiny bubbles around the edge.

Mostly piney resins in the nose, with some citrus and grass hiding in the background. The IPA scents are fairly gentle, allowing a bit of the pale malt to come through.

The hops are very prevalent, but kind of hide their indentity as I can't quite pick up all the flavors from the nose. No one flavor distinguishes itself from the hop side, so you can pick up the malt fairly easily.

Very bitter, but not a palate wrecker. There is no transition from sweet or citrusy to bitter, it starts off bitter and stays that way. It scrubs your palate clean with each sip, making it a good beer to have with dinner. Medium bodied.

This is a good collaboration beer, and a manly one at that. Nothing is ever over the top, stopping just short of it.

 974 characters

Photo of gillagorilla
3.74/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Had on tap at Max's Hopfest (from notes, 8/16-18/13)

A: Golden yellow with a decent head and lacing.

S: Citrusy and floral.

T: Sweet and citrusy. Nice balance with some pine.

M: Even carbonation with a bit of coarseness.

O: It was great to taste a Cluster hopped IPA. Different.

 283 characters

Photo of RobbDogg
3.75/5  rDev -1.8%

Orange/Amber pour with a thin head. Lacing is light. A scent of fresh hops and light fruit. Flavors include an original hops pop, pine, lemon, and faint berry. A little malt makes for a well balanced beer with some bitterness on the finish. Drinkable and enjoyable.

 265 characters

Photo of SABERG
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a recent bottle into a modified tulip glass.
A - Wild flower honey golden color, gentle carbonation, capped by a soft vanilla cap.
S - A fabulous blend of citrus, melon, and spring spruce. The nose shifts as the beer warms. Fresh
warm grass, and hints of lemon rise.
T - Soft lemon drop, light hints of rising sourdough, and finally those tropical notes close the deal.
F - Medium bodied, coats the palate, and lingers with oily resins. The feel is weighted to the finish.
O - The Cluster hop is such a treat, the body of the beer is straight down the middle, no real frills, no real risk.
Frankly a nice reprieve from the tropical, or piney behemoths out these days.

Cheers all

 691 characters

Photo of Roguer
3.79/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Beautiful clear, just slightly hazy orange and copper brew topped by a nice, firm, off-white head. Very good retention, and big flat lines of lacing.

Grapefruit, orange, and pine hop aromas shine through, riding a wave of caramel malt and wheat bread. Very straight forward and direct IPA aroma.

Flavor reflects the aroma. Very bitter and dry up front, followed by a barely sweet caramel malt and grain presence, and finished nicely by bitter citrus peel. A bit of pulpy tangerine and floral notes lighten and sweeten it up from mid to finish.

Lively and bright feel, medium-light, with an oily retention.

This is an old fashioned, straight forward, bitter IPA with a classic profile. Mostly dry hop flavors.

 712 characters

Photo of ONUMello
3.83/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle best by 3/15/15 poured into a pint glass
A: Slightly hazy orange/light brown color with a one-finger head
S: Citrus, tropical fruits, caramel and a hint of pine. Nice blend
T: Fairly dry, moderate bitterness, some generic citrus/pine/herbs
M: Medium-bodied but nothing remarkable
O: Decent for the style but nothing memorable

 338 characters

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bomber into a shaker pint, the beer is a hazy, caramel-copper coloring, with a fluffy, light, off-white head, and a steady flow of carbonation bubbling throughout the body. Aromas of tangerine and orange peel forward, with pine and resin to follow, and a subtle biscuit backbone. Very balanced and fruity nose. Flavors are caramel tangy sweet forward, with a citrus blend not far behind. Orange peel and tangerine lighten everything up, but there is a pine pitch and bitter hops resin characteristic that heavies up the palate a bit. Dynamic taste profiles. The beer is robust, but remains on the light side in mouth thanks in part to the carbonation. The aftertaste is more of the bitter, piney, sticky hops character, but the citrus has some lingering power, too. Dry, bitter, slightly astringent finish. Good beer!

 831 characters

Photo of BEERMILER12
3.87/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Best By 03/05/15

A: Pours a golden orange color with 2 fingers of head that retains for a good while

S: A nice mix of citrus and piney hops balanced by a light sweetness and some maltiness

T: Follows the nose. Balanced from the start, with the mix of citrus and pine from the hops riding right alongside the lightly sweet caramel maltiness. Alcohol extremely well hidden by the sweet and bitter notes. Finishes with a very light bitterness

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Soft, but firm

O: Extremely drinkable and quaffable for being 8.3%. So very well balanced and rounded that it keeps you coming back for more, despite the lack of any relative complexities. Definitely worth a try, if only for the history of the recipe

 739 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

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.