Clusters Last Stand (Smuttynose Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Company)

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.”

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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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Getting Drunk at America’s Finest Chain Restaurants

Perhaps it’s my advancing age, my predilection for playing the sourpuss, or merely my growing disinterest in ceremony of any sort, but I’d rather eat in the shit end of a strip mall than get gussied up for a night on the town in the kind of genericly chic hotspots that now litter America’s cities. The lamentations of my colleagues as far afield as London over the insidious creeping dread of gentrification are now as familiar to journalism as Beyonce think-pieces, pointless aggregation of Daily Show clips, and Oxford commas.

We’ve bitched about gentrification’s florid fare and prentitious air of exclusion, but what’s the alternative? The aggressive gourmet flatulence of trendy urban neighborhoods makes me long for the affordable, bland, but comforting chain restaurants of my youth. I’m talking about the kind of place where the ads implore you to “let your hair down,” “unwind,” and “be family.” 

Those sentiments seem trite, but are actually what we crave the most, especially here in America. We want to belong, we want to be accepted, and we want to get drunk on cheap liquor. Those aren’t virtues anymore when fancy gastropubs charge $17 for a burger and $8 for a pint of beer. We are being robbed of the one thing that makes us American: our love of inexpensive, generic bullshit.

The first Denny’s in Manhattan opened last week, and features a $300 version of their popular Grand Slam meal that comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. We can’t even pray at the altar of the classic American diner without being reminded of what we don’t have. Are well-heeled day traders in Manhattan going to pop in for bacon and eggs, with a side of champagne? What’s next, a Happy Meal that comes with an XBox? 

Reveling in popular culture, while also suckling at the sweet, sparkling teat of opulance is de rigueur these days. Restaurants sell gussied up versions of comfort food and charge through the nose for it. But what about just having normal comfort food? Can’t I just pleasure myself on top of a greasy plate of “grub” while knocking back a few discounted Happy Hour beverages? Thatbeautiful disaster exists solely in the safe, sanitized vortex of the suburban chain restaurant.

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Stone Pasadena 08.17.2014

Went out to Pasadena this last weekend to try out the 18th Anniversary Ale 8.5%abv by #StoneBrewingCo. It’s a big beer amber in color with a lot of El Dorado hops that give it a nice lemon taste on the end. Check out Stone’s company store if you are in the area.

220 S Raymond Ave #103, Pasadena, CA 91105

Last nights picks. Forever Sierra Nevada apparently. I guess living so close to the brewery means they’re my default when there’s nothing else that looks worth trying. Turns out I’ve never had the “Flipside” yet anyway, so there’s that. Both of these were good, the Flipside being the best of the two hands down. I’d consider both of these pretty much session beers, nothing too crazy about either, just some really well made, tasty brews.

@stonebrewingco happy 18th guys, this beer for me has a story, and a few airmiles too, i have carried the from stones store in escondido #sandiego to #newyorkcity and then from there back #hongkong #shenzhen i had a small sample from stones place in san deigo airport which i didnt like, but drinking this now it is really very different, the combination of the malt and hops just brings out a pineapple and passion fruit this is a beer i like #stonebrewingco #18anniipa #ipa #craftbeer #beer #laowai

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Lagunitas Sucks - there aren’t a lot of beers I’d consider buying a quart bottle of, but this is one. Didn’t hit the high point it normally does, but still enjoyable. Picked this up at Sam the Beer Man who normally has the best prices around, but then saw it at Wegman’s for 2 bucks cheaper - a little odd.

722. Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA

Well, today I announced that I got a new job to some people at work. I start my new job in about two weeks and an really looking forward to the new adventure. After cleaning up the kitchen tonight after dinner, I decided to sit down and do a beer review. I don’t remember exactly where I got this beer, but I put it in the fridge a couple months ago with the intention of drinking it soon. I’m glad I finally got around to it. The label says, “Hoptimum is the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced – a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed, Hoptimum delivers ultra-intense flavors to hop fanatics everywhere.”

Location: Poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass at my home in Bloomington, IL.

Numbers: 10.4% ABV, 100 IBUs, 22.8° plato OG, 4.5° plato FG, ~200 Calories

Ingredients: Malts: Two-row Pale, Munich, Wheat; Bittering hops: German Magnum; Finishing Hops: Chinook, Simcoe, Experimental Variety; Ale yeast

Appearance & Aroma: It’s burnt orange in color, and it’s lightly hazy, with a thin and soapy/creamy head that left some nice lacing. There’s a piney-earthy hop aroma with some honey maltiness in the background.

Taste & Feel: The body is full and the mouthfeel is creamy. There’s a sweet honey maltiness and piney hop juiciness up front. The piney flavor and bitterness… (More on Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA)

Stone’s RuinTen IPA (Picked up at Trader Joe’s). A 4 of 4. Quite a hop bomb, and at 10.8%, this is no lightweight either. Glad to see this will be a yearly release now (it was originally a 10th Anniversary Ruination). Smells of citrus juice, and a whole lot of bitter pith and some sweetness and booze as well. Drinks relatively cleanly sweet with a firm, powerful, astringent bitterness in the finish. Mostly citrus-pith flavors, and the alcohol is a bit noticeable in the finish. This is an excellent double/triple/big IPA.

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