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Cluster is THE O.G. American hop variety. It is a public variety, not proprietary. People didn’t own hop varieties back when this variety came along like they do today. Cluster dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century (and probably even before that) when all beer was craft and local because there wasn’t any alternative. Some speculate the variety traveled over with Dutch or English settlers from Europe yadda yadda yadda … We care more about the future of the Cluster variety than its past. If you want a detailed history of any hop variety, you can probably find it on the Interwebs.
We want to focus on what to expect when you use Cluster hops. Depending on when you use them in the brewing process, it offers flavors ranging from black currant to pineapple melon and citrus. In short, Cluster can provide a combination of earthiness and fruitiness while it brings a clean bitterness to the table.
OK … Let’s address the dark side of Clusters, cattiness. If you’ve never ever heard the term before, it’s not referring to that nice warm kitty purring on your lap as you sit by the fire. It means a cat pee flavor or smell. Yes, you read that right! Some claim that they can smell or taste a litter box / cat pee aroma from Cluster hops. Some people claim the same about other varieties too. Others say they have never experienced cattiness. Cluster is present in plenty of beers that don’t exhibit cattiness. You shouldn’t write off the variety on that rumor alone. Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon, successfully brewed their Clusterf#ck single hop IPA with … guess which variety. Here’s a link to their experience.
If that wasn’t enough, here’s a great blog post from Beervana from a few years ago that mentions some Cluster history. It also offers very colorful and favorable review of the Cluster variety in the Clusterf#ck IPA mentioned above.
Today, new varieties are all the rage. Legacy varieties aren’t sexy in today’s market. Today everybody wants something new, just for its newness alone. For that reason, Cluster, which once dominated American hop variety, is now counterculture. Allow your creative juices to flow. Challenge yourself as a brewer. Don’t follow the herd. Give Clusters a try. You might be surprised what you’ll find there … Or, you can go ahead and brew another Citra® IPA like everybody else and their dog.
Starting tomorrow, February 16, 2017, for a limited time, we are featuring Cluster in our #throwbackthursday sale on our web site store. Save on this American Legacy Variety while supplies last.