A vintage US hop, that was a dominant part of American brewing mainly due to its excellent storage and bittering qualities. With a crisp, fresh feel Cluster has the ability to add floral and earthy notes if used late in the copper.
Ale, Lager, Stout, Porter
Floral, Spicy, Blackberry, Earthy
Cluster is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, variety of hop currently grown in America. It was once the dominant hop used in American brewing with over 90% of the hops grown in America being Cluster. Its parentage is unknown. It is believed that it may be a descendant of a native hop or the product of open pollination of a European variety. Although Cluster is not typically held in high regard any more, it does have some of the best storage properties of any hop.
Cluster was once known as an excellent bittering hop. However, as we mentioned above, it has fallen out of favour in recent times. There are other hop varieties now available in the US that have a high alpha acid content and more flavours and aromas that make for better use as a bittering hop in some craft beers. Saying that, Cluster does have a lovely, crisp and fresh bitterness quality, so it has made its way into many craft beers over the years.
Cluster is not an aroma hop by any stretch of the imagination. There are plenty of other American hops that out-class Cluster in this category. But Cluster does have some good qualities in the aroma department. If used late in the copper, you can add some floral and earthy notes into the brew. When used at flameout, some brewers have noted hints of grapefruit.
So, Cluster may be considered “old fashioned” by many breweries nowadays, but perhaps they are overlooking this hop too quickly. When treated right, it can produce some lovely flavours, and it does still make a very good bittering hop that doesn’t add too much taste into mix meaning you can control the taste with late additions.
Cluster may be a little old and vintage now, but it does still have a place in the brewing world, and it is ready to, once again, cement itself back into brewer’s hearts! We think there is plenty of space in the brewing world for this old boy. Of course, you can also use Cluster to create a blast from the past, the perfect beer for Independence Day, perhaps?