IF SOUTHERN TIER’S 2X Steam were to play the straight sweet malt rhythm for a West-by-East Coast take on Belgian tripel, all the jazzy licks and spicy lead notes would come from Compass, their imperial summer seasonal. Generally termed an American Pale Ale, Compass is more specifically a rose hip-sweetened ale bottle-conditioned with a champagne yeast. The result is a highly effervescent, light-bodied, and playfully tart beer that reflects some of Belgian beer’s appealing zest without the yeasty side flavors. Compass pours a muted honey gold with bountiful carbonation visible throughout its translucence and a respectably silky head draped on top. Its aromas show a little pepper, clove, and the gentle tart florals of the rose hips judiciously slotted into the background. Centennial hops were used for bittering and dry-hopping but contribute only secondary notes. Southern Tier can occasionally go overboard with their adjunct flavors (Crème Brûlée, Pumking), but had a lighter hand here and it served them well. Biscuit—a Southern Tier staple—is again prominent on the palate, nicely cut by some lemon citrus and a little pine from the hops that sneak in towards the back end and remind us that this is an American ale after all.
Also customary to Southern Tier, alcohol is not a bold flavor even at 9%. True, Compass is a fine beer already, needing no additional flavors to make it one of Southern Tier’s most complete offerings, but a little more assertiveness in the finish would seem appropriate for a strong seasonal brewed with champagne yeast. Either way, this Compass is one worth following. Or its polarity is true. Or some other hackneyed pun of good-natured but not overwhelmed approval.
Served: 22 oz bottle