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Beer- #287 – Southern Tier – Imperial Compass

Southern Tier – Imperial Compass Brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company in the style of a  Belgian Strong Ale and that’s being concocted in LakewoodNew York USA

Intriguingly Southern Tier call this  a bottle Conditioned Sparkling Ale w/ Rose Hips, and that it has “high” bitterness. I’ve seen it called an American Strong Ale too in reviews.

This is a 650ml, of a 9% ABV beer, with 270 calories a serve, which makes it a 4.62 standard drink unit beverage  in NZ. After the stunning Porter Noir and the Creme Brûlée I have a high expectation going into this.

The obligatory Selfie

The obligatory Selfie

We rely on age-old tools in the brewery despite being surrounded by high technology. As a sort of compass, we use the six pointed brewer’s star to help navigate uncharted brews. The cardinal points of water, malt, grain, yeast, hops and a brewer make the baseline. From there anything goes. Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.

Southern Tier - Imperial CompassYou’ll notice a slight bitterness in Compass derived from our use of rose hips accentuated by high effervescence. Drink it cold from a fluted or tulip glass. And by all means, avoid sea serpents.

Just grassy hops on opening, then an underlying  note of something sweeter, fruitier.

But this doesn’t immediately translate to the palate, and I get a very excitable and well carbonated pale yellow straw coloured beer, Fantastic head.  But as to the sharper points they don’t appear to be immediate.

2014-01-18 18.02.00On the nose you can pick something sweet, on the tongue you get a understated bitterness for the carry, and it’s carrying a slightly sweeter thing, but it’s not well defined, not really that sweet and frankly a bit coy.

This doesn’t make this a bad or undrinkable beer though, just one that is giving me a few challenges of identification.

Couple of major things that I have a thing with.

No Belgium style, aroma, or taste discernible.  No familiar yeasts, no alcohol astringent note.  So hard to measure it against that. The aroma continues to carry something sweet though.

A quandary ensues then, and as usual I have to put aside what the pre-conception I may or may not have  about this and the style it may or may not have.  I’ve got a lovely pouring, and looking beer with a head and lacing. I’ve got a fine mouthfeel and a muted low level of bitterness, but a beer that has a really low and persistent sweet note. It has a great aroma.

All the things that should make this a spectacular beer.

Crucially there is absolutely no indication at all, anywhere in this, that you’re drinking a beer that is by any measure strong at 9% and it delivers that without any of the other noises that you’d expect or associate with ‘strength’. By which I mean that this is not a LOUD beer to drink, you don’t get a punch in taste buds and a wallop of bitterness or a wave of astringent tang. It’s just a really really decent quaffable beer, but it’s not for all that fulfilling.

So the pdubyah-o-meter rates this at a still very good 9. I’ve managed to drink it all in not a lot of time, it hasn’t warmed in the glass to give me anything else, except an empty glass and that forlorn tipping the bottle as if some magic will happen and more beer will suddenly pour from it. I did that, it didn’t do that.

A cautionary note would be that “bottle conditioned” means that this comes with passengers that will cloud up and dance in the glass. I wish I’d thought that through. I now have a cloudy yellow straw well carbonated beer, and I’m going to miss it when it’s gone. I’d happily go another of these, and then possibly an early bedtime, it’s got a lot of good things about it, but it’s an awkward beer when you have expectation (A) and delivery (B).

Music with this tonight  is Tame Impala – an Australian band who give the psychedelic rock a go.


Belgian Strong Ales can vary from pale to dark brown in color, darker ales may be colored with dark candy sugar. Hop flavor can range from low to high, while hop aroma is low. The beers are medium to full-bodied and have a high alcoholic character. Types of beers included here include tripels, dubbels and ultra-strong abbey ales.


Not a style, per se, but the only logical category to incorporate the plethora of strong, stylistically vague beers coming from American micros these days. Some are related to English Strong Ales, but with more hop, while others are ultra-strong variants on the IPA theme. But no matter how varied their origins or characters might be, all are intense, potent, with generous quantities of hops and malt.

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One comment on “Beer- #287 – Southern Tier – Imperial Compass

  1. Pingback: Beer – #289 – Green Flash – Rayon Vert | A life just as ordinary

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