Style: Pale Ale
Age at Drinking: 6 Weeks
It's interesting to see Southern Tier releasing Live as, specifically, a bottle conditioned pale ale — as opposed to just another pale ale. It's not marketed as a seasonal, a special release, or an update to the brewery's existing pale ale (Phin and Matt's Extraordinary Ale). The name and marketing for this beer sort of implies that bottle conditioning is a novel and rare thing; meanwhile, the quintessential American pale ale (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) that's been around for a couple decades is also bottle conditioned.
I was confused by this until I started seeing Live pop up in unexpected places — burger restaurants and pubs, and other places I'm not used to seeing Southern Tier's typically high-octane beers. I wonder if the company is perhaps pushing this specifically as the new, updated East Coast answer to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The brewery is growing tremendously, and they might just have the clout to pull off a move like that. But do they have a beer that earns it?
Despite the bottle conditioning, Live pours a beautiful, clear golden, with a nice fluffy head and medium carbonation. I don't comment on appearance much, because I think it's irrelevant much of the time, but this is a really nice looking beer. Aroma is mild (though this was six weeks old even by the time I picked it up, so likely faded), and suggests bready malts supporting fruity, bright hops. Typical of the style. The flavor, however, is bit more... new wave, with funky tropical hops and deep, bright fruit flavors. My first thought: Citra, maybe some Amarillo. Southern Tier's hoppy beers have all been around for what constitutes "a long time" in the craft beer world, so it's nice to see them embracing new hops, new flavors, and yet stick to a more sessionable approach. If this beer manages to be both fresh and widespread, it could be a real slam-dunk for Southern Tier.
Availability: 12 ounce bottles, year-round release.