Beer-directed: Jobless Brewing Co.'s Compass [Food and dining]

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This article appears in the January 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

Don’t know about you, but we could really use a drink right about now. So we’ve scoured the city to find our 21 favorite bars — from upscale jazz joints to dives where your beer bottle sticks to the table. We’ve also tossed in some personalities familiar with local nightlife and quotes we overheard while out on the town.

The man who goes by “Compass” quit his job at Dick’s Sporting Goods in March 2008. He enjoyed fixing bicycles there but didn’t much like the “corporate structure,” how his boss frowned upon his wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt even though he worked in the back. Compass also wasn’t happy with the 2 percent raise the company offered him. “I told them, ‘I don’t even drink 2 percent. That’s insulting,’” the 38-year-old says while smoking a cigar on the patio of O’Shea’s on Baxter Avenue. Soon after quitting, he brewed some beer, something he’s been doing at home for about 15 years. “I said, ‘I’m going into the beer industry,’” he says.

Compass, whose long hair practically reaches the ground, has since created the Jobless Brewing Co. Its flagship beer, a smooth brown ale — made with four different malts and a single dose of hops — is not much different from that first batch he concocted after leaving Dick’s. (On the patio, Compass orders the brown ale, which the O’Shea’s family of pubs carries on tap.) For Jobless’ other label, a Severance Pale Ale, Compass wanted the hops “center stage.” He has also been tinkering with a recipe for a Destitution Double Pale Ale. A partnership has Browning’s Brewery making Compass’ beers, which can be found at the Hideaway Saloon, Gerstle’s, the Corner Door and other bars around town. (On Jan. 6, Flanagan’s is hosting a Jobless Brewing Co. pint night.) “Right now, I’m doing what I love more than just about anything else,” he says, “and I’m finally saying I’ll take some money for it.” 

Compass, whose father was in the Air Force, moved a lot as a kid and has remained on that path for much of his adult life, saying he still hitchhikes on a regular basis. No matter where he ended up — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington — if resources permitted, he’d get a group together and brew beer. He guesses that he’s on his sixth copy of Charles Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing because he often leaves the book with friends he meets on his travels. Compass makes an analogy between selecting beer-making ingredients and playing music. “Making beer is similar to using the notes on a piano. There’s a finite number, but there’s still a lot,” he says. “The way you use each of those notes — each ingredient — can create a lackluster performance or a stellar composition.”

About eight years ago, a hitchhiking Compass — he says some “hippie do-gooders” gave him the nickname because of his navigation skills — arrived in Louisville, and he has more or less called this town home ever since. The goal, he says, is to have his beer in bottles by the end of winter. Eventually, he wants to open his own brewery, hopefully in Germantown or the Highlands. “The first thing I’ll do is make some beer and jump in it,” Compass says. “I’ll probably have to pour that batch out.”

Photo: John Nation

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