Sugar can present itself in different ways in different beers. Sometimes it's overt, as is the case with several local beers that are brewed with honey -- Four Corner's Local Buzz carries a subtle, palate forward sweetness, while Revolver's Blood and Honey could make Winnie the Pooh's tummy grumble. Other times sweetness is much more subtle -- perceived as more of a tactile sensation or thickness. This is the kind of sweetness that lends a medium body to this week's couch reviewed beer Grapevine's Lakefire Pale Ale.
You won't notice it at first, likely because you're memorized by the label on the can. The fireball background was made for a retro t-shirt -- the kind you'd wear if you picked up chicks on the beach and had a thin, blonde mustache. After you get past the can you're likely caught up in that clear copper liquid with a thick, lasting, off-white head. Take a sip and keep searching. You'll see what I'm talking about.
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Lakefire presents hops first and foremost, and while the beer is brewed with rye over wheat or other malts, any spiciness you'd expect from that grain is subtle. You have to take in a mouthful of beer, swallow, smack your lips three times and wish for it, "ah, there's some spicy rye," you'll say before you wonder if you're lying to yourself.
What's more prominent are the malty flavors, which duke it out with all those hops to make this 5.5 percent ABV beer a rather drinkable one. Focus on that malt and you'll find a subtle, roasted grain and caramel flavor lingering in the finish. That's a sweetness of a different color, and unless you prefer a seriously heavy brew, this is the sort of sweetness that's ultimately more drinkable than the honey-brewed examples I cited before.
With that sweetness sorted out, the Lakefire Rye Pale Ale is solid beer that deserves your attention, but I don't think it will be taking home any gold medals. It's just another, run-of-the-mill brew that neither offends or elates.