Growing up as a kid, my parents weren’t afraid to make me work. During the spring, it was digging out the garden, the summer was weeding the flowerbeds, fall was dedicated to raking leaves and splitting wood, and of course, winter meant a day off from school only to shovel the driveway. Three of these four seasons, one tool was used frequently, and to me, represents middle class, blue collar values. Dad’s old rusty red wheelbarrow. What looked to be a family heirloom with handles that would frequently leave splinters, this one tool made outdoor New England labor possible. It’s a tool that spanned generations really. I remember my grandfather giving me the tip to spin it in the direction where I wanted it to go before loading it with wood, dirt, or rocks. I remember my mom and dad using it to move plants around the yard. I remember my brother paying me so that he didn’t have to use it (ergo, I did the work for the both of us).
Fittingly, Maine Beer Company made a pretty straight forward red ale aptly titled, Red Wheelbarrow. A beer dedicated to the simple things in life, I’m excited to try this one out. Time for the numbers…
Appearance: In accordance to its name, Red Wheelbarrow pours a redish-brown hue and leaves behind a nice looking light tan head that laced the pint glass from start to finish. The beer is hazy, suggesting that it is either unfiltered or bottle conditioned.
Smell: Hops jump out at you first… pretty floral with some grapefruit and piney notes. The malt in this brew also has a big presence with scents of toasted oats, caramel, and spice.
Taste: The first word that comes to mind is harmony. There is yin and yang going on with this brew that’s so obvious to recognize, Taoists could taste it from China. On the front end, your palate is pile-driven by earthy and piney hops charging your taste buds with bitterness that mercilessly strike the sides of your tongue. Not to be out-shined, the malt in the brew shoves its way past the bittering abuse to bring some body and adds some smoke and sweetness to the brew. They malt is caramely, biscuity, and perfectly complements the piney hops in this brew. I also get a little spice out of this beer at the end and wouldn’t be surprised if there was some rye in the grain bill.
The flavors in this beer really remind me of fall. The summer IPAs carry over in this beer with the assertive hop profile and these flavors perfectly meld with the malts from a darker brown ale often seasonally consumed at fall tailgates. A refreshing option from the ubiquitous pumpkin ales that saturate the market this time of year. The mouthfeel on this beer is a bit on the robust side, but is fine for the style and the carbonation is on point. The ABV in this brew clocks in at a respectable 7% and isn’t detected in the brew at all.
Overall: I’m actually pretty surprised how much I enjoyed this beer. Typically hoppy beers that pour this color are borderline drain pours for me. I often find that the malt is just way too overpowering and the hops take a back seat, however in Red Wheelbarrow, it’s quite the opposite effect. Hops dominate at first then the malt comes in to cool off the palate. Again, this beer is very balanced. For that, I’d have to give Red Wheelbarrow an A-. It’s a beer that would make a blue collar, wood splitin’ lumberjack happy.