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Bell's Oarsman - Bell's Brewery, Inc.

Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,447 Ratings
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Ratings: 1447
Reviews: 521
rAvg: 3.51
pDev: 16.81%

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc. visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
Berliner Weissbier |  4.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Sour mash wheat ale.

"Designed as a flavorful session beer, Oarsman Ale uses a classic German brewing technique to impart a light, refreshing tartness. Oarsman Ale grew out of a desire to explore the tradition of session beers, trading intensity for finesse while still creating a worthwhile experience for the taster. The grain bill includes a healthy portion of wheat, while light hopping lend citrus & herbal notes to the aroma. Fermented with Bell's house ale yeast, Oarsman comes in at 4.0% alcohol by volume. Rather than being the dominant flavor note, the tartness in Oarsman takes on more of a palate-cleansing role, making it perfect with meals or purely on its own."

(Beer added by: Thorpe429 on 04-12-2009)
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Ratings: 1,447 | Reviews: 521 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

3/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Sorry Bell's. I thought this was a lager based on the mouthfeel. I got some lemon and sourness out in front, didn't like it, and went for a perrier with lemon instead. Fresh bottle from Cleveland.So not so drinkable, didn't care for the smell, the mouthfeel. You get the picture.

Serving type: bottle

07-24-2011 03:52:40 | More by Sammy
Photo of UCLABrewN84


3.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to kzoobrew for sending me this one!

Pours a murky light yellow with a 1/2 inch foamy white head that fades to an oily film. No lacing whatsoever. Smell is of wheat, lemons, and a sour aroma. Taste is of wheat, lemon/citrus, and a slightly sour flavor. A nice tart flavor lingers on the palate after each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a very crisp and clean mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good refreshing beer with a nice pleasant tartness. I am glad I got to try this one.

Serving type: bottle

09-05-2011 01:09:07 | More by UCLABrewN84
Photo of BuckeyeNation


3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars."

--Latin proverb

Acid-washed lemon yellow with a two finger crown of cumulus cloud white that is slightly crackly. The foam is still sticky enough, however, to grace the glass with dots and spots of lace... that don't last. Looks like a Berliner weissbier.

The nose is more akin to a classic American pale wheat with a bit more lemony tartness than is typical. The beer smells clean and fresh and inviting. Simplicity is no black eye when style is taken into account.

The brewery's goal was to create a year-round session beer that would be good alone or with food. Mission... pretty much accomplished. The amount of citrus juice tartness puts Oarsman Ale closer to Berliner weissbier than American pale wheat and might cost them repeat sales. Just a hunch. This is pretty good ale, but multiple bottles could become a little bit wearing.

Malt contributes almost nothing in terms of flavor, sweetness or feel. Hops are on the low end as well. The result is a beer that needs some flavor hook other than lemon juice and wheat. There isn't even much untoasted grain, such as is present in a relatively burly American pale lager like Schlitz Gusto.

The mouthfeel can hardly be faulted for being light. Slightly sparkly bubbles should work well, but these are a little too sharp and don't seem to be fading much as the bottom of the bottle approaches.

On the strength of too many offerings to mention here, Bell's is a mainstay in my top-10 American breweries of all-time. The idea behind Oarsman Ale was a good one, but the Berliner weissbier-like sourness might not have been the best way to go.

Serving type: bottle

10-11-2010 12:48:13 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

3.18/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Barleys, I was thrilled to death to be able to try this one. Having been soo hot lately I really was in the mood to start the day with a little something lighter. Served in a pint glass, this one was consumed on 04/17/2010.

The pour was alright. Lightly clouded golden amber with a small head of white that quickly faded out of the scene. Lots of carbonation coming up from the bottom of the glass. Very light aroma here, hints of bready notes, a touch of light fruit, pears perhaps and a light notes of spice. Not the tartness and richness I would have liked to see in the style. Flavor followed suit the same. Just lacked the pop I would have like to have seen. Really nice grainy notes, touches of light fruit, but nothing drawing me back in. Light on the palate and nicely sessionable, it just lacked that dryness and depth of profile to put me over the top.

Overall a rather average offering from Bell's. I was hoping for a little more I have to admit.

Serving type: on-tap

04-19-2010 02:41:57 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of womencantsail


3.78/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks for sending this one my way, Derek. Been looking forward to trying it out.

A: The pour is a clouded pale golden straw color with a small white head.

S: It has a big wheat aroma to it, which I expected, with some undertones of a Berliner Weiss. A slight lemony character along with a definite popcorn type aroma. There seems to be an underlying earthy note to the beer as well.

T: The flavor is very reminiscent of a Berliner Weiss. Nicely tart and lactic with lots of wheat flavor. Very bright and clean acidity and tartness rather than the unwanted and unintentional sourness of the usual Pale Wheat Ale.

M: Light in body with a moderate level of carbonation.

O: I have heard such varying opinions on this beer I wasn't sure what I would be getting, but I liked this one. Nice and refreshing.

Serving type: bottle

03-25-2011 00:34:10 | More by womencantsail
Photo of brentk56

North Carolina

4.05/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a hazy lemon color with a modest whipped egg white head that fails to leave any lace; I haven't had too much exposure to the Berliner Weisse style but if memory serves, they tend not to produce much of a head, so I am rating this by giving them the benefit of the doubt

Smell: Bready, with a reasonable amount of lemony tartness

Taste: Starts out with a crusty bread character, with the lemony element taking charge by mid-palate; after the swallow, the lemon flavors persist, though the breadiness returns to provide some balance

Mouthfeel: Light body with prickly carbonation

Drinkability: Though it is not a true Berliner Weisse, I think Bell's has stumbled onto something here as I really enjoyed the lightness and tartness; the beer would also pair well with a range of foods; it might not be every BA's cup of tea but it is a beer with potential mass appeal that I wouldn't mind drinking on a range of occasions

Serving type: bottle

09-13-2010 20:55:27 | More by brentk56
Photo of BEERchitect


3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wheat-heavy and sharply acidic, this American Wheat is estery, phenolic, rich, and crisp- a lot going on for a beer style that catches a lot of criticism.

The beer pours a murky golden color with a froathy-fizzy head that disapoints with it's head retention; reducing to a trace very quickly and struggles to exist for the first quarter of the session.

Aromas of wheat dominate the beer (this beer obviously uses much more wheat than the norm). Spicy rye-like scents combine with lemon and apple esters, almost-smoky phenolics, and an earthy sweetness than hinges on sourdough breads and tobacco.

Flavors are acidic and lemony up front with a bright and crisp start. But the wheaty/spicy notes take the sharp flavors into a more mellow bread and white pepper taste. The bready-sweet flavors intensify towards the finish and stray from the lemony start. Pungent, earthy, and a pleasant graininess persists late in the finish. The beer takes a very German-like maltiness and yeastiness but an English-like hop identity.

Likewise, the beer starts lemony in mouthfeel with a palate-stripping acidic feel. But the beer takes on a more full, malty, bready texture as the beer makes its transition into the finish. Earthy, bitey, and mildly astringent late.

Oarsman seems to take a reverse procession than what beers normally do. The usual transition is from a creamy-sweet start into a dry-acidic finish. This beer starts with the lemony-acidic start into a froathy-bready-earthy finish. Although this beer is characterful, drinkable, and complex it's still an American Wheat Ale that pales in comparison to traditional German Hefeweizens.

Serving type: bottle

09-28-2010 03:18:16 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of Thorpe429


4.1/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the brewery on April 11, 2009.

A: Pale lemonish color. Slightly cloudy with a decent bone white head.

S: Slightly sweet and a little bit tart.

T: Pale malt with some tartness. A few hops.

M: Very crisp with moderate carbonation.

D: Very drinkable. Great outdoor summer drink.

Serving type: on-tap

04-12-2009 02:33:25 | More by Thorpe429
Photo of metter98

New York

3.88/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is hazy light yellow in color and somewhat resembles lemonade. It poured with a quarter finger high white head that quickly died down and left a bit of lacing on the surface and a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of sourness in the nose.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has a moderate amount of sourness, but that’s about it. The sourness is neither strong nor overpowering (and doesn’t have any funkiness like in a gueuze).
M: It feels light-bodied and a bit tart on the palate with a low to moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer really cleanses your palate, similar to what you would expect from a light sorbet between courses at dinner.

Serving type: bottle

04-07-2012 07:07:23 | More by metter98
Photo of ChainGangGuy


3.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle - $5.00 at Taco Mac in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Appearance: Pours a pale gold body with just the faintest bit of haziness to it and, despite an enthusiastic pour, no more than a slim, white head.

Smell: Aroma smelling of a distant lemon meringue pie, a hint of moistened herbs, and a nudge of nonchalant wheat.

Taste: Soft white wheat, faintly bready, dosed with a dollop of lemon custard garnished with a curl of tart lemon peel. Mild sweetness. No real bitterness felt. Moderate lactic tartness. Proportionately acidic as you near the drying, cleansing finish.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied. Medium-plus carbonation.

Drinkability: It's alright for a light ale best suited to easy, refreshing drinking outdoors in the warmer months.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2010 16:17:11 | More by ChainGangGuy
Photo of TMoney2591


3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a Devil's Backbone willibecher.

My brother bought a sixer o' this and hated it, so I smilingly inherited some free beer. Always welcome. It pours a hazy pale straw, not entirely unlike lemonade, topped by a bit less than a finger of relatively short-lived white micro-foam. The nose is basically a two-pronged attack consisting of lemon zest and some mildly funky wheat and rice. The taste reminds me of a hardy lemonade, with a touch of Squirt for extra citrus flavor and the carbonation. This doesn't really mean I think it's bad, just not great. The body is pretty light, with a light moderate carbonation and a fairly refreshing feel and finish. Overall, it's very drinkable, but I'm just not too enthused about it.

Serving type: bottle

10-05-2010 17:34:34 | More by TMoney2591
Photo of feloniousmonk


3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bell's Oarsman Ale, Brewed and Bottled by Bell's Brewery, Comstock, MI. "Buoyant, tart and refreshing from using traditional sour mash methods. Great for you and your crew." 4.0% ABV.

What does this tell us? How it tastes, how it drinks, how they made it, and what activity it's use is best with. What if I'm not in a boat. And would I like it with a goat?

Clouded, golden, small head, lasts as a thin, white ring.

Aroma: light citrus, light hops, a touch of sourness, a smidgen of sweet. Bit of a funk effect, too. Pleasing enough.

Taste: Brisk, tart, and, yeah, refreshing. A little tingle on the palate, a bracing quick minute of sour, a squirt of citrus, the flash of wheat texture and mouthfeel, and nothing but smoothness and extra-easy drinking.

One thing very much missing in the information given to us by Bell's Brewery is the style of this brew, or even what general area it's shooting for. Not a hefe weizen, not quite a Berliner Weisse, either. Maybe a mix of the two?

I'm also puzzling over the meaning of the name. Why Oarsman? Is there a fondness for rowing at the brewery? Is it an alternative to a "lawnmower beer", a "rowing ale"? So many mysteries.

Another conundrum is how long it took me to take notes on this Bell's beer, having come out so many years ago. It was draft only for years, and I sampled it now and then, but it never quite grabbed me. It's a well-made beer, certainly quaffable, with enough of a tartness to keep it interesting. It's fun, and tasty, and the 6-pack will be done quickly enough. I probably won't return to it very often, though.

Although… although…I am liking it more, at the end of bottle #2. Maybe I'll be a rootin' tooting' booster before too long.

Serving type: bottle

10-02-2012 07:07:31 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of emerge077


4.38/5  rDev +24.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a Berliner Weisse/American Wheat hybrid style.

Bright gold, slight haze once the yeast is poured. Steadfast cap of bone white foam, creating thick sheets of lace as it's sipped. Very attractive bright pastel gold.

Aroma of white grapes, minerals, dusty wheat, signature Berliner Weisse traits.

Mildly sharp lactic acid tartness, with wheaty creaminess settling in after the initial tart snap. Firm wheat flavor, sour crabapple, and mild grape notes, soft and ethereal. Even carbonation, soft feel, not even approaching puckering, rather a mild pleasant tartness. Sublime in it's simplicity, this is something i'd crave on a hot summer day. Ultimately sessionable at 4%, and sadly misunderstood.

Serving type: bottle

12-10-2010 02:52:33 | More by emerge077
Photo of russpowell


3.95/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this on draft at Waldo's Pizza in KC

Pours an effervescent straw color with a finger of pearl white head. Average head retention & lacing

S: Bready & tart lemony smells

T: Grainny, bready with a nice tartness, plus citrussy hops. Tartness & grainyness dominate as this warms. Finishes dry & tart with some lemony hop notes

MF: Light/medium bodied with a nice crispness

Drinks very easy, a pretty accessible but a semi- faithful take on the style. Went great with my Pizza

Serving type: on-tap

03-21-2010 21:57:28 | More by russpowell
Photo of drabmuh


4.15/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I poured this beer for Bell's at the Leesburg, VA summer beer and worked my way through 1.5 kegs of it 4 ounces at a time. I personally had about 10 samples though. The Bell's representative told me that it will be bottled in August.

Beer is light yellow with a distinct haze to it. Aggressively carbonated and it forms a thin white head of small bubbles. No lacing left on the glass but it looks good.

Aroma is mildly lactic but overall its weak.

Beer is also thin bodied and mildly lactic. I got scolded by the rep for telling people it was a berleinerweiss. He told me some incorrect facts about how this beer was made and how berleiners were made and then instructed me to tell them that it was a lemony wheat beer. I got some lemons in the taste but not a lot. It is about the most drinkable beer I've ever come across.

Serving type: on-tap

06-27-2010 15:21:28 | More by drabmuh
Photo of Mora2000


3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a hazy yellow color with a white head. The aroma is full of grain and some wheat, but not too much of the tartness I expected. That changes a little bit in the flavor. I get a lot of wheat, with a very light amount of tartness and some grain. Thin, watery mouthfeel and medium carbonation. Decent, but not really what I was expecting.

Serving type: bottle

06-03-2012 18:35:56 | More by Mora2000
Photo of zeff80


3.68/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Sycamore, Columbia, MO during Bell's beer dinner.

A - Poured a cloudy, golden-yellow color with a white one-finger head of bubbly foam. It left subtle traces of lace.

S - It smelled of wheat, yeast, spices and fruits.

T - Good sweet wheat flavor with a potent sour fruit flavor. A little funky spice and yeastiness makes it seem Belgian-style.

M - It was crisp and very sharp. A light brew that would be very sessionable during the summer months.

D - This is a very nice Berliner Weiss. It's only my second but it was quite delicious.

Serving type: on-tap

01-20-2010 04:26:33 | More by zeff80
Photo of Gueuzedude


3.6/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Batch # 10509, Bottled June 2011; Sampled July 2011
A quick pour into my glass produces a two-finger thick, pale, off-white head. The beer is a pale amber color that shows just a touch of haze and a pale gold with just a touch of amber hue to it when held up to the light. The beer smells like crushed grain husks, hay, pale malt flower and cracker like malt up front. There seems to be a touch of lemon accentuating tartness here, that once noticed can’t be missed, but is a bit more soft and subtle than I was hoping (was really hoping for a full on Berliner Weiss ‘esque beer here). There is a touch of funkiness here that subtly influences the dominant grain notes with some

Light bodied and refreshing with a subtle tartness to the finish. The touch of tartness accentuates the chewy wheat flavors somehow making them a bit more pronounced. The finish somehow reminds me quite a bit of lime-aide juice; with both a hint of lime zest bite as well as a soft sweetness (that seems to be from the lactic acid rather than from residual sugars left over, but maybe). The light, but persistent carbonation also seems to accentuate the tart bite that this beer has. Perhaps a bit simplistic

This ended up being more tart tasting than the aroma suggested, but it still isn’t as sour as I prefer my Berliner Weiss beers to be. Still this is a very refreshing beer and it is one I would be quite happy to see show up in Arizona (though honestly it is such an easy style to make so much better that I doubt I would buy it much), and I would definitely recommend it to folks that couldn’t otherwise get Berliner Weiss beers.

Serving type: bottle

08-09-2011 14:14:19 | More by Gueuzedude
Photo of Knapp85


3.13/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. The beer is very light looking. Very clean and clear brew with some bubbles rising periodically. The Head wasn't too much of anything really. The smell had something like a funky aroma, not strong like a lambic but very light hint of it in there. That little hint from the nose come over onto the tongue with each sip. It's quite a different beer. I don't recall having something similar to this before. Not a bad brew at all, but not my favorite.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2011 23:14:02 | More by Knapp85
Photo of RblWthACoz


4.33/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Very bready with lemon and citrus tones, but with an excellent mix of characteristics that lets a lot of things show through and lets no one thing hijack the ride. Berliner Weisse characteristics abound. Good feel, very easily drinkable. I could actually go for many of these in one sitting. A really excellent production, imo.

Serving type: bottle

08-19-2012 23:13:53 | More by RblWthACoz
Photo of WVbeergeek


3.93/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Slightly hazed yellow golden hue with a thin white cap of head. Fine speckled lacing on the sides of my flared pilsner glass. Chunks of yeast suspended in the slightly clouded elixer, alot of sediment ends up in the bottom of my glass. Aroma is mildly tart with a nice bready quality, hints of citrus and mild funk going on. Traditional sour mash methods are described on the label at a beerfest a couple weeks ago I was told this wasn't a Berliner Weiss, however I can't describe it any other way. Body is light with a drying tart finish, carbonation is ample nothing too hard to manage. Drinkability overall is super solid refreshing brew, I'm liking the fact that they made this one a year rounder in six packs. I don't know of many brewers making a tart wheat ale one of their regulars.

Serving type: bottle

09-12-2010 19:18:37 | More by WVbeergeek
Photo of mactrail


3.58/5  rDev +2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Quite tart, of course, at first sip. Gradually mellows with an interesting sour background. Rather coarse foam that settles down but dissipates to a few swirls. Seems like it has quite a yeasty taste, though the beer is perfectly clear. Slight fruity flavor, but quite watery. Like diluted green apple juice.

Quite inoffensive example of the style. The edge mellows off the acidity after a while. Pale color, more white than yellow.

Serving type: bottle

07-23-2011 04:06:52 | More by mactrail
Photo of StonedTrippin


3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

not a conventional berliner weiss as i understand them. this one pours a bit darker, hazy orange honey color with a small white head that doesnt last long. smells a touch sour, like just a tad of brettanomyces in there, but i dont think there is. tart lemony notes as well with a funky ale yeast. flavor is yeast forward with a really cool wheat malt profile. the sourness comes from the yeast i think, very citrusy. this is a pretty solid summer brew, lots going on, but lighter in body and carbonation. very drinkable, not boring at all. my only disappointment was not in the beer at all, but in the fact that my waitress told me this was a sour beer. it isnt, but it is quite good for what it is. still never had a bells brew i didnt adore.

Serving type: on-tap

06-17-2012 16:28:43 | More by StonedTrippin
Photo of tempest


4.05/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Had a pint with brunch at the Sidecar in Philly. This turned out to be a tasty replacement for a mimosa and made a nice compliment to my huevos rancheros. The beer appeared an opaque yellow with a slice of lemon. The beer, while not very tasty, had a wonderful mix of creamy bread with toast and wheat cracker flavors. There were mild hints of citrus, but on the whole it was a bit clean for the style. Still, a very tasty beer and worth checking out.

Serving type: on-tap

06-06-2010 22:29:43 | More by tempest
Photo of mdfb79

New York

3.13/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

From 09/25/10 notes. Had on tap at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA.

a - Pours a murky, pale yellow color with less than 1 inch of white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of wheat and light citrus, not much else.

t - Tastes of citrus, light fruity malts, wheat, and bready malts.

m - Medium body and low to moderate carbonation.

d - A pretty average pale/wheat ale. Wasn't bad, but nothing really stood out in the smell or taste. Wouldn't seek out again.

Serving type: on-tap

09-29-2010 00:22:51 | More by mdfb79
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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,447 ratings.