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

Not Rated.
Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,721 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,721
Reviews: 540
rAvg: 3.51
pDev: 16.24%
Wants: 64
Gots: 114 | FT: 2
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,721 | Reviews: 540 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of BretSikkink
3.73/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Good pours elicits a little white head, not much stick, but a clear golden color. Nose is quite clean and faint, with simple notes of lemon and pale grain. I didn't read that it was a Berliner Weisse before smelling, and the aroma didn't clue me in.

The flavor definitely did. I love this version of a sour wheat - notes of cherry juice alongside lemon zest tartness. Malt is a little low, doesn't contribute much, and neither are their hops present. Light and bubbly.

Sharp, tart, and sour. I don't care about the commercial possibilities, this is a good beer.

BretSikkink, Jul 30, 2011
Photo of woosterbill
3.58/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, batch 10033, into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pours an ever-so-slightly-hazed straw colored body underneath an inch of coarse, frothy, fast-dissipating white foam. There’s a goodly stream of bubbles rising through the middle of the beer, but not nearly enough to maintain the head. It looks like a Berliner Weiss to me.

S: It doesn’t quite smell like one, though – at least not a terribly interesting one. I suppose there’s a tiny bit of lactic tartness there, but this is more about the husky, grainy wheat malt. Pretty faint, and less than enthralling; I suppose they were shooting for something on the inoffensive side for this one, and in that goal they have certainly succeeded.

T: Better here: sour lacto, wet grain, spicy wheat, and a cleanly tart, fruity finish. Still not quite as fresh and biting as I might like, but at least it’s got a solid amount of flavor.

M: Tingly. Very light body, very high carbonation. Perfect for the style.

O: You could certainly do a heck of a lot worse for a summer refresher (especially for the price), but I was hoping for a bit more. As the ABV is a bit higher than I’d expect for the style, I was expecting the flavors to be similarly ramped up. As it is, there was less of interest here than in all the authentic German Berliners I’ve tried, despite their lighter alcohol. Well, at least it was a HUGE improvement over the abomination that was White Birch Berliner Weiss…but what wouldn’t be?


woosterbill, Jul 30, 2011
Photo of NittanyBeerFan
2.42/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Had this one on tap. Was excited to try it, as Bell's has delivered on every occasion in the past. Unfortunately, this one was not the same...

The body is hazy, with a pale straw color. There isn't much head, nor does there seem to be much body at all. However, even the little bit of head does leave good lacing and for what it is, it is retained well.

The aroma is pretty bland, even for a low-gravity nuanced style. I get some wheat malt and some lemongrass. Really nothing beyond that. The flavor is equally bland, with a tartness that doesn't do anything for me. This is an offensive tartness, whereas in the good berlinerweisses that I have enjoyed, the tartness and lactic citrus notes amplified and complemented the other flavors. I just can't really get into this at all.

The mouthfeel is thin, as the flavor and appearance both indicated. Just a disappointing beer overall, and I don't think that the sour mash did it any favors.

NittanyBeerFan, Jul 29, 2011
Photo of Huhzubendah
3.58/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The beer is hazy and light yellow, with a small white head.

The aroma consists of lemons, wheat, and perhaps apples.

I don't find the flavor to be especially tart or sour. Lemons and wheat are the primary flavors, with a touch of sweetness to balance the tartness. The beer is light and crisp, with a subtle tang or tartness in the finish. I would prefer the beer to be vastly more tart and assertive.

The body is thin, per the style, with moderate carbonation. Goes down easily.

This is a nice hot weather brew, though I much prefer 1809 Berliner Weisse. A decent example of the style, this brew could stand a few minor improvements.

Huhzubendah, Jul 26, 2011
Photo of Sammy
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.

Sammy, Jul 24, 2011
Photo of Hojaminbag
3.18/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bell's oarsman has a pale, cloudy, yellow body with a creamy, thick white head. Retention and lacing are both surprisingly good, because you don't always have a lot of either in the style.

Not a lot going on, mostly a little bit of bread in the aroma. Only a smallest hint of sourness.

As berliner weissbiers go, Oarsman doesn't have a lot of sourness. A little bit of light bread and a grainy flavor comes from the malt. The Hops aren't powerful, but there is just a little bit of citrus and leafy flavor from the hops, with a hint of bitterness. A weak edge of sourness lingers in the background.

Very light bodied with snappy carbonation.

This one is definitely refreshing, and I'm glad to see Bell's didn't overdo the ABV here, but Oarsman isn't one of my favorite Berliner Weissbiers.

Hojaminbag, Jul 23, 2011
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.

mactrail, Jul 23, 2011
Photo of sleestak4life
3.28/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle! Pours straw yellow and hazy with a minimalist white head. Aroma is grassy with lemon and mild funkiness. Grassy flavors with light tartness and a very dry finish. This particular bottle had about 6 months on it in an effort to nurture da funk and encourage additional sourness. Alas, nothing much happened. The baseline, however, was a refreshing summer beverage. So close to being transcendent, though. Light body with lively carbonation

sleestak4life, Jul 19, 2011
Photo of THECPJ
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: hazy golden yellow with a 1 finger white head

smell: wheat, sour, apples, tart

taste: sour, tart, apples,

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, medium body,

overall: refreshing summer beer. wish I had access to this year round.


THECPJ, Jul 18, 2011
Photo of Bfarr
3.78/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Slightly hazy straw orange and thin white head with poor retention. Sour wheat aroma. Sour orange and lemon peel with wheat finish. Notes of earthy sweet and sour. Thin and foamy feel.

Full of flavor and pleasant drinking. I really couldn’t see having more than a couple of these but it’s definitely a full flavored brew. By the end it was almost a little too much.

Bfarr, Jul 18, 2011
Photo of mpcrump
3.25/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

A: Nice light gold color. Nice white head.

S: Tart, wheat, and a smell I can't quite place. Problem was it seemed a bit on the skunky side. Not overwhelming but it was there.

T: Very light. Tart but that trace of skunkiness came into play.

M: Nice and mellow carbonation. Decent mouthfeel.

O: I was disappointed. I only had one bottle and I'm wondering if it was 'bad' or old. I usually love Bell's products so I do plan on giving this one another chance.

mpcrump, Jul 14, 2011
Photo of Duff27
2.95/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A- Small head atop a cloudy golden/orange beer.

S- Faint lemon, citrus.

T- Sharp sour, almost too much to handle. Somehow a tad skunky?

M- Mid to low carbonation.

D/O- I've had a few Berliner Weiss' lately and I have to say, this is at the bottom of the bunch. Not a bad beer, just better examples of the style. Would revisit in the future as its probably the most common of the style.

Duff27, Jul 13, 2011
Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.22/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours slightly hazed with a straw gold/yellow color. The head is bright-white and a little rocky, before dwindling to faint traces at the edges of the beer. Lacing is minimal, if that.

Smell: Faintly tart, a slight snap of wheat, and tiny hints of hops floating throughout. The hops lend a slightly floral aroma to everything. The malts are mellow, leaning toward dry biscuits with a touch of earthiness on the back. Incredibly mellow and delicate. Nothing really plays too strongly over the nose. Nicely balanced.

Taste: Delightfully tart, but not aggressively so. The tart works well with the Subdued malts, bringing everything to a nice clean finish. Touches of the hops linger after the swallow, brightening everything up a touch. A little earthy as it warms, but it's a welcome compliment to everything else.

Mouthfeel: On the low side, but that's a good thing with this beer. The carbonation is nice and mellow, and allows the flavors to really pop. A touch dry after about half the beer, but again, it's welcome. If the carbonation were a touch higher, it would be too dry and distracting. As with every other aspect of this beer, it's well balanced.

Overall: Incredibly drinkable. This might be something I ask for in trades from now on. It's a little crisp, incredibly refreshing, and has the right balance of malt, hop, and sour/tart to keep things interesting. If this isn't a go to beer for the summer heat, I don't know what would be.

Goblinmunkey7, Jul 12, 2011
Photo of Greencoat
3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle dated 6/14/11 (good job with the dates, Bell's!)

A: Pours to a hazy straw color. Maybe 2-3 on the SRM scale. Quickly dissipating white head.

S: Very yeasty. Almost to an unpleasant level. I've had this beer plenty of time before and never noticed this. It's pungent enough to block out any other aromatics that might be able to come through.

T: Slightly tart, very lemony, very delicious. Low hop bitterness and very light malt character. Great citrus finish.

M: Thin body, lively carbonation, tart bitterness.

O: I had an odd experience with the nose on this bottle, but it didn't seem to affect the flavor profile. I will keep being a regular customer to this beer. Full of flavor for only being 4%abv. Great session beer!

Greencoat, Jul 11, 2011
Photo of steve8robin
2.65/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Got this on a recent trip. 12oz bottle...

A: A perfectly clear light golden color with a small white head that fades quickly to small bubbles on the brew. Good.

S: I get a malty breadiness upfront with a mild tart bitter hop scent. A clean malty scent on the backend. Ok.

T: A very wateriness upfront. A mild spicy hop with a malty finish. Very light brew. This is not really a typical Berliner Weiss. More of a golden ale.

M: Very light body with a light carbonation. A clean mild malt finish. Decent.

O: All in all, this is nothing special. In all honesty, this is a pounder. You could put a 6 pack of these down like water! Not much flavor and definitely categorized in the wrong category. Don't worry about this Bells brew.

steve8robin, Jul 09, 2011
Photo of slowbie
4.4/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear golden color with a nice three finger head with good retention.

Aroma is tart and lemony with a slight malt background.

Taste is more of the same as the aroma. A solidly detectable level of tartness but nowhere near the likes of a Cantillon.

Light, bubbly mouthfeel.

This beer isn't a Berliner Weiss, but to be fair, Bells has said that it's not. This is a fantastic summer beer. Tart enough to be interesting, light and drinkable enough to put down a six pack without thinking twice.

slowbie, Jul 07, 2011
Photo of spitInTheOcean
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

nice hazy light yellow color. minimal head retention. medium effervescence.

smells a little sour. if im not mistaken it smells a little bready too.

i would say that sourness is more than light. the sourness is right up front in the beginning and dominates the flavor the whole time. the breadiness also becomes apparent in the finish.

very soft on the palate. kind of a crisp finish. very light. very refreshing.

overall, this is a very good beer. however, i do like the sour ales. if one does not, one will probably not enjoy this beer. i will be drinking more of it though.

thanks again larry bell.

spitInTheOcean, Jul 05, 2011
Photo of enfield249
3.8/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Clear golden yellow, white head.

S - Sour aroma, slightly fruity and a little floral. Also a little sweet hard candy smell.

T - Sour, obvs, but also sweet and slightly fruity, like a green apple. Almost like a green apple jolly rancher.

M - Light, not to much CO2. Doesn't linger much.

O - Great summer beer. Light, sweet, sour and not to heavy. Really liked it.

enfield249, Jul 05, 2011
Photo of Bierguy5
3.88/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle, 4% abv. Looks like packaged on 6/14/11. Slightly hazy, very pale straw. White fizzy head trickles down to a thin layer very quickly. A little bit of patchwork in the lace department.

Cereal grains in the nose. A slight sharp, lactic sourness. A bit of a fruity component. Pretty simple.

Tartness hits first, but is sharp and not puckering. Slight grainy and husky feel. Lemon zest, with more tartness. Dries just a bit at the finish.

Light body, with refreshing carbonation. Very easy to drink. Very nice for hot weather.

Bierguy5, Jun 26, 2011
Photo of Jwale73
4.15/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Thirstybird for sharing. Pours a pale hazy yellow with a loose, quarter inch bright white head. Head eventually dissipates into a soapy skim and a tight white band around the perimeter of the bowl. Nose expresses wheat, sour mash and a trace of citrus. Flavors are slightly bready with a light, lemony tartness. Mouthfeel is light in body with a pleasant, easy carbonation. A very refreshing berliner weisse. I wish this was available locally because it is a perfect session beer for summer - refreshing on a hot day.

Jwale73, Jun 26, 2011
Photo of shanblur
3.23/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Obtained at Frontier Liquors in Evansville at the Green River location. Poured from bottle into weizen glass.

A - Straw colored with a fluffy white head which dissipates quickly. Minimal to no lacing.

S - Wheat and lemon predominate with no hop aroma

T - Can taste the grain coming through, but also a nice refreshing sour lemon finish

M - Light in texture with minimal carbonation

Overall an average beer. I like the tartness in the finish. I can see this paired well with the right food, but would not drink again by itself.

shanblur, Jun 25, 2011
Photo of DWilliams76
3.9/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

From my weekend notes: Having trouble making up my mind about this beer. On the one hand, it’s fascinating, with a layered, rolling flavor that never stays in one place. On the other, it’s an underhopped, mildly sweet weak wheat beer. The former is based in curiosity, the latter in cynicism. The truth is closer to Famous Potatoes. In the end, the tartness keeps bringing me back, so I’m pretty sure I like this beer.

DWilliams76, Jun 20, 2011
Photo of SummitVA
2.9/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - Pale straw pour. Steady carbonation, smallish head that falls away quickly.

S - Huge sweet pils, unfermented wort, lemon, light corn scent, and some odd mineral character, almost liked charged water.

T - Sweet pils and corn dominate. Some roughness from the wheat, as well. Sweetness has a light indistinct berry taste as the glass warms. Crisp finish, with a bit of tartness.

M - Ultra-light.

O - Had a number of people suggest that this brew had a pleasant sourness that was remarkable for the price, but the overwhelming corn flavor and moderate tartness is not quite what I was expecting. This bottle comes across as a muddled Kolsch, but I'll definitely seek the beer out on draft and review again. Cheers,

SummitVA, Jun 18, 2011
Photo of raznug
3.9/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: A straw golden with 3/4" of pure white head.
Smell: Smells of sourness and tartness, slight maltiness in background.
Taste: A but of sourness with hints of malt.
Mouthfeel: Flows nicely in and around the mouth and tongue not too heavy not too light.
This is a good beginners sour that wont scare anyone away.

raznug, Jun 17, 2011
Photo of Boto
3.7/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Draught @ Headkeeper: This one pours a cloudy, straw yellow color. There was a fairly small white head that dropped off rather quickly. No lacing. Nice aroma. Mainly lemon and wheat notes. The taste is also good. Decent wheat flavor and body. There is a bit of a tart lemon taste to the beer. Very refreshing and easy to drink.

Boto, Jun 17, 2011
Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,721 ratings.