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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.

1,763 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,763
Reviews: 542
rAvg: 3.51
pDev: 16.24%
Wants: 67
Gots: 130 | 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: 1,763 | Reviews: 542 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Poorpatz
3.78/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is the first time I have tasted this beer overall a very nice beer. I poured from the bottle into my Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass a small white head appears but quickly disappears. The beer is a clear yellow color almost like a light iced tea. My first sip I taste lemon and smell citrus. There is a slight sourness in the beer but it seems to make it more refreshing. The lemon is very pleasant not overpowering. The flavor and the lower alcohol level make this a very easy drinking beer. Overall a good first impression. This is a beer that I want to drink again.

Poorpatz, Sep 13, 2011
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.

UCLABrewN84, Sep 05, 2011
Photo of goblue3509
3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a light yellow with no head and visible carbonation. The aroma is citrusy mainly lemons. There is also a wheat malt smell. The taste is light, crisp, and tart. Lemons but also pears and green apples over a wheat malt. The mouthfeel is well carbonated. Overall a very drinkable beer nice light and refreshing a very good session beer.

goblue3509, Sep 04, 2011
Photo of afdempse
4.33/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. pour into a chalice. Big thanks to Huhzubendah for the bottle!

Pours a nice light straw color, slightly hazy, with sticky white foam that dwindles to a wisp.

Aroma is faint, slight sour malt and bread/biscuit notes.

Big, beautiful fresh biscuit and bready flavors come forward, followed by refreshing lemony sourness that leaves the palate refreshed. Perhaps not quite as sour as a true Berliner Weisse but delicious in its own right. Wheaty twang and clean yeast round out the profile. Grains in the breath keep going and going.

Mouthfeel is very full and carbonation is solid, albeit slightly low for the style. This beer is proof that low alcohol brews do not need to be thin.

Extremely refreshing, with a flavor and finish that begs you to have more than one. Fits the bill for a beer you'd like to have a cooler full of while out fishing on the lake in northern Michigan. I'll definitely be seeking this one out in the future.

afdempse, Aug 30, 2011
Photo of tobelerone
3.98/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very pale yellow/straw color, head dissolves quickly leaving behind a bit of clinging lace. Nicely aromatic. Taste is spicy, tart and sour; delightfully crisp and refreshing. Dry finish, highly drinkable, leaves you wanting more. An excellent summer session beer; very refreshing. Wish I could get this one locally. Aroused my interest in the Berliner Weisse style.

Certainly not a big beer in any sense of the word but that's not always what's called for. Yummy. Went well with spicy food.

tobelerone, Aug 27, 2011
Photo of avaldivia
3.98/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received in trade from Sobeleg. Poured 12oz bottle into a Belgian glass.

A: Very bright light golden color. Hazy. Little head and no lacing.

S: Very bright and lemony. Good citrus aroma. Some yeasty funk.

T: Very tasty. Very lemony and citrusy. Excellent yeasty flavor. Great for the summertime heat.

M: Light and crisp. Well carbonated.

O: Perhaps I am enjoying this one more because it is hot and this is hitting he spot, but I think this is a great brew. Very flavorful. May have to do another trade just to get more of this.

avaldivia, Aug 25, 2011
Photo of johnkale
3.73/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - slightly hazed pale straw, head is there (barely) and then gone, tons of bubbles

S - grape, funk, lemon zest, wheat, a little vinegar

T - tangy, lemony, slight sweetness. finish is delightful, citrus and pear, nothing too crazy but very pleasant

M - light and effervescent, kind of makes me think i'm drinking seltzer, invites quaffing

O - got this as a housewarming gift, very thankful for it. not a home run but solid. I am now very intrigued by the style

johnkale, Aug 21, 2011
Photo of
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - very pale straw and slightly hazy. A large, frothy head emerges upon pouring and slowly recedes to a nice cap.

Smell - Somewhat musty with lemon and sweet wheat malt aromas.

Taste - Very clean flavour profile. Lemon and mineral flavours with a hint of wheat malt. Well-carbonated and crisp.

, Aug 20, 2011
Photo of schoolboy
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When I started drinking this it was in the dark, and I had never had one of these before. I had no idea what style it was. I was pleasantly surprised with a nice weissbier. It's crisp and clear. Very refreshing. It has a nice balanced taste and aroma. I wish it were a bit more odorific. More of the good thing. I want to drink this again.

I'm not sure why I never had this before, but it is an example of why Bell's is on my A list of breweries.

schoolboy, Aug 13, 2011
Photo of brdc
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Small capped bottle, poured into a pint glass, hot summer day by a lake.

Very light yellow, somewhat hazy in appearance, with a nice off white, frothy head that holds reasonably well, leaving some lace on its way out.
Nice aroma, lemony, suggesting acidic and tart notes, that do come as expected.
Light and refreshing, tart and acidic, with citric notes, lemons and orange, plus some wehat, nad a few grains.
Nothing complex here, but they attempted, as it is stated on the bottle, for a flavorful and tart session beer, and I would say they succeeded.
Very easy to drink, light on the alcohol, very good summer beer. Bell's rarely disappoints me, summer or (specially) winter.

brdc, Aug 13, 2011
Photo of MeisterBurger
3.65/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Fresh bottle from the brewery store.

Pours a bright, cloudy pale gold topped by not a lot of head that dissipates quickly. A thin ring of foam lingers around the edges.

Aroma of wheat, grains and waxy yeast. A tad doughy with a light earthiness.

It's tart at first with grains and wheat slowly building in the background, lingering for a while in the aftertaste. Acidic and cider-like. Dry finish. Light bitterness.

Light bodied with a good level of carbonation.

I didn't love it. But I didn't hate it either. Overall an enjoyable enough beer, but never having had a Berliner Weissbier before, I can't say it was a great ambassador for the style as I don't feel compelled to try more based on what I had here.

MeisterBurger, Aug 13, 2011
Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
3.6/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very clear yellow straw, with a half inch eggshell head that dissolves to the thinnest lace that does have a bit of cling. Plenty of visible carbonation. Wheat bread notes are prominent in the nose. A bit of yeast presence that's slightly sour. Very pilsener-like bouquet that is pleasant but not especially noteworthy. The taste has a very smooth bread flavor at the outset, followed quickly by a lemon zest taste that hits the sides of the tongue with some force. A bit of lingering lemon rind bitterness at the back. The overall flavor registers as just moderately sour. Quite refreshing and crisp. The feel is on the lighter side of medium-bodied (or the heavier side of light-bodied), with a great deal of effervescence. Brightly acidic, with noticeable graininess and a fairly clean finish.

The Berliner Weiss is not a style that I reach for very often--I'm probably never going to stock my fridge with them--but Bell's has produced one that is smooth and drinkable, if not especially engaging. The balance between the malt signature and the sour citrus presence is very good--surprisingly so. I certainly could have stood for a bit more boldness of flavor, but this is a beer worth trying for yourself.

DabblinWiscCraft, Aug 12, 2011
Photo of antlerwrestler19
3.08/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Batch: 10066 Bottled and packaged 12-14-10 (should have checked before I threw a couple in my pick 6er)
Pours light golden yellow with a very minimal white head that fades down to rest just barely on the top - small bubbles rise from the bottom looking a bit like champagne. A straw-like sour aroma fills my nose - not much else. I taste pretty much the same thing a smell with the addition of a sweet tartness that resides on the back of the tongue once all is said and done. The mouthfeel is super light, expected of a low abv. session beer like this - a bit of carbonation. Overall I wasn't impressed with this beer and I can't help but think it's because it's so old. Oh well, I will be back to revisit hopefully next summer when I get some fresh bottles.


antlerwrestler19, Aug 12, 2011
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.

Gueuzedude, Aug 09, 2011
Photo of amphion1065
2.58/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

12 oz. bottle into a pilsner glass. Bottled on 7/12/11.

Pale yellow body, almost translucent. A one-finger white head lasts for some time. It really does look like summer in a glass. Nice lacing.

A fresh, yeasty quality dominates the smell. There's a grainy, wheat-like quality to the aroma that obscures much of the underlying sourness. That tart funk is present, but it's muted. All in all, not too much going on.

The taste mimics the aroma almost exactly. There's just a touch of tart sourness, but that yeasty quality is overwhelming. Lemons, and a touch of spice, but that yeast is overbearing. It tastes a lot like a lighter, unbalanced saison.

Given how young the bottle is, I'm especially disappointed in the mouthfeel. This needs more carbonation, more life. Even from my first sip, this feels dead.

I suppose I'm doubly disappointed in this beer given that I recently enjoyed a bottle of Fritz Briem. It's not totally fair to compare this to a paradigm of the style, but I can't bring myself to ignore the fact that this is a sub-standard representation of a Berliner Weisse.

amphion1065, Aug 05, 2011
Photo of IronCitySteve
3.63/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a hazy light straw color with a thick foam head that dissipates slowly to a thin film. There is a decent amount of lacing.

S: Lots of wheat, yeast, grains and some faint lemons zest.

T: Starts off with a wet straw, wheat taste that is a little gritty. In the middle the citrus zest comes in a little bit. Finishes with more of the gritty wheat taste.

M: An extremely light body, just a tad thin. But for the most part it is clean.

T: This is a wheat/sour and that is exactly what you get. Nothing overly complex, but a tasty brew none the less. An easy to drink, all day long type brew.

IronCitySteve, Aug 05, 2011
Photo of wisrarebeer
2.08/5  rDev -40.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Purchased at the brewery.

A: light yellowish color, slightly hazy, poured with a bit of head that quickly dissipated
S: not true to type sour like authentic Berliner Weissbiers, more musty and oxidized than sour and spritzy
T: mild, has the beginnings of a Berliner Weissbier but lacks sour/acetic punch,
M: very light and watery
O: very disappointing attempt at style, weak and watery and lacks true sourness of authentic examples

wisrarebeer, Aug 01, 2011
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
Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,763 ratings.