1. Extreme Beer Fest tickets go on sale Sat, Sep 27 @ Noon EDT.
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 1,721 | Reviews: 540 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Wadsey
3.68/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5


Served in New Belgium tulip. 

A: Pours lighter than pale straw, if that is possible. Great clarity. Head rises, but falls quickly. No retention or lacing, which is expected for style. Somewhat sparkling. 

S: Light lactic acid note, lemon and herbs. Mineral water. I'm really overstating smell with these descriptors as it is subtle, perhaps to a fault. 

T: Taste is bigger than smell, but not by much. A touch of sweetness then lactic sourness steps in. There is a slight wheat twang and lemony citrus, too. At times the taste is reminiscent of sourdough bread.  Light bitterness that tidies up palate. Crisp finish. 

M: Featherweight body and medium sparkling carbonation. Nice fizz on tongue. 

O: Oarsman's strength lies in its drinkability. It is also quite refreshing. Great sessionable beer that is light in body and relatively big in taste.  

Wadsey, Jun 17, 2011
Photo of Florida9
3.2/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Ultra light yellow in color. One of the lightest colored beers I've reviewed that isn't a macro. Forms a small, fluffy white head that slowly reduces down to absolutely nothing leaving a light, rather dull looking beer in the glass.

S: Grainy malt and sourdough bread. Some light lemon and green apple tartness.

T: First taste is unexpectedly tart, really more sour than tart as tartness would suggest a bright, crisp quality, whereras this beer seems to a have a sourness that is almost out of place. Grainy, fruity malts and some grassy hops. Aside the from the sourness, not much else.

M: Medium in bodied with lighter carbonation and an odd astringency that sticks to the tongue and mouth.

O: Can't say I cared for this one very much, but it was starting to grow on me a little.

Florida9, Jun 16, 2011
Photo of secondtooth
4.18/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This cloudy yellow ale pours with a small head and no lace. Average presentation, but the nose says otherwise -- I get bread and orange peel. Promising.

The taste is surprising -- fruity malts up front, with tart citrus notes dancing around the tongue. The slightly hoppy finish closes it out with gracefulness. A delightful light beer for the warm months, and one I'd return to again.

secondtooth, Jun 14, 2011
Photo of zeledonia
4.2/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Batch 10272, bottled 8 April 2011.

Pours a translucent pale straw yellow, scarecrow-like, with a minimal white head. Head retention is below-average, lacing is okay.

Smells warm and wheaty, with a bit of citrus. Hint of earthy hops late. After tasting it, I can pick up a bit of lemony tartness, but I missed that the first time around.

Wow, this is not what I expected - it's so much more. It's starts out with grainy, earthy wheat, before rolling into a fantastic slightly sour tart lemon flavor that carries on through the finish. A touch of bitter hops come in late, but they're no match for the tartness. Incredibly refreshing, in a very unexpected way. I love the tart flavor combined with the pale wheat malt backbone. Nice dry finish.

Medium-light body, high carbonation. It's fairly thin, but still gives the mouth a good coating, allowing that lovely tartness to linger in the mouth, before finishing smooth and dry.

This is simply a fantastic summer session beer. It's light-bodied, low ABV, and refreshing, but still incredibly flavorful. This is a revelation for me - I never would have designed a beer like this, but now that I've had it, it seems so obvious. I could drink it all day long.

zeledonia, Jun 09, 2011
Photo of strictly4DK
3.75/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass.

A - Pours a translucent pale, golden color with a 1/2 finger head. Dissipates to nothing, no lacing or a collar. Steady stream of bubbles, appears sparkly but surface is still with little head formation.

S - Pleasant but delicate. A light tart lemon and citric zest. Fresh baked bread and foreshadowing of a big wheat presence. Not akin to the typical American Pale Wheat offerings due to the lack of a hop presence and subtle notes.

T - Follows suit presenting mild, delicate flavors. Lemons sour and tart, light spicy clove flavors meld up front. Tart flavors tend to an almost lemon lime soda flavor as carbonation spikes midway through each sip. Finishes with big doughy bread flavors reminding me of a handful of Wheaties.

M - Carbonation starts light but spikes mid-palate creating the texture and body of a soda. Light to medium bodied. Could benefit greatly from a drier finish to complement the sour/tart citrus flavors.

O - This is a fantastic summer session beer coming in at 4% abv. While it has it's flaws both in finish and appearance, I find this beer extremely pleasant and light on the palate, which is fantastic for PA heat and humidity.

strictly4DK, Jun 04, 2011
Photo of claspada
2.53/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

First off this beer pours a nice golden yellow but there is no head or lacing, a big knock down for me.
Aroma begins with very light graininess and bready notes, with a touch of light lemon/pear with light spice notes as well. Really awful to be honest; smells like a slightly sour light American big 3 beer.
The taste is average as well with initial graininess and slight hop bitterness. There is a metallic aftertaste which is also off-putting, where is the sour... The finish is dry and crisp which is probably the only decent aspect of the beer. Adequate carbonation despite the lack of initial head/bubbles.
Overall this is not a good beer, even for a session beer. By far the worst beer I have had in a while. Back to the drawing board for Bells on this sessionable pale wheat ale.

claspada, Jun 03, 2011
Photo of TheSarge
3.05/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours okay for a thin white head that dissipate quickly, and has a light golden colored body with mild haze.

Aroma is like a sour pear and a hint of floral notes.

The taste is tart in the way of an under ripe Clementine, and mild wheat husk.

Feels light in body and a bit thin. A little crisp and wetting to the palate.

TheSarge, Jun 03, 2011
Photo of SWMeyer4141
3.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance-Pale light gold, 1/4 inch white head that slowly dissipates to barely anything, very little lacing.

Smell-Grainy/Grassy. Light citrus, lemon.

Taste-Slightly sweet, very light citrus and grain.

Mouthfeel-Extremely refreshing, great carbonation, light bodied.

Overall-Smell and Taste are nothing to go crazy about, but it's extremely easy to drink. Perfect carbonation, goes down easy. Alot of times Wheats are way overly carbonation, but this one very drinkable and smooth.

SWMeyer4141, Jun 01, 2011
Photo of rebel1771
4.1/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very pale gold color with coarse carbonation and a head that fades quickly.

S: Yeasty sour aroma with a touch of coriander and lemon grass.

T: Sour flavor up front with a faint wheat flavor that comes in near the end.

O: Overall this is a really good brew. The sour flavor is refreshing in the same way lemonade is. I took a six of this fishing with me and it was awesome.

rebel1771, Jun 01, 2011
Photo of JunkYardJake
3.88/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle to weizen glass.
This is one of the palest wheat beers I've ever seen. It's a crystal clear yellow with a foamy white head. The nose is mostly wheat with a touch of soured lemon. The palate is susprisingly nice and refreshing. The wheat is still prevalent but the tart fruity notes are the main focus. Mouthfeel is fluid and finishes semi-dry and clean. Overall, this is an impressive brew that could serve as nice alternative to white wine.

JunkYardJake, May 30, 2011
Photo of FanofHefe
4.1/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on-tap in a pint glass at the Global Brew Tap House in Edwardsville, IL. Light yellow, slightly hazy body with a one-finger bubbly white head. The head dissipates fairly qiuckly leaving no lacing.

Fairly muted aroma of grainy wheat and a little yeast spiciness. Not much else going on in the aroma department.

Luckily, the flavors definitely step it up a notch. Nice sour, tartness up front that is very tasty, especially for such a low abv. A minor blend of grain and a touch of sweet malt in the balance. Very enjoyable flavor.

Light mouthfeel that is very drinkable. Great, tasty, summer session beer.

FanofHefe, May 28, 2011
Photo of Jishguy
2/5  rDev -43%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

First bell's beer I've had that didn't blow me away.

A- Light golden. Almost yellow. Very minimal head and lacing.

S- Lemon, grassy, wheat, a hint of citrus and sweet malty character. There is this overwhelming sour smell in the background.

T- Tartness. Made me almost pucker at first sip. Tastes like someone squeezed a lemon into a pale ale. An emerging bread-like malt character comes through as the tartness fades.

M- Decent, actually. Good carbonation and creaminess. Goes down pretty smooth.

D- I couldn't drink more than one. It's just a bit sour for my taste.

Jishguy, May 25, 2011
Photo of devilben02
3.63/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle, only a slight haze differentiates the look of this beer from an adjunct lager, with its straw yellow color and big, fluffy white head. The aroma is a bit dull but clean, with a musty combination of mild wheat and yeast characteristics. The flavor is much more enticing, though, with a crisp, refreshing lemon-orange citrus tartness that combines well with a mellow wheatiness. The very-fine, active carbonation complements the flavors to energize the tartness and make the beer even more refreshing. Overall, the flavor profile is quite interesting and different, and while the tartness is a bit strange at first, I grew to enjoy this beer as a drinkable and refreshing change-of-pace.

devilben02, May 24, 2011
Photo of Chaney
3.75/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch #10258

A: Hmmm.... it looked very much like a Hefeweizen. Extremely cloudy, dirty apricot color, with a skimpy 1/3 finger or so head that died down instantly.

S: Doughy, sour, and fruity... all very muted though and rolled up into one.

T: Light and refreshing on a hot day, and with a fair amount of taste for a beer with this low an ABV. Very round, smooth finish on the bready-citrus brew.

M: This one might have benefited from a slightly higher carbonation level (but not too much); it might have given it more of a "bubbly" quality. No lacing and very muted sweetness.

O: What's with all the low reviews? Oh well... to each their own I guess.

Chaney, May 23, 2011
Photo of codsmith
3.25/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Light golden color and tons of haze. Pours with no head

S: Has a heavy American style (Wyeast) yeast smell coming off the top.

T: Very tart, bitter, and sour. It ends more like a light pilsner style lager and not a wheat ale.

M: Full mouth-feel that has a medium body. Finishes crisp and clean.

O: It feels like there is a big disconnect with the style and the yeast used.

codsmith, May 23, 2011
Photo of tgorgz
3.2/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

P: From the bottle into a tulip glass. Pours a little cloudy with a great head- two fingers, maybe three.

A: Straw colours, with with carbonations. However, nothing too unexpected or unusual.

S: Citrus (lemon-y), whole wheat bread. Balanced well, though.

T: Lots of lemon, followed by yeast and, therefore, bread. However, not a lot of flavour going on here. Not all that impressed, and expected a little more.

M: Pleasant. Not too thick and heavy, which certainly makes it great for drinkability as well. I could definitely have one or two of these after cutting the lawn. Relaxing beer for a party, but not one that I would really savour or break down.

O: All right; nothing spectacular. For the intended style, it's okay.

tgorgz, May 23, 2011
Photo of OldIronLungs
3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to omgshesaboy for this one.

Pours a very pale hazy yellow into a pint glass - a finger of head quickly settles down to a film.

Nose is light, some citric qualities and wheat.

A sip is watery with medium to light carbonation. Pretty thin in flavor, but a nice tartness up front, thinly bready malts then a citric fruit finish.

This is clean, light, and crisp - I think for the style it's pretty appropriate. Like the tartness.

OldIronLungs, May 22, 2011
Photo of pmarlowe
2.03/5  rDev -42.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Tulip glass.

Pours very pale gold with fizzy, soda-like head. No head retention or lacing. Aroma is a sort of musty sour apple. There's not much to the flavor except for a little sourness, kind of like a watery cider. Carbonation is high and kind of a harsh fizzy. Overall, it's hard to find much redeeming about this one.

pmarlowe, May 22, 2011
Photo of SirSketch
3.65/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Sparkling white head disappears quickly. Pale yellow color (maybe 2 SRM) and hazy.

S - Very mild aroma, consisting of wheat cereal and acidic fruit, mainly pear.

T - The tartness brings out some malt flavor that wouldn't otherwise be there. Balanced well between sweet and sour. The malt has a granola taste, also. The beer ends on a lemon note and some floral hops.

M - Very light mouth, though the sugary tartness makes it seem fuller. Could be a bit more carbonated.

O - Refreshing with a mellow flavor, but still keeps my interest. I wish more breweries made Berliner weisse.

SirSketch, May 18, 2011
Photo of airmike
2.65/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A: Very pale and light straw in color, not much head and it dissipated quickly.

S: Yeasty, sour, almost beer bread type smell

T: Puckering sour taste that diappears quickly leaving you thinking "What the hell was that!?!?" Makes you go back in for another drink to try and put your finger on it.

Overall, I'm not a fan. I don't like sour type beers at all and this seems to be all that this beer brings to the table. I respect Bell's and I can tell that this is well executed for the style and type of beer they were attempting to create, but it's just not my cup of tea so to speak.


airmike, May 14, 2011
Photo of JRed
3.08/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Cloudy pineapple juice body with fleeting white head that leaves some lacing. Aroma of slight wheat, subtle floral, and some unwanted impressions of vomit. Tastes of light fruit juice, wheat, floral notes, esters of banana or slight vanilla. Light bodied with light carbonation. Artificial flavors, nauseating aroma, annoyingly tart.

JRed, May 07, 2011
Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.05/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Notes from 4/25/11. Batch 10066.
Poured in to Duvel tulip.

A - Pale straw yellow colour, translucent, 2 fingers of bubbly white head forms from the pour but quickly disappears.

S - Grainy/bready malts with a faint sour smell that slowy takes over the nose. A very slight hop presence in the background.

T - Sourness and tartness are the dominant flavours with some grainy/cereal notes present as well. The sourness is interesting - it is definitely there but does not take over the palate and forms a nice balance with the bready malts. The finish is tart but clean.

M - Light body, moderate carbonation.

O - An interesting beer. I enjoyed this one but I don't think I would buy this one again with other choices available.

TheSevenDuffs, Apr 30, 2011
Photo of ccrida
3.65/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into my Schell's shaker pint, Oarsman is a a hazy straw yellow with a quickly dissipating white head leaving light scattered lace.

Smell is light, lacto sourness, a bit yeasty.

Taste is simple, a very light wheat ale with a tinge of lacto. Clean.

Mouthfeel is on the dry side, but with some nice creamy carbonation, very light bodied.

Drinkability high, a very quaffable, refreshing brew, it would be great in warm weather as well as with food, especially something spicy. I'd like a bit more pucker, but that would probably cut out some of the crowd.

ccrida, Apr 28, 2011
Photo of MrOH
2.48/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Hazy straw color with just a thin white wisp of a head. No real lacing.

Smells primarily of bread, but with a tart, mushroomy twinge and a little tiny bit of citrus.

Lemony. Bready. Mushroomy. This would go great with oilier fish, or an earthy vegetarian dish. It's not really doing it for me as a stand-alone beer, though.

Really light, but not too effervescent.

I feel bad about not really liking this beer. It would be great when paired appropriately, but it just doesn't float my boat.

MrOH, Apr 26, 2011
Photo of bnes09
3.28/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Transparent lemon yellow ale. Lots of bubbles. No head what-so-ever, no lacing either. Looks like sparkling lemon koolaid.

Smell of lemon and wheat. Slightly sour.

Begins with a mellow wheat character. Then the lemon tartness comes in and dominates for the rest of the drink. Some honey-like sweetness. Finishes clean.

Light bodied and somewhat over-carbonated.

It's ok. Too much emphasis on sour flavors in my opinion. Fairly drinkable though.

bnes09, Apr 25, 2011
Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,721 ratings.