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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.

1,796 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,796
Reviews: 543
rAvg: 3.51
pDev: 16.24%
Wants: 69
Gots: 135 | 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: 1,796 | Reviews: 543 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of MattyG85
3.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 12 oz. bottle into a Sam Adams perfect pint glass.

Appearance: Very cloudy golden yellow with lots of rising bubbles. Big five finger white head that fizzes down to a thinner layer fairly quick. Lacing is light.

Smell: Aroma of wheat and yeast with lots of tart lemon citrus. Some hints of herbal hops. Mostly tart and sweet lemons in the smell. Also a bit of a sour smell.

Taste: Starts with a burst of tart and sour lemon fruit. A solid presence of wheat grains, yeast, and pale malts follow. Finishes somewhat bready from the malts. Tartness is fairly strong but not overbearing.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied with a medium to high level of carbonation. Crisp and slightly watery.

Overall: A pretty solid light bodied lemon forward beer. Pretty flavorful.

MattyG85, Oct 09, 2011
Photo of Rhettroactive
3.95/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From 12oz bottle to Bruges hybrid glass on 9/19/11
*From notes

A: Cloudy pale yellow, like untoasted pie crust. A good pour yields a one finger head that fades quickly, and minimal lacing.

S: Like a lemon scone. It's also got a decent amount of buttered popcorn to it.

T: A bit lactic, it makes the mouth water ever so slightly upon contact. It's quite refreshing, as there's a slight acidic edge to it that tightens it up on the finish.

M: This drinks like a mimosa. It's got a champagne-like feel to it that I just love. Light, über-bubbly and refreshing.

O: Bell's Oarsman is a really unique, easy drinking and pretty complex session beer. It's not everyday you run into a low ABV beer with this much flavor and character. I recommend checking this Berliner Weiss out - I'll certainly be returning to it.

Rhettroactive, Oct 07, 2011
Photo of smakawhat
3.15/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

Soapy white and small head is presented, fairly small and sinks fast. Body color is a pale and shiny brass and crystal clear presentation.

Nose is acrid smelling and bile. Feels more sour grain than anything. Wheat density not so much noticeable at all. An indistinguishable sour that I can't attribute to any fruit and give it justice.

Taste is a bit of an improvement. Clean but dense mild sour lemon and wheat in the palate. Body is thin even for four percent. Finish has a little bit of sour cherry but also a little unpleasant bile and character.

Its fairly easy drinking, but really only somewhat enjoyable. I would want this to be refreshing and have another, but I really have no desire to.

smakawhat, Sep 29, 2011
Photo of sixerofelixir
3/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12 oz bottle. Packaged by date and code on back of bottle label.

Pours a super-lite golden-yellow. Sorta hazy. A white head disappears. Smell is tart and spicy, mild malts also. Taste is sour and slightly fruity, like a wine. I don't like the taste. Finishes tight and tart.

sixerofelixir, Sep 24, 2011
Photo of justinjj1280
3.9/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy light yellow/straw/golden with a small white head that retains well.

Smells of wheat and citrus.

Hits the palate with a subtle sour tartness, citrus flavor, and some yeasty notes. Light to medium body and mouthfeel. Crisp and well carbonated.

This is very balanced and subtle but has good flavor. At 4 %, this is eminently sessionable with outstanding drinkability. Exactly what I was looking for this evening and I will come back to it.

justinjj1280, Sep 24, 2011
Photo of tykees88
3.65/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A- a pretty clear gold straw beer with brown undertones. White frothy head not too shabby.

S- The smell is a little underwhelming. It's a very crystal malt and grassy lemon smell, but it is refreshing like a candle.

T-hey lookout a nice brew. all the scents come through to the taste and for the 4 percent abv it's awesome

M- a lot like soda water. so it's a little sad

O- it is what it is. very sessionable drinkable and enjoyable. get yourself some

tykees88, Sep 17, 2011
Photo of baos
3.88/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into bicentennial Mason jar

A: A nice Lemon-yellow body with 2 fingers of white head. Head goes the way of the dodo quickly with no lacing.

S: Nice sour-grass odor. Just a bit of sweet-wheat way in the background.

T: Taste follows the nose pretty much to a tee. This beer would be the ultimate summer keg beer in 90 degree weather.

M: Pretty watery, but this lends to the nice freshness of the brew. I could use a bit more bubbles and bitter.

D: This beer would be great in summer. A great shocking wheat beer, or pitching bundles beer. I love this style. Bells you gave it a good get go.

baos, Sep 16, 2011
Photo of jtingue
3.6/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint.

Appearance. Very light in green gold in color, similar to lime juice. Pours with a half a finger of head that very quickly dissipates to nothing. Slightly hazy.

Smell. Not much here. Some slight breadiness with a nice tart note, but very weak in both cases.

Taste. Starts out with a quick burst of light malty sweetness. This is quickly followed by a nice cherry-like tart notes. This edges on bitterness at times but is more like a granny smith apple than anything else. The finish is very dry and refreshing.

Mouthfeel. Very thin body, with a moderate amount of carbonation. Very drinkable.

Its nice to have a year round berliner weisse of this caliber.

jtingue, Sep 14, 2011
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
Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,796 ratings.