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

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Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

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1,877 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,877
Reviews: 558
rAvg: 3.51
pDev: 16.24%
Wants: 73
Gots: 174 | FT: 3
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:
Beer added by: Thorpe429 on 04-12-2009

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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,877 | Reviews: 558
Photo of mikereaser
3.98/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my Ithaca Brewing tulip on 1/8/11

Pours a light golden yellow with a big white cap that took its time fading. The aroma is a nice mix of straw with some lemon and wheat notes. Not overpowering. This is starting to remind me of a berliner weisse, definitely not a wild ale. Slight amount of sourness but not puckery. tart lemons with that straw to wheat grains. Nice crsip carbonation with a light body and mouthfeel. This is a great beer for a summer day or night. This definitely leans toward berliner weisse.

Photo of prdstmnky
4.29/5  rDev +22.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

*review from notes on 11/2/10*

Batch #9934

Poured into a unbranded tulip, this ale has a light lemon yellow body. It is clear, with lots of bubbles rising up, maybe a 1/2 inch of head that fades quickly leaving no lacing. Some lemon and wheat notes in the smell, a bit tart, nice. Taste is just what my nose led me to believe but more pronounced...tart lemons and wheat with perhaps a touch of pepper - has a very nice flavor to it. Lighter bodied, and fairly dry, but very refreshing. Certainly not a Wild Ale, so really just reviewed it to taste - a nice, sessionable wheat beer (more like a berliner imo.)

Photo of AwYeh
3.31/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a light golden-yellow with one inch of bright white head, which dissipates quickly.

S: Smell is very weak, of doughy yeast and wheat.

T: Taste is decent; again a very light wheat flavor is prominent, with a subtle tartness.

M: Body is very thin and light, with average carbonation.

D: Extremely drinkable. This reminds me a lot of Bells' Lager of the Lakes; I think it could be a good gateway beer for a macro drinker to gain interest in the world of craft beer.

Worth checking out as in my experience this is a pretty unique beer- tart, but light and intended for sessioning.

Photo of ddahlen
3.92/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - Poured into a pitnt glass. 2 finger head, dissipates quickly. Straw yellow color. One of the lightest colored craft brews i've seen.
Nose - Peppery, sour grape notes, lemon citrus as well
Taste - Light citrusy sourness, minimal malt presence.
Mouthfeel - Light, moderate carbonation
Drinkability - Crisp, refreshing, clean.

Overall - An nice refreshing brew. A perfect brew for a hot summer day out on the lake, or possibly by the grill. Not really something I'd drink in early January which it is right now, but good nonetheless.

Photo of thebierbrewery
4.34/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- Light straw color, slightly hazy, slight head retention

S- Citrusy, lemony smell. Very slight hop aroma, but balanced between malt and hops

T- Nice sourness that doesn't linger, finishes very crisp. Great balance and crispness that is extremely refreshing

M- Very light, acidic and carbonic

D- Very drinkable and thirst quenching on a hot summer day. The slight sourness is what makes this beer great

Photo of sweemzander
3.21/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip. Batch #9861 (Aug. 16,2010).

(A)- Pours a hazy pale straw yellow color that produced a good frothy white head with decent retention. Minimal lacing.

(S)- A bit dry, with some subtle hay/straw notes. Plenty of a sour lemon acidity, hints of wheat or biscuits.

(T)- Very subtle sourness/acidity. Some tart lemons with dry hay/straw and wheat.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance. Light and very subtle tartness. Crisp and refreshing.

(D)- A wild ale? More like a Berliner Weisse in my opinion. It has a nice light tartness to it, but otherwise a very mild/light-bodied beer that drinks more like a lager, but an easy drinking one at that.

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.8/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

Photo of afksports
3.12/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

It's good to know that not all American Wild Ales are the same. If I were sitting on a fishing boat and didn't feel like drinking barley pop (aka Budweiser), then this one might hit the spot for a long day repeating easy-drinker. But I'm not on a boat. Not even with T-Pain.

It's got a pale look to it, straw, solid carbonation and moderate head that dissipates. Smells tart, not really sour, just a bit of sweetness. Very uninspiring. Taste follows the nose, and while it has character, it tastes more of water than anything else.

It's average in the mouth, while the carbonation holds, and it's about as drinkable as a Miller Lite. The Oarsman is just made by Bell's.

So you can feel better while drinking it.

Photo of cjacobsen
2.58/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a clear, yellow color, almost like water with beer in it. Big bubbled head on it that quickly vanished. No lacing.

Smells light with apple and pear. Smells almost like a white wine or champagne.

Tastes like a homebrew that didn't quite reach maturation and has poor carbonation. Tastes tart, wine like and very pale. Has a flat aspect to it. There's no exciting flavor to it.

The mouthfeel is pretty bland. Not much of anything going on.

I hope to God this was a bad bottle and will definitely pick up another at some point. I've heard things about the oarsman and they've all been positive. This one however, is one oarsman that out to sea without his oars.... haha, wow.

Photo of TheKingofWichita
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy wheat yellow orange color with a thick white head and tons of lacing. Smells of apples, citrus, and wheat. Tastes of sour apple flavor, wheat malts, some hops, and a little orange. Mouthfeel is medium with a good carbonation background. Drinkability is high.

Photo of BeardedBoffin
2.62/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

This American wild ale leaves the bottle with a hard pour to produce a dark yellowish brew. The white cap of foam above vanishes, I mean vanishes, quickly. Within a few minutes there are no bubbles to speak of. A that is left in the glass is a conical cylinder of dark yellow liquid.

The aroma consists of sour apple and musty vinegar. As it warms, a small component of the aroma moves toward an acidic mixture reminiscent of vomit. Thankfully this is not a strong characteristic.

The palate is medium and wet, probably the best part of the beer. A very small touch of malt is present in the flavor. This is quickly overwhelmed by sourness. A sourness that is trying to be the tasty refreshing funk of an excellent Belgian but falls short. There is an off character in this beer. The sourness--whether it be lemony or vinegar unripe apple--is not the pleasant kind.

Into the second bottle--I bought a six pack and must soldier on--the beer seems to improve. On second thought, though, what doesn't?

Photo of vette2006c5r
1.79/5  rDev -49%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

This beer poured an almost straw yellow color, wit very small head that dispated quickly. The smell was minimal. The taste was rather stale, and there was hints of some lemon, or other citrus. I found the taste offensive and unpleasent, and I couldnt even finish one. Overall I found this horrible, and I was disapointed that such an abolation from my one of my favirote brewers could be sold.

Photo of number1bum
3.3/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to mymrnngjckt for this bottle.

Pours a clear light golden color with about a finger and a half of off-white, somewhat fizzy head. Doesn't keep a full lace or leave much stick.

Smell is light with a lemony tartness and some grain. It's somewhat bready, with a bit of spice and grass as well.

Taste has a grainy bready base with a very subtle cracker-like sweetness, and then features the lemony tartness that the nose had as well. It's like a lighter version of a Berliner Weiss, with less tartness and overall less flavor. A bit of a graininess in the finish. It's light to the point of being thin and somewhat bland.

Mouthfeel is light and crisp, smooth and clean, thin in terms of flavor.

This is decent and a pretty easy drinker, but it's also a bit boring and thin. Less flavor than other Berliner Weiss beers I have had, with only minimal tartness. An interesting attempt by Bell's, but not a huge success in my opinion.

Photo of Avagadro
3.93/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pilsner-colored brew delivers moderate lacing, slight haze, and little head retention.

S: Bouquet is quiet. An unsettling observation, given that most wild ales warn you about the funk before your nose even hits the glass. Nonetheless, notes of granny smith apples are somewhat noticeable.

T: Imagine Bell's Lager with a gentle sour mash. It isn't over the top by any stretch. A pilsner malt base is accented by Sauvignon Blanc tartness, as well as some Viognier floral notes. Not the most flavorful wild ale out there, but definitely the most sessionable.

M: Light, effervescent, and clean.

D: Not a white-whale by any stretch, but definitely a refreshing brew with a slight twang. As noted above, I could go through many of these in one sitting.

Photo of Ryan011235
4/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a E&J Cask & Cream glass on 12/14/10

Reviewed as a Berliner Weisse

Batch 9861

Straw-hued with a golden gleam; very light in color. Some chill haze. One inch of white foam thins to a skim at an even pace. No lacing to speak of.

The aroma is simple but effective. Ripe fruits - tart apple & hints of grape adding a vinous notion. Notes of grass, toasted grains & floral hops. Aromatically speaking, it's a clean profile. The taste is more tangy than sour, per se; notes of apple are in abundance. Floral hops mix with the apple, but the grains are somewhat overpowered. As it warms there's a funky yeast note on the back half. Light bodied with reasonably high carbonation; the overall feel is crisp. Fairly dry, wine-like finish with white grape juice residuals lingering.

Oarsman Ale is a pretty solid beer. After passing over it several times, I'm glad to have picked up a bottle. I've enjoyed it just fine.

Photo of Arbitrator
3.28/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Grading this as a Berliner Weisse, not an American Wild Ale.

A: Pours a hazy straw body with a finger of large-bubbled off-white head. Short retention, leaving a thin collar on the beer. Great effervescence up the glass; it's a lively-looking one.

S: Crisp lemon pith, more tart than sour. A small aroma of cracker or grain.

T: Hmm. Lemon juice, a small rind element, and wheat. Neither malt nor hop presence is distinct; the flavor is clean and simple. Maybe too simple.

M: Light-bodied. Carbonation is a little sharp, leaving a small sting at the end of each sip. Good to scrub the palate, I guess, but this beer doesn't need it.

D: Fairly drinkable, but I think this needs some tweaks. Berliner Weisse is an underappreciated style, and with work they could be at the top of it.

Photo of BrewCrew2010
2.98/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: A bright yellow body with a massive amount of visible carbonation. Head is bleach white and a pin stripe, but is maintain throughout the drink due to the constant fizzy bubbles.

S: This is my first Berliner Weisse, so it reminds me a bit like a saison or a witbier. Aroma of musty yeast, crisp lemon, light malts, wheat or grain notes, and sour funk are strong, but not overpowering.

T: Initial taste is sour lemons with a lot of tartness. In the middle it tends to sweeten up a bit with some pale malts and straw like flavors, and finishes dry and a bit puckering. However, not too much going on with this one.

M: Light body, crisp texture, a lot of carbonation. I felt like it was missing something.

D: Glad I tried it, but I don't think I'll drink another one of these. It was good, but was missing some "omph." However it was my first Berliner Wiesse, so what do I know?

Photo of emerge077
4.4/5  rDev +25.4%
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.

Photo of Jayli
3.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Consumed 12/1 poured in to a pint glass

A: This beer pours a straw yellow with a 1/2 inch of white head. Head recedes quickly and leaves no lacing on the glass.

S: Nose is a massive amount of grain, corn, with an underlying current of funk.

T: Taste starts very grainy and corn like - I mean hearty corn flavoring. A minor funk and straw, grassy flavoring begins to come in. The finish has a lemon citrus sourness with a touch of floral hops.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, light, ccrisp and somewhat clean.

D: Goes down easily, not filling, mild kick, not a good representation of the style. I actually really enjoyed this beer. However, it seemed more in line with a berlinerweisse than an American Wild. I'd buy this again for sure.

Photo of happygnome
3.72/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: pours a pale golden color with about an inch of white head that disappears at a steady but not fast pace. there is a little lacing on top of the beer. a good amount of carbonation bubbles continue to rise to the top of the beer

s: lemon sour, grassy aroma, sweet banana aroma. definatly more sweet than bitter. light and crisp

t: lemon sour hits first grassy and banana flavor. light and crisp.

m: light bodied beer with a lot of carbonation

overall, i really enjoyed this brew

3.76/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle to pint glass. Batch #9861. Sampled shortly after the 2010 release. Review from notes. The stylistic designation is a moving target on BA. At one point the Oarsman has been labeled a Berliner Weissbier, an American Pale Wheat Ale and now (surprisingly) an American Wild Ale. Speaking of labels, the actual label on the bottle is beautiful. The composition has a very dynamic perspective of a hooded rower (an oarsman), albeit exaggerated, on the water and in action. Best Bell's label I've seen yet.

A: Pours with a 2 finger head that is bright white and does not last long at all. The body is cloudy if not semi-murky and is light yellow in color and ridiculously pale.

S: Clean malt aroma. Sourdough bread, raw grain and straw. A light lemony scent adds a crisp freshness. The yeast qualities are sweaty and musty with above average intensity.

T: Moderately sour with a paper scent and the faintest whiff of urine which is one thing I could do without. Altogether spicy with possible notes of ginger. A light sweetness is integrated which helps to offset the sourness. Moderately acidic.

M: Light to medium body, lively carbonation, lightly tart and lightly astringent.

D: I could drink this beer all day long during the warmer months although I'd want to mix in a bigger beer once in a while throughout.

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

The color is a pale banana skin with a quick head, no residual foam, and good bubbling.

The aroma has some unripended Granny smith apple juice, splashed with a little lemon, all on top of some freshly milled and lightly toasted pilsner malt. There's also a little sour banana aroma as well.

The upfront tasre and carbonation makes me think of a thin wheat ale that goes sour. The middle has lots of green apple juice flavors, and unripe blackberry flavors. The finish has a more lemon zest to it and more of a pilsner malt flavor.

The palate is well carbonated until the finish. The carbonation and tart, sour flavors make this beer more sessionable than I expected.

Photo of bigfnjoe
3.6/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Batch 9934

A- pours a RIDICULOUSLY pale yellow with a one finger white head. Looks like a witbier. The head fades pretty quickly as you'd expect for the style. Overall, not a huge fan of how it looks...

S- lemon, lemongrass, and a whole lot of that kind of thing. Again...smells like a witbier, albeit one that's very shallow in profile. Pretty one note

T- lots of bitterness from the lemon, and a little bit of funk...not a lot, but enough to let you know its there.

M- its really thin, not a lot of body there...but the feel is actually good. If that makes any sense

D- this is a fantastic true session beer. Ridiculously easy to drink, great tasting, not too powerful...love this

Photo of BuckeyeSlim
4.02/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a New Belgium snifter.

A - 1-finger eggshell white puffy foam head that took about a minute to dissolve. Lemon yellow and hazy.

S - Sour milk, baby powder, citric acid, hints of light malt and subtle spices like clove.

T - Sour lemon, moist sourdough bread, very mild pepper. Minimal hopping. Tart and wheaty at the same time.

M - Crisp and fizzy. Good carbonation and great structure. Clean. Suggests a desire to pucker as the tartness lingers well past the finish.

D - Delicious warm-weather beer. More substantial than just dropping a lemon in a hefe. Could easily enjoy several of these in an afternoon of puttering or just hanging out. The sourness might eventually become cloying, but it would be worth finding out.

Photo of SmokinSmyth
3.35/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

I had this at my sister's house after a few Belgian beers, which may be unfair to it. However, it pours with a straw color, and has a lemony smell to it. The head was decent, but disappeared fairly quickly.

Taste is very light, just a hint of sweetness. Not a bad beer at the end of the evening. A little light in the mouthfeel, but easily a session beer.

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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
80 out of 100 based on 1,877 ratings.