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

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Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

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568 Reviews
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Reviews: 568
Hads: 1,979
rAvg: 3.56
pDev: 14.04%
Wants: 76
Gots: 213 | 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."
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Reviews: 568 | Hads: 1,979
Photo of Ljudsignal
3.54/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a Night Shift tulip. Bottled 10/22/13.

Pours a slightly hazy straw-gold. A creamy bone-white two-finger head quickly subsides to a thin film and ring. No lacing to speak of.

In the nostrils, sweet grain aromas mingle with tart lemon and sour wheat mash. The lingering remnants of a funky brett smell, but sadly I think age has not been kind to this beer--what remains has largely been transformed into grainy malt aromas.

Taste more or less follows the nose. Opens tart and lemony, switches mid-palate to a grainy wheat note which gradually becomes less tart and more bready and sweet as the beer moves towards the back of the palate. Simple but pleasant. Not nearly as tart for me as others have reported, although there is a light lingering acidity on the back of the palate, a bit like drinking lemon juice.

On the tongue, light-bodied, highly effervescent, and finishing crisp and dry.

On the whole, an uncomplicated but refreshing and sessionable beer that I fear I have not done justice to by waiting to drink it. As it stands, this was a perfectly pleasant drinking experience, but I'd love to revisit a fresher bottle at some point. (1,169 characters)

Photo of utopiajane
3.49/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Dense white creamy head of foam on a golden straw colored beer. Slight haze gives way after a while and a steady stream of effervescence. The head fell pretty fast but left a ring and a film on top.

Nose is tart lemon and has more of a malt presence than I was expecting. Light sweet grain. Crisp dry wheat. A bit of herbal hops but mostly tart citrus. There is a terrific funk smell on this nose and if you want to know what that smells like then this is the beer to show you as it is not complicated by many aromas.

taste is very simple and straight forward. Crisp and effervescent, tart lemon and a light grain sweetness. It is not mouth puckering but it is dry and palate cleansing. It's mild and very easy to drink. Refreshing and a perfect beer for a warm day, for the beach, a lawnmower beer. Light and drinks so very easily. (835 characters)

Photo of chefhatt
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

When I poured this beer, it has color body with a fizzy head to it. The aroma has a light maltyness to it. The taste has a tart flavor and some sweetness to it. It also has a little bit of malt on the back of the tongue. The mouthfeel is like champagne. Overall this is I think my first sour and I enjoyed it very much. (326 characters)

Photo of VincentFrey
3.13/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pour / Appearance: Fizzy and effervescent, with a quickly forming and falling head. A very hazy straw color, likely due to wheat malt. Keeps carbed and bubbling up.

Aroma: Traditional sour mash, but sadly one note. That's not necessarily bad for a berliner weisse or out of style. The sour mash is a bit unusual though, meaning the wort was soured then underwent a boil, then fermented traditionally. This can leave a much less complex profile than if it undergoes traditional souring methods, but certainly imparts the traditional notes. Nothing else to speak of though; very clean yeast and some light wheat. It hits the style but I can see why this is hard to find when I make trips to PA (where Bell's gets distro'd instead of MD)

Taste: The aroma notes dictate the flavor. Very low acidity, actually, liking diminishing returns from age since the sour mash. Very refreshing though, and that's kinda the point. Simple wheat malts and hints of lemon and coriander round it out. Not much for mouthfeel outside some sour puckering around the cheeks, and drinking a lot like a soda.

Overall: What can I say, this is a neat little Americanized berliner weisse. The sour mash doesn't provide a good complexity and the malt bill, while traditional, is nothing special. It's worth a try, but brings to mind why berliners are traditionally flavored at the bar.

Bottom Line: Buy if you're looking for a refreshing and semi-traditional berliner. Try if you're a fan of sours. Don't bother if you easily have access to other berliner weisse styles unless you wanna try a new one. (1,575 characters)

Photo of CloudStrife
4.02/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a Bell's snifter. Packaged 11/18/13.

A: Pours a hazy very light yellowish straw with a white head on top. It dissipates in a minute or so leaving some lacing on the glass. Can see some visible carbonation in the body.

S: Has a tart aroma that is noticeable upon first whiff with a hint of sour wheat mash. Some pale malts in the background that come out more as it warms.

T: Nice flavor profile on this beer. Has the sour/tart aspect that defines the Berliner Weissbier style but it doesnt overpower. Instead a nice malting makes up the backend so this doesnt finish as tart as it starts.

M: Light to medium body with ample carbonation. A bit puckering at first but easy to get used to. Great sessionability on this one. Clean finish.

Overall I've always been a fan of this beer. Real interesting flavor that sets this one apart from the other session beers on the market. Sure its not as tart as some berliner weissbiers can be, but the malt backbone is solid enough to gain this some more points. (1,031 characters)

Photo of sulldaddy
3.54/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Sampling a cellar temp bottle poured into a pint glass. The beer pours champagne clear gold with minimal fizzy bleached white head that is gone before I put the glass down. Would have liked a little better head retention.
Aroma is some grainy malt and tart notes. No hop presence or booze.
First sip reveals a light body with fine prickly carbonation.
Flavor is tart and a little bitey, no hops or booze which fits the style.
Crisp refreshing beer that would be perfect on a warm summer day. I enjoy it just fine on this cold winter evening. (542 characters)

Photo of WoodBrew
2.72/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I don't know....maybe its the style that I don't like. Way to tart for me. The beer poured a hazy yellow with no head and no lace. The scent had almost a chardonnay flare. The taste was tart much like a white wine. The mouthfeel was light in body with subtle carbonation. Overall its ok...probably better summer beer than a late fall beer. (339 characters)

Photo of argock
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on-tap in a Shaker pint at Beer Run (Charlottesville, VA). Reviewed from notes.

A: Hazy watermelon-amber with very short cap of small-bubbled off-white head with average retention and minimal lacing.

S: Sour from the start but pleasantly so with a sour fruit character. No real hops character. There is a bit of grainy maltiness there as well.

T: THe flavor is easy-drinking and mellow, with sour fruit quality that is straightforward and enjoyable. There is enough of a malt character with some cracker and graininess to give it a touch of interesting complexity. But I will say this is not a very lively beer -- kind of dull on the palate.

M: Very light and low-medium carbonation lend a little more body to make this more drinkable.

O: A pleasant surprise, although nothing world-beating about it. I'm not usually a sour beer fan, but this one was not too bad and could be really good in the right circumstances -- a hot day out on the deck. (956 characters)

Photo of cavedave
3.79/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a cloudy straw color, nice finger of white, fine bubbly foam atop. Looks like you want a Berliner Weissbier to look for sure.

Pure wheat grainy sweet and lacto goodness, hints of citrus and funk. Nice.

All the flavors of the aroma, but in a taste that is less strong than the nose. Very delicate, despite the tart lacto, and the hints of funk and citrus make this yummy.

Very light in the mouth, pleasantly carb.'ed, delightful clean presentation and very refreshing.

Not the most flavorful of this style that so many brewers are making more traditionally and also with decided American twists. Very tasty, and I recommend it if you like this style, and prefer it less tart and grainy than traditionally brewed. (721 characters)

Photo of Billolick
3.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

The good news is that Bell's fine beers are now being distributed to NY State.

"PKGD on 10/08/13" So its fresh, but is that a good thing or not? Not sure with this style....

My local bottle shop had four options, this was the one I had not tried, so I picked up a sixpack....Berliner Weiss...hmmm not my favorite style, but I do like sour/wild beers so lets give it a try....

Pours lightly hazed dull golden amber, off white head slowly fades to a thicker film and collar film and then some low sheeting, but nothing too exciting to the look of this one.

lemony nose is the harbinger of the sour to come...

More lemons on the palate, moderate puckering sour/tartness. Bright and fairly refreshing. Also wheat, hay, and a gentle eartyness come to mind. Still not my favorite style....But I could see enjoying another bottle of this on a warm summer day with some some cheese, bread and salad. (896 characters)

Photo of BreakfastStout
2.19/5  rDev -38.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.75

It's scary how bad this beer is. I've tried it bottled on 2 different occassions and I was shocked both times at the overwhelming sour taste. Overall Bell's is one of my top five favorite breweries, but this one is a solid miss. A definite drain pour on this one. (263 characters)

Photo of ONUMello
3.58/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle dated 6/24/13 poured into a pint glass
A: Light yellow with a one-finger head that settles to a fine lacing, some carbonation
S: Lemon, a bit of wheat
T: Sour but not overly so, primarily lemon but again a nice wheat base underneath
M: Light-bodied, crisp with pleasant carbonation
O: I like the acidity, while not that complex this would make a great session beer and a nice alternative to a shandy (411 characters)

Photo of Jparker37
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a tulip glass.

A - Perfect clarity to the straw colored beer. Cap of white head falls quickly. No lacing.

S - Neutral base malt. A touch of DMS. Faint lemony tartness.

T - Little bit of grainy sweetness right away. Midway a mellow acidity starts up and has some nice lemon citrus flavor. Leaves some refreshing citrus flavors in the aftertaste.

M - Light body, medium carbonation, semi-sweet.

O - Mild aromas but delivers on taste. Really drinkable with fun refreshing tartness. A summer essential. (531 characters)

Photo of ThisWangsChung
2.73/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 2.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

12 oz bottle into a wine glass.

A: Pours a hazy golden color. The head is...well, nearly nonexistent. It isn't even half a finger high, and the retention is horrible. Just not a pretty beer.

S: The aroma is troubling - the primary smell is funk, and it's an unpleasantly cheesy, almost diapery funk. Hints of apple hides behind the unpleasantries. Luckily, the nose here is pretty mild.

T: Apple notes hit first. After the funk appears in the middle of the palate, it finishes with a vaguely sweet cream flavor. Very mild wisps of tartness try to poke through to little avail. Actually, this works a lot better than it did on the aroma. Still not great in my eyes, though - the flavors are rather muddled.

M: Probably the best part of the brew; it's light and crisp in all the right places, with a thirst quenching sweet upsurge on the back end.

O: What little I've sampled of the style, I haven't liked. This is definitely the closest I've come to liking a Berliner. It still has its fair share of flaws which keep that from happening: poor aroma, ugly look, and undefined flavors mean I'm not going to get this one again. (1,128 characters)

Photo of mfnmbvp
3.85/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, with bottled on date 06/07/2013 printed on the label. A beer from Bell's that I've never tried before. Expectations are high based on the brewery.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter glass.

A - Pours a cloudy pale straw-lemon colored body with about a finger of quickly dissolving white foam head.

S - Smell is interesting, and not exactly 100% appealing. Corn, grains, hint of citrus, and some sour cheesy funk going on. Almost reminds me of what a burned flour tortilla smells like when I order a burrito from my local Mexican spot. I think "cheesy" is a good way to describe it.

T - Taste is a step or two up from the bizarre aroma. Light grains, sweet malt, citric lemon juice, some apple, and some tart vinegar.

M - Feel is crisp, clean, tart, and finishes dry. A fitting end to a fitting session ale.

Overall, I rather enjoyed it. Light, sessionable, and flavorful. While probably not the most "authentic" version of the style, it suits me just fine. A more accessible representation of the style than The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse was, in my opinion. I could drink this beer all day.

Bell's Oarsman Ale ---4/5. (1,147 characters)

Photo of superspak
3.58/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into signature pint glass, bottled on 4/2/2013. Pours lightly hazy golden straw color with a 1 finger fairly dense white head with decent retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Slight spotty lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of tart apple, lemon, grape, pear, wheat, hay, grass, pepper, funk, light vinegar, and yeast earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of yeast and light malt notes; with decent strength. Taste of tart apple, lemon, grape, pear, hay, grass, wheat, funk, light pepper, light vinegar, and yeast earthiness. Light fruity/earthy tartness on the finish; with lingering notes of light fruits, hay, grass, wheat, light pepper, light funk, and yeast earthiness on the finish for a short bit. Nice and pleasant balance and complexity of flavors; with a very dry finish and no cloying flavors as expected. Medium carbonation and light bodied; with a very dry and crisp mouthfeel that is good. Alcohol is well hidden with zero warming present as expected of 4%. Overall this is a very solid Berliner weisse style. Nice balance and complexity of flavors; and very smooth and crisp to drink. An enjoyable offering. (1,184 characters)

Photo of ISmith87
3.66/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer is one of the first that got me thinking about the craft beer scene. I picked it up on the way back from Michigan to Missouri for one of my good friends during my first year of graduate school and remember taking the first step and immediately wanting to know what made it sour.

A - 3.5 - Cloudy golden amber color (Bell's doesn't filter their beers), with no head or lacing. But still for some reason it looks inviting.

S - 3.75 - Has a nice sour smell to it, some wheat in there too.

T - 3.75 - The first time I tried this beer I was completely thrown off by the tartness, but I liked it. It has a nice sour taste to it that reminds you of sour candy, but with no extra fruit juice or anything like that added (like in a Framboise or Peche Lambic). It looks like this is supposed to be a Berliner Weissbier, which I've honestly never really looked into at this point, but I will.

M - 3.5 - Light, sour, leaves a funky aftertaste. Alc completely hidden.

O - 3.5 - Great beer, definitely a session beer. One of my favorites from Bell's! (1,055 characters)

Photo of Mavigo
3.71/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a chalice.

A: Pours a cloudy yellow color with a short white head that dissipates fast leaving almost no lacing.

S: Smells of white grapes, wine, yeast, citrus, wheat, grains, grass, champagne effervescence

T: Strong tart, sour flavor, reminds me of white wine, tastes of grapes, citrus, yeast, wheat, grains, very interesting, kind of strange after taste though

M: Light bodied beer with good amounts of carbonation and a slight dry finish

O: Overall this was quite interesting and unexpected, although it was a groundshaking beer to me, it's still quite unique, worth a try. (594 characters)

Photo of DeFaz
3.49/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Apperance: Pours a cloudy light golden color with a small head that vanishes quickly. Typically with Berliner Weissbiers one can expect a larger head, so this was disappointing.

Smell: Lemon and wheat.

Taste: Starts off with the wheat with the tartness coming in later along with a touch of clove. Not that interesting.

Mouthfeel: Thin, as is expected, with very active carbonation. Goes down easy.

Overall: I'm new to the style, but I do like the 1809 Berliner Weissbier better I must say because of its more appealing appearance and mouthfeel. This is refreshing, but it isn't something I'd go out of my way to find. (623 characters)

Photo of weeare138
3.84/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appears a hazy straw toned gold with a whispy white head that quickly fades into a gentle cap. Tiny speckles of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of tart apples, peaches, apricots, and tart grapes.
Taste is of the aromas with a definite white wine presence and a nectarine note.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a tart, dry finish. (340 characters)

Photo of tastybeer
3.75/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pale gold brew. White, small, quickly dissipating head. Looks refreshing.

S: Sweet and wheaty. Floral aromas as well as lemon and spice. Very clean, dry, grape-like. Bright and sunny aroma. Smells refreshing too.

T: Taste is indeed tart. There's still malt sweetness underneath but there's quite a lot of sour fruit and wheat. Dry.

M: Slick and a little syrupy. Carbonation is very fine and body is light. Very consumable despite the sourness.

O: A good beer and I believe a good example of the style. (508 characters)

Photo of jwhancher
3.76/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Pours a relatively clear straw yellow with lacing that very ally fades. Smells tart & crisp with lemons. There's a faint sour mash character found on. Tastes tart with an easygoing mouth puckering. Tastes crisp with lemon and citrus. Easy drinking and feels light. Could drink this all day long. Perfect for hot, humid weather. (327 characters)

Photo of Jonada
3.31/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottled 1/29/13. Served in a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a hazy straw yellow color, with a finger of a white fizzy head that dissipates almost instantly.

Smell: Green apple, some general citrus, vinegar (not in a good way), and a hint of sweet malt.

Taste: Weak lemon and cereal grain. Not really a whole lot going on with this beer. Sourness is low and balanced out with a slight malt sweetness. Finishes with a tiny hint of hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, medium carbonation. Feels a bit thin and watery.

Overall: I wasn't impressed with this. It's certainly not bad by any means, and if you're a fan of the style it's probably worth a try, but this won't be a repeat purchase. (696 characters)

Photo of zac16125
3.72/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into a chalice
Bottled on: 4/22/13

A: Pours a clear urine color with just over 1 fingers width of bright white head. Head dissipates down very quickly to nothing, and leaves no lacing.

S: Tart lactic acidity, citrus, lemon-lime, wheat, feet.

T: Citrus, wheat, subtle citric tartness, some sweet malt characters.

M/D: Crisp, clean, and refreshing. Medium body, heavier carbonation. Very drinkable.

O: Overall, a tasty beer. Light and refreshing, yet flavorful. Not a go to style for me, but enjoyable and certainly could be a refreshing session beer. (570 characters)

Photo of drinkinmiles
3.66/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Have had this both this summer and the summer of last year, as well as a few though the winter.

A- A very nice yellow color, smaller white head that sticks well.

S- Citrus, almost a sour lambic like characteristic to me, hints of wheat and summer grasses.

T- Again with the citrus, and a slight sourness from that. Tappers off to a nice wheat and grassiness with lingerings of the citrus making it very pleasant for summer especially.

M- Light, medium carbonation, tart and refreshing.

O- A very nice light summer Berliner Weiss. Would deffinitely recommend for anyone looking for something refreshing on a hot day.

Bought in bottles and poured into a tulip glass. (670 characters)

Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 568 ratings.