Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...
Dismiss Notice
Join The Buzz! Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest BeerAdvocate updates delivered to your inbox.

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

Not Rated.
Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
81
good

576 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 576
Hads: 2,004
rAvg: 3.56
pDev: 14.04%
Wants: 77
Gots: 225 | 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: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 576 | Hads: 2,004
Photo of siege06nd
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a standard pint...

A. Slightly hazy and pale straw in color, the thinnest of off-white heads rapidly disintegrates, leaving behind some stray, loose bubbles. Lacing is similarly spotty.

S. Hints of wheat, mild floral notes, big biscuit dough, and traces of lemon zest.

T. Pilsner malts, more of that tulip petal hop profile, then a big dose of sweet, doughy wheat, and a much more pronounced tartness of lemon and orange zest. A bit of lacto creaminess for measure.

M. High carbonation and very delicate on the palate. Light bodied feel on the initial taste that moves more towards light-moderate with pilsner malt sweetness, slightly bitter hopping, and pear skin notes.

O. This is a very solid Berliner and, I suspect, very close to the traditional style. There's only hints of tartness as opposed to outright sour acidity. Bouquet and flavor are very similar to a German Pilsner, but the lacto tartness and the wheat lend a creaminess more appropriate of the Berliner style. The reviews on this are understandably muted: this is so easy drinking, so straight forward, and so well-integrated that it almost comes off boring. But it's anything but. This is a wonderful piece of first class craft and an absolute treat for the warmer months. In a world of over the top sours, Oarsman aims for classic simplicity and makes its mark. Cheers! (1,358 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
3.65/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a Duvel Tulip. Back label says PKGD 04/18/14

A- Pours a hazy straw yellow color with a 1/4 inch white head that soon fizzes away to a thin ring around the edge of the glass and minimal surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves small clots behind.

S- Pretty standard Berliner Weisse aroma with a large dose of wheat and a yeasty must.

T- The tartness on this is very low. I'm getting more wheat and mild lemon zest than anything else. Yeasty aftertaste.

M- Very quenching which is very nice since I just got done mowing the lawn but I still would like just a tad more tartness. Medium-low carbonation and a light body.

O- Not bad, just lacking the amount of character needed for it to be a repeat buy. (718 characters)

Photo of tviz33
2.8/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I'm gonna keep it short and not-so-sweet.

The buzz word "sour" made me go for this one. Pours piss yellow, more neon than a BMC brew. Smell is almost non-existant, but it honestly smells like puke. The flavor is better than the nose, but it's mostly lemon- like the sour part of lemon, not necessarily the citrus flavor. Anyway, this could be refreshing if I was sweating my ass off on a hot day, but it wasn't exactly the best way to end the night after having a few beers. (475 characters)

Photo of eepound2
4.21/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Personally I think this beer is underrated across the board. It is a pretty nice beer from Bell ' s, fruity and fairly light. It is a very drinkable beer in my opinion, would drink a few on a hot day. It is not my favorite beer, but with a decent aroma and solid refreshing taste, it deserves better than the moderate rating.

Overall, I'll definitely enjoy this brew again. Good for a spring/summer brew and can have a few with its light abv (442 characters)

Photo of brutusmuktuk
3.83/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle with a clear yellow color, plenty of bubbles, and a foamy white head that disappears quickly. The aroma is lemon and wheat. Taste is lemon, wheat, and a nice touch of tartness. The beer has a light to medium body feel and crisply refreshing. This was a surprise to me. I was expecting something light and uninteresting, but got something much more enjoyable. (379 characters)

Photo of Tafyob41
3.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This is a nice session beer that I've grown to enjoy. It has a light citrus smell and a light lemon sour taste. It really cleanses the palate and is perfectly carbonated. The first one of these I ever had I though was awful, but I now understand sour beers. Gave this on hand for an after meal drink or when trying other beers.

Pours gold in appearance with a small white head. Served in a pint glass. (403 characters)

Photo of ChrisL24481
3.58/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Hazy, golden yellow with a fizzy, white head. Visible carbonation raising throughout.

Aroma - Flavors are light but present. Citrus, wheat are the most prominent flavors I could detect.

Taste - Lemon citrus, tartness, sour, slight hint of wheat and malts.

Mouthfeel - light body, slight tart finish, very refreshing.

Overall - A light, refreshing Berliner Weiss. Perfect for a hot day. It could have been a bit more flavorful, but it's still solid. (465 characters)

Photo of Madapour
4.55/5  rDev +27.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I absolutely love this beer. The sour taste is exactly what I like, of course, I didn't know it until I tasted it. I have drank a good number of these beers, and a little pre drink advice before you pop the top, flip the beer upside down and tilt it and spin it to get all the goodies off the bottom. It makes the first drink as sour as the last. (346 characters)

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 a.gold 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)

Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 576 ratings.