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

612 Reviews
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Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States | website

Style: Berliner Weissbier

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.00%

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."

Added by Thorpe429 on 04-12-2009

User Reviews
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Reviews: 612 | Ratings: 2,139
Photo of abrand
3.18/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at local pub, poured into a pint glass.

Pours a semi hazy golden color with a little fizzy head that lines the glass. Smells of light citrus fruits with some hops/malts. Some booze is noted as well. Taste is slightly water, slightly bitter. A nice light tasting beer to enjoy with dinner. Mouthfeel is light bodied. Drinkability is mediocre. Not an eye opener but not something I would turn away.

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Photo of youngleo
2.64/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I saw a couple of reviews on this one so I gave it an agressive pour. And was pretty happy with the results. Had a nice two fingered white head. Head hung around for a little while. Not a lot of lacing going on. Ale itself was a cloudy light yellow. Not a lot of smell. I mean almost nothing. Just maybe some light grain notes. Tasted very light as well. Had a slight bitter tart going on. Maybe a slight sweet aftertaste. But nothing really standing out. Felt average in the mouth. Carbonation I thought was right. I dont know who Bells is trying to market this ale to. All and all there was nothing there to make you want to buy this ale again.

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Photo of spointon
4.14/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I poured this from a 12oz brown bottle into an Imperial pint glass.

A= This ale poured a not-quite-clear pale yellow color. Even with an aggressive pour the head only rose about 1/4" and then disappeared very quickly. Not a lot of obvious carbonation release or lacing to note.

S= Smelled like light wheat malt, faint hops, fairly clean yeast, and a slight tartness that was very intriguing.

T= Started off as one would expect, with the wheat twang in full force, but the malty sweetness was gone as soon as it appeared and was replaced by a mild tartness/sourness that was quite tasty and incredibly refreshing. Finished dry and left a hint of that tartness on my tongue all through the aftertaste.

MF= Light bodied with a small but crisp carbonation presence.

D= Crazy drinkable. Pretty much the best American pale wheat beer I have had to date. That tartness is fantastically refreshing, making this a beer I would gladly drink a few of on a hot summer's day.

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Photo of jsh420
3.7/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

batch 9934

pours light golden yellow with a small white head that left no lacing

smells very faint of tart berries and nothing else

taste is tart upfront then the light malt finish - reminds me of a Berliner Weisse more the a pale wheat

mouthfeel is light crisp - very refreshing

drinkability is good and one i could see myself drinking anytime of year

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Photo of hooliganlife
3.46/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

pours a faint straw yellow with a hint of haze. light fizzy head. little to no retention.

very faint bread and malt with a VERY faint hint of lemon

nice light lemony sourness up front that then gives way slowly to allow the yeasty malty backbone. light lemony malty aftertaste.

very light with a moderate carbonation that has a bit of bite on the tongue

this is pretty light and easy overall, would do well on a warm summer day.

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Photo of otto251068
2.79/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle poured into a Chimay goblet

Appearance: Translucent and clean, absolutely no minuscule particles here. Pale golden color with a thin white head which quickly completely disappears, very quickly. No lacing.

Smell: Has a crisp tartness to it, mostly lemon, also some wheat. A little BMC lager smell. Overall, not much.

Taste: More lemon which really awakens my taste buds. More than enough to tell me its there, but not too much to overpower anything. Some breadiness at the end, with traces of lemon lingering after the swallow. Tastes a little watered down.

Mouthfeel: Light body with a high carbonation which prickles the tongue. It finishes extremely clean with no aftertaste.

Overall: A simple beer, light in body with a lot of acidity to it. This would be great during a night of drinking to awake the palate. Nothing too fancy about it, and while I liked the one I had, I won't be searching any more out soon.

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Photo of bonkers
3.65/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a SA perfect pint glsss. The pour is hazy yellow with a fizzy litle head. The aroma is tart, mostly lemon. Tart lemony flavor, with a dry finish. Very light body, acidic mouthfeel, and highly carbonated. An ok beer, I was expecting a bit more from it. On a hot day it would be refreshting.

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Photo of weizenbob
1.9/5  rDev -46.5%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a pint glass. This beer was a headless wonder. The color was near-transparent.

There's not much to pick up in the scent. Tonic water would be the closest comparison that I could come up with.

Unfortunately the taste followed the scent pretty closely. I felt like I was drinking Perrier with a twist of lime. The bite was pretty toothless, with the only standout flavor being the bitter citrus. Strangely there seems to be neither malt, nor hop character. I really felt like I was drinking lightly carbonated water with lime. Did I get a bad bottle or is this what this beer is supposed to be?

How do you rate the mouthfeel of a beer with the consistency of water? I guess it didn't feel offensive in my mouth.

Likewise, the 4% abv paired with ultra-lite flavor and watery consistency gives this a pretty high drinkability. If you don't mind the pucker inducing bitterness I imagine you could drink these all day and night; but why would you really want to?

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Photo of matt20102
3.83/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into tumbler at refrigerator temperature. Oarsman pours with a thin, highly-effervescent head which sticks around in a rim until the end of the glass. Mouthfeel is pleasantly thin with a heavy taste of wheat and citric acid (not lemon). This acid taste is initially off-putting but quickly gains favor. Recommended.

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Photo of kruthar
3.48/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this beer in a weekly group tasting, this is from notes i took last night.

A Clear cidery golden color, light almost like apple juice. Thick sticky head with just about no lacing, wierd.

S - The smell is not very potent, its cold icey like a cheap lager smell.

T - First taste is a fruitty sweet tart taste bu tlacking the cheap ber taste iw as expecting from the smell. the fruit almost taste like apple.

M - initial bite on the tip of the tongue but finishes extremely smoot.

D - Drinks like a light beer without the crappy light beer taste.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
3.03/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I got this beer from Tilley4. Thanks Jason!

12oz bottle served in a pilsner glass.

L - hazed yellow color with a white head that thinned out leaving a few spots behind.

S - lemon zest aroma.

T - fairly tart lemon zest and not too much else.

F - light bodied with a tangy feel.

D - I guess if I was hot and sweaty it would have been refreshing.

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Photo of kellyst
4.12/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

This is only the second "berliner weisse" that I have had the chance to enjoy (and he last ine I had was about three years ago). I understand that Bell's did not intend this to be a berliner weisse or american pale wheat, but something in between. Thin white head dissapears after a few seconds. Appearance is a light, clear yellow. Aroma is primarily citrus hints. Flavor is a strong, citrus tinged tartness. Some hints of pilsner maltiness can be tasted in the background. Tartness is pretty strong to my tastes, and about at the limit for what I would want for a refreshing summer beer. I'll probably purchase this again next year in July or August to enjoy after yardwork.

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Photo of micromaniac129
2.78/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pale straw in color white head quickly lost.
Sour funky aroma of I don't know what. Some hoppiness maybe a hint of lemon.
Crisp and sour some off flavors.
Not to impressed with this beer or syle.
In my opinion not a very good product from the people at Bell's. Maybe they don't like this style either.

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Photo of Bonis
3.63/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Hazy light golden color, one finger of head sticks around for a minute and settles to a nice layer of bubbles for the duration. Good retention, no lace.

S - I don't get much wheat in the nose like others are explaining. A tart fruitiness is apparent and a touch of honey and grains (surprisingly I smell corn). Beyond this, there isn't much to the smell.

T - Subtle tartness and sour flavors up front, again I get a little sweetness in the form of honey and a touch of wheat. The grainy aftertaste is a little turn off, but only sticks around for a few seconds. Pretty big flavor for the ABV, but not in the form of alcohol. Not as much wheat as I expected, then again, I haven't have many wheat ales lately. Pretty tasty overall.

M - Light and crisp. A little much carbonation for me. Not bad, but not excellent either.

D - Great drinkable summer beer. I'd almost say I prefer this to Oberon (minus the lack of ABV). Great beer to bring to a party or to session. This is a beer that I COULD drink all night, but I wouldn't because I'd never get a buzz (probably good for some people). Glad I tried it, but I'm not so sure I'll buy any more.

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Photo of dpnelson1978
3.11/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle into glass pint.

$1.50 / ea.

A: Hazy yellow body with a small white head that quickly dissipates leaving no lacing and only a ring of cover.

S: Very weak aroma, difficult to discern anything. Very light bready aroma and no hint of hops.

T: Tart lemon flavors over an extremely subdued wheat backbone. No noticeable hop flavor, and a slightly sour aftertaste. Interesting beer, but not very complex.

M: Very light body with heavy carbonation and a noticeable carbonic bite paired with sour sensations on the tongue. Crisp and refreshing.

D: Light body, and a crisp finish on a tangy beer. Very approachable for a sour offering. Will raise some eyebrows, but shouldn't offend too many people.

O: This would make a nice stepping stone to sour beers for the uninitiated.

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Photo of dfillius
4.12/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass
A: Aggressive pour yields 2/3 finger white fizzy head with poor retention. Hazy straw-gold liquid. I'd like more, tighter head.

S: Tart, slightly funky, bready

T: Nice mellow sourness, bready, tastes like my Summer Sesh homebrew. Tart lemon juice-y. A bit one-dimensional, but solid despite that.

M: Clean, full, crisp, refreshing

D: I'd love another. I'd buy 6 for the summer time. Very enjoyable session beer.

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Photo of SpdKilz
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A second night full of Michigan beers! Thanks again to erikkoppin for yet another beer I have been wanting to try.

Appearance - Pours a straw yellow into my SA Perfect Pint. About a finger of quickly dissipating white head is achieved with a moderate pour, that leaves little lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell - Not a whole lot going on, but definite wheat, slight citrus, bready malts, and a distinct "tartness" to the aroma.

Taste - Oh yeah, here come the tartness. Lemon zest, wheat, citric juice that gives the "acidic" flavor, yeast, and slight sweetness at the end. This reminds me a lot of Bell's Poolside Ale I had on tap this summer while visiting Michigan.

Mouthfeel - Medium to lower bodied, prickly carbonation, finishes tart/dry.

Drinkability - I think immensely. I really enjoy this and could easily session a six pack of this in the summer like it ain't no thang. I will for sure pick this up in the summer when I am back home. A refreshing beverage.

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Photo of KarlHungus
3.22/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This beer pours a hazy yellow color. The head is one inch in height, and recedes quickly into minimal lacing. The aroma is of horse blanket, wet hay, acid, and barnyard. Very pleasant. The taste is earthier than the aroma. Dirt, hay, horse blanket with a hint of tartness in the finish. It is too dirty fo my liking, but not all out bad. The mouthfeel is light bodied, and slightly watery. Watery even for a Berlinerweisse (if the is in fact what this beer is trying to be as I have heard). Overall, this is a beer that I am just not feeling. I will probably not drink this beer again.

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Photo of deapokid
2.92/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a thin, filtered, murky yellow. Carbonation is moderate, although the bubbles aren't stirring up a head or lacing. Liquid is extremely clean and almost translucent enough to seem like tap water.

Scent is predominantly a combination of sweet corn and grain. Lemon and banana esters are mild at best, though they do bring to mind Berliner Weisses. [Sidenote: Wasn't this listed on BA just one week ago as a Berliner Weissbier?] Although not overwhelming, it's a rather pleasant aroma and, if you sniff really hard, you can catch some pepper and coriander somewhere down there.

Hmm... I don't know what to make of this one in the taste category. It's light and spritzy initially, powered by a clean burst of lemon freshness, but this is only a momentary victory, as it's shoved aside by a canned vegetable astringency. The aluminum notes remind me of Wittekerke, wiith its lightly skunked finale and chewy graininess that stays far too long on the back of the tongue. If I didn't know better, I'd swear this had been left out in the sun.

Luckily, my taste buds reacted positively to the tartness, which briefly overshadowed the tin can and skunk aftertaste.

On another positive note, it is light enough to consume quickly and not strong enough to offend. I had this on tap during the Bell's Philly Beer Week event and really enjoyed it. Just to be sure that the bottle wasn't old, I checked my batch number (9861) on the Bell's website and confirmed that it had been bottled on 8-16-2010 and should be good for 6 months. If it has that long a shelf life, why does it taste like sun-drenched Heineken after a mere 60 days?

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Photo of farrago
3.28/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bleached white head, delicate and airy foam, as it dissolves you think you're watching a film on fast forward, some dimpling and the lacing stays around much longer than expected at first. Extremely pale yellow color, if with a slight luminescence, the haze prevents crystal clear transparency, big stream of bubbles more or less right in the middle of the normal pint glass. Lemongrass, wheat, sage, pepper, pretzel dough, mandarin orange zest, green apple and apricot to peach pit fruit scents, light yeasty funk. Light-bodied plus, the carbonation has enough toughness and tight weave to keep what weight is there present through to the end. Very citrusy, tart lemon, orange burst. Yeast, sourdough, the wheat tastes grainy and unprocessed. Close to no fruit, some sour apple, pear and apricot. In the back half, though, there's a glancing brush of honey and caramel. Have to say it has a lively, crackling presence in the mouth, no way you are not noticing it there. Low ABV helps but overall bitterness makes this a two bottle tops in a sitting beer pour moi.

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.87/5  rDev +9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. of pure, unadulterated Bells-y goodness; a pour to a pint glass. Batch 9861, with big thanks to hoppymeal. Bottom of the 9th, Rays & Rangers, Game 5...and the Rangers win! Rangers win!!!

That's out of the way...foreshortening rules! Love the label's take on it - a weathered oar, a bearded and yellow-clad oarsman. Dunno what it means, necessarily, but it's a good-lookin' bottle.

A: Pale golden/straw, a little milkiness. A fair amount of carbonation, trickling bubbles burbling to a short white cream. Never more than a finger, that head pretty much disappears after a minute or two. No lace, ho hum.

S: Mmmm, I like the off-the-bat aroma - spiced wheat, a drifting citrus. Sorta musty and dusty, lightly 'funky' - a cross between lemon scones and sweaty feet. For god knows whatever reason, that smells kinda good...

T: Sweetened and doughy wheat with an ample twist of sourness. It's not q-u-i-t-e to the levels of a classic Berliner Weiss, but it's got the right balance of citric tang and yeasty bread crust.

M: Light-medium feel, slight bready stickiness. Fine, creamy feel. At times carbonation bristles a little, then mellows just as quickly.

D: Easy, make that EASY, to drink. Small ABV, good flavor + about as 'session-able' as they come. May not be to everyone's liking, but I'm glad I got a chance to enjoy this one. A hearty thanks to you, Derek.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.5/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars."

--Latin proverb

Acid-washed lemon yellow with a two finger crown of cumulus cloud white that is slightly crackly. The foam is still sticky enough, however, to grace the glass with dots and spots of lace... that don't last. Looks like a Berliner weissbier.

The nose is more akin to a classic American pale wheat with a bit more lemony tartness than is typical. The beer smells clean and fresh and inviting. Simplicity is no black eye when style is taken into account.

The brewery's goal was to create a year-round session beer that would be good alone or with food. Mission... pretty much accomplished. The amount of citrus juice tartness puts Oarsman Ale closer to Berliner weissbier than American pale wheat and might cost them repeat sales. Just a hunch. This is pretty good ale, but multiple bottles could become a little bit wearing.

Malt contributes almost nothing in terms of flavor, sweetness or feel. Hops are on the low end as well. The result is a beer that needs some flavor hook other than lemon juice and wheat. There isn't even much untoasted grain, such as is present in a relatively burly American pale lager like Schlitz Gusto.

The mouthfeel can hardly be faulted for being light. Slightly sparkly bubbles should work well, but these are a little too sharp and don't seem to be fading much as the bottom of the bottle approaches.

On the strength of too many offerings to mention here, Bell's is a mainstay in my top-10 American breweries of all-time. The idea behind Oarsman Ale was a good one, but the Berliner weissbier-like sourness might not have been the best way to go.

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Photo of Vonerichs
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Straw yellow with fizzy white head.

Smell is lemongrass and grain.

Lemon zest, grass, and wheat taste.

Mouthfeel is crisp and light-bodied. Good for the style.

This is a perfect example of a session beer. Low abv, refreshing, and decent flavor. It's good for what it is.

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Photo of Vdubb86
3.31/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a pint glass

Thanks to TMoney2951 or should I say his bro for giving this up. I must say that I'm worried because of the way I was able to acquire this.

This pours the hazy pale straw color that I would expect from a BW. There was no head really to speak of. The aroma is like burnt popcorn, I'm sorry but it's as unpleasant as walking into a kitchen and saying "hey, who burned something". The taste is sour like really sour. The flavor is acidic and the malts are hidden behind the taste. This is citric and harsh. The odd thing I have to say about it is this is really feels good for the mouth, if only it had tasted better. This is very drinkable if it tasted better. I don't recommend you try this I really didn't like it. But if you like sour and acidic, which is to the style go for it.

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Photo of unojuno
3.01/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: a slightly-cloudy, golden-yellow color when poured into a standard pint glass. Hardly any head formed, only white wispy foam around the edges of the glass. Appears to have a considerable amount of carbonation rising to the surface. The bottle art looks bitchin'.

Smell: A standard wheat smell that is sweet on the nose. Can't tell if there are citrus elements at all by smell alone.

Taste: First sip has a bit of a pinch to it. Slighly tangy/sour, and resembles the taste of a carbonated wine. Hints of what I assume is lemon grass. Citrus finish.

Mouthfeel: Leaves the mouth feeling sour, like not brushing your teeth for a few days. Light bodied, and the carbonation tickles the upper palate.

Drinkability: It's like a strange wheat beer. Nothing fancy. Easy to drink with such a light body and carbonation. Fairly priced ($8 for six).
More like an experimentation. I give them credit for trying something different, but I feel that the beer lacks a personality/identity.

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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 612 ratings.