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

Not Rated.
Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

Educational use only; do not reuse.

590 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 590
Hads: 2,074
Avg: 3.55
pDev: 15.77%
Wants: 80
Gots: 269 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States | website

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
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Reviews: 590 | Hads: 2,074
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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Photo of Tilley4
3.53/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy cloudy although very light golden with a very nice fluffy cotton white head atop... Lots of carbonation as well...

Very light refreshing citrusy lemon aromas mingle with the huskiness of the wheat...

Tart wheaty lemony taste that slowly blends into a very smooth finish... This would be a nice little summer beer here... Very crisp up front...

A nice little beer from Bells here... I'm not the biggest. Wheat fan so the scores aren't that high here but this was pretty good...

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.48/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a Devil's Backbone willibecher.

My brother bought a sixer o' this and hated it, so I smilingly inherited some free beer. Always welcome. It pours a hazy pale straw, not entirely unlike lemonade, topped by a bit less than a finger of relatively short-lived white micro-foam. The nose is basically a two-pronged attack consisting of lemon zest and some mildly funky wheat and rice. The taste reminds me of a hardy lemonade, with a touch of Squirt for extra citrus flavor and the carbonation. This doesn't really mean I think it's bad, just not great. The body is pretty light, with a light moderate carbonation and a fairly refreshing feel and finish. Overall, it's very drinkable, but I'm just not too enthused about it.

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Photo of jampics2
2.98/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle into a pint glass

Oarsman looks very nice in my pint glass  It's light straw, almost a white wine color. A small ring of foam leaves behind decent lace. I also observed some slow visible carbonation.  A nice start!  

The smell is mostly tangy wheat, a touch of sweet pale malt and, perhaps, a slight citrus (lemon and apricot) character. Not very expressive and very much one dimensional.  No real sour character.   

Wheat is again dominant in the taste with a slight touch of unripe berries, lemon grass and a touch of sour white grapes in the finish. I get hints of unsalted 'Saltine' crackers. Very cohesive and defined taste but very basic. Oarsman is pleasant enough, but lacking any punch or identity. It's certainly not a good American Pale Wheat, nor is it a good Berliner Weiss.  Unfortunately, I find Bells Oarsman to be a beer without identity and not in a good, genre-defying way.     

The highly carbed, almost sparkling beer explodes in one's mouth to become a creamy foam.  Not the greatest feel because of the almost water-like body.   I guess it's drinkable, and it's certainly non-offensive, but what kind of bastardized style is this?  I'm not a purist, but a beer needs an identity. This is just a lost cause -  Not sour/tart enough to be a Berliner Weisse, not enough body to be anything else.  More like a wheat water. Disappointing.     

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Photo of Cresant
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

Served this 12 oz. brown bottle in a Sam Adams glass. Batch 9861. The body was clear and lightly yellow/white. The head was crisp white. It settled to a wispy ring and left some lacing.

The smell was sour lemon and spices. Funky fresh.

The taste was tart and zesty. There was enough malts/wheat to give some balance to the tartness. Understated, but I would call this one well constructed. Perfect for the smoldering days of summer. I'd rather have this than Oberon any day.

The mouthfeel was medium/light. There was a steady stream of carbonation from the etching in the glass. I really like the label art too.

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Photo of LiquidBread219
2.68/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had this one at a Beer Fest

A= Poured a pale yellow,had a little bit of head that disappered fast and left no lacing that I could see.

S= To me this beer didn't have a lot in the smell department. It basically gave a slight wheat aroma that had a little bit of sour yeast. To me the sour yeast kind came out.

T= To me the taste was also a disappointment it tasted a lot like the nose. It was like a light beer that had a little sour taste to it.

M= It was Light Crisp pretty clean finish, the sour yeast basically played with the palate but overall easy to drink.

D= Overall I was disappointed with this beer from Bell's glad I just tryed it at a sampling wouldn't waste my money buying a bottle or six pack probably overpriced. This really isn't my favorite style of beer but I do enjoy Bell's just not this one. To me it's just a dressed up miller high life.

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Photo of Spiekerbox
3.93/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pale light golden with a decent white head that quickly dissipates leaving behind no lacing on the glass.

S- Wheaty with a little bit of a sour scent to it, a little citrus there too.

T- Sour mash flavor comes our first with a slight tartness to it, then the wheat malt comes in as well, finishes with a slightly citrus flavor. Quite an interesting combination of flavors actually.

M- Very thin and crisp with a medium amount of carbonation.

D- Very easy to drink, with how light it is and only a 4% abv I could drink this all day. Weather I would or not would depend on if i got sick of the flavor but drinkability wise it is very easy to drink.

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Photo of JohnQVegas
3.92/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle into Sam Adams sensory glass.

Pours lightly hazy pale straw color, with a thinnish white head that settles into a scattered layer of soapy bubbles. Iffy retention, not much in the way of lacing or stickage either.

Nose is wheaty, noticeable touch of sourdough. Bit of bright citrus bite in there as well, almost spicy; pleasant.

Sour mash brings a really nice acidity to this one. Very light in body, with the acidity lending just a bit of clean sourdough character. Wheaty, but without the overt spicing of most American pale wheats, and almost no real hop character to speak of; however, the light, bright sourness lends just enough character to still make this a really nice, interesting beer to drink. Sourness lends some substance to the finish as well. Not a berlinerweiss by a good stretch, but a nice, original take on this style. Would have loved to have had access to this during the long summer stretch.

Mouthfeel is very light in body, with a light carbonation, crisp, bright and very refreshing. Clean. Ridiculously drinkable.

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

Appearance: Poured from a 12oz bottle into a large wine glass. Pours a very light straw color with a bright white, frothy two-finger head. There is a slight haze to the beer's appearance, but for the most part, this thing is pretty darn clear. Moderate to light carbonation with little lacing to speak of.

Smell: Bit of a mineral/wheat aroma with a touch of sour yeast. I'm not all that impressed by the smell of this beer. It really almost reminds me of a beefed-up lager with a touch of citrus and malt. Fairly one-dimensional.

Taste: Alright, so this one tastes pretty much how it smells - very mild, grainy, and a little bit tart. There is a touch of spiciness and sour flavor, but honestly, this is almost reminiscent of a Miller High Life hiding behind some window dressing.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied with a clean finish. There's also a bit of sour funkiness that plays with the palate throughout. Definitely an easy drinker though.

Drinkability: Very refreshing and probably a good beer for a hot summer day, but just a little short on aroma and flavor for my liking.

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Photo of Bighuge
3.47/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Hazy, pale lemon yellow body. Thin bubbly off white head. very little lace. Aroma is vibrant, tangy (if an aroma can be tangy, that is), tart and lemony. Spritzy carbonation gives this beer some palate scrubbing potential. Body is close to medium. Light bready base of malt with bright, tart, lemony and citric overtones. Acidic feel to it with a dry finish. Not bad for what it is.

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Photo of herman77
3.23/5  rDev -9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a very slightly hazed, pale yellow with a small off white head that dies quickly. No lacing.

S: Light nose. Semi-sweet wheat smell. Tart lemons. More wheat than anything though.

T: Again, lots of wheat with a green apple like tartness. Some grainy sweetness to it. Finishes very clean and slightly dry from the tartness, no aftertaste.

M: Light body. Moderate carbonation. Nice crispness to it.

D: Decent summer beer. Pretty easy drinking, not much else going for it though.

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Photo of wingman14
3.41/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a medium yellow with a frothy white head that faded fast. The smell indicates the "sour" beers like those of jolly pumpkin, mostly a light citrus smell with yeast notes. The beer has a very light flavor, sour and tart, but very refreshing. This would be excellent on a hot summer day. A very light mouthfeel, not much flavor power, but what is there does get the job done. This beer is interesting, very refreshing as mentioned, but would have more than a couple due to the nature of the beer, but still enjoyable.

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Photo of prototypic
3.3/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Oarsman Ale pours a very pale yellow color. It's crystal clear, and looks a tad more gold when held to light. An active white head. It rises to about a finger and a half in depth before falling to a surface covering quickly. Lacing was very, very light. Nothing too exciting, but not bad.

The nose is just okay. It's very lacking in the strength department. It's mostly wheat and earthy notes. A little light citrus lemon creeps in and adds a bit of a sweet smell. There's a faint malty scent. Smells like pale malt. Some light spices are present. They're very subtle and need to be stronger. All in all, it's just okay.

Oarsman Ale has a very light, mild flavor. Wheat and grain flavors are very prominent. It's earthy with just a twist of pepper. Light citrus lemon is noted. It adds a very slight tart flavor to the mix, but it's not nearly as tart as I expected. There are semi-sweet malt flavors, and a bit of a cracker-like taste. Alcohol is not noticeable in the least. Finishes grainy and slightly tart.

The body is light, but leans medium. It's a little heftier and smoother than I expected. For such a mild, low abv beer, it has a good feel. Drinkability is good. The flavor's just okay, but it's easy drinking. I could have a number of these on a hot day. Did I mention that the abv is 4%?

Oarsman Ale is a rather mediocre release from Bell's. I know it was initially characterized as a Berliner Weissbier. It might be a little reminiscent of that, but it's nowhere near as tart as others I've experienced in that style. The American Pale Wheat characterization is more appropriate. Whatever style it may be, Oarsman Ale is a little short on everything - aromatics and flavor most notably. It's worth a try, but I wouldn't pick up another six pack (unless it was roasting outside).

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Photo of bluejacket74
3.95/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle, Batch #9861, bottled on 8/16/2010. Served in a pint glass, the beer pours a slightly hazy straw gold color with about an inch white head. Head retention is decent, but not much lacing at all. Aroma is wheat and some light citrus (lemon). The brew tastes like tart lemon, wheat, and a little bit of pepper. Mouthfeel/body is light, it's a bit dry and crisp with low/moderate carbonation. Drinkability is very good, it's really smooth and refreshing. I think it's a great choice as a session beer, and it's also a good brew to drink at the end of a night when I'm looking for something that's still tasty, but has a pretty low ABV as well.

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Photo of Brent
4.4/5  rDev +23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

After seeing this listed here as an American pale wheat, I checked the brewery's website to see how they classify it, because my impression was that of a Berliner Weiss. Bell's does not make reference to that style, but they have certainly created a very refreshingly tart wheat - Prickly, lemony tartness up front, with a smooth body and sliglty dry finish. Only detracton was a bit of grainyness near the end as the beer warmed.

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Photo of alleykatking
4.27/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle.

A- Pours a light golden straw color. One finger white head shows light retention and ends up capping the beer. Web style lacing as I drink this down.

S- Light wheat aroma in the front of this with a light citrus hint toward the back as this beer warms a bit. Clean and simple but even this makes a good aroma overall.

T- Nice tartness to this beerin the front. Light wheat malts in the middle with a touch of yeasty flavor as well. Sour taste as well to the ending with a light bready malt.

M- Light mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Light citrus tartness left on the palate with some bread malts added in the aftertaste. Alcohol is well hidden and doesn't dry the palate. Flavors are clean and crisp.

D- This beer is very drinkable. The ABV being so low makes this beer a session beer and then some. Bell's did a great job like usual on this beer. I am very glad to have gotten to try this and look forward to a lot more....a lot more!

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Photo of ahking
3.7/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Gratitude to Bell's for making available a Berliner weisse type ale! I do enjoy a nice tart beer from time to time, but not so much that I would dare make one myself or buy it year round.

I'm a swirler so I roused up all of the residual yeast in the bottle for the pour and found a cloudy, light straw colored ale with a few yeasty bits floating around. A light tartness (less tart than I expected) hits you upfront, a bit cidery, then a quick hint of malty sweetness flashes a second before the tartness returns as you swallow. Very lightly hopped as you would expect, but I do pick up a slight noble hop grassiness in the middle.

This is a low alcohol beer making it sessionable, however, and I found the beer to be quite refreshing. Not a fall beer per se but I would enjoy it occasionally year round.

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Photo of david131
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- A slightly hazy yellow liquid with a thin white head.

S- Light malt and a bit of a tart aspect. Simple and clean.

T- Some sweet, light malt and a tart finish.

M- A bit of a carbonation bite with a bit of acidity that gives a very clean, dry finish.

D- Clean with a light tartness. Very simple and highly sessionable.

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Photo of Brenden
3.3/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours a very light gold color, almost white-gold. A small white head billows on the pour but quickly recedes. It leaves a light foam for a while which also recedes. No real lacing to speak of is left behind, though there is continuous bubbling activity to keep the brew looking alive.
The smell is somewhat light but does evidence a wheat backbone with just enough malt backing, plenty of citrus zest and a light spicy presence.
The appearance reminds me more of a Kolsch than anything else, but it's not the only aspect that does: the first hit on the tongue is sharp, tart white grape and green apple. Lots of lemon in there makes the contrast as the flavor gives way more powerful. While it starts extremely sharp and dry, it does mellow to something a little sweeter and just a bit malty. Lots of earthiness with a grains fade giving way to an extremely dry finish make for an interesting beer.
The mouthfeel has all kinds of bite, being extremely dry, tart and acidic while giving little way to a smoother texture in the end before drying again. Carbonation is light to medium in a light-medium body.
This is an interesting one. I know the style is looked down on by some, but I absolutely have nothing against the style. This one just doesn't have the bit extra to put it over. I might even rate this higher as a kolsch. As it is, it could certainly use more hops and malts as well as having a better balance. I'm used to such goodness from Bell's. At least it's above average.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.13/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

From 09/25/10 notes. Had on tap at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA.

a - Pours a murky, pale yellow color with less than 1 inch of white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of wheat and light citrus, not much else.

t - Tastes of citrus, light fruity malts, wheat, and bready malts.

m - Medium body and low to moderate carbonation.

d - A pretty average pale/wheat ale. Wasn't bad, but nothing really stood out in the smell or taste. Wouldn't seek out again.

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Photo of Anthony1
3.1/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served with a finger of white head that fades to a thin layer. Color is a very slightly hazed dark straw yellow. A very basic beer. Not too much on the nose. Grain with grassy hops mainly. In the background is some sharp wild notes. Grain, grassy hops, and some light funk and wild notes. Not a whole lot going on here. Fizzy, smooth, with a touch of funk. Lighter bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends very very clean.

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Photo of shodrod
3.62/5  rDev +2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours with a pale straw color with about a finger of head on top. The head disappears quickly leaving a haze on top. The aroma gives off hints of sour mash underneath the wheaty hues which dominate the smell. Some of those ever-so-slight sour notes make their way into the flavor, but recede quickly into some pear. This finish on the beer evaporates so hastily that you almost forget you just took a sip of beer.

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

Wheat-heavy and sharply acidic, this American Wheat is estery, phenolic, rich, and crisp- a lot going on for a beer style that catches a lot of criticism.

The beer pours a murky golden color with a froathy-fizzy head that disapoints with it's head retention; reducing to a trace very quickly and struggles to exist for the first quarter of the session.

Aromas of wheat dominate the beer (this beer obviously uses much more wheat than the norm). Spicy rye-like scents combine with lemon and apple esters, almost-smoky phenolics, and an earthy sweetness than hinges on sourdough breads and tobacco.

Flavors are acidic and lemony up front with a bright and crisp start. But the wheaty/spicy notes take the sharp flavors into a more mellow bread and white pepper taste. The bready-sweet flavors intensify towards the finish and stray from the lemony start. Pungent, earthy, and a pleasant graininess persists late in the finish. The beer takes a very German-like maltiness and yeastiness but an English-like hop identity.

Likewise, the beer starts lemony in mouthfeel with a palate-stripping acidic feel. But the beer takes on a more full, malty, bready texture as the beer makes its transition into the finish. Earthy, bitey, and mildly astringent late.

Oarsman seems to take a reverse procession than what beers normally do. The usual transition is from a creamy-sweet start into a dry-acidic finish. This beer starts with the lemony-acidic start into a froathy-bready-earthy finish. Although this beer is characterful, drinkable, and complex it's still an American Wheat Ale that pales in comparison to traditional German Hefeweizens.

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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 590 ratings.