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

Not Rated.
Bell's OarsmanBell's Oarsman

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574 Reviews
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Reviews: 574
Hads: 1,996
rAvg: 3.56
pDev: 14.04%
Wants: 75
Gots: 221 | 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
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Reviews: 574 | Hads: 1,996
Photo of Brent
4.4/5  rDev +23.6%
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. (430 characters)

Photo of alleykatking
4.27/5  rDev +19.9%
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! (980 characters)

Photo of ahking
3.7/5  rDev +3.9%
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. (807 characters)

Photo of david131
3.75/5  rDev +5.3%
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. (325 characters)

Photo of Brenden
3.3/5  rDev -7.3%
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. (1,493 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
3.13/5  rDev -12.1%
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. (471 characters)

Photo of Anthony1
3.1/5  rDev -12.9%
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. (429 characters)

Photo of shodrod
3.62/5  rDev +1.7%
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. (423 characters)

Photo of BEERchitect
3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
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. (1,638 characters)

Photo of RunForYourBeer
4.07/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From batch 9861.

A: Pale straw color with a thin white head that quickly goes away.

S: Smells of some sweat malt with a tartness to it. Also has some wheat scent.

T: Lots of wheat up front with a bit of a tart finish. Possibly a bit of cherry.

M: Medium to light with moderate carbonation.

D: Very good.

I liked this. It has a bit of a tart finish that is refreshing. Tastes like it would be a summer seasonal but is listed as year round. (445 characters)

Photo of Mdog
3.1/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pale yellow, small head.

Smell: A little bready aroma, unimpressive.

Taste: Tangy, tart sour citrus flavor, some breadiness in the finish. Not brutally sour.

Drinkability: Light in body, interesting change of pace.

Didn't know quite what to expect on this one, got a toned-down Berliner Weisse-like beer without as much sourness. Interesting to try but I probably won't revisit it. (397 characters)

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

Bottle (ID 9861) poured into a nonic pint.

A- A moderate pour left a 1/2-finger, white head. The body starts a clean, yellow-gold and becomes hazy with a bottle swirl. The head settles in to a full film and leaves good sticky rings.

S- Definite lemony aroma at first reminds me of a Sam Adams Summer Ale. The sour scent takes on something of a vinegar-like quality with a little warmth.

T- You're hit with a really flavorful first sip. Lemon-sour dominates off the bat. Wheat characteristics in the background. It has a puckering, dry finish. Sour is a major component, yet isn't overdone or offensive.

M- A little foamy at first. It has a creamy, smooth wheat feel. It's somewhat "light" bodied which lends toward the refreshing feel.

D- It's very intriguing to say the least. It has the qualities of an APWA, Witbier, and Berliner weisse all wrapped into one. I know it started life listed as a Berliner and has been a source of recent debate (not sure where the brewery officially stands, but I know they don't rely too much on fitting specific styles either). I dig the "point of view" artwork on the bottle. It kind of fits the funky brew inside. (1,156 characters)

Photo of peabody
2.49/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours out mostly clear yellow with one finger of white suds. No lacing to speak of.
Smell is cheap plain beer. No wheat or spices here. Really nothing here.
Taste is kind of a sour mess then a little, and I mean very little dirt/hop. I can't believe this is Bells.
Mouthfeel is very clean. Exactly nothing going on in the mouth.
Drinkability is WAY low here. This is awful.
I'll say it again, I can't believe this is a Bell's beer. I have never had a Bells beer that is this bland. (481 characters)

Photo of busternuggz
3.75/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.
Beautiful pale golden color with a 1" pillowy head, which settles down to a thin film and eventually leaves altogether. I think it's supposed to be similar to a berliner weiss so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt there. Leaves a little bubbly, soapy lacing.
Smells good. A nice tart wheatiness, a little apricot, lemon, and peach.
Crisp and tart on the palate, lemony and grassy. Simple but tasty. The aftertaste is kind of bland and cheap tasting though.
The texture would benefit from some dryness, it ends kind of sticky.
Again, if it were cleaner and drier it would be more drinkable, but still pretty smooth and light. (673 characters)

Photo of Natural510
4.1/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Batch #9861

Pours a pale, cloudy straw color with a small amount of sediment floating in the glass. Decent head, nice ring of lacing on the glass.
Sour lemon scent, a bit spicy as well. Wheat comes through toward the end.
Tart lemon & wheat dominate the flavor initially, a peppery spiciness kicks in later, with a decidedly breaded finish.
Mouthfeel is what you expect in a pale wheat ale...crisp, tart and clean, with a kiss of easy-going hops.

I rarely find an APWA I enjoy, but this one was quite good. The spice is added in correct measure, and the wheat-bread note is successful as well. (595 characters)

Photo of mcann2pu
3.2/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours into pint glass a crisp, clear, amber/ yellow color with a thin one finger head, not much lacing.

Smell: wheat smell, little bit of a spicy wheat smell.

Taste: clean refreshing taste with this one, pleasant tart taste.
Mouthfeel: light bodied beer.

Drinkability: Very drinkable, its light and refreshing, but has a good wheat taste, could have benefited from being a little more flavorful though. (417 characters)

Photo of BeerAndBourbon
3.72/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A. Pours a very clear pale yellow with a foamy white small bubble one finger breadth head that dissipates over 30 seconds to a thin film.

S. Wheat with some tart apple.

T. Some light apple with vague citrus characteristic. A pale malt background.

M. Light and delicate body with brisk effervescence.

D. I've not been able to keep this in the house. This is a beer I could easily find myself drinking in the spring, summer, and fall. This might have to be my next commercial beer on tap...although it wouldn't stick around for too long.

There are only two things I really question:
1. The style distinction - tastes more like a berliner weissbier to me
2. The label art - its not terribly appealing to begin with and it doesn't fit in with the rest of the brands labels (773 characters)

Photo of adamette
3.88/5  rDev +9%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Live review. Poured from the 12 oz. brown bottle that I bought at Save-On Tobacco & Beverage in Mentor, Ohio for $1.68 two days ago into my Cooperstown Beverage Trail pint glass. The following stamped on the back label of the bottle: 9861

A Short lived white fluffy head that leaves little to no head over a hazy lemonade looking body. Not impressed with the look. 2.0

S Nice light wheat sweetness with maybe a dash of citrus. This is a good smell as it is interesting and light but does not simply smell like a lemonade with a bit of alcohol warmth. I can perceive the wheat in there and it is intriguing. 4.0

T Interesting taste. On the "edges" there is a tart, citrus sweetness but in the middle is a nice, solid wheat ale. The light, tart citrus taste lingers longer than the wheat but it is good for the style, admittedly not one of my favorite styles. 4.0

M Very light indeed which is consistent with the style. 3.0

D The light feel and low ABV make this entirely drinkable. 4.5

Notes: Interesting offering from Bell's. (1,031 characters)

Photo of mwa423
3.65/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a cloudy pale yellow color with a finger and a half of frothy white head that quickly disappears.

S - Light and wheaty with a bit of orange peel and some yeastyness. Has a few of the notes of a saison with some wheat overall.

T - The taste has a sour note like a light wild ale or saison. Next there is a wheaty note along with the sour taste. There is also a good amount of fruit from both the sour grape/cherry and the light citrus from the wheat.

M/D - Mouthfeel is light but not watery and leaves some tingle on the tongue. Very drinkable beer for those who enjoy the style. (591 characters)

Photo of ZAP
3.25/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Nice brew...american wheat with some hints of Berliner Weisse...a perfect amount of tartness...sour apple like but not real dominant...just a nice light impression of it....basic wheat base...light side of medium bodied...interesting beer that would have place in the right situation for me...looks flat in the glass (316 characters)

Photo of atsprings
3.68/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a DFH Signature glass pours a crisp bubbly straw yellow with a nice frothy off white head that diminishes to a thin layer and leaves slight lacing on the glass. Aroma is tart fruit and sweet malts with mild citrus hops. The taste is a nice kick of tart fruit with sweet malts nicely backing them up. The beer is quite light and smooth with nice carbonation. This is a very enjoyable wheat beer, one that I can easily enjoy on a hot day or a cool evening. (471 characters)

Photo of JLeege
3.95/5  rDev +11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

After reading very mixed reviews, I gotta give this one a shot!

Appearance- Pours a very light straw, crystal clear, small white head. Active carbonation.

Smell- smell is earthy and funky actually. Some cherry. Smells reminiscent of a saison.

Taste- tastes like a lighter american wheat beer, also tart. Some cherries and lemon, still getting some funk (probably from the sour mashing).

Mouthfeel- light, crisp, refreshing.

Overall- seems to me more like a berliner weisse, or atleast more similar to the few I have tried. If reviewed to that style this would probably recieve an A from me. This is definitly a strange brew, thus the widely varried ratings, I like it. (673 characters)

Photo of Blakaeris
3.15/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours very hazy pale yellow with a massive rocky head.

Aroma is sweet and lemony with a ton of yeasty funk.

Taste is sugar and lemony as the nose suggested. However, there is also a sour apple quality. Finishes sweet and yeasty.

Mouthfeel is light and soft.

A very unusual beer. It could grow on you. (305 characters)

Photo of headbucket
3.18/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

appearance:pale, golden-straw color. about a 1/3rd inch head on pour. small frothy head remains throughout the glass. small amounts of lacing left on the glass.

smell: faint sour fruit smell

taste: has a decent wheat beer base with a somewhat sweet fruit/cherry flavor overtop of it.

mouthfeel: smooth and light-bodied. feels pretty good for the style.

drinkability: smooth,refreshing and goes down easy. However it starts getting a bit sweet towards the end of glass. I only have a single of it so I can't say if it would be too sweet to have more than one in a row. This one went down well, could see a few going down well on a hot day but am also worried it may get too sweet to really enjoy more than one or two at a time. (731 characters)

Photo of Beejay
2.73/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: Pale yellow and hazy, the head is white, and dissipates fairly quickly.

S: There is a light bready smell, with quite a bit of tartness/sourness.

T: Tartness right up front like sour cherries. There is a nice wheat flavor after some of the sourness subsides. It is a bit watery.

M: Light bodied, and very high carbonation. I don't know if it matches with the beer in general.

D: I get what they were going for here, but it just does not appeal to me.. It's watery, and tart, and doesn't seem to come together well. (523 characters)

Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 574 ratings.