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

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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

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Reviews: 618 | Ratings: 2,180
Photo of TheKingofWichita
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy wheat yellow orange color with a thick white head and tons of lacing. Smells of apples, citrus, and wheat. Tastes of sour apple flavor, wheat malts, some hops, and a little orange. Mouthfeel is medium with a good carbonation background. Drinkability is high.

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Photo of BeardedBoffin
2.62/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

This American wild ale leaves the bottle with a hard pour to produce a dark yellowish brew. The white cap of foam above vanishes, I mean vanishes, quickly. Within a few minutes there are no bubbles to speak of. A that is left in the glass is a conical cylinder of dark yellow liquid.

The aroma consists of sour apple and musty vinegar. As it warms, a small component of the aroma moves toward an acidic mixture reminiscent of vomit. Thankfully this is not a strong characteristic.

The palate is medium and wet, probably the best part of the beer. A very small touch of malt is present in the flavor. This is quickly overwhelmed by sourness. A sourness that is trying to be the tasty refreshing funk of an excellent Belgian but falls short. There is an off character in this beer. The sourness--whether it be lemony or vinegar unripe apple--is not the pleasant kind.

Into the second bottle--I bought a six pack and must soldier on--the beer seems to improve. On second thought, though, what doesn't?

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Photo of vette2006c5r
1.79/5  rDev -49.7%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

This beer poured an almost straw yellow color, wit very small head that dispated quickly. The smell was minimal. The taste was rather stale, and there was hints of some lemon, or other citrus. I found the taste offensive and unpleasent, and I couldnt even finish one. Overall I found this horrible, and I was disapointed that such an abolation from my one of my favirote brewers could be sold.

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Photo of number1bum
3.3/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to mymrnngjckt for this bottle.

Pours a clear light golden color with about a finger and a half of off-white, somewhat fizzy head. Doesn't keep a full lace or leave much stick.

Smell is light with a lemony tartness and some grain. It's somewhat bready, with a bit of spice and grass as well.

Taste has a grainy bready base with a very subtle cracker-like sweetness, and then features the lemony tartness that the nose had as well. It's like a lighter version of a Berliner Weiss, with less tartness and overall less flavor. A bit of a graininess in the finish. It's light to the point of being thin and somewhat bland.

Mouthfeel is light and crisp, smooth and clean, thin in terms of flavor.

This is decent and a pretty easy drinker, but it's also a bit boring and thin. Less flavor than other Berliner Weiss beers I have had, with only minimal tartness. An interesting attempt by Bell's, but not a huge success in my opinion.

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Photo of Avagadro
3.93/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pilsner-colored brew delivers moderate lacing, slight haze, and little head retention.

S: Bouquet is quiet. An unsettling observation, given that most wild ales warn you about the funk before your nose even hits the glass. Nonetheless, notes of granny smith apples are somewhat noticeable.

T: Imagine Bell's Lager with a gentle sour mash. It isn't over the top by any stretch. A pilsner malt base is accented by Sauvignon Blanc tartness, as well as some Viognier floral notes. Not the most flavorful wild ale out there, but definitely the most sessionable.

M: Light, effervescent, and clean.

D: Not a white-whale by any stretch, but definitely a refreshing brew with a slight twang. As noted above, I could go through many of these in one sitting.

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Photo of Ryan011235
4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a E&J Cask & Cream glass on 12/14/10

Reviewed as a Berliner Weisse

Batch 9861

Straw-hued with a golden gleam; very light in color. Some chill haze. One inch of white foam thins to a skim at an even pace. No lacing to speak of.

The aroma is simple but effective. Ripe fruits - tart apple & hints of grape adding a vinous notion. Notes of grass, toasted grains & floral hops. Aromatically speaking, it's a clean profile. The taste is more tangy than sour, per se; notes of apple are in abundance. Floral hops mix with the apple, but the grains are somewhat overpowered. As it warms there's a funky yeast note on the back half. Light bodied with reasonably high carbonation; the overall feel is crisp. Fairly dry, wine-like finish with white grape juice residuals lingering.

Oarsman Ale is a pretty solid beer. After passing over it several times, I'm glad to have picked up a bottle. I've enjoyed it just fine.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.28/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Grading this as a Berliner Weisse, not an American Wild Ale.

A: Pours a hazy straw body with a finger of large-bubbled off-white head. Short retention, leaving a thin collar on the beer. Great effervescence up the glass; it's a lively-looking one.

S: Crisp lemon pith, more tart than sour. A small aroma of cracker or grain.

T: Hmm. Lemon juice, a small rind element, and wheat. Neither malt nor hop presence is distinct; the flavor is clean and simple. Maybe too simple.

M: Light-bodied. Carbonation is a little sharp, leaving a small sting at the end of each sip. Good to scrub the palate, I guess, but this beer doesn't need it.

D: Fairly drinkable, but I think this needs some tweaks. Berliner Weisse is an underappreciated style, and with work they could be at the top of it.

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Photo of BrewCrew2010
2.98/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: A bright yellow body with a massive amount of visible carbonation. Head is bleach white and a pin stripe, but is maintain throughout the drink due to the constant fizzy bubbles.

S: This is my first Berliner Weisse, so it reminds me a bit like a saison or a witbier. Aroma of musty yeast, crisp lemon, light malts, wheat or grain notes, and sour funk are strong, but not overpowering.

T: Initial taste is sour lemons with a lot of tartness. In the middle it tends to sweeten up a bit with some pale malts and straw like flavors, and finishes dry and a bit puckering. However, not too much going on with this one.

M: Light body, crisp texture, a lot of carbonation. I felt like it was missing something.

D: Glad I tried it, but I don't think I'll drink another one of these. It was good, but was missing some "omph." However it was my first Berliner Wiesse, so what do I know?

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Photo of emerge077
4.4/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a Berliner Weisse/American Wheat hybrid style.

Bright gold, slight haze once the yeast is poured. Steadfast cap of bone white foam, creating thick sheets of lace as it's sipped. Very attractive bright pastel gold.

Aroma of white grapes, minerals, dusty wheat, signature Berliner Weisse traits.

Mildly sharp lactic acid tartness, with wheaty creaminess settling in after the initial tart snap. Firm wheat flavor, sour crabapple, and mild grape notes, soft and ethereal. Even carbonation, soft feel, not even approaching puckering, rather a mild pleasant tartness. Sublime in it's simplicity, this is something i'd crave on a hot summer day. Ultimately sessionable at 4%, and sadly misunderstood.

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Photo of Jayli
3.54/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Consumed 12/1 poured in to a pint glass

A: This beer pours a straw yellow with a 1/2 inch of white head. Head recedes quickly and leaves no lacing on the glass.

S: Nose is a massive amount of grain, corn, with an underlying current of funk.

T: Taste starts very grainy and corn like - I mean hearty corn flavoring. A minor funk and straw, grassy flavoring begins to come in. The finish has a lemon citrus sourness with a touch of floral hops.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, light, ccrisp and somewhat clean.

D: Goes down easily, not filling, mild kick, not a good representation of the style. I actually really enjoyed this beer. However, it seemed more in line with a berlinerweisse than an American Wild. I'd buy this again for sure.

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

a: pours a pale golden color with about an inch of white head that disappears at a steady but not fast pace. there is a little lacing on top of the beer. a good amount of carbonation bubbles continue to rise to the top of the beer

s: lemon sour, grassy aroma, sweet banana aroma. definatly more sweet than bitter. light and crisp

t: lemon sour hits first grassy and banana flavor. light and crisp.

m: light bodied beer with a lot of carbonation

overall, i really enjoyed this brew

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3.76/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle to pint glass. Batch #9861. Sampled shortly after the 2010 release. Review from notes. The stylistic designation is a moving target on BA. At one point the Oarsman has been labeled a Berliner Weissbier, an American Pale Wheat Ale and now (surprisingly) an American Wild Ale. Speaking of labels, the actual label on the bottle is beautiful. The composition has a very dynamic perspective of a hooded rower (an oarsman), albeit exaggerated, on the water and in action. Best Bell's label I've seen yet.

A: Pours with a 2 finger head that is bright white and does not last long at all. The body is cloudy if not semi-murky and is light yellow in color and ridiculously pale.

S: Clean malt aroma. Sourdough bread, raw grain and straw. A light lemony scent adds a crisp freshness. The yeast qualities are sweaty and musty with above average intensity.

T: Moderately sour with a paper scent and the faintest whiff of urine which is one thing I could do without. Altogether spicy with possible notes of ginger. A light sweetness is integrated which helps to offset the sourness. Moderately acidic.

M: Light to medium body, lively carbonation, lightly tart and lightly astringent.

D: I could drink this beer all day long during the warmer months although I'd want to mix in a bigger beer once in a while throughout.

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Photo of scruffwhor
3.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The color is a pale banana skin with a quick head, no residual foam, and good bubbling.

The aroma has some unripended Granny smith apple juice, splashed with a little lemon, all on top of some freshly milled and lightly toasted pilsner malt. There's also a little sour banana aroma as well.

The upfront tasre and carbonation makes me think of a thin wheat ale that goes sour. The middle has lots of green apple juice flavors, and unripe blackberry flavors. The finish has a more lemon zest to it and more of a pilsner malt flavor.

The palate is well carbonated until the finish. The carbonation and tart, sour flavors make this beer more sessionable than I expected.

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Photo of bigfnjoe
3.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Batch 9934

A- pours a RIDICULOUSLY pale yellow with a one finger white head. Looks like a witbier. The head fades pretty quickly as you'd expect for the style. Overall, not a huge fan of how it looks...

S- lemon, lemongrass, and a whole lot of that kind of thing. Again...smells like a witbier, albeit one that's very shallow in profile. Pretty one note

T- lots of bitterness from the lemon, and a little bit of funk...not a lot, but enough to let you know its there.

M- its really thin, not a lot of body there...but the feel is actually good. If that makes any sense

D- this is a fantastic true session beer. Ridiculously easy to drink, great tasting, not too this

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Photo of BuckeyeSlim
4.02/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a New Belgium snifter.

A - 1-finger eggshell white puffy foam head that took about a minute to dissolve. Lemon yellow and hazy.

S - Sour milk, baby powder, citric acid, hints of light malt and subtle spices like clove.

T - Sour lemon, moist sourdough bread, very mild pepper. Minimal hopping. Tart and wheaty at the same time.

M - Crisp and fizzy. Good carbonation and great structure. Clean. Suggests a desire to pucker as the tartness lingers well past the finish.

D - Delicious warm-weather beer. More substantial than just dropping a lemon in a hefe. Could easily enjoy several of these in an afternoon of puttering or just hanging out. The sourness might eventually become cloying, but it would be worth finding out.

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Photo of SmokinSmyth
3.35/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

I had this at my sister's house after a few Belgian beers, which may be unfair to it. However, it pours with a straw color, and has a lemony smell to it. The head was decent, but disappeared fairly quickly.

Taste is very light, just a hint of sweetness. Not a bad beer at the end of the evening. A little light in the mouthfeel, but easily a session beer.

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Photo of Gehrig
3.49/5  rDev -2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Ordered and consumed at the sterling Sun Singer.

A thin finger of white foam atop a slightly cloudy straw yellow body; fast-fleeting foam and no discernible lacing. Ample lemon aroma, and enough funk to make me wonder if this is a Saison, honestly. Sour and strong, but not off-putting.

Nice taste, like a much (MUCH) more tart version of a Weiss such as Erdinger. However it lacks consistent malt and hops heft, leaving it a bit light in the body. The somewhat thin texture is ameliorated by persistent effervescence. However, the prominent sour taste and lack of countervailing components in it reduced my capacity to quaff it.

Others, particularly those fond of wild ale, may well enjoy this. I found it so-so; a nice and distinct beer, but undeniably sour, a bit thin in content, and not one to which I'll return anytime soon.

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Photo of nickd717
3.9/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

12oz bottle.

Pours a mostly clear pale straw color with a slightly fizzy 1.5-finger white head. Lots of bubbles rising from the bottom.

The aroma is rather tart and lemony. Slight graininess, wheat, and pilsner malt hides in the background.

Tart lemon and wheat dominate the flavor, along with a little pale malt. It's rather light and dry with just a touch of sweetness.

This beer excels on the mouthfeel. It's dry, crisp, tart, and effervescent. One of the more refreshing-feeling beers I've had in recent memory.

Overall, I like where this one is going. What's with the low ratings? This is a nice, tart, refreshing wheat ale, and a true session beer.

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Photo of krisandajt
3.23/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A tasty brew courtesy of mymrnngjckt. Thanks Kevin!

Appearance: Poured from the bottle, this brew is a slightly cloudy, yellowish gold color. Not too much head, maybe a centimeters worth. There is some decent lacing, though.

Smell: A yeasty, bready kind of sweetness right up front, with a little bit of sour funk hanging out in the background. Surprisingly mild.

Taste: The taste is sweet with some mild bits of sourness. Both qualities are very mild.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is ample, and the body is a refreshing light to medium. Pretty good here.

Drinkability: This certainly is a simple, easy drinking brew. It's clean, crisp, and pretty refreshing. My beef is it doesn't really pack much of a punch in the flavor department. Still, I'm glad I got a chance to try it. Cheers!

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Photo of Cyberkedi
2.67/5  rDev -25%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a clear straw yellow with a typical white head - not inspiring, but this turns out to be the beer's weakest point. Aroma is not strong, but is crisp, yeasty and a little lemony. Flavor is better - yeasty and rather lemony, even somewhat tart. Texture is smooth, just a teensy watery but acceptable. Maybe this bottle came from what was not their best batch.

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Photo of beergod1
3.75/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer poured a clear light yellow, with a thin white head that diminishes quickly. Spotty lacing. Aroma of lemons, Grain and wheat. Light, clean body with flavors of yeast, tart lemon rinds, and mildly grassy hops. Notes of pepper when it warms. The finish is fruity with a residual lemon aftertaste. Decent overall.
Flavorful, but it is a 4% "session" brew. Good for tailgating, so I won't go into the game Trashed.

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Photo of bierenutz
1.93/5  rDev -45.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

A-Pours a murky golden color with a smallish head and moderate amount of lacing on the glass.
S-Mostly funk and sourness overpowering the bready malts.
T-Lemony flavor primarily and alot of sourness.
M-Thin feel and moderate carbonation.
D-NOT...this was a drain pour for me.

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

appearance: poured fizzy. golden with no head rentention and no lacing

smell: sublte lemon, tartness if any

taste: taste more robust in the wheat/malt area than a berliner weiss. needs more flavor and lacks some depth. It is sessionable and does not have off flavors though

mouthfeel: more body than a berline weiss

drinkability: this could be fabulous if improved a little on the flavor. needs more acidity/citrus/sour power

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Photo of ne0m00re
4.07/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Live review of Batch 9861 out of a 12 oz bottle. The style is listed as Wild ale? I don't think that is correct.
A: Very clear yellow, poured with a nice white head that died to a film and thin collar.
S: Musty lemon tartness, pale malts that come off a little like fresh cooked corn, a calm green hop profile budding through slightly. Mild, but nice.
T: Tart lemon, coconut milk creaminess, pale malts with a grassy hops character, and a earthy mustiness that fades to white bread. Pretty good.
M: Thin, but with a frothy carbonation that isn't spritzy.
D: Really good. An easy-drinking summer beer.

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Photo of 321jeff
2.99/5  rDev -16%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a clear yellow, not golden, yellow - like pee. Pour is accompanied by about a finger of fizzy white head that crackles and pops... and fades very quickly. I thought fizzy yellow beer was for wussies...

The first quick whiff almost makes me think of a lager. Smell is fairly pungent and tart with just a hint of spiciness from the wheat.

Flavor is just lots of tart lemons. Wheat does really come through in the finish, though. Flavors are much lighter than any American Wild I've ever had, but it's too clunky and dull to be a good Berliner Weisse. Interesting, but... not.

Pretty light in body and carbonation, it does go down pretty smooth. Now knowing what I'm dealing with, I'll have to try it again on a hot summer day to see how refreshing the Oarsman is, and if I'm looking for something refreshing between now and then, I'll probably head in a different direction. It's definitely different than any other "session ale" I've had before... for better or for worse.

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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 618 ratings.
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