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: 619 | Ratings: 2,185
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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Photo of BMoney575
3.67/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on 11-13-10
Batch 9934
Bottled on 9-20-10

Pours a clear and light gold color, almost yellow, with a fizzy white head that settles to a thin ring. Very macro.

Smell is light, sweet malt, with a little bit of sourness and slight fruity hops at the end. Simple, but unoffensive, and bordering on bland.

Taste is sharp and tart, followed by a bready kick from the malt. The sourness livens up what would otherwise be a boring, very macro beer.

Mouthfeel is good, a decent thickness with strong carbonation to keep it light.

Drinkability is good, the more I have the more it grows on me.

Overall, very different, and a good choice for a flavorful session beer.

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Photo of awalk1227
3.91/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Consumed 11/11/10 batch 9934, I think (bottle is in kitchen).

Poured into an Alchemist Brewery pint glass

A: Pale, clear yellow, and with an aggressive pour, still not much of a head. But if this is a Berliner Weisse like some say, that's pretty normal. Not a ton of carbonation.

S: Kind of searching for something here. I can smell some of the grain (wheat) and maybe a hint of what's going to make it "tart?" Lackluster.

T: In my opinion, what's good in this beer is too fleeting. The zing, crispness, and tartness is there for a flash, and it's nice, then it disappears. However, looking at the style again, for a crisp, refreshing beer, this does hit the spot. Leagues better than anything BMC that claims to be refreshing.

F: Thin, with just the sliiightest prickle. I would have liked to see a bit more carbonation--maybe I killed it in the pour?

D: Superb, and it would be really nice to have this available in six packs for hot summer months.

I would perhaps use this as a stepping-stone into the sour world of beer for the uninitiated. If they like it, I'll tell them, "It's just the tip of the iceberg, baby." Check my review for White Birch's Berliner Weisse, it's a much better example of the style.

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Photo of earth2sean
4.55/5  rDev +27.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I truly enjoy this beer. The sour mash leads to a depth of sourness that doesn't seem to be achieved with fermentation and barrel souring techniques.

The beer presents itself modestly in aromatic presentation and head production. At first touch, the sparkle of carbonation and abrasive tart of sour wheat and barley sugars encourage a defensive posture. But as the sour reaches towards the limits of the palate, the cold wash of pale malts brings it home.

A great session, the second bottle is better than the first.

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Photo of clarkm04
3.66/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance- A pale yellow color with a slight haze on the beer. Very light carbonation with a slight head retention. The look was highly deceptive since the actual beer is very carbonated.

Smell- A light malt flavor is detected. You have to really sniff the beer to get any aroma from it.

Taste- The beer has two distinct notes. The front note is high carbonated and sizzles on the tongue. The back taste is a slightly tart wheat taste. The aftertaste is a slight tart note on the palate. Very different than any other similar beer. I can understand how the slight tart funk can turn some drinkers off but I like the note. It's unique and balanced well.

Mouthfeel- Very carbonated on the palate. It fizzes a great deal.

Drinkability- Very high. Could easily drink two to four of these an evening.

Overall- A very unique sessionable beer. I really enjoy it and definitely plan to purchase additional six packs. Some of the more experimental Bell's beers doesn't work for me but this beer I feel is very well crafted, light, and interesting enough make it part of my rotation. I would not claim this beer is outstanding but it is very solid.

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

I poured into a pint glass to two inches of white head. It is straw colored with some haziness. I could smell the tartness as soon as I poured it. I get some dried apple and apricot. The sour mash is the dominant flavor, as well. It leaves a coating on my tongue. It's an interesting beer. It reminds me of a saison. The tartness lingers, but not too long. I'm glad I tried it.

Edit: 11-22-10
I see that this beer was placed in a different category. Makes a lot more sense than the original listing as an American pale wheat ale.

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Photo of JamnesCameron
4.72/5  rDev +32.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured into a MJ tasting glass. Gonna rate this as an american wild ale due to the sour mash.

Pours a ever so faintly hazy pale yellow color with a big white head that dissipates quickly.

Aromas of lactic acid and wheat malt. No hops, no spices evident.

First sip is of a restrained tartness, some lactic acid. A slight bite from carbonation. Some wheat qualities evident in the taste as well. Very clean yeast used, no fruit or estery flavors. Nice sourness that isn't overpowering.

Mouthfeel is light and slightly creamy. A little dryness evident. Some prickly carbonation.

Nice sour beer, very drinkable, very thirst quenching. This would make a very nice summer beer. Not sure this fits as an American Pale Wheat Ale - sourness doesn't fit. Recommending changing style to american wild ale.

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Photo of abrand
3.18/5  rDev -10.7%
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 -25.8%
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 +16.3%
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 +3.9%
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 -2.8%
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 -21.6%
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 +2.5%
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 -46.6%
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 +7.6%
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 -2.2%
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 -14.9%
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 +15.7%
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 -21.9%
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%
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 -12.6%
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 +15.7%
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 +5.3%
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 -9.6%
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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Bell's Oarsman from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
81 out of 100 based on 619 ratings.
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