Oarsman Ale (Bell’s Brewery)

Oarsman Ale is a sour mash wheat ale from Kalamazoo’s Bell’s Brewery. This beer is available year-round and has an easy drinking 4% ABV.

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.

Oarsman pours out like just like a Mellow Yellow soda. The head pours has a huge white crown, but quickly fades to a ring of foam. Carbonation is aplenty, with so many bubbles clinging to the side of the glass that you can barely see through.

The scent of this beer can be summed up with a single word: zesty. White wine and orange peel dominate the nose, with hints of sourdough bread and hard water also present. As it warmed up I detected faint notes of something that reminded me of modeling clay.

The first thing I noticed when taking my sip of this beer was how tart it was. Sourdough flavors come through in the middle, before fading to a sparkling grape juice like fade. White grapes come through strong in the backend, but thankfully they aren’t nearly as tart as the initial drink.

Mouthfeel is light and bubbly, with a teenie bit of drying. A zestiness is present in the mouth that arises from the bubbles that dominate this brew.

Oarsman Ale is an odd beer. It’s supposed to be a session beer, but with the tartiness of the taste and the drying that comes at the end, I don’t see most people treating it as such. The flavor on this beer is so “odd” that I originally designated it an American Wild Ale (before I did my research). The beer itself is drinkable, but I don’t think that it succeeds in doing what it was brewed for.

Overall: 5 out of 10

As a WHEAT BEER: 6.5 out of 10

FOR FANS OF: Samuel Adams SUMMER ALE, Harpoon UFO HEFEWEIZEN, Saranac SUMMER ALE

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