Reviewed: Bell’s Oarsman Ale
Product description: First brewed in 2008 at our original brewery in downtown Kalamazoo, Oarsman Ale grew out of our desire to explore the tradition of session beers and to create a unique, flavorful experience for everyone, no matter what the occasion.
Tart and refreshing, this sessionable, bright Wheat Ale exudes citrus and lemony aromas from Cascade hops and trades sour intensity for finesse. A perfect companion for any occasion, Oarsman Ale is a beer based in tradition, but with that distinctive Bell’s twist.
Bell’s Brewery – Bell’s Oarsman Ale – 12 oz. can poured into speciality glassware – 4.0% abv.
Oarsman seems to be a divisive beer with steadfast lovers and steadfast haters. I’ve been a big fan of Oarsman for quite some time, so I could not be happier to see this beer gaining broader distribution and new 12oz can packaging. With a 6-pack price of $11, this one should be a no-brainer as a summer beach beer. On the bottom of the cans, Bell’s prints both the shelf life and the canned on date, which is a very nice touch. Though, I would ask Bell’s to please put the canning date on the exterior paper packaging for the 6-pack. Currently, you’d have to tear open the paper box and check the can bottoms.
Oarsman sticks out on the shelves nicely with its beautiful light blue packaging and classic artwork. When this beer first came out around 2009, it was one of the most off-the-wall beers from the usually conservative Bell’s Brewery. I’m happy and also a little surprised that Bell’s has stuck with Oarsman over the years – now ramping up production. After a recent visit to New York and D.C., Oarsman is in just about every beer store I have visited on both the east and west coasts.
In my opinion, Oarsman is a classic example of Berliner Weisse with all the funk, wheat beer creaminess, and very low acidity. Drinking this straight from the can seems to be better than in a glass for those not really into the funky stuff in the nose. I describe the aroma as reminiscent of sour cherries and decidedly funky with a salty, sweaty thing going on. My wife, who is an 8-years-and-running hater of Oarsman, describes the aroma as vomit. Sad face. The flavor is lactic, milky, yogurty, and effervescent like kefir with fleeting tart cherry. The mouthfeel is effervescent, creamy, and refreshing at 4% ABV. Oarsman really shines with its lengthy, palate-enveloping, thickly lactic finish.
It may be a divisive beer, but the fridge continues to be stocked with it. Just exquisite and perfect for summer.