Ich Bin Ein Berliner
A Review of Oarsman Ale by Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Posted on 6/17/2013 by Chops
Row, row, row your boat, gently down the beer! Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is full of cheer!

Rowing boats in beer. Make sense? Of course not, but that's the strange tune that popped into my head when I came across Bell's Oarsman Ale. I guess I allowed my brain to wander a bit once I saw the Bell's logo, because let's be honest here, we already know this is going to be a great beer. After all, there are only a few certainties in life. Death, taxes, and Bell's Brewery making great beer. Oarsman Ale is classified as a Berliner Weisse, a style of sour ale with a rich history dating back to the 16th century.

Bell's describes their version like so:

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.

In the glass, this beer has a bright sunny yellow coloration. It comes with a bubbly white head that dissipates quickly. On the nose, I was greeted with a grassy herbal aroma resting atop a tart citrus. That was pretty much it. Berliner Weisse brews as a style are not known for their complexity. Light fruity tartness with no other prominent notes? Check. Moving on...

The tart fruity character quickly sets up shop as the primary flavor. Following closely behind is an herbal grassy note and some pale grainy malts. This is also one of the few beer styles where a noticeable hop profile is actually a bad thing. These beers should be tart, tangy, and refreshing. Bitterness should never be a notable characteristic, which is true to form with the Oarsman Ale. The mouthfeel is light, refreshing, and drinks surprisingly easy despite the sourness. The tartness is certainly dominant, but not enough to pucker your lips. The beer finishes crisp and clean with only a mild tart grassy aftertaste.

Overall, Bell's Oarsman Ale is a refreshing brew with a lively personality. I should note that it's exceedingly difficult to find exquisite representations of the Berliner Weisse style outside of Berlin. As a matter of fact, the ''Berliner Weisse'' designation can technically only be applied to brews crafted in Berlin. Not that this matters much to the average consumer, but it does make it hard to compete with a guarded style. Bell's does a great job nonetheless, which is why I can happily recommend Oarsman Ale to all levels of beer fans. Seasoned drinkers will appreciate this brew as a crisp, refreshing, mildly tart session beer that is perfectly fit for warm days. Novices can utilize this beer as a flavorful and accessible introduction to the Berliner Weisse style of sour ales.

At this point, saying that Bell's has crafted yet another winning brew is a bit like saying that the sky is blue. So, let's just end with a hearty German toast, shall we? Prost!

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Oarsman Ale by Bell's Brewery, Inc.
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