Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bell's - Oarsman Ale

I have mad respect for Bell's Brewery.  They make some delicious brews, they do it in the midwest, and their packaging is creative as well (in that order).  Today's review is for Bell's Oarsman Ale.  It looks to be one of their lighter beers, but that is hardly room for a strike against it.  Only one way to find out.  Let's pour!

Aroma 9/12
"Subtle aroma" does not mean "lacking aroma."  Grains are found almost immediately alongside a clean, acidic hop citrus.  The hops also commit a bit of a grassy aroma and a faint herbal bouquet.  These are all very subtle, but far from undetectable.  For a light refreshing beer, this is a good start, though the acidic smell tends to stand a bit taller than it should perhaps.

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only
Appearance 3/3
This looks exactly like a beer for the summer.  Everything sums up perfectly: light body, pale straw color, and a pure white head that starts thick, but settles into a soapy, fluffy cloud.  No lace (expected in a beer this light in body), but the head sticks around as a collar for the majority of the pint.  This is surprising considering the high acidity should make it difficult for ANY head to remain for very long.  The appearance compliments the aroma nicely in being clean, light, and refreshing looking.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 14/20
It is difficult to expand greatly on the flavor of this beer as everything is so light.  There is the flavor of authentic lemon juice and the acidity that accompanies it.  There is wheat to speak of, but no malt flavors unless my palate cannot place what is surely one of the palest of pale malts available.  The hops contribution is adding to the already noticeable citrus profile, a bit of a grassy finish, and of course lending themselves well to the appropriately clean finish of this beer.  It does leave the mouth water a bit and begs for another sip.  Well done.

Mouthfeel 4/5
Appropriate for a light summer brew.  There is an almost weightless body that still somehow achieves the lightest of creamy textures (meringue?).  The sour is obviously present with all the citrus action taking place, there is no warmth (duh), and the carbonation is light and wonderfully bubbly, but borders on prickly in the beginning of the pint.

Overall Impression 6/10
The back of this bottle reads, "Buoyant, tart and refreshing from using traditional sour mash methods.  Great for you and your crew."  While it certainly lives up to that promise, the beer seems to use the citrus as a crutch for weaker flavors instead of a compliment that aids a clean finish on a light beer.  A honey sweetness, even a bit more of the hop, or flowery notes could have made this beer noticeably more complex.  Actually, I'm sure there are many things that could, but I am far from an expert in knowing exactly what those should be.

Total 34/50
The high technical merit of this beer saved it from receiving a lower score.  It is remarkably accurate to the style and (according to marketing) exactly what Bell's intended when they brewed this beer.  However, I can't help but be disappointed because I know the capability of Bell's brewers.  I got what they said I would: a light, refreshing summer ale full of citrus and sessionability.  However, the citrus seems to take the forefront from other ingredients that may not even be there in the first place (malt? stronger hops?).  It is far from a bad beer, but it is also far from what craft beer drinkers come to expect from a premier brewer such as Bell's.

I wouldn't be opposed to seeing this marketed in cans as one of Bell's more "casual" summer drinking beers instead of the "brown bottle gravitas," that they give to the rest of their amazing beers (Kalamazoo Stout!).  I recommend buying this as a drinking beer, but not part of a "pick six" where one might be trying to discover rich, new favorites.

1 comment:

  1. I have this beer in my fridge right now waiting to be reviewed. Your review is about how I imagine it will be.