Bell’s Oarsman Ale

Saturday night’s alright for… well, working, in my case. But at 9 I closed out of my worky work and I’m going to do some housey things while Matt Smith puts a bowtie on the Doctor.

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Hello! I saw this in the Sour section at Ale Yeah! yesterday and had to pick it up. I’ve really taken a notice of Bell’s beers lately, and I’ve also wanted to expand my understanding of sours.

You see, last weekend I shared a meal and a few (too many) drinks with Spyke and her wife over at the Brick Store Pub, and experienced some Jolly Pumpkin brett beer. Brettanomyces is one of those sideways yeasts that brewers tend to use sparingly, but I’ve always appreciated a little “brett funk.”

I haven’t had a lot of Jolly Pumpkin and haven’t loved what I’ve had, but whatever this beer was, it was like a liquid hatef—. It tasted like they’d crammed an orange into a gym sock after it had been through a marathon or three, then dipped the swollen citrus rotsweat of it all into a cup of coffee.

I couldn’t stop drinking it. Seriously. So I’ve had funktastic beers on my mind.

That’s a lot of throat clearing to get to the Oarsman.

Ignore everything above. This is nothing like it – not even a brett beer. Just a very sessionable (4%), light bodied, brightly colored sipper with lots of grape and lemon. Every third sip or so I get a nice bready aftertaste. The whole thing is quite pleasant. It’s definitely carbonated – it’s unpasteurized and bottle conditioned with a noticeable sediment at the bottom – but the foam lasted about five seconds and there wasn’t much to start with.

I’ve had some sours that have been surprisingly sweet, almost approaching Kool-Aid levels of grossness (sorry if that’s your thing). This isn’t. It’s tart and zesty, but the components come together to imply sweetness in the middle. It’s a good, grown up beer, a really smart approach to the style.

And that’s a relief, because I’m not really sure what I would do if I’d found that Jolly Pumpkin brett thing. Stare at it with a hateful lust? Pour it into a glass while I criticize the bottle for the shortcomings I find? Marry it just so I can divorce it bitterly later?

But the Bell’s Oarsman – now that’s a beer I can enjoy liking.

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