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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

747 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 747
Reviews: 410
rAvg: 4.04
pDev: 11.14%

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  4.00% ABV

Availability: Spring

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 05-05-2007)
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Ratings: 747 | Reviews: 410 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of alphagnome


3.95/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a rich, golden oak color - very cloudy. Crowned with a respectable, finger-thick head, off-white in color - that hangs around for awhile and leaves a bit of lacing behind. Carbonation is insane... very, very active. Making the carbonation more noticable, fine sediment caught in suspension, being pushed around by the bubbly.

A bit of a let down, as aroma is one area where Surly shines. That's not to say it doesn't smell delightful, it does, it just seems a bit muted. Nice (but light) tropical fruit notes mix well with equally light floral hops. Zesty tangerine and orange peel.

Nice and sweet right front, with plenty of citrus notes. The sweetness doesn't last long though, as a pleasant bitterness sweeps in balance things out. Nice boquet of floral and citrusy hops. Nothing is overpowering, but very tasty.

Light to medium body. Highly carbonated. Easy to drink and very refreshing. Semi-dry finish.

Another impressive brew from Surly. Easy to drink, nice balance, and flavorful. Well worth picking up.

Serving type: can

02-16-2014 20:24:10 | More by alphagnome
Photo of d5001986


3.99/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can poured into tulip.

Pours hazy golden with small bubbly head.

Smell is tropical fruit, citrus hops, yeast, and very slight cloves.

Taste is tropical fruit and orange with a light lingering bitterness.

Feels medium bodied with a higher amount of carbonation.

Overall this, as most other Surly offerings has not failed to impress. The tropical and citrus hop character was the highlight for me. Fans of Surly's IPA's will likely appreciate this one.

Serving type: can

01-04-2014 23:18:21 | More by d5001986
Photo of arc3636


4.01/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

A - medium coppery color with thick white head. Fairly cloudy

S - sweet aroma from the malts and the fruity/floral hops

T - mil, but solid flavor. Citrusy hops and malty sweetness that carries into the aftertaste

M - thin mouthfeel due to lower carbonation

O - first English bitter I've tried, enjoyed it

Serving type: can

10-12-2013 01:35:45 | More by arc3636
Photo of guityler83


4.39/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured a one and a half finger tall of off white head that sustained for a good minute before leaving a chunky honeycomb laceing on the edge and a small layer on the top. The color in the english style pint glass is a golden orange with a bit of haze from the sediment in the can but otherwise very clear.

S: Mild earthy and spicey hop aromoa. Slightly biscuity malt character. And sweet fruity yeast esters.

T: Crisp and mild bitterness with hop flavors consistent with the aroma. The fruity yeast esters are a big component in the flavor and meld very nicely with the sweeter biscuit and toasty malt flavors.

M: Crisp mouthfeel with a mild level of carbonation. A light body but doesn't really get wattery with the nice bitterness that is left in the aftertaste.

O: Extremely sessionable refreshing but never boring bitter. English syles arn't really my thing but this one blew me away. Drink it fresh and often.

Serving type: can

09-29-2013 18:24:21 | More by guityler83
Photo of PHBoiler


3.81/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured 16 oz can into Surly Pint glass

Golden almost amber body with a finger width white head. Lacing was relatively good throughout the drinking experience.

Smell is not overpowering. Light piney hop scent.

Taste is indeed bitter upfront with some creaminess and caramel flavor in the body. Solid ESB that drinks very smooth.

Serving type: can

09-16-2013 15:26:44 | More by PHBoiler
Photo of vette2006c5r


4.54/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bitter Brewer pours a darker copper color, with a small dissipating head. There is this amazing bitter aroma, with hints of hops; very crisp. The flavor has this this very dry crisp taste, with a nice mix of a pale malts, and just a tad of hops. Nice full flavors and body, and finishes with this amazing dryness. Overall I love it, very drinkable flavorful and enjoyable.

Serving type: can

08-29-2013 01:55:02 | More by vette2006c5r
Photo of rlee1390


3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-Cloudy orangish-yellow, one finger head.

S-Some citrus hops with a straw-like malt backbone. Floral/grassy notes as well

T-Starts with a nice straw/wheat note. Ends with some mild citrus. Also is herbal/floral in the finish. Mild bitterness. Almost tea-like in the herbal/floral flavors.

M-Medium bodied, some carbonation, slight hop resins.

O-An easy drinking summer beer, with some hop bite. However the tea-like flavors are not doing anything for me.

Serving type: can

08-18-2013 23:36:55 | More by rlee1390
Photo of 4ster

Quebec (Canada)

3.96/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Canned on 05/07/13.

A: White frothy head on pour though dies off pretty quickly...with a bit of lace floating on top. Medium, amber to orange, slightly transparent if it wasn't for the unfiltered cloudy haze in the glass... decent amount of carbonation along with the small particles...

S: Right off the bat, this smells like a American take on the classic bitters, almost a Bitter IPA... lots of hop aromas, lots of floral, maybe some orange and sweet malts.... not a lot of bitterness on the nose...

T: Once tasted though the bitters do come out, with the classic English bitter tea taste, with a jasmine, rose floral herbiness to the hops, little more citrus and orange also underneath, along with more of a multi-grain type of malt sweetness. Not overly bitter or sweet, like a good iced (real) tea on a hot day...

M: Light, crisp, refreshing with good level of carbonation.... what can you say but very easy drinking and sessionable...

O: Haven't had a lot of English Bitters (like most N.Americans it seems except when it comes to this one), but this one finds a very nice balance of something that isn't too sweet, too hoppy, too heavy... just a perfect pub summer sipper... if anything I think this could do with a little more malt complexity and would like to try it on cask, to see if it could be a little smoother or something....

Serving type: can

08-17-2013 01:37:36 | More by 4ster
Photo of falloutsnow


3.85/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

From: France 44 dot com
Date: Canned 2013-05-24
Glass: US standard pint glass

A solid session bitter, Surly's Bitter Brewer brings in pale and caramel malt flavors to work with modestly fruity, herbal, and bitter hops. An easy-to-drink beer that would be perfect for enjoying continually at a pub for many hours, doing whatever. Definitely one to partake of again if available.

Pours a 2cm tall head of foam, made up of small and medium-sized bubbles that are white in color, creating a fairly sudsy appearance, lasting around one minute before settling to a thick ring around the glass and a few, small islands of thin foam atop the body. Lacing is good, though not excellent, patchy patterns cling to the sides of the glass. Beer is a fairly deep, dark golden orange color, bordering on brown, with light bringing out brighter golden orange hues with a modest yellow tint. Carbonation is visible through the semi-hazy (unfiltered, 20-30% opaque) body, medium in activity and number.

Aroma is like tea sweetened with (malt) sugar, accompanied by slight herbal, orange and lemon characters.

Front of palate picks up sweet pale and lightly caramelized malt sugars with fruit-like esters and hints of tea and orange. Mid-palate of sweet, caramelized malt sugars with hints of orange, kumquats, balanced bitterness, tea, and light herbal hop characters. Back of palate features pleasant bitterness with interesting herbal hop characters, light orange, and faint malt sweetness. Aftertaste of mild hop bitterness, slight caramelized malt sugar sweetness and graininess, and light herbal and tea-like presence.

Beer is medium-light to light in body, with carbonation of medium-low intensity, resulting in a slighty fizzy, somewhat watery mouthfeel. Closes quite dry, with light residual stickiness clinging to the lips and palate.

Serving type: bottle

07-27-2013 05:43:04 | More by falloutsnow
Photo of VelvetExtract


3.91/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A-Pours a slightly shaded amber. The beer has a subtle glow to it. Thin head is white and sticky. It leaves bubbly lacing freckles along the glass.

S-I find a lot of English Bitters and ESBs to have a hop aroma akin to tea. I find this aroma in Bitter Brewer. I also get more of an Americanized hop aroma. Some clear caramel sweetness and a fruity yeast profile.

T-The nose was more satisfying than the flavor. The hops are tea leaves and slight citrus. Also some herbal hops. The hops balance out the fruity yeast notes and the traditional caramel malt. I could stand a bit more intensity. Also, I think the flavors, when described, sound more intricate than they taste.

M-Very drinkable. Slight bitterness. I was actually caught off guard by how low the ABV was. Now knowing its a 4%er, I give this beer more credit.

O/D-This was a slight disappointment but I did not know how low the ABV was until I looked up and check while reviewing. This was a pretty neat beer but I think its a bit overrated due to how well Surly is received in the craft beer community.

Serving type: can

07-26-2013 01:39:50 | More by VelvetExtract
Photo of papat444

Quebec (Canada)

3.81/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to kjyost for this.

Poured from a 16oz. can, canned on 05/07/13.

Appearance: Chilled haze on an orange-copper body, 2-3 fingers worth of head with patchwork of lacing left behind.

Smell: Ripe fruit (oranges or peaches, both?), plush and fleshy.

Taste: Malty at first, bit of minerals, mild saltiness, fleshy fruit, biscuity, dry orange finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bitterness, full body for the style.

Overall: Having had benchmarks from the origin of the style, this doesn't quite measure up. Still, it is a well made ale and glad to have tried it.

Serving type: can

07-21-2013 02:51:19 | More by papat444
Photo of jreindl


4.39/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another fine brew from Surly.

Pours a reddish orange with a thick dense off white head with small bubbles. Decent retention and lacing.
Has a grainy malt sweetness on the nose, but is predominated by tangerines and orange zest.
A solid backbone of crackery, grainy malt with a hint of caramel, with the hops dominating the pallet. Not overly bitter, well balanced. Very citrus, like the can says, think marmalade. The hops linger nicely.
Medium bodied with low carbonation, finishes clean.

Overall a very drinkable beer. Nice Americanized take on a classic bitter, although way out of style with the hopping. Will be drinking more of these this summer for sure.

Serving type: can

07-14-2013 12:50:19 | More by jreindl
Photo of ZAP


4.24/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Re-reviewing as my original score does not reflect how good this this tastes to me right now. as compared to five years ago.. Some notes remain the same..

Lighter bodied session style ale...

Very interesting aroma of tangerines and just like the can says orange marmalade. Has some of the same aroma that Surlyfest had....I should know I had about 15 of them last fall and got burned out on them a little at that point..

The taste is a combination of biscuity malts and fresh floral malts with some fruitiness as well (pears)

I'd call it light bodied...leans towards the high side of light bodied but more light bodied than medium bodied..

Really an enjoyable beer to drink.

Serving type: can

06-27-2013 05:18:49 | More by ZAP
Photo of BobZ


4.03/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pint can poured into a Duvel tulip. Another thanks to roon.

Appearance: Orange/amber with a nice 1" head that shrinks a bit to 1/4" with nice sticky lacing.

Smell: Bready malt first with a little bit of hops beneath.

Taste: Similar to the nose with big bready malt up front with a bit of caramel followed by a nice floral/citrus hoppy finish with a pleasant level of bitterness. Really a nice amount of flavor here.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, well carbonated, and very clean on the palate.

Overall: Extremely flavor packed and sessionable take on the style,I had this beer outside on an early summer day and it was a great fit.

Serving type: can

06-24-2013 01:03:34 | More by BobZ
Photo of JamesMN


3.43/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Canned on 5/7/13.

Appearance: Caramel honey colored brew with a lot of small particles in suspension below a one finger frothy off-white head. A bit of clarity but the hop matter (or whatever those bits are) get in the way of a better appearance.

Aroma: Quite bready in a graham cracker sort of way. There is something in there which reminds me of Grain Belt Premium, like an orange peel or marmalade.

Taste: A nice mellow flavor that has some girth to it at times despite its remarkably low 4% ABV. Starts with a bit of caramel malt and quickly gains a respectable 37 IBUs of hop bitterness. There is a nice sweet orange hop character and a peppery grain flavor that pair well. Finishes smooth and has a warm aftertaste of biscuit with lingering bitterness on the tip of the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Lively with a slightly below medium body and good amount of carbonation. Easy drinking and sessionable if you enjoy the style.

Final Thoughts: A decent beer that fits within style guidelines while still unique enough to pick out of a lineup. It's beers like Bitter Brewer that give hope for a future wave of low ABV beers being the craft beer trend. Would I drink it again? Sure.

Serving type: can

06-16-2013 00:14:26 | More by JamesMN
Photo of chanokokoro


4.21/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 16 oz. can into a Surly Brewing Company branded shaker pint glass. Thanks to Oboogie for both the brew and the glass

Pours a medium amber, slightly hazy with a bit of orange on the edges. Two finger sticky off white head, average retention. Floral notes, dried orange peel, grainy with a hint of biscuit on the nose. Herbal and very light grassy notes, floral, grainy with every so light hints of biscuit and sourdough bread. Mild orange and tangerine peel. Fair light bodied; crisp and refreshing. Dry finish.

The combination of American hops with the traditional ingredients found in an English-style Bitter works incredibly well. Surly hit a home run here.

Serving type: can

06-15-2013 04:56:47 | More by chanokokoro
Photo of Stevedore


4.21/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

16oz can with 5/7/13 canning date, courtesy of Evan; have had a couple cans of this already but reviewing this one I poured into my Bell's snifter on 6/11/2013.

Aroma: It smells distinctly like freshly milled malt. When I say malt in this context, I'm saying it smells like malt as in the homebrew ingredient that just got milled at the homebrew store. I love it. There's also a little bit of orange zest. Maybe some sort of citrus jam? Either way, smells neat and aromatic! (4.25)

Colour: Hazy, darker copper body that pours with a fluffy 2cm head that dissipates into a thin film on the beer. As I drink this down, it leaves layers of lacing that I can trace my swallows with. Nice looking beer. (4)

Flavour: For a 4% beer, this is pretty packed with flavour.. feels like I'm drinking toasted bread with orange marmalade, but in a thin liquid form. There's some floral flavours in there but its mostly the orange.. and there isn't much of that milled barley malt scent in the beer but I definitely get a small, small bit of bready background to the floral and citrus hops. A decent bit of bitterness but definitely not overwhelming at all. (4.25)

Mouthfeel: Thinner bodied, but well carbonated and incredibly refreshing. This beer is definitely a sessionable one. I'd probably drink a whole 4-pack of 16oz before getting buzzed. Finish is slightly dry but not particularly so, with a nice, mellow floral bitter aftertaste that lingers a bit but is not overwhelming at all. (4)

Overall: An awesomely sessionable beer that does not lack for flavour whatsoever- whether its from the malts or the hops. We don't have the chance to drink much English Bitters at all, but this is definitely a style I'm into. It's a good one to drink on the porch in the summer evening. (4.25)

Serving type: can

06-09-2013 04:05:08 | More by Stevedore
Photo of UCLABrewN84


3.96/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at the 2013 Firestone Walker Invitational held at the Paso Robles Event Center in Paso Robles, CA.

Pours a murky dark orange with a foamy bone head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, citrus fruit, and citrus zest aromas. Taste is much the same with citrus and tea-like flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty and easy to drink.

Serving type: on-tap

06-03-2013 02:39:35 | More by UCLABrewN84
Photo of MNishCT77

District of Columbia

4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

16 oz. can purchased in the greater Washington D.C. area, canned ~three weeks ago on 5/7/13, poured into my FFF Teku tasting glass , drank on 6/1/13 over an hour.

A: 4.00 - golden-orange coloration, mininmal clarity with slight haze when held up to the light, 1/2 finger white frothy head subsides into subtle glass lacing, minimal alcohol legs (to be expected for a 4% beer)

S: 3.50 - as the can portends, some orange/marmalade notes on the initial sniff with some light bready/biscuity aromas with little hop presence, which was surprising due to its alleged dry hopping and the pedigree

T: 4.25 - mild bitterness on the front of the tongue (at 40 IBUs) with malt characters predominating in the middle of the mouth --> again, orange, marmalade, honey and biscuit notes are apparent with very little hop flavors considering that this beer was allegedly dry hopped

M: 4.50 -light bodied (appropriate for style), 4+% is not apparent at all; fine carbonation coats the tongue

O: 4.25 - I am willing to chalk this up as Surly's session beer and, to be honest, as much as I like IPAs/DIPAs, it's their aroma/flavor and not their bitterness that appels to me, so an ESB is not a favorite style; this is a solid sessionable offering, but, with all the more flavorful options from Surly out there, I won't be buying this one again as, unfortunately, this is their most underwhelming beer on my palate

Serving type: can

06-01-2013 21:57:49 | More by MNishCT77
Photo of Powderhornphil


4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the can into a snifter. It's only 4 percent but the snifter is fun. Pours a rich orange with one finger of head, recedes to some lacing.

Smells of orange rinds and marmalade. Delicious but also mild. Hints of grainy cracker are there as well.

Taste follows the nose. And while the flavor starts mild, it finishes with a burst of lemon, honey and orange.

Mouthfeel is medium which is something to be said for a beer so light in both abv and calories.

Great summer seasonal. One that I likely overlooked for too long.

Serving type: can

05-27-2013 20:14:26 | More by Powderhornphil
Photo of jimmah120


4.36/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16oz energy drink looking can, 6 days old

Semi-hazy yellow pumpkin color, sudsy esb head. Smell is lemon, pine, sweet fruits. Feel is light-medium, crisp yet buttery. Taste is bitter(obviously) pine, lemon rind, pie crust, bready grain finish.

The best tasting 4% beer you'll ever drink.

Serving type: can

05-14-2013 08:48:21 | More by jimmah120
Photo of Philly82785


3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque amber with a medium head. The nose is very floral with some spicy hops and a hint of sweet caramel. Flavor has earthy tea notes and pale malts with mild hoppy spice and an earthy bitterness. Finishes with a subtle hop taste that lingers.

Serving type: can

12-24-2012 06:03:02 | More by Philly82785
Photo of CaptCleveland


4/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can, no dating, poured into SA glass.

Light orange elixir, slight haze, fluffy, tight white head, copious lacing.

Heavy floral notes, some piney hops, subtle orange and mint.

The floral presence is there, but nicely muted by the hops and malt. Nothing over powering.

Nicely bitter, a bit tangy, refreshing.

The perfect brew for any summer activity. Well done.

Serving type: can

12-14-2012 03:02:20 | More by CaptCleveland
Photo of sommersb


4.05/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasted On: 10-20-2012
Freshness: Canned on 05-21-12
Packaging: 16 oz. can
Glassware: Nonic pint
Purchased: Received in a trade

Hazy and dark copper in color, with lots of bubbles and other particles seen in suspension. A couple of fingers of off-white head shows very good retention and a nice lace.

Impressive aromas of pine and citrus hops dominate the nose. The taste has a notable American hop presence as well, with citrus/grapefruit flavors. Breadiness from the malts helps even out the bitterness and makes for a good balance.

Medium bodied, with a moderate level of carbonation. Finishes dry and bitter. Overall a very pleasant ale from Surly.

Thanks to fLax for this one!

Serving type: can

10-20-2012 23:12:10 | More by sommersb
Photo of RoamingGnome


4.03/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 16 oz can into Cheers drinking mug. Served chilled...

A) An attractive honey colored brew with nearly 2 fingers of rocky head reaching the top of the mug. Very nice retention, and excellent lacing.

S) Pale malt, zesty citrus aroma, with a little bit of a floral scent as well.

T) White grapefruit, a little lemon zest, flower petal, light pine and grass. This bitter for sure, but there is a little bit of caramel sweetness, and the drinkability is through the roof.

M) Fairly light body, good amount of carbonation. This is crisp and refreshing. A little dry on the finish. Very pleasant aftertaste.

O) Really enjoyed this beer. As stated above, excellent drinkability, and at 4% ABV, you could drink quite a few of them. I've really been impressed by everything I've had from Surly thus far. Glad to recommend.

Serving type: can

10-02-2012 23:36:48 | More by RoamingGnome
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Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 747 ratings.