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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

749 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 749
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 749 | Reviews: 410 | Show All Ratings:
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 TheQuietMan22


4.15/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Serving type: 16-ounce can. The “CANNED ON” date is “06/14/12.”

Appearance: Poured into a nonick pint glass. The color is golden copper. Two fingers of fairly thick, buttery, eggshell-colored head dissipated slowly to leave a rocky lacing and thick ring around the edge.

Smell: Off the bat it offers a west cost hop character: lots of citrus, which is mostly grapefruit but I got a hint of cara cara orange, too. The citrus does stand out above everything else, but its maltier British roots almost balance it out. Grassy hops, lightly toasted malts, sweet caramel, toffee, and a little honey.

Taste: A nice, citrus hop bitterness kicks the taste buds awake. After that, the citrus blends into a balanced beeriness: tinge of grapefruit and orange (which keep the back of the tongue and cheeks tingling), lightly toasted malts, grassy hops, sweet caramel, and honey.

Drinkability: It is a solid, tasty, and sessionable brew — perfect for the Twin Cities’ future MLS hooligans.

Serving type: bottle

08-31-2012 21:21:10 | More by TheQuietMan22
Photo of jegross2


3.78/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewing the Bitter Brewer from the Surly Brewing Company.
Score: 87

Canned 04/05/12. Served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 05/28/12.

Appearance: Pours a clear and clean-looking golden color with two fingers of foamy/soapy off-white head that slowly recedes into a thin layer with clumps of foamy head splotched around. Average lacing and retention, but some residual head seems to cling for a bit. 4/5

Smell: Bread dough, wheat biscuits, floral citrus, a little lemon pine. There's grassy straw hops and a distinct white tea/iced tea aroma too. A little red apple and a hint of dried banana and fruity yeast -- but not in a hefeweizen way. 4/5

Taste: Hoppy lemon iced tea is my first impression. There's some bitter orange flavor and barley in the tea flavor too. There's almost like a crescendo of the lemon flavor at some point towards the finish with each sip. Largely crisp in flavor, but there's some residual bitter lemony grain flavor lingering in the aftertaste. There is ample fresh and bitter grassy hops flavor too, but the hoppiness is much more mellow and less in-your-face than a pale ale or IPA. 3.75/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, medium carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Modestly dry and bitter (but not super bitter) finish. 4/5

Overall: There is not too much going on in this beer -- what you smell is what you get -- and the flavors are relatively subdued overall, but Bitter Brewer is a very nice light and refreshing sessionable summer beer that's low in ABV (4%) without being low in quality. This beer is perfect for the 90+ degree weather we are experiencing in Chicago today.

Recommendation: Fans of lagers and summer beers should give this one a whirl as an alternative reward for mowing the grass on a Sunday afternoon.

Pairings: Tangy barbeque-slathered chicken on the grill.

Cost: $8.49 for a four pack.

Serving type: bottle

05-28-2012 19:43:31 | More by jegross2
Photo of joemcgrath27

Alberta (Canada)

4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - slightly hazy copper, thumb of fluffy head dissipated slowly, lots of random sticky lacing
S - big aromas of mandarin citrus, herbs, and grainy malts, some grassiness, definitely interesting
T - start with a prominent mineral flavour, gives way to gentle citrus, fresh grass, and perfume, a prevalent grainy malt backbone, definitely unique
M - light and well carbonated, a bitter and mineral residue feel lingers along with a prominent bitter
O - definitely a unique brew with a pleasant hop mix and a prominent bitter finish, well crafted

Serving type: bottle

03-25-2012 05:08:45 | More by joemcgrath27
Photo of SaintMarysGirl


1.75/5  rDev -56.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

No head at all has a grassy smell analyte mouthful nonalcoholic or heat when it goes down bitter taste you can also taste the hop more than you can taste the mall it's got this fresh hop fail flavored as well as Woody and spice and very low carbonation

Serving type: bottle

01-25-2012 03:28:43 | More by SaintMarysGirl
Photo of TwinButte

South Dakota

3.68/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- Golden brown color with an off white head

S- Its a nice spicy aroma. Smells pretty hoppy.

T- A citrusy flavor but very bitter on the back end.

M- A light body beer.

D- As the name says, it is bitter beer with a strong hop aroma. Smells alot like a pale ale. Was expecting an undrinkable bitter beer but its not too bad. Not my favorite Surly and that being said I probably won't get this one again.

Serving type: can

Serving type: bottle

10-18-2011 00:20:13 | More by TwinButte
Photo of mikul93


3.68/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A Pours a dark murky amber with a healthy off white head. No lacing.

S Citrus, floral, slight pine and sweet malt

T Hmmmm Citrus, some floral taste is coming through, very very mild sweetness that finishes with a dry, slightly bitter aftertaste.

M Medium-light body. Nice carbonation. Dry finish.

O It's an easy drink beer. I was expecting a bitter beer but not the case. I'd buy a 4 pack if I had the opportunity. Not bad.

Serving type: bottle

09-09-2011 00:54:52 | More by mikul93
Photo of crossovert


4.53/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16 oz can.

Pours a med-dark amber/gold with a soapy white head that dissipates quickly.

The smell is fruity and lightly hopped with a malty backbone.

The taste has a bit more citrus than normal, a bit yeasty note, some ok malts, not my favorite though. Not any bitterness at all.

Its a good session beer, a flavorful one at that. Probably the best session beer if you stick by the "4%" hard rule.

I had 3 more of these, and I totally appreciate this brew so much more, just fantastic.

Serving type: bottle

07-09-2010 01:56:00 | More by crossovert
Photo of gatornation


4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

pours an amber copper color with a beige head and ring some nice lacing on side of glass..smell is crisp malts first then some hops with citrus and some toffee ..the taste is malts and some mild bitterness as it warms... some hop and citrus mixed in as well with some bread and toffee..the mouthfeel is thin but with flavor..what impressed me most about this brew was the flavor it packed @ 4.5% ABV,,wow it was damn good ..crisp and refreshing..i want another one...recommended of course

Serving type: bottle

06-07-2010 01:04:24 | More by gatornation


3.88/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A three finger head is easily achieved with a vigorous pour. It quickly turns rocky with off white bubbles that leave scattered lace as they slowly fade. Body is a rich honey amber in tone. Nose is immediately noticeable with fragrant and rustic hops that are very vibrant. As you continue to smell you get a floral citrus character also along with sappy sweet pine notes. With first sip you get a slight piney hop bite but it quickly yields to a thin almost watery body. Super easy to drink as it is so smooth. This kind of reminds me of a hoppy pilsner. A little on the light side though. Mouthfeel is a soft bitter hue that really hangs on the tongue. As I said, this beer is very easy to drink.

Serving type: bottle

03-21-2010 19:11:57 | More by SPLITGRIN
Photo of steve8robin


2.9/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Extra in a trade...

A: Perfect. Golden copper with a thick white head that slowly fades.

S: Smells super hoppy. Super grassy with grapefruit.

T: Super hoppy and grassy. Not much else going on in this brew.

M: Not bad. Somewhat refreshing.

D: Not very smooth. Hops really overpower this brew.

All in all, not being a super hop guy, this brew did not do much for me. Too much of that grapefruit / grassy flavor. If you like it dry and hoppy, this is definitely a brew to try. If you like malts and sweets, then avoid this beer.

Serving type: bottle

03-07-2010 06:00:27 | More by steve8robin
Photo of cvfish


4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - This beer poured a golden orange color that produced a fluffy white head that had good retention and laced the side of the glass very nicely

S - The aroma of this beer was quite simple, but complex at the same time, one word = hops, but the hoppiness was nice and complex with a varied array of different aromas

T - The taste of this beer was a brutal explosion of hops, started with a nice pale malty beginning that was quickly overshadowed by a mix of delicious fruity hoppiness

M - The mouthfeel of this beer had a medium body and a light to moderate amount of carbonation

D - This is another example of a well done beer by Surly, I wish these guys would bring their beer to Louisiana, they are some of the best

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2009 22:12:22 | More by cvfish
Photo of natasharai


4.58/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Poured with some creamy foamy off white head that dissipated over a few minutes leaving a thin layer and some lacing at the top of my glass. The beer is clear and has an orangish dark gold color.

Smell: Fresh cut grass, sweet citrus, some sweet roasted malt

Taste: Fresh cut grass, piney dry hop flavor, some sweet citrus, sweet roasted malt, ends with a delicious citrus zing. As it warms up there are some hints of spice or black tea.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation, slightly dry, very refreshing.

Overall: Very drinkable! Very refreshing and delicious! Keeps you wanting more. None of the flavors are overwhelming, nice subtle spiciness as it warms up. Delicious beer!

Serving type: bottle

04-14-2009 05:42:14 | More by natasharai
Photo of Gueuzedude


4.18/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The sixteen ounce can comfortable pours into my large Tripel Karmeliet tulip glass with a frothy, initially two-finger thick pale tan colored head. The beer is a full amber hue that shows a lightly hazed, red tinged, dark copper color when held up to the light. The aroma is nice an punchy with hop notes of ruby-red grapefruit, vibrant orange zest and a substantial, toasty, biscuit like malt character. It is quite interesting how much this smells like orange marmalade, the hop character is just so nice and definitely hits the spot (and I haven't even tasted this yet).

A little too cold still (near 40°F / 4.5°C), this tastes of lemons and hop bitterness. As it slowly warms the hop-citrus flavors become a bit fuller, with notes leaning a bit more towards grapefruit. This beer is quite dry, which is not unexpected considering the strength. A touch more malt sweetness might accent the hop fruit character a bit more, but I like how light and quaffable this is right now. There is just enough malt sweetness to this though to make the overall hop effect just fruity enough; touches of lychee, sweet grapefruit, ripe tangerine and some flowery peach notes all get more and more noticeable as this beer opens up. The malt is not quite as assertively aggressive as it was in the aroma, but still there are substantial flavors of biscuit-like malt, and pale toasted grain that add complexity to this brew.

This is just too easy to drink. The aroma is fantastic and I wish the flavor was a little more assertive, but this definitely needs to be on the warm side of 50°F / 10°C to be fully experienced properly. I would kill to have this on hand pulled cask for a pint or five in a row. This is a very good beer, that really would be at its best as a real ale; I would love to have that, but I know that is never going to happen. Way before I want it to happen, this beer has disappeared from my glass.

Serving type: bottle

09-10-2008 03:35:16 | More by Gueuzedude
Photo of tpd975


4.33/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a nice golden orange hue with nice bubbly head. Lots of carbonation noted with tons of tiny bubbles rushing to the top. The head has good retention but leaves very little lace.

S: Nice Americanized bitter. The malt presence is there right from the start, but you can detect a good deal of hops. The hops are very citrus more on the orange tangerine side than grapefruit.

T: Nice and fruity right from the start. Tangerine flavored hops bite at the tongue before a sweet malt comes to the rescue.

M: Medium in body smooth and somewhat spritzy.

D: Would make a wonderful Florida summer beach beer.

Overall: I like Surly, I like hops, and I like beer (good beer that is) in a can. This is a winner. I am glad ObjectiveMonkey is sending me 4 cans in our trade. Yum....Let summer begin.

Serving type: bottle

05-21-2008 16:46:39 | More by tpd975
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 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
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Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 749 ratings.