Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

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432 Reviews

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Reviews: 432
Hads: 1,039
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 9.14%
Wants: 230
Gots: 87 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  4.00% ABV

Availability: Spring

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 05-05-2007

No notes at this time.
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Reviews: 432 | Hads: 1,039
Photo of TheQuietMan22
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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. (992 characters)

Photo of BarrytheBear
3.68/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can dated 6/14/12 into a tulip as I listen to White Sox implode. Ed Farmer says some really dumb shit and this is a really bad loss.

Orange with a frothy white billow and collar. Some nice looking stickem' tags the glass.

Light yeast, apple juice, mint, orange jelly, and sourdough bread are all detected by my elongated proboscis.

The can has it right with orange marmalade. Mild spice from the yeast, iced tea, and a big crunchy toast character. Mint sprig on the finish leaves a lasting tingle.

Body is light and zestily carbonated.

Overall, this is an easy drinking bitter. I have fond memories of drinking this on the lake up north on hot summer afternoons.

Addendum: well I'll be damned if the Sox just didn't tie it after vomiting themselves. (756 characters)

Photo of KC8LTL
3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

First of all, I must say that this review is from an IPA fan who is rating it based on what I like - not by style. To describe a beer which is dry-hopped with American hops as an "English Bitter" does not seem fair.

When poured from a can into a pint glass, I was rewarded with a cloudy orange liquid and decent off white head. The smell was a citrus blast from the dry hopping. The head receded with time, but never went away.

The weakness of this beer is the mouthfeel and arguably balance. The resulting beer is all hops and in order to keep the ABV down, the malt backbone isn't quite there. That said, this is no thin beer. There is lacing left on the glass, and the resulting beer is still quite enjoyable, especially on a warm day, or when you want a session beer. (773 characters)

Photo of rudzud
3.86/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to JLindros for sharing.

A - Poured a hazy honey with a one finger sudsy off white head that fades to leave lots of sticky side lacing.

S - Lots of gentle esters with some honey sweetness and light, bitter hops.

T - Nice and clean and light, slightly almost sour with nice floral and grassy hop notes. Quite tasty.

M - Mouthfeel is nicely carbonated albeit slightly thin.

O - Overall I liked this better, somehow, than Surly Furious. A Very tasty English Bitter. (474 characters)

Photo of LXIXME
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium white head slowly settles into a pretty decent lacing above a particle filled honey colored beer.

Light sweet malts behind a citrusy pepper like spices aroma.

Bitter dry hops taste with very light spices combined with a light backdrop of earthy grain malts taste. A light drying taste to this beer, very welcoming and makes you want to take another gulp.

Not a big bold or overbearing taste but rather a lighter subdued taste that is quite good.

This is an excellent beer to expand the horizons of American light lager drinkers, I know from past experience that when Bud drinkers try something from Stone or Rogue its basically like culture shock to them, but this beer in its light but yet solid taste of dry hops, etc. one might just find another convert to the world of great ales and lagers. (806 characters)

Photo of MNAle
2.36/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

This is an updated review of the 2015 version of Bitter Brewer. I had previously only done a rating for this beer. This beer has been a favorite for several years, but this year's example is hugely disappointing. No, not just disappointing; it is a major departure in the thin hop water direction of session ales. I've put my former numerical ratings below for anyone who is interested. My current ratings are what is reflected in this review. I sincerely hope Surly reconsiders their direction for this beer.

Hazy orange. White head, dissipates quickly, little/no lacing. Faint somewhat citrusy aroma. If the dry hopping was for aroma, it didn't do much. Initial taste is mild, transitioning to a very bitter, piney, orangy, borderline unpleasant aftertaste that hangs around much too long. So long, in fact, the astringent bitterness is still there long after I would like to take another drink. Mouth feel is thin, watery. Overall, this is a significant step backwards for what used to be one of my favorites. I'm unlikely to buy it again.

Old rating, with my notes (I did not enter these notes as a review here; they're just my notes):
A bit too high in American hopiness to be a true English-style bitter, but otherwise, it is reasonably faithful to the style. My 2nd favorite local bitter, and overall it has the advantage of not being an ESB. I wish this was a year-round offering from Surly.

L: 3
S: 4
T: 4
F: 3
O: 4.25 (1,433 characters)

Photo of Florida9
3.75/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Color is an earthy shade of orange. There is some visible sedimentation giving this brew a slightly cloudy look to it. Forms a sizable off-white head that offers up some very nice retention. Lots of lacing on the way down.

S: Aroma is a nice blend of malt and hops. Light caramel malts, stewed tea, pine, and a bit of citrus.

T: Taste is somewhat earthy and a bit dank. Mild caramel malts lead into the flavors of tea, earthy hops, and some pine character. Finish is earthier still.

M: Medium bodied with a lighter/medium carbonation. Mild to moderate bitterness. Somewhat sticky or coating in the mouth.

O: When I first popped this can and took a swig, I was more than impressed. This beer was really packing some flavor for it's mild 4% ABV. But as a I got about half way through, the flavor became less bright and much darker and one-note. It really just seemed to fall off. I do wonder if this beer has more age on it than it should (there appears to have been a valiant attempt to date the can, but the date is illegible) that is resulting in some of the earthy flavors that seem to be dominating this beer. (1,123 characters)

Photo of mynie
4.08/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4


Pours roughly the same color as the can, a very bright shade of orange topped with a fluffy white head. Smells of Surly yeast, citrus hops, and white bread. Certainly an American take on an ESB--and that's in no way a bad thing.

Tastes very much like it smells, almost like a very light west coast APA only with Surly's excellent yeastmanship helping hold everything together. The hops are subtle yet variegated, the malt is sweet, and the balance is superb. (468 characters)

Photo of thagr81us
3.55/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had during the 2nd Annual Redneck Racin’ & Tastin’ while watching the dirt track race! Big thanks goes out to marine1975 for this one! Served from can into a shaker. Poured red-orange with a half finger off-white head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, fruit, bitter hop, earth, and earth hop. The flavor was of sweet malt, bitter hop, earth, and earth hop. It had a light feel on the palate with medium-high carbonation. Overall this was a pretty decent brew. I really liked the hop profile on this one as the earthiness mixed really well with the bitter hops. While it was good it definitely didn’t stand out compared to other brews I’ve had from the style. Glad I got the chance to try this one again as my review ended up disappearing… (842 characters)

Photo of chugalug06
3.55/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Very small, one finger, straw colored, foamy, head; tough to get much head to rise... Brew is murky orange with lots of reds and some yellows.

Yep, it's definitely English... Hit the scent on the nose; pun not intended. Farm-y, horse-y, bread-y, malty, and not a ton of hop character.

Yep, it's definitely English... Very bland, but refreshing. Hops are strictly bittering, no floral notes. Nothing fancy or overwhelming about this brew. Good carbonation. Fits style.

Yep, it's definitely English... Unique and stylish. Nothing memorable about this one, just refreshing. Perfect for a hot and humid day. Can't Recommend. (626 characters)

Photo of lovindahops
4.3/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

my first bitter brewer from Surly. Love the art work on this one!

A- bitter brewer pours a hazy orange with a great off white head that keeps lacing on the sides of the glass. It certainly has the look of a refreshing brew that is already making my mouth water

S- I get a good whiff of orange jam with some buttery diactyl. There is some sweet citric theme that mingles with some bitter scents as well. Very lively and refreshing

T- great orange and mango flavors that have a bready flavor and along with a spike of bitter flavor at the end. With all these aspect blended together, the taste is absolutely delicious. Even a little tropical them kicks in at the end

M- carboation and coating flavors are in sync with what you want a brew to feel like

O- Surly just delivers... plain and simple. Bitter brewer is another example of a completely drinkable beer that is full of flavor. Best english bitter I have ever experienced! (931 characters)

Photo of augustgarage
4.19/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Canned on 4/9/2012. Poured from a 16oz can into a pint glass.

Gold tinged gamboge liquid with amber highlights and a busy upthrust of off white fizz. Light soapy lacing; average retention.

Kumquat jelly, tea biscuits, and mango in the nose - delicate but complex and rich.

Mild bitterness on the palate balanced with light crackery English malt flavors. Hops are juicy and very slightly grassy in the finish. Dry mineral-laden finish.

Light bodied yet slick with moderate carbonation.

Likely my favorite example of the style I've sampled thus far, though the U.S. hops probably diverge from stylistic tradition quite a bit. (630 characters)

Photo of thecheapies
3.95/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first Surly beer. Cracking and pouring into a pint glass.

Copper in color, great clarity, exceptional head retention. Fluffy white and coarse on-top. 4.5

Spicy/floral hop aroma up-front. Toasty grains and a peppery/saison-like spice aromatic. Semi-dry and fresh-smelling. 4.5

Peppery yeast crossed with toasted grains, floral Euro hops paired with a more vigorous American hopping, and a faint pear fruit ester. Earthy and dry. Slight citric pith, baked earth, and a strong herbal quality. A little attenuated, but great flavor profile and complexity. 3.5

Medium carbonation is a little busy. The body is silky thin. Remarkably drinkable. 4.0

Great brew from the folks at Surly. I look forward to trying many more of their offerings. 4.0 (745 characters)

Photo of Pintofbrown
3.95/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bitter Brewer soured my mood right up while quaffing from a shaker pint.

Appearance- A finger of chunky, bubbly foam is in off-white with shades of marmalade. I understand why the can has the golden orange color now, it imitates the color of the body. There are tons of bubbles zipping to the cap too.

Smell- Very earthy nose, it is really dirty and herbal. A little bit of toasted wheat bread in here too. I think I also am picking up some pine and starfruit. This nose is different, but very nice.

Taste- Oh yeah. This thing was born for summer sippin'. It starts heavy on the iced tea and blast of pine. The middle of the drink shows a little of that citrus zing, again mostly star fruit.

The finish though, what a finish. It is not that bitter at only 37 IBU's, but it does not need to be. A big blast of buttery toast and earthiness envelope the palate and sticks around.

Mouth feel- This one is more on the watery side, and not really dry in any way, despite some hoppy characteristics. Although, it is still very drinkable and does a nice job of creating a long finish.

Overall- This is a very good beer, and one you could enjoy right after the other without fear of waking up not remembering what you did on that beautiful summer day now past.

Enjoy this herbal and buttery bitter, or three, if you can. (1,319 characters)

Photo of jegross2
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
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. (1,847 characters)

Photo of macrosmatic
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Cyclone8 for this one. Reviewed from notes. Poured from 16 oz. can into pint glass.

A: Pours a nice light copper in color and is somewhat hazy. About one finger's worth of head.

S: Some hop aroma with a spicy bitter note.

T: Taste follows nose. Nice bitter flavor, smooth maltiness, with the spiciness coming through at the end.

M: Smooth mouthfeel, maybe just a little bit on the thin side.

O: Good, solid English Bitter. No real complaints here. (462 characters)

Photo of OneDropSoup
3.92/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a shaker pint: Medium golden-orange, clear with some slow nucleation, under two fingers of loose, rising head.

Up front smell of fresh grapefruit, lime, a little dank or earthy, with a bread-crusty note that, if I were to guess, would say is rye(?). Very nice, & not overdone.

Taste delivers something different from what I was expecting, which was more fruity character & iced tea. What's there instead is a stronger bread crust flavor, a little dry, with some pepper, some milder citrus peel, & ending with a long, moderate bitterness. Again, nicely understated, & something of a surprise. Actually, bitterness is all there is after a while, not too much else going on. Not bad, but would like a little more depth, or if it's going to be one-note, pick another note to strum.

Medium-light bodied with some "stick" from the hops & bitterness. Leaves a long imprint on the mouthfeel.

Not a bad number at all. Again, would like to see a little more balance in the taste, but pretty drinkable & enjoyable. (1,019 characters)

Photo of facundoCNB
4.06/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a clear light amber pour with 2 fingers of fluffy white head. smells of caramel, pine, orange peel. a nice refreshing citrusy hop taste with a hint of breadyness and sweet malt. dirt, pine, caramel taste. light body with a bitter aftertaste, yet somehow nicely refreshing, soda-like carbonation, decent lacing.

this is an excellent session ale, and a great esb. perfect for the summer heat! great taste, great mouthfeel, and looks excellent.. though, not too great on the nose, session beers are very hard to get this high of a rating. job well done by surly. (560 characters)

Photo of beagle75
3.97/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz. can into a tulip glass.

A: Slightly hazy, light orange-amber color with one finger of off-white foam head. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Grainy English malt keeps a fair balance with distinct piney hops. Clean and surprisingly appropriate.

T: Begins dry, with bready malt that threatens a turn toward fermented funkiness, and austere pine/floral/herbaceous hop aromatics. Hop flavors sharpen somewhat in the middle as malt thins, but lose their early understated yet dynamic qualities. While malt remains consistently on-point throughout the profile, the hops change again in the moderately bitter finish, exhibiting a monotonous and medicinal Columbus edge.

M: Thin viscosity, balanced on the palate, with moderate carbonation.

D/O: This pale ale features nuanced charms that seem a bit retro when one weighs its malt focus and hops that maintain a complimentary role. While the hop qualities are never really featured, they do vary from the beginning to the end of the flavor profile, leaving the drinker with a nagging perception of inconsistency. Its English qualities are well-cultivated, however, and at 4% abv it drinks as easily as a traditional bitter ought to. (1,204 characters)

Photo of ferrari29
3.6/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Beer poured from can into a Nonic shaped pint glass

A - Beer pours with a healthy and thick white colored head; very sticky lacing; clear copper colored body, with a light amount of carbonation; head holds pretty we and is about one finger in size

S - Citrus hop nose; scents of dry flowers (potpourri) and seasoning herbs; scent of dry roasted malt comes up at the end; pine combs; sugar caramel; grapefruit; herbal

T - Thin roasted malt taste; kind of watery; citrus notes and very bitter taste finishes up the drink; touch of grapefruit sourness; herb seasoned taste

M - Watery texture; very light consistency; not much a a hoppy aftertaste; slightly bitter with a low IBU, around 40; effervescent

D - Overall, an easy and light drink; not bad and very easy for the summer; I'd pass on another as the watery texture is a bit of a turn-off (846 characters)

Photo of NuclearDolphin
4.65/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a Beer Stein

Appearance - Pours a very hazy and darker orange color. Head pours around 4 inches width. Both head and lacing retention are excellent!

Smell - Rich Floral Hops, Yeasts/Biscuits, Marmalade, Toasted Malts, and a slight grassy smell. This smells very fresh!

Taste - Sweet Yeasts, Floral Hops, Oranges, Biscuits, and Toasted Malts. For a English Bitter, this is a very rich tasting beer!

Mouthfeel - Very light bodied and virtually no carbonation. It's not only smooth and easy to drink, but also crisp and refreshing!

Overall - I enjoyed Honker's Ale before as my goto Bitter Ale, but now it looks like I have a new favorite. It looks good, smells great, tastes great, and feels absolutely refreshing. What more can I say? I will miss Surly when I move to Chicago, but hopefully I will see it once I move there! (839 characters)

Photo of Humulus85
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I look forward to this every year, first time reviewing. Poured from the 16oz Surly can into my Samuel Smiths pint glass.

Pours a hazy orange with a nice, white, two-finger head. Great retention gives way to a crazy amount of sticky lacing.

Smell is unique. Marmalade upfront with a backing of bready malt, some grassy hops, and esters. Light and crisp.

That strange, but delicious, orange marmalade flavor upfront. Toffee and biscuit malt makes up the backbone. Not a big hop profile, but wonderfully bitter throughout.

Mouthfeel is light, great carbonation, and not a hint of alcohol.

Overall this is truly a world-class session beer. So much flavor in such a light bodied, low abv brew. The only draw back is that it is Surly, so it is not cheap at $9 per 4-pack. My go too brew the spring camp/boating trips. Recommended to all who can get it. Cheers! (863 characters)

Photo of yamar68
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This is what every session beer would offer in a perfect world...

Pours a hazy burnt gold with a half finger of white, milky head. Slow, steady beading.

The nose smells like my kitchen on a Sunday morning. Warm biscuits, cereal, subtle honey, sweet grain, wheat. Very inviting. Citrus and jam.

The taste highlights a lot of the same characteristics. Tons of biscuit and other soft, grainy bits. Buttered toast. Marmalade.

The feel is one of my favorite aspects of this beer. It's super smooth and the finish is nice and dry, leaving the slightest impression on the tongue.

Overall, I think this beer is too often overlooked. Very tasty and easy drinking. (661 characters)

Photo of joemcgrath27
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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 (544 characters)

Photo of andrenaline
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From notes...

A - Pours a nice golden colour, finger of head with solid retention and some sporadic lacing.

S - Sweet citrus, musty leafy green notes, wheat grass, wet cardboard, dark malted milk and caramel.

T - Leafy green hops, quite grassy, bitter is an understatement with loads of sour lemon citrus, hints of lime, nice caramel lingers alongside the leafy greens for a nice balance.

M - Full bodied with plenty of carbonation, goes down smooth and finishes with a touch of dryness.

O - This stuff is incredibly tasty and leans more on the hopped up english bitter than a traditional bitter. Loads of flavour, insanely drinkable, and an all around scrumptious ale. (674 characters)

Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 432 ratings.