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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

846 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 846
Reviews: 415
rAvg: 4.02
pDev: 11.19%
Wants: 220
Gots: 55 | FT: 2
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: 846 | Reviews: 415 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of evanlarkin

District of Columbia

4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Found a single 4pk of this hiding in the liquor store the other day! No date. Accompanying my stir-fry lunch.

a golden-orange, pretty much clear. Little visible carbonation. A finger of head at first, but it disappeared leaving no lacing.

Fruity, kind of reminds me of mango or pineapple, like fresh tropical fruit juice. Sweet and tangy aromas.

Maltiness gets you first, which gives way to a dryish pineapple flavor. Despite the smell, not really sweet at all. Taste gives way to a pleasant and balanced bitterness, again reminding me of pineapple.

Feels like fruit juice, but it doesn't stick to you like orange juice does. Very clean and crisp.

Super-high. This tastes refreshing, smells refreshing, just feels refreshing. Right now I'm drinking it to rebel against winter, which pretty much says that it's a fantastic summer beer.

Oddly enough, I didn't care for this beer as much when I first tried it last July. Maybe my palette just needed some development, because now I think this one is fantastic.

Serving type: can

02-14-2011 20:37:23 | More by evanlarkin
Photo of Vittorio

New Mexico

4.72/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is a great beer to quaff after having done a quick 8 miles.

Pours clean, light orange and clear with a thin whitish head that dissipates quickly. Very much more hoppy than any 'English bitter' ever I've had but, then I really like the resiny hoppy flavour of this 'bitter' . Clean over the palate but with a bit of a treacley feel at the back of the throat.

Has a nice clean mouth feel with a slight 'burn' which adds to the somewhat high 'fizz' factor. Could be that I'm opening these cans at 7000 feet and they're canned at 700 feet that causes that.

An excellent 'session' beer. Too bad its not available here in New Mexico.

Serving type: can

01-21-2011 03:28:42 | More by Vittorio
Photo of EgadBananas


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

Pale medium orange in color, with a fluffy off-white finger and a half of head that sticks around leaving spongy lacing.

Aroma is hops, lots of sweet and tart orange, and a hint of caramel malt sweetness.

Slightly citrus sweet, grassy and a mild bitter finish.

Feel is crisp, nicely carbonated, light in body.

Great drinkability. Low ABV, as expected, and an overall enjoyable brew.

Serving type: can

01-14-2011 00:55:55 | More by EgadBananas
Photo of soze47


4.7/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Picked up a large variety of Surly when in St. Paul. I've loved every kind so far. Bitters are usually not my cup of tea, but we'll see.

Appearance: Pretty copper orange with a lot of carbonation activity. Fluffy head is very sticky on the glass.

Aroma: Very nice smelling. The hops are pungent, but in a very gentle way. Grassy and floral smells turn fruity in your nose as a not too strong maltiness comes in. Smells like summertime.

Taste: Same as the nose, balanced yet subtle flavors play off of each other well. Good amount of hop flavor, but not a ton of bitterness. The malt does just enough to cut any residual bitterness left, yet not overstate its importance. The malt lets you know its there while the hops go from grassy to tangerine like. Great taste.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: The mouth feel is very light and crisp and the finish is nice and dry. For all the flavor this one packs, it could be a session of the summer candidate.

Overall: Fantastic take on a style I don't usually enjoy. Maybe it is the American hops providing some great flavors the English varietals just can't deliver. Surly seems to not know how to a mediocre beer.

Serving type: can

01-11-2011 00:09:11 | More by soze47
Photo of xnicknj


4.08/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16oz can poured into pint glass - thanks to biglobo8971

Pours a clear burnt orange with a frothy white head, which slowly fades into well retained film and plenty of patchy lacing along the glass.

Lightly toasted malt in the nose with hints of citrus and pine hops, along with some breadiness.

A hit of bitter hops right up front with piny resin, which is quickly mellowed by some bready malt backbone. Hints of burnt sugar, toasted grain, and doughy bread throughout. Slightly sweet tones permeate the profile. Finishes with some lingering bitterness and dry tones.

Lighter medium body, slightly creamy, mild carbonation, overall extremely smooth and pleasant. Drinks exceptionally well, with plenty of hop bitterness tempered by slightly sweet malt profile. The nose was a little subdued, but everything else is right on point.

Serving type: can

01-08-2011 08:04:06 | More by xnicknj
Photo of zeff80


4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A - Poured out a clear, golden amber color with a one-finger, khaki-colored head of foam. It left thin rings of lace.

S - What an aroma. Pine, pine, pine and more pine. Plus, it was phenolic, too.

T - It had a great pine taste with some nice caramel sweetness. It tastes like an IPA. Can says 37 IBU but it seemed much more bitter than that.

M - It was crisp, sharp and crackled on the tongue. A light to medium bodied ale.

D - Unbelievable. I tried this not because I like the style but because I love Surly. Man, it was worth it! Best Ding-worthy session ale ever!!

Serving type: can

01-08-2011 03:14:38 | More by zeff80
Photo of afksports

New York

3.35/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

There are better things to do than watching Barry Sanders Jr.'s highlight videos on YouTube. True.

But with a Surly beverage it can't be that bad. Even if it's the last of a trade that you saved because you really don't like the style. Not one bit.

Still, this is as good as I can see the style being. I'm actually drinking and enjoying this. It pours crisp and clear amber with nice head and terrific lace around the glass. The nose is a little floral, mostly hops, and not too much else. It's not a big smell, but it's not a big beer either. Taste is hops, floral, citrus, and (per the can) toasty malts, followed by bitter bitter bitter. But not too bad - not a hop or a bitter assault. Just... toasty and crisp.

An easy drinker at both alcohol by volume and its light to medium body with tasty finish, this is a better bitter.

Serving type: can

01-06-2011 02:07:42 | More by afksports
Photo of SurlyMe


3.7/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Can to pint glass

A - Pours a pale amber color with a bubbly 2 finger off white head. Head recedes slowly leaving some spotty lacing. Has a very slight haze to it.

S - Light citrus, toasty bread, marmalade, malt

T - Toast with marmalade and light citrus hops give way to a bitter and slightly sweet finish

M - Light in body and carbonation, refreshing, slightly sticky/dry on the finish

D - Very drinkable but i thought the flavors got to be a little old after a pint or two. The bitter finish does make you want to keep on sipping though.

Overall, a good beer but probably my least favorite from Surly.

Serving type: can

12-11-2010 01:33:23 | More by SurlyMe
Photo of AleWatcher


3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into pint glass.

An orangey color. Off white head of 2 fingers. Streaks and chunks of lacing.

Toasted bread and syrupy oranges-- think of how canned oranges in syrup would smell. Actually works well.

Taste follows nose. Slight sweetness... Toasty bready maltiness... Sweet oranges on the finish... Nice bitterness on the finish-- less than an IPA-- but more than a lot of pub ales.

Body is good. Medium feel. Slightly oily, good creamy carbonation.

Highly drinkable. The low ABV makes this super easy to sip... Ding would be proud: I'm enjoying a session ale!

Serving type: can

12-07-2010 02:07:09 | More by AleWatcher
Photo of woosterbill


4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pint can into a Duvel tulip. Big thanks to HopStoopid120 for hooking me up with this one, my first of the English Bitter style.

A: A measured, deliberate pour yields a perfect 2-inch head of fairly coarse white foam that just barely reaches above the rim of the tulip; below lies a placidly clear, orange-amber body with some fine carbonation rising up to maintain the head. Retention is pretty good, and theres some light, clumpy lacing left behind. Looks good to me.

S: Light citrus hops blend pleasantly with toasty malt. I thought the can was full of it when it mentioned marmalade, but I can kind of sense what they're talking about. Simple and extremely enjoyable.

T: Orange hops open things up brightly, then give way to smooth, bready, toasty malt. No marmalade, but plenty of good honest beer flavor leading up to a cleanly bitter finish. The finish is so clean that it could almost be called watery, which is this beer's only flaw - but it isn't much of one for a 4% brew. Awesome.

M: Light bodied with a huge amount of rather prickly carbonation - considerably more than I expected for the style. A bit too fizzy, but not a deal-breaker by any means.

D: Maybe not the most drinkable example of the style, considering the ample dose of American hops, but I could drink this all day long. And what a day it would be!

Notes: What a terrific beer. It tastes hoppier and better than a lot of IPAs, and yet the malt somehow has a terrific, complex presence as well. It reminds me a lot of FFF Pride & Joy (although a bit sweeter and more citrusy), and that's a great thing. Yet another winner from Surly. Thanks again, Tony.


Serving type: can

12-01-2010 02:19:09 | More by woosterbill
Photo of wcudwight

North Carolina

4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Honey colored that's more orange at the bottom and becomes more golden at the top. 1 finger sticky white head that leaves lot's of sticky lacing behind. Smells like a tropical fruit bowl. Lot's of flavor packed into this one. Tangerine, grapefruit, and other citrus flavors. Some sweet and pale malts to round it out. The mouthfeel feels light for the complexity and flavor profile of the beer but I think it's exactly what the brewer was shooting for. This is the best session beer I've had yet. The hop profile is perfect to drink a few with out having palate overkill. That with only a 4% abv makes this the ultimate session beer.

Serving type: can

11-16-2010 03:18:48 | More by wcudwight
Photo of AgentZero


3.23/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Copper colored beer with not much of a head, no real retention on it. Looked a bit watery.

S - Smells like an english, with english malts, caramel and a bit of sugar. Some sort of odd vinegar quality to it.

T - Tastes alright, but there is definately a little bit of vinegarness here. English malts and slightly metalic.

M - Light bodied, moderate carbonation.

D - It's semi-easy to drink, but should be easier at 4%.

Serving type: on-tap

11-10-2010 19:45:03 | More by AgentZero
Photo of woodychandler


4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I am trying to get caught up on my Surly beers, thanks to a sudden in-rush of CANs from several people, including einweizenbitte, UncleJedI and PurpleHatJoan as well as Uncle Al aka FeloniousMonk. The CANQuest (TM) loves all of you!

From the CAN: "Beer for a Glass, From a CAN."; "Fresh Beer, Keep It Cold!"; "Get Bitter! - Todd W. Haug, Bitter Brewer"; "First one in, last one out, sweating in the summer, freezing in the winter. Years of toiling and boiling have turned our brewer into a cynical, surly, bitter brewer ... You too [CAN] get bitter without all the fuss. Simply crack open a [CAN] and fill a glass with our latest - Bitter Brewer. Pale orange in color, this ale gets intense toast and marmalade character from British malt and Ameri[CAN] hops. Dry-hopping brings the floral citrus aromas. So go ahead, get bitter! Get Surly!"

Ah, the Crack & Glug! A beautiful, thick, bubbly two fingers of ecru head sat bubbling, creating some beautiful lacing as it began to sit down. Nose was a mix of orange zest and grapefruit juice. Color was a slightly hazy orangish-amber. Mouthfeel was a little on the thin side but the taste was as advertised - toast and marmalade in the mouth. Finish was much more pronounced in terms of the marmalade and left a tingly feeling on my tongue. Sorry you are bitter, Todd, but this was suh-wheet! I am envisioning a whole cooler filled with Surly beers with me at the beach.

Serving type: can

11-07-2010 22:46:00 | More by woodychandler
Photo of dpnelson1978


3.78/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 oz. can into glass pint.

$3.00 / ea.

A: Bright orange body topped with a huge rocky head of moderate retention that leaves heavy sticky lace and a thick rocky cover.

S: Floral hops dominate with hints of bready malt not far behind. Simple but effective.

T: Distinctive bitter flavor with resinous qualities dominates from start to finish and beyond. Hints of grapefruit citrus poke through over a bready backbone.

M: Light body with light to moderate carbonation. Very light bite with noticeable tongue tightening bitterness.

D: If bitter session beers are your thing, this is the one to try. The flavors are solid, the abv low and the hops cannot be denied.

O: I enjoyed this one noticeably more the second time I tried it. I can only assume that my palate changed, but I'll be sure to try this one again in the future.

Serving type: can

11-06-2010 03:52:27 | More by dpnelson1978
Photo of Beerandraiderfan


3.8/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark golden color, good head, good retention. Aroma was kind of macro-ish.

Good bitterness for a 4% beer, not really hoppy, but definitely bitter. Subtle floral hopping. Cascade maybe in a light amount. Light mouthfeel, never heavy, just a resonance of mild bitterness. Definitely comes across good, just as advertised.

Scored these at Buckbean for only $1 a piece, proceeds to charity, these were the Surly beers that didn't make it from Canfest.

Serving type: can

11-06-2010 00:41:46 | More by Beerandraiderfan
Photo of jrallen34


2.83/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

On tap into 4oz tasting tulip...Poured a light, clear and watery copper with light head that doesn't last...The aroma and taste to me are super generic versions of an English ipa. Sugar and caramel come through mostly with watery metallic hops on the back. The feel is too watery. Surly mostly nails it, but to me this is a macro versions attempt at an esb.

Serving type: on-tap

10-26-2010 03:12:15 | More by jrallen34
Photo of JohnGalt1


3.8/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

The wife and I shared this gem courtesy of Kbeals... thanks a bunch Kevin!!

Pours with a thin white head atop a slightly hazed orange brew.. only splotches of lacing..

Nose is nice... light lemon with some herbal tea elements.. grainy pale malts and hints of flowers...

Flavor begins with a minor bitter astringency that is nearly perfectly balanced the pale malts and bits of biscuit.... Does the brewer use "tea leaves" in this brew? Really makes me think of the tea I have at work everyday... body is pretty lite as it should be.. carbonation may be a tad high for the style, but what do I know?

Doesn't seem too English to me.. but I dig it.. and that is enough. I loooove session beers... Love them.

Thanks again Kevin.. this is a "new to me" Surly Brew... your return box is gonna be nice. :-)


Serving type: can

10-20-2010 05:46:38 | More by JohnGalt1
Photo of brewerburgundy


4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16oz can, goblet, no canned on date.

Mild, tropical orange beer with a tan head. The head is soapy, and started off at about three fingers. It has faded pretty quickly to a very sticky ring and the thinnest of covers.

Husky grain is evenly distributed against whiffs of orange in almost a orange or orange pekoe tea way. Multigrain toast.

The claim about orange marmalade on toast from the can is valid. Obviously, the orange preserve flavor isn't jumping the way it did in Surly's Wet last night, but the malt is tastier. The toast is still multigrain with a little astringency, though that may be hop bitterness. The malt is not sweet, and while it dries in the end there is appropriately no alcohol. Mineral elements combine with hop bitterness to make for crispness.

Wet and smooth with little carbonation, the brewer let the flavor do the talking.

I think this is the first time I've had what seems to be a proper Bitter, or at least what is pieced together in my mind as a very good one. Surly really is impressing and I think this should be a year round beer. More than enough flavor with great balance make this a great truly English session beer.

Thank you Shango42.

Serving type: can

10-18-2010 03:17:24 | More by brewerburgundy
Photo of jeffthecheff


4.43/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear amber color into my imperial pint glass with a nice, off white head.

Aroma is nicely hopped, with an American inspired citrus aspect. This has a really interesting hop and malt profile that I've yet to encounter. The marmalade and toast description on the can is spot on. I feel cheap for putting that in a review, but there isn't much to add to that.

On the palate is a lightly toasted malt flavor with a light bitterness. Fruity orange and a leafy, woodsy hop flavor come together for a deep hop profile. Mouthfeel is on the wet side with a suprisingly substantial body. Still, the overall character is nice and light, making me crave another session beer.

Serving type: can

10-08-2010 00:24:02 | More by jeffthecheff
Photo of Ineedabeerhere

Rhode Island

4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Doug! From notes, 9/17 and a couple other cans since then.

Pours a nice dark-amber-caramel color with a nice 2 finger head formed, leaving great weblike lace and filmy retention.

A little bit of a bright floral, earthy combo of hops is noticed right off the bat. Really on point. Not too aggressive, but just assertive enough over the tastiness of the malt character with some dried apricot as well. The taste follows as well with an upper low level of bitterness. It is clear, but not overpowering, the great, classic toastiness of the malt is in the background and just has so much nuance. Somewhere between a slightly overcooked pie crust and a pancake. Just an excellent beer that makes a ton of flavor and subtlety for being only 4%. I will drink this any day.

Serving type: can

10-01-2010 01:30:36 | More by Ineedabeerhere
Photo of jpmclaug

South Carolina

3.65/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the can into an imperial pint glass. Thanks goes to chixdighops for trading me a 4 pack of this.

A - Clear, dark amber color with a big bubbly white head on top. Lots of bubbles running up the side of the glass on this one.

S - Nice light pale malt aroma with a a nice floral hop aroma.

T - Similar to the aroma. A balance of pale malts with a little floral hop bite. No caramelly, smooth notes that I usually expect from bitters. A bit more of a hoppy bite than most bitters.

M - Really the only thing holding back this beer. Way over carbonated for my preferences in this style.

D - Pretty drinkable. As stated earlier it is way too carbonated for the style however. I really prefer smoother bitters. The flavor is pretty solid abit more floral hop bite than normal but pleasant. Certainly a beer worth trying.

Serving type: can

09-28-2010 00:46:01 | More by jpmclaug
Photo of Bubba83


3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Provided by Kegatron. Served at around 50 degrees.

Tall boy can pours into a 16oz Imperial Pint glass with two finger widths of off-white frothy head. Color is a nice drab orange with some nice highlights and plenty of bubblies! Good retention and very nice lacing for the style.

Smells like toast in a toaster, with some orange jammy bits and citrus rind. A bit of cereal grain and earth also resonate clearly. Quite complex for the style, and everything smells balanced and spot on.

Boy oh boy, they were right about the Orange Marmelade from the text on the can. Surpising depth in that orange character, and it really does remind you of a sweet jam. A lot less toast flavor than the smell would suggest, but it's sort of in the background. The fruity character jumps forward mainly, with some lemon and apricot duking it out as well. Finishes up with some earthyness along with sort of a floral undertone. I would have liked a little more toast for a bitter, but I can't deny that it is quite tasty.

Dry dry and more dry. I like dry beers, but holy crap this is dry! Get me a glass of water kind sir! Pretty light feel that massages your tongue and kinda makes you feel like you're eating some raw grains. Carbonation and consistency are right, but I'd actually prefer it to be a little creamier so my mouth can enjoy it better.

Not the most drinkable bitter because of the dryness, however there is no alcohol to speak of and the flavor component is refreshing. I like the hop kick near the end which is showing a bit of American flare to the style. Overall, a winner that everyone should give a whirl.

Serving type: can

09-27-2010 05:32:05 | More by Bubba83
Photo of Bendurgin


4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured this into a pint glass. The color is a nice light amber with a bubbly white head about an inch thick. The aroma is wonderful on this. Floral hops with orange sweetness and bit of oak. Slightly bitter with a solid malt profile. The taste is dry and absolutely bitter. Bitter grassy hops with light malts. I'm into this one. Already lamenting that I only have one can left. The mouthfeel is light and subtly carbonated, nothing offensive here. And at four percent, a tailor made session beer that's easy to kick back and enjoy.

Serving type: can

09-23-2010 19:49:29 | More by Bendurgin
Photo of Ragingbull


3.58/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Amber color with a thick frothy head about 2 or 3 cm thick that clings all over the glass after pouring. The beer has american hops and british malt. The nose is gently hoppy. It seems that the hops in the nose is imparted by the flavoring hops and that there wasn't much done with aromatics. Gentle flavor of hops and malt working together. The body of the beer is mostly a malty read and there seems to be some orange zest or lemon peel or both. Light body and finishes very clean. The mouthfeel is pretty ordinary as there is nothing about it that I can even make note of. It just slides down your throat. The hops seems to almost get lost until the finish and aftertaste. The brewery itself describes the beer as "marmalade" flavor, so I guess I am on it with the orange.

Serving type: can

09-23-2010 17:37:39 | More by Ragingbull
Photo of wagenvolks


3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16oz can into a BlackStar Co-op tumbler glass. Props to ballz50401 for the trade!

Bitter Brewer blends a beautiful body of rustic copper with a big, foamy head of meringue foam. The head is rocky and full of large bubbles that get displaced as the carbonation from below creates a creamy consistency. The aroma definitely highlights the American influence over the English style, as grapefruit and floral notes from the hops add a nice balance to toffee malts and caramel sweetness. Well-balanced, that's for sure.

The English malts shine through on the flavor with a perfectly-restrained sweetness that suggests toffee, dates, and mineral water. Yeast adds notes of tobacco and shoe polish, with a healthily bitter floral kick on the finish from fresh-tasting hop cones. Mouthfeel is aggressive, as Surly beers tend to be, but not overly so. Big bubbles from the CO2 roll across the palate to make the body feel even thinner than the style dictates. Still, Bitter Brewer is an excellent take on an obscure style. Wish I could come across more English Bitters like this in the states...

Serving type: can

09-17-2010 23:19:21 | More by wagenvolks
Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 846 ratings.