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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

999 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 999
Reviews: 428
rAvg: 3.99
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 226
Gots: 71 | FT: 4
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.
View: Beers (42) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 999 | Reviews: 428
Photo of Derek
4.02/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Copper bronze with an off-white head, thin ring of retention, slight lacing.

S: Nectarine, tangerine and citrus rind with hints of grainy biscuit.

T: Well hopped with a nice nectarine, rind & spice flavour. It's quite grainy, plenty of bitterness.

M: Light body is a little thin.

D: Very drinkable.

Thanks Bobsy!

Photo of homebrewhawk
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Dansting for this one. 16oz can served in a shaker pint. Poured a clear gold with less than a finger of fine bubbled, white head. Fresh citrus hop aroma. Light bodied with some malt backbone. A little malt sweetness. Nicely hopped, but not overly bitter. Lingering hop dryness to the finish. Very drinkable. Making a flavorful, lower alcohol beer is a tribute to the skills of the brewery IMHO.

I wish more breweries would make beers like this instead of taking it to the other extreme of alcohol and hops. One session beer in the lineup isn't too much to ask, is it?

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

Poured into a chilled imperial pint glass.
Comes a cloudy orange amber with a foamy off-white head that has little retention yet fair lacing.
Smells of citrus (grapefruit) hops and caramel malts.
Tastes of a citric and fruity (apricot?) hops well balanced with a sweet-bread toasty malt. Plus there is a pleasant bitterness that makes me want to have another quaff.
Has a relatively light body yet is creamy and not overly carbonated so the flavors that linger are clean and are not immediately forgotten.
I could enjoy this brew anytime.

Photo of Rooney107
3.83/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Orange, fizzy, with a notable alabaster head.

S- Not a very prominent aroma, but definitely hints of citrus, toasted malt scents, and a light hoppiness.

T- Bitter, but not as a bitter as I would have expected. Light hop flavors, orange peel, and biscuit tastes mingle with the moderate bitterness.

M- Somewhat overcarbonated, but overall quite light and somewhat refreshing.

D- Quite drinkable. This could be a good session beer. It is a solid entry from Surly, but not the apex of their greatness.

Photo of pmccallum86
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a very dark red golden color with a large frothy head.

S- Smell is of light earthy malt with a slight citrus hop scent.

T- Taste is light, very light. Good content of malt flavor, very refreshing for the style.

M- Thin, this has a slight watery feel and goes down very smooth. Perfect carbonation level, feels great going down.

D- This is an extremely drinkable beer. As it is only 4.0% alcohol one could consume many of these bad boys.

Not the most flavorful but very sessionable, a great example of the style.

Photo of jjayjaye
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly hazy orange tea color with a BIG foamy light tan head that fades slowly leaving a good amount of lacing behind. The smell is sweet malt, roasted grainy with equal part citrus hop. Adequately carbonated, the mouth feel is light and tangy. Full flavored, I really appreciate the association with 'intense toast and marmalade'. The grainy biscuit character lingers nicely. At 4.0% ABV this is one crazy drinker...one of the best I've ever had of this style. Many thanks to maximum12 for this opportunity!

Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.06/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Can at PPRBSG09. Pours a clear orange with a white head. Aroma of orange juice, citrus, melon, and iced tea. Flavor is slightly watery with melon and citrus notes. It's ok, but kinda meh.

Had this again a few weeks later and had the same impression.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.02/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a rusty orange that sports a huge fluffy head, although it doesn't last as long as hoped. But all of it looks nice, there's some good lace stickage too; so far, so good.

Aroma is a fresh citrus explosion with herbal, flowery edges and something I can only ever describe as "dryer sheet." Vibrant and breezy, a wonderful little smell that I doubt recalls any true English Bitter. But Surly are forever style-iconoclasts rather than followers, and that's just fine.

Flavor isn't quite the fantastic hop-laden wallop that the aroma is, but it does deliver in the bitterness promised in its name. Toasty, with lots of unripe orange; grassy astringency; English malts are obvious in that they're on the gentler side. This makes for an interesting contrast between dominant hops and timid malts, but don't read "timid" as "meek"--they're just really soft and mellow, but they do have character. Unique, to say the least.

Mouth is about as it should be--fairly prickly yet with an underlying softness. That contrast reflects the two-headed flavor. Light to medium body.

Bitter, yes. English, not really. Drinkable? For sure, but the bitterness lasts long enough that one pint of this seems plenty. Yet another Surly beer that tastes 10 times bigger than its modest ABV, although with this one there are more than enough clues that it is indeed a mere four-percent. Wish this stuff was available in all 50 states, but that's silly Utopian longing, isn't it?

Photo of alcstradamus
3.38/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A--Nice copper color with a sticky white head

S--Light citrus hops, oranges and pine. Seems to be a nice malt backbone

T--This is most definitely an English style beer, although that is not a good thing in this case. Almost non-existent hop taste or bitterness, and a bit of a watered down biscuit taste. The flavor isn't subtle, it is just weak, period. Perhaps my can is not fresh...but I doubt it.

M--Medium body, but the watery taste makes it seem thinner than it is

D--Not much here to enjoy once it hits the palate (other than some tasty burps). There is nothing offensive about this at all, but the burps should not be better than the beer. Very average brew.

Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance - a soft, dark tangerine pour. A thin layer of bubbles, some nice wavy lace patterns.

Aroma - pithy, oily hops, lots of grapefruit/pine essence. A little fruitier after setup.

Taste - biscuity base malts, a touch of fruity twang. Nice orangey hops at mid-palate, a touch soapy, turning mildly bitter on the swallow. Clean aftertaste and finish.

Mouthfeel - smooth, nicely carbonated, medium bodied.

Drinkability - awesome session beer. Great flavor. Thanks to crazynelson for tossing one of these my way at DLD.

Photo of JohnQVegas
4.45/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can into stein. Big thanks to MBABJJ for including a couple of these in our last trade - been looking forward to trying them for awhile!

Pours a hazy copper with a dense bone-white one and a half finger head. As the head slowly settles down into a thin but even denser meringue-like cap, it leaves big chunks of lace on the walls of the glass. Solid walls left as the mug drains.

Nose is toasty and biscuity, with plenty of grapefruit-rind hops in there as well. More of a floral note emerges as the beer warms up past 45 degrees or so. Bit of a bite from the hops, but not dominating by a long shot - very well balanced between the two.

Taste starts off with an initial piny bite, bit of grapefruit, pretty floral from teh warrior I think, seguing into some nice, dry, biscuity malt that's just a bit toasty. Super refreshing, and the very definition of balanced - dry and hoppy without being too bitter, with a nice malt backbone without ever being sweet. Just a bit fruity. Light lingering bitterness on the tongue that's very refreshing without ever getting annoying or overwhelming.

Mouthfeel is medium-light bodied, carbonation is just a hair sharp. A bit watery towards finish. Dry from beginning to end. Fantastic warm weather beer.

Drinkability is very good. It's just a hair sharp on the hops to get a full 5, but it's damn close. One of my favorites from Surly so far.

Photo of Mistofminn
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Toured the Surly Brewery today, great experience by the way, but I got to try this baby on tap, for free!

Knowing the rules on reviewing from samples, I decided to use 3 of my 5 free drink tickets on some Bitter Brewer. It ended up being more than a normal beer, and a great experience.

Served in a 6 oz (?) tasting glass. Straw in color, with a little bit of amber to it, and a decent off white head. Nice lacing on this one.

This one is very balanced on the nose. Light and clean, I get malts and bitter hops. Also a little bit of citrus.

The taste on this one is great. I'm not familiar with the English Bitter style at all, but sign me up for some more of this! Hop character isn't as strong as I would have hoped, this one is very balanced. It works great and is a very refreshing brew.

Light in body with a lively carbonation. Drinkability is great. The perfect summer brew and the perfect brew to enjoy during a brewery tour in 95 degree weather. Cheers!

Photo of Arbitrator
4.17/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Chilled can into a glass. An extra from Buebie. Thanks Brian!

A: Pours a light amber/straw blend with a generous off-white head. Takes a couple of pours to get it all in the glass, and the head remains for several minutes before receding into a smattering of bubbles and a thin collar around the brew. Leaves some nice patches of lacing down the glass.

S: Leafy green tea and citrus.

T: Tastes a lot like green tea with a citrus component. The hop flavor is forward with this one. When I first had this, I didn't like it, but now I'm impressed with how much flavor it packs for only 4.5%.

M: On the thin side, and carbonation is on the low side.

D: Hiigh. This is the stuff that summer brews are made of. Well done.

Photo of Mauerhan
4.45/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

always an enjoyable experience to crack open another can from surly.

poured into a standard pint glass. a hazy golden orange colored brew flows out of the can evoking a substantial white head that falls leaving a few areas of splotchy lacing. a slim layer of lace stays on top the beer. looking nice.

smell is nice. a nice citrus hop quality right up front. grapefruit is the biggest thing im getting off of this. with a nice malt balance in there as well.

taste is pretty damn good. I am not well acquainted with english style bitters but if they are like this I feel I will be making a point to try more of them. subtle earthy almost a medicinal hop quality on the palate. slight sweetness with a faint bitterness that finishes off the ride. this beer tastes great.

mouth is smooth and easy going. calling this thing an easy drink would be the understatement of the month. a fantastic session ale. wow. well done surly. not just if you would start selling your beer in so cal...

Photo of katan
3.56/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can into a pint

A - Pours a dark golden to almost golden-brown colo. Head formation is quite strong, well retained. Bright white in color. Well carbonated. No hazing or yeast suspension.

S - A potent note of american hops, the orangy grapefruit bite is strong and right in your face. Very grassy. Amarillo? A bit direct for a bitter I would think.

T - Starts off with only a light sweetness, which immediately turns to the strong hop bitterness. Hops are very "meaty" tasting. Finishes off with a bit of that outright bitter aroma and taste. I have to admit I taste almost a dishwasher detergent backdrop in here - badly acidic and extremely biting. I know its tied to the incredible late hop additions to this beer, but for some reason its not jiving. How do they calculate only 37 IBUs in this thing? All dry hopping?

M - Moderate body - not thin by no means, backbone and mouthfeel driven by a solid carbonation bite. Aftertaste is oily.

D - An interesting change of pace beer. A bit filling as I can detect carbonation building on the stomach. ABV is very manageable. Moderate drinkability.

I'm having a tough time with this beer. In one way I am saying a big "eh" to it due to that almost solvent like taste. At the same time, I'm not sure it wasn't intended around a massive hop backbone without bitterness. I have several more of these, so we'll see if things change.

Photo of swizzlenuts
4.23/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

A: Copper with a fluffy off white head.

S: Hoppy marmalade. It reminds me of green tea/lemon tea.

T: Tastes almost exactly how it smells. All around great hop flavour and maltiness. Tastes wonderful. I don't know how they pack so much flavour into a 4% beer.

M: A bit thin.

D: Incredible

Photo of smittyjr
4.5/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is another one of my favorites, especially for the summertime!

Poured into a tall tulip glass out of a 16oz can:

A- an aggressive pour results in a orange color, with a perfectly white head, that is around 1". Awesome retention on the head and great lacing all the way through!

S- Greatness! Grapefruit/Tropical fruits with a hint of malty sweetness you find once you open your mouth! very enticing smell! i think of skittles when i smell this beer!

T- very close to the smell. Citrus hops seem to be the most prevalent, but tropical in a sense more than citrus. It starts out all fruit, tropical with a hint of floral-ness. it finishes in my mind with the malts, toasted-british, and that is the only thing i would change, but it still doesn't turn me off. i don't taste the marmalade much at all but maybe that is the tropical-ness i taste?

M- Great, light, crisp and refreshing! perfect for summer!

D- Very drinkable, could drink it all day! its crisp and refreshing and of course, full of flavors i enjoy!

Photo of Hojaminbag
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I just got this one today in a trade with Masterski. Thanks Alex.

A clear, light copper colored body with at least two fingers of off-white, soapy, head. Some big, thick lacing is left behind.

The nose has an intense toasted malt aroma paired with some floral, citrusy hops.

A blast of citrus with some bitterness comes through first. Next comes a big, toasted malt flavor that also has an edge of sweetness that is also from the malt. Together, the two malt characteristics and the citrus flavor from the hops taste a little bit like what the can suggests is marmalade. Slightly bitter, dry finish.

Light bodied with an very dry finish.

Surly makes some great stuff, and I dig anything in cans. Like the other brews I have tasted from them, this one is tasty and very drinkable; nice beer.

Photo of ChopperSmith
3.6/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a tall Surly can into large pilsner glass.

Appearance - This ale poured a dark copper color, almost orange. The cloudy white head didn't last long, but left nice lacing behind as it faded away.

Smell - Not much to the nose, a little hops and some malt, bit nothing too special.

Taste - Hoppy with a slight taste of citrus (more orange than lemon). A malty barley flavor as well. Just a tinge of bitterness on the tongue as an aftertaste. A very well done English Bitter style.

Mouth feel - Light and thin, but the relatively high carbonation gives it the right zing on the tongue.

Drinkability - Not usually my favorite style, but not bad either. My least favorite Surly so far.

Photo of PerzentRizen
3.93/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured into a Goose Island Honker's Ale pub glass Bitter Brewer has a deep straw to very light burnished copper color with a decent head that recedes to lacing as the beer closes.

The aromas are of toasted barley and little else. There really is not much in the way of aroma hops.

The flavors upon first sip are reminiscient of Furious (Surley's IPA - another great beer). The same hops are used but to a lesser degree. There is a bit of a watered down flavor going on that I'm not that into but it's good for drinking on the lawn mower.

The mouthfeel is just about perfect for the style - light but a just a hair too light for me. I need a little more malt and perhaps a little less carbonation. I would imagine their cask conditioned version is amazing - I believe it is oak aged as well.

The drinkability is exceptional. I drank mine in a mere few minutes and would love another; if only the brewery wasn't 1400 miles away. Oh well that's why there's trading.

Photo of mothman
4.09/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into Sam Adams Sensory Glass

1 finger fizzy off white head. Decent retention with minimal lace. The color took me a few tries to distinguish. It is a dark orange/brown pumpkin.

Aroma: very bitter hops. caramel. Very bready. A very sweet, inviting beer. Wow, it makes me want to drink this badly.

Taste: The beer is very pleasing and quite satisfying. I am normally not the biggest fan of the style but the boys of Surly got another one done right! Mild hops, mostly floral. Not to bitter like an ipa. Bready. Some citrus. Very good.

Mouthfeel: A little bitter but nothing compared to an IPA. Almost a touch sweeter. Medium bodied. Good carbonation. Ends with an IPA aftertaste... sticky and full of floral hops.

Overall, I am really digging this beer. It seems to be just right for me at this point in time. Easy drinking. Tasty. Not to filling. I will be drinking more of this.

Photo of nrbw23
3.57/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours a slightly hazy orangish amber with a nice cream colored head. Head left a thin lacing down the sides of the glass.

S- Smells of hops mainly citrus with a touch of malt sweetness.

T- Actually a little disappointed in the taste of this one. Almost tea like taste with a touch of orange.

M- Light in body and nice carbonation.

D- Could probably drink quite a few of these but would rather go with something else like Bender or Furious.

Photo of rtepiak
4.37/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

had it on tap at rodan.

a copper ale with a moderate head and a fantastic textbook english lemon sweet. bready nose. a nice oak aroma even. but lemon sweet tea nose. palate of mild bitter that has a ash like quality. not necessarily smoky... not necessarily chalky... but somewhere between there in the finish. a balanced sweet of citrus and a body that makes for something wonderfully fruit complex for this abv. absolutely fantastic.

although i have been told that the beer is rather inconsistent. i may have lucked out but it was really worth it.

Photo of Maction
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Into an imperial pint glass, it was semi-opaque with golden edges surrounding orangey amber. A foamy off-white head collapses quickly, but still leaves lace down the side of the glass.

S: At first whiff, shortbread and cream, and then some spicy berry underneath.

T: I initially get a sweet bread-like flavor, a buttery middle, and mineral water finish

M: The mouth feel is just slightly heavy, and the carbonation cuts out quickly, again like a nice imported sparkling mineral water.

D: Rich but refreshing, this would be one of my go-to summer beers if it were locally available.

Notes: Thanks to mnjeff for the trade!

Photo of StonyB
3.85/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Many, many thanks to BA Beerloco for generously providing me with this beer. You're a class guy, Alan...

Appearance - Moderately brisk pour into my standard pint glass reveals a hazy, rich orange-brown. Cloudy but not opaque. Half-finger of foam settles in and takes up shop.

Smell - Pleasant toffee and lightly toasted malt aroma. Very slight hop and fruit presence.

Taste - Caramel up front, slightly tart fruitiness follows. As befits the style, very easy to drink, with hops hiding in the background and no alcohol heat.

Mouthfeel - Somewhat creamy, but fairly thin.

Drinkability - Pleasantly mild and low ABV, so quite sessionable.

Surly's rep precedes itself, so if I'm slightly disappointed it's for that reason alone. But as an American example of an English Bitter, it's well done and very drinkable. Recommended.

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Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 999 ratings.