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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Educational use only; do not reuse.

992 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 992
Reviews: 428
rAvg: 4
pDev: 11%
Wants: 224
Gots: 67 | FT: 3
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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Ratings: 992 | Reviews: 428 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Metalmonk
4.02/5  rDev +0.5%
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 -15.5%
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 +6.3%
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 +11.3%
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 -0.7%
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 +4.3%
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 +11.3%
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 -11%
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 +5.8%
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 +12.5%
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%
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 -10%
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 -1.8%
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 +2.3%
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 -10.8%
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 +9.3%
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 +2.5%
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 -3.8%
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.

Photo of spointon
3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured this one from a tall Surly can into a tulip pint glass.

A= This ale poured a fairly dark orange color with a 1" rocky white head and modest carbonation release. The head showed incredible retention and never settled lower than 1/4" of densely packed goodness. Some decent web lacing all over my glass.

S= Very aromatic, with biscuity malt sweetness being offset by floral and grapefruit hops, and a mere hint of pine. There was also a rather large estery/tropical fruitiness that at first seemed odd but somehow worked well with the other aromas. Very interesting overall.

T= Very much like the aroma. Sweet caramel and biscuit malts, against floral and citrus hops. The odd tropical note in the aroma came through much stronger in the taste. Sort of like fruit loops if fruit loops were made to emulate tropical flavors like kiwi, mango, and papaya. Not quite offputting, but odd tasting nonetheless. Finish was appropriately dry.

MF= Light side of medium bodied with a perfect, soft carbonation feel.

D= A pretty drinkable and surely sessionable ale here, I just wish that odd tropical cereal flavor was not present. Would gladly drink it again though if one was offered to me.

Photo of hardy008
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - Pours a hazy light orange color with a foamy white two finger head.

Smell - Has a strong aroma of floral and citrus hops. Smells strongly of grapefruit peeling.

Taste - Floral hops and a grapefruit peeling flavor from the citrus hops dominate this beer. There is a little bit of sweetness as the beer warms, and some malt flavor comes through. Leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Lightbodied, clean, and crisp.

Drinkability - A nice drinkable beer, gets a bit sweeter as it warms. Finishes dry.

Photo of wardough
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Simply awesome! I had this beer out of a can after a long day at work. This is a great example of a session beer that you can enjoy any day of the week (hence the 4% alcohol). Love it.

It pours a typical light amber into a glass. Light lacing. Smells of beautiful flowers and light citrus. Taste is sweet with a bitter aftertaste. It's freaking awesome. Mouthfeel and drinkability are above average for the style.

Overall, search this one out for a nice session ale.

Photo of dfillius
4.07/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

7 of 7 daily reviewed beers in honor of Craft Beer Week

Served in a pilsener glass at Axel's Bonfire on Grand in St. Paul, MN
A: Little head, hazy golden liquid. More head, less haze please.
S: Grassy hop, urine from a dehydrated person? :-(, but not horrible surprisingly. Not much there when cold, but worlds better upon warming. Slight citrus smell.
T: Mild with a decent Noble hop bitterness. Then the malt comes in later. Hop bitterness does hang on at the very end.
M: Good carbonation. A little green banana starchiness, but not bad - it gives diversity to the mouthfeel.
D: A session beer. I would order another and definitely buy a four pack. Glad I stuck with this one! It got better as I drank it and peaked just before I finished it.

Photo of sonicdescent
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky red/gold liquid with that great Surly head. Oddly low carbonation visuals in my Sam Adams sensory glass.

Smells of mild malt goodness, almost like a tea. No booze presence.

Taste is mild, as it should be, making for an easy drinker. Light hop presence and of course malt that I can't discern.

Mouth is medium in body and carbonation. Goes down easy and smooth.

My first of this style is a pleasant one!

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

Poured from 16oz can into a pint glass.

A :: Golden honey brown with an aggressive rocky white head
S :: Grassy, light pine and biscuit. Subdued hops aroma was quite pleasant.
T :: Toasted grains and a nice malt feel that fades into an odd orange flavor.
M :: Soft and gentle carbonation. Finished quite crisp
D :: Very drinkable. After so many high ABV beers, this was quite refreshing. Great flavor, well balanced and very enjoyable.

Photo of shadow1961
3.82/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Surly Bitter Brewer pours a thin disk of foam over an orange brew. Carbonation is steady and the nose is fresh pine hop aroma. The flavor is light toasty English malts with apricot notes and grapefruit rind hop bitterness off the back. Mouthfeel is light and crisp with that grapefruit rind persisting in the aftertaste. At 4% alcohol by volume, it nods to the great English tradition of brewing light, yet flavorful ales yet in this case with a healthy addition of American hops. Very interesting and flavorful!

Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 992 ratings.