1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

927 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 927
Reviews: 422
rAvg: 4
pDev: 11.5%
Wants: 220
Gots: 64 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 05-05-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Bitter Brewer Alström Bros
Ratings: 927 | Reviews: 422 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%

Appearance: Pours a cloudy gold/copper color with a sturdy little head that swathes the pint glass with some shards and dots of lace

Smell: Tea-like aroma with toast and citrus elements

Taste: Opens with a fruity/toasty flavor that blends the malt and hops in an English/American blend; after the swallow, the tea-like elements combine with the fruit to provide a full-flavored finish

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Though better on tap, this is a very nice session beer out of the can as well.

Thanks, tempest, for the opportunity

brentk56, Sep 20, 2008
Photo of paytoplay
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

16oz can, what a solid brew out of a can. My 1st go at any of the Surly beers and it did not disapoint. Some metalic "can" flavor hidden in the finish of the brew maybe? Or was I just saying that as I stair at the can? Poured into tulip glass. Some sour / bitter flavors, intense and with terrific mouth feel, almost like it was barrel aged. Cirtrus, hops, balanced flavor. Really enjoyed this, and the price and packaging!

paytoplay, Sep 16, 2008
Photo of Gueuzedude
4.18/5  rDev +4.5%

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

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

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

Gueuzedude, Sep 10, 2008
Photo of weeare138
3.88/5  rDev -3%

Thanks to TomDecapolis for sharing this...
Appears a semi-transparent light gold with a small white head that fades into a tiny collar.
Smell is of bitter grapefruit, herbs, ripe grapes, and hoppy citrus.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with some fresh grain, and a blast of citrus.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, zesty, peppery.

weeare138, Sep 10, 2008
Photo of mikeale
4.7/5  rDev +17.5%

Sent as an extra from Scoobydank! Thanks man!!!

A. Orange body, sticky looking white head

S. Hoppy, apricots, sweet bready malt.

T. Citris, orange, hoppy, honey biscuit malt.

M. Crisp, refreshing, hops in the finish.

D. Highly drinkable, low in alcohol, I could session these all the time. While I love DIPA barley wine and IRS, this a great session beer.
Thanks again Scoobydank for this great beer.

mikeale, Sep 06, 2008
Photo of oakbluff
3.6/5  rDev -10%

Pours a cloudy tangerine/iced tea colour. Moderate off white head. Nose- orange pekoe tea leaves, marmalade. Taste- sweet marmalade on whole wheat toast. Aspirin dryness on the finish. Light bodied with moderate carbonation. For sure the most flavourful 4.5% beer I've had the pleasure of trying.

oakbluff, Sep 06, 2008
Photo of mjryan
5/5  rDev +25%

Pours a clear orange hue with a lively white head. No lace, good retention. Aroma is crisp apricots and slight bready malts. Flavour is again reminiscent of apricots and light bready malt. Bitterness is pronounced but not over the top. The finish is very dry. The body is very light and the carbonation seems quite high. Very thirst quenching and enjoyable. We need more beers like this around.

mjryan, Sep 03, 2008
Photo of Phocion
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%

16 oz. can split between two pint glasses. Bright transparent golden color with a thin and not-too-resilient white head and minimal lacing.

Extremely hoppy aroma, very citrusy with grapefruit predominate. From the nose, it almost feels more like I'm getting ready to drink a pale than a bitter. Light caramel/biscuity notes in the background, not too well-balanced and not the purest bitter, but still very impressive.

Flavor is somewhat more balanced, with a sweetness standing up to the bitterness from the hops. Somewhat fruity in addition to the citric hops as well... apricot, pears, etc.

Mouthfeel is a little light and low level of carbonation, but very smooth and slick. This is a tasty session beer if I ever had one.

Phocion, Sep 02, 2008
Photo of SkinnyElvis
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

Thanks to darkerthebetter for handing me this brew when he & the missus were over for dinner. Pours with athick head that settles nicely. Light brown in color. smells mostly malty with a hint of spice. Taste is a nice blend of malt & piney hops. Mouthfeel is very smooth. Lots of flavor with a low ABV makes this extremely drinkable. Highly recommended.


SkinnyElvis, Aug 20, 2008
Photo of Kendo
4/5  rDev 0%

A: Poured from the can into a Sam Smith's nonic. Body is clear. Light amber in color with a 1/2-finger ivory head. Some splotches of lace left behind.

S: "Muted" is the word that comes to mind. I get toasty grain and some sweetness -- not sure if it's malt (caramel?) or hop-based (tropical fruit salad?).

T: Initial impression is of coppery metal. Could that be a subconscious reaction to the can? After a few sips that seems to disappear, however, and I get grain and cereal from the malt, with a nice, dry lemony and grassy hop bitterness at the end. Not overwhelmingly complex, but pleasant.

M: Light in heft, nice carbonation.

D: Very drinkable -- light in heft and ABV but with some flavor, this one goes down easy.

Kendo, Aug 16, 2008
Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%

Acquired via trade from brdc so a big "Thank You" goes out to him. Poured from a 16oz. can into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a light brown color, with a thin off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of pale hops, nuts, caramelized malts and some spice.

T: The taste hits with a strong but pale hops bitterness up front. There are complimentary flavors of caramel, nuts, spice and some citrus along with a hearty malt character that provide some balance. The after-taste is hoppy and slightly bitter.

M: Smooth and very crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, mild kick, very good representation of style, this is yet another really good beer from Surly. It's a very flavorful session beer with good substance.

TheManiacalOne, Aug 14, 2008
Photo of lpayette
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%

Received in trade from the generous Lofgrep.

Bitter Brewer pours out of the can a nice hazy orange-yellow color with a solid two fingers of head with great lacing power. From the smell you can quickly tell you're in for a treat. Hints of honey with a nice balanced hop bite. I could try to describe the taste differently, but really this carries over flavor-wise as well. It makes for a perfectly refreshing and amazingly drinkable beer. I just wish this was more readily available to me. Great session beer.

lpayette, Aug 14, 2008
Photo of marcpal
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%

Thanks to Buckeyenation for a couple cans of these to try out on the East Coast.

Pint can poured into Weyerbacher tulip glass.

A: Amber, ice tea tinted beer with a nice foamy head. Spider lacing good and long lasting.

N: Bit of bitter hops, notes of ginseng oddly enough or a spiked herb. Spicy and grassy.

T: Like the look, had some herbal iced tea characteristics. Not a pro on this style, but the malts behind it were more than the smell. Something metallic in there brought it down while being rounded nicely by the spices and cracked pepper. Almost like this light drinker was seasoned.

M: Not a crushing bitterness, even a bit watery.

D: Tons of drinkability. Cans of these went down easy with some grilled squid and Indian curry. Thanks again buckeyenation.

marcpal, Aug 13, 2008
Photo of Cresant
4.68/5  rDev +17%

Poured this 16 oz. can into a British pint glass. No date. The body was amber/leather color with a bit of chill haze. The off-white head was sturdy and pithy.

Smell was Surly-fabulous. Big resin, pine cone aroma. Black pepper. Biscuits. Sweet oranges. Aroma stays and stays.

Taste was marmalade on whole wheat toast. Light bitterness that lingers. Caramel biscuit. I really enjoy the Surly take on the style.

Mouthfeel was mild to medium in carbonation and body. Seems right on for the style.

Cresant, Aug 12, 2008
Photo of mikesgroove
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%

Wow, I never thought I would be landing this one anytime soon. Big thanks to Jay for sending this along on our last trade. I have been dying to try this, but never got around to seeking one out. Big, tall Surly can, poured into a pint glass at fridge temperature and consumed on 08/10/2008.

Poured a very bright, light orange color with a tall white frothy head that lasted for a few minutes before settling down to a thin half inch layer that stayed with it throughout the rest of the session. Nice carbonation bubbling up through the hazy golden body.

The aroma was very light. Nice touches of light citrus fruit, lots of tea and herbal like qualities as well. Very light though in overall aroma and profile. The taste was more of the same. The hops here tasted like green tea, with a light grain like malt flavor that was hard to place. This was definitely an interesting beer. Some light bready taste in the back as well. Very light profile, with lots of carbonation and a somewhat slick feel to it. A true session ale as it drank like it was tea, and I easily could have put down several of these without much of an issue.

Overall this was not a bad one at all. Truly a session beer. Now as for the style to be honest I am not sure about that one. It was weird, like a hybrid light ale. Still though I would not turn this one down at all. A solid offering for sure and something a bit different.

mikesgroove, Aug 12, 2008
Photo of Stinkypuss
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%

A. Poured from a 16oz pounder into a glass. A nice dense head forms around a pale orange body.

S. Some leafy hops in the nose.

T. A citrus hop note around a complex malt backbone. Almost a sour note to its bitterness. Oily hops. Roasted malt.

M. Medium bodied, smooth and refreshing.

D. This is one drinkable beer. Its a shame I only have one sample, but am certainly glad I did. Thanks Oneeye!

Stinkypuss, Aug 11, 2008
Photo of ckeegan04
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%

A - Orangish brown color with foamy one finger off-white head. Decent retention and excellent lacing.

S - Strong aroma of pale malts and citrusy hops. Smells alot like a good citrusy pale ale...which I always find to be good.

T - Light sweetness up front before a very bitter citrusy hop taste comes through. Mildly astringent in the finish.

M/D - Light bodied and very crisp. A very drinkable bitter with a much stronger hop profile than your average English brewed bitter.

ckeegan04, Aug 09, 2008
Photo of grub
3.88/5  rDev -3%

Viggo brought this one over. thanks eric!

16oz can. sampled august 3/08.

pours deep orange with a big fluffy off-white head. the head drops fast and leaves lots of lace.

aroma is great. big biscuit and wheat bread, followed by a solid punch of fresh floral and citrus character. orange, tangerine, bit of apricot. light alcohol.

taste is nice. light orange and tangerine. wheat bread. biscuit. nice tea-like herbal character. slightly earthy and floral. almost no trace of alcohol. low bitterness level.

mouthfeel is good. fairly light body with a mostly dry finish. medium-low carbonation level.

drinkability is good. liked the aroma, but the taste was not quite up to it. seems atypical for the style, but an interesting take on it. still, overall it was quite solid and tasty.

grub, Aug 07, 2008
Photo of Viggo
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%

Big thanks to oakbluff for sending this one my way in a trade. Also had on cask at DLD but was too drunk to review it.

Pours a hazed golden amber, some orange hues, thin white head forms, drops to a nice ring, drops tons of lace on the glass. Smell is nice, citrus, tea like hops, crystal malt, floral, light fruits, very fragrant. Taste is similar, citrus kick, some floral, tea, caramel, some bready malt, nice tangerine bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied with low carbonation, super smooth. Great refreshing low ABV beer, I would love to drink this stuff all day. Thanks Scott!

Viggo, Aug 06, 2008
Photo of Larrytown
3.68/5  rDev -8%

Bitter Brewer is a nutty amber color with a small but spirited head. It leaves a bit of lacing on the glass on the way down. The nose is pretty subdued with a hint of flora coming across.

The beer has a very pleasant taste, but I was a bit taken aback. When I grab a Surly, I expect an explosion of tastes and hops and so much going on that my tongue can barely wrap itself around it all. Not so with this beer. It goes down smooth, with just a tad of bitterness at the end, although not nearly as much as I was expecting. It's got a nice balance to it and is obviously drinkable at that ABV, but if I'll go with one of the other Surly options next time.

Larrytown, Aug 04, 2008
Photo of Sammy
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%

Thanks Bobby for bringing with you on your visit. Pours mostly big creamy soap bubble white head, onto light yellow body.Some citrus and fresh grainy malt in aroma, remembering that this is one season later. Lots of lace layers and dots down my glass. A flavorful bitter, and the can lists but 4%. Satisfying this warm summer day, creamy mouthfeel, and drying finish.

Sammy, Aug 04, 2008
Photo of Atron67
4.58/5  rDev +14.5%

A- poured what is actually pretty dark almost burnt amber color. offwhite lightly biscuit character to it. pretty solid retention and lacing as well with the head which i wasn't expecting.

S- light bicuit and bready character. subdued hops but well balanced. rather sparse in my mind for a bitter however its probably the low carbonation and it not being a cask that make this way.

T- solid malty light biscuit pretty crystal type sweetness to it that is really nice. followed up by a much better (than nose) hop character. i would guess the hops to be willamete, but anything from the goldings family. the hops is just right for the bitter quality. the residual sweetness stays with the hops, without actually being sweet if that makes sense, and your left with a lingering mix of the hop character with a touch of the malts blended.

M- smooth pretty light body, light carbonation though still relatively crisp.

D- definitely an awesome beer, on cask this would probably get all 5's

Atron67, Aug 04, 2008
Photo of lightindarkness
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%

Pours an orange amber color with a sudsy white head on top that sits down to patchy froth.

Nicely juiced aroma comes out over light malt background. Big peach and marmalade with a strong floral sweetness. A little deeper toffee and vanilla cake-like smell comes through too.

More juiciness in the flavor. Lightly bitter with good citrus notes. More cake-like malt character without being too sweet. Caramel, nutty, marmalade and peach, then a little buttery at the finish with more fading bitterness.

Nice lighter medium body with a fading full carbonation through the swallow. Leaves a little slickness, but not much.

Really easy to drink. Good flavor, not crazy great, but solidly good. I could seemingly put back a few of these without trouble.

lightindarkness, Aug 01, 2008
Photo of supercolter
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%

This is another good brew from Surly. Appearance is good, with a copper color and a finger an a half head that dissapates slowly.
Smell is pleasant some light hops that smell very good. A bit of citrus is the only other. Taste isn't as good, the floral hops don't taste as good as they smell. Taste hangs around for a little while.
Mouthfeel is light but ok for the style.
Decent drinkability.

supercolter, Aug 01, 2008
Photo of joepais
3.88/5  rDev -3%

Thanks to LittleBreeze for this interesting brew
Can poured into a pint glass produced a finger worth of white head that went to a thin lace. A slightly hazy light orange body

There isn't much of a nose on this brew. Very light hops and some fruitiness are about all I can get.

Flavors are well balanced malts and bitter hops nothing to extreme on the bitter. very easy drinking light in the mouth and crisp on the tongue

This is a very easy drinking brew great for the summertime. If I could get surly I would consume mass quantities of this stuff.

joepais, Jul 31, 2008
Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 927 ratings.