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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

952 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 952
Reviews: 426
rAvg: 4
pDev: 11.25%
Wants: 222
Gots: 65 | 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
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Ratings: 952 | Reviews: 426 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of BDLbrewster
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Thank you southview liquors, Poured a beautiful hazy koolaid orange with a one finger head that disappeared fairly quick. Smells like grapefruit, orange peel and a little bit-o-sweet malt Taste the hops on the front, the subdued malt and then goes down mildly bitter. Exhale through your nose and enjoy the super citrus and mild malt that makes this brew kick ass. Pretty ok for the style. The low ABV makes it easy to tip back a few.

BDLbrewster, Apr 13, 2009
Photo of jjanega08
4.68/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A= pours an amber orange color with a pillowy white head and amazing lacing on the glass. Really looks great.
S= great hop aroma. Floral and I feel like its got a little hoppy peppery bit to it. There is the faint smell of a grainy malt.
T= really a good bitter. Hoppy enough and also a fabulous grain taste. When home brewing it tastes like steeping grains smell. Again a slight peppery bit.
M=smooth and crisp. Quite refreshing
D= extremely high. The most sessionable beer in the world I think. Never tasted anything so great with such a low abv. Truely a masterpiece.

jjanega08, Apr 05, 2009
Photo of jamie2dope
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks goes out to Todd for sending me home with a can of this stuff. Poured this beer in to an English pint glass. Color was a hazy dark orange, with a large, frothy white head. Floral hops kick off the nose, followed by some biscuit, bread crust, and some dry grain. Taste is very similar to the smell, all of the above mentioned smells were also present in flavor, with the floral hops asserting themselves more. Definitely seems to be a medium sized beer in body. Drinkability is really something. The low alcohol content along with the high level of complexity make it an excellent session brew. Surly has not disappointed with any of their beers so far. I especially love the style; It is one that I rarely get a chance to try, so I am very happy that I had the opportunity. Now my only problem is that this glass is becoming empty far too quickly. Get Surly.

jamie2dope, Mar 24, 2009
Photo of JoeCeez
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: Pours, from a can, a tawny chillhazed orange with a finger sized white head and a ton of lacing

S: smells very mildly of citrus and exotic fruits and some sweet toasty malt, smells like a bitter but with more fruit

T: very mellow, (this can is 6 months old) delicious balance of citrus/grassy hops and sweet malt, no flavor takes the fore front instead forming an ambrosia of beery goodness

M: very creamy with a kiss of carbonation, I'd love to try this on cask

D: Goddamn this beer is drinkable, if it wasn't so difficult to get this would be my go to session beer. There's just not enough Bitters out there and the majority of them are past their prime, Surly comes through again proving that, for some beer, cans are the perfect medium

JoeCeez, Feb 18, 2009
Photo of CrellMoset
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can courtesy of Phocion, split with some friends as part of my 1-year on BA Anniversary tasting. My portion poured into a brandy snifter.

Appearance: A very, very-slightly hazy yellow-bodied beer with only a slight tint of orange. The head - half a finger of foamy, dull white - recedes quickly, leaving a thin collar, a full, delicate sheen, and a ton of sticky, blobby, disconnected lacing. Very nice. Carbonation is infrequent but incredibly fast, zipping, racing to the top.

Aroma: Strangely hoppy, grassy, orange zest-like, which - though it isn't stylistically the most accurate - is still pretty nice. The malts are toasty, light, dry, faintly buttery. Good American interpretation.

Taste: Very neutral, almost like lightly-hopped seltzer water. The malts are incredibly grainy and light - though there does exist the faintest roasted edge - and are balanced by a healthy amount of bitterness and a kiss of grassy hoppiness. The water is slightly minerally, which doesn't come through as a metallic note (can!), but does add an interesting dimension.

Mouthfeel: Big effervescence, slightly uneven in the incredibly thin body. It's nice, and works well with the light malt notes, the light hoppiness, the light ... everything. Crisp and refreshing, though still surprisingly soft.

Drinkability: An entirely inoffensive and sessionable brew. It's not the most flavorful or aromatic beer out there, but hey, it's not supposed to be, is it? I could see bringing a four-pack of these along on a camping trip (though I suppose I could see doing the same w/ a four-pack of Ten FIDY ...). A tasty beverage.

CrellMoset, Jan 19, 2009
Photo of flexabull
4.22/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Can courtesy of Tayner, thanks again!

Beer pours a bright gold color with a nice big white head. Looks great in my imperial pint glass.

Aromas are of citrus, oranges, light hops, and slightly sweet hard candies.

Taste is pretty spot on to the style, with a little american twist. Light creamy malts, some sweetness, cerereal grains, and a brewed tea like flavor. Finish is crisp, a little dry, and long, with a slight pine, mineral and earthy hops bitterness.

Mouthfeel is nice. Good carbonation, light, but not watered down.

Drinkability is sky high. This is a tasty beer, super sessionable, and would be a staple in my fridge if this was available locally.

flexabull, Jan 10, 2009
Photo of MasterSki
3.98/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap at the Binny's SL Tasting Room.

A - Murky, semi-transparent, apricot color with a one-fingered, off-white head. Great lace and decent retention. Some visible carbonation. A little more head volume would have been nice.

S - Centennial hops? Reminiscent of Bell's Two-Hearted at first with the tangerine citrus and pineapple, as well as some of the Surly candy smell. But as it warms up it unleashes some bitter lemon and pine, as well as a stronger English malt character. Really interesting combination of aromas.

T - Dryer than I expected. English ESB taste - bready, with a touch of malt sweetness. I was kind of underwhelmed. Bitter on the top of the palate, and nowhere as sweet as it smells. It gets a little stronger as it warms, but the strongest flavor profile comes when I burp - thankfully it's a good flavor!

M - Tingly carbonation that suits the bitterness. Creamy, smooth, and a little watery, although that's not inappropriate for the style.

D - My only knock is the carbonation - might get bloaty after a few. Low ABV makes it highly sessionable.

Not my favorite Surly, but a solid brew and a nice change of pace.

MasterSki, Jan 08, 2009
Photo of Proteus93
3.58/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Murky blonde. White, cloudy head topping it off but it's very quick to recede.

S + T: Very difficult to pull anything out of it. That's not horribly bad at all. Seems light, with a very "neutral" presence. The bitterness is there, but it's got more of a tonic water kind of thing happening. Some hints of caramel come out as it goes. I'd almost consider adding this to gin, really!

M + D: Goes down fairly easily, with a rather assertive carbonation. Light enough to swig it back, but lacking in some flavour/aroma.

Proteus93, Jan 06, 2009
Photo of badbeer
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Goldish copper color with a white head with great retention and lacing. Aroma of tangerine, apricots, and some perfume notes. Taste is immediately of apricots, followed by some sort of sweet candy that I'm not sure of the name of, followed by some tangerine in the finish. Light bodied and on the lower side of medium carbonation.

badbeer, Dec 28, 2008
Photo of mikereaser
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - pours a hazy copper color with very little foam

S - aromas of grapefruit, lemon and some caramel

T - Grapefruit and caramel malt taste with a bit of a hoppy bite to it

M/D - very drinkable, nice carbonation and nothing too overwhelming, just a nice tasting beer from a great company.

mikereaser, Dec 26, 2008
Photo of lackenhauser
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Average copper color. Heavy handed hops in the aroma-very grassy and grapefruity. Pleasantly malty-more hops then I expected but thats just me. Nice bitterness to it. Body is ok but a tad thin. Overall a lot of flavor in a low abv. Because of the thinness in the body I might tone the hops back a bit. Just a thought-still a damn good beer.

lackenhauser, Dec 24, 2008
Photo of kirok1999
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks rayjay!
Pours a cloudy dark gold with lots of massive lacing and bits of head floating like islands in the glass.
Smell is lots of sweet malt, biscuit, slight caramel.
Taste is a great blend of malt and hop. Hops are grassy and slightly floral. The malts finish things off nicely, not at all bitter, but a very pleasant, rich and heavy malt. Very smooth with a slight, tight carbonation.
Really easy to drink and an extremely well balanced English Bitter.

kirok1999, Dec 16, 2008
Photo of jwc215
4.2/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Wasatch for including this in a trade!

Pours hazed orange amber with a thin white foamy head that stays.

The smell is of citric orange, tangerine, grapefruit with floral and piney notes.

The taste is of orange marmalade with a slight toastiness with spicy floral/citric hop spiciness. A malty, roasted sweetness turns to a bitter dry finish.

Bitter despite the firm, smooth malty backbone. More bitter in the American style than the traditional English. Certainly an American take on the style, with English malts but plenty of American hops. Light enough to be very drinkable/"sessionable" but big on aroma and flavor. This is surely one that is worthy of a bitter "session" brew!

jwc215, Dec 10, 2008
Photo of hwwty4
3.6/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Lordsloth for this one.

Poured a 16oz can into my Tripel Karmeliet tulip. This beer pours a slightly hazy orangish amber with a nice 3 inch head that left thin lacing down the sides of the glass. The smell is straightforward west coast hops. It actually really surprises me that the hop aroma is so prevalent. The flavor is a bit disappointing. Up front, as it says on the can, is an orange preserves flavor, with orange peel and sugar coming through but after that the flavor just diminishes into a watery tea. The flavor really reminds me of a cold, orange citrus tea. The mouthfeel is very thin, but not really light, like a good pilsner would be. I think this beer is very good at what it's trying to be. It's a very (it says 4% on the can) sessionable ale. I could really drink this stuff all day.

hwwty4, Dec 06, 2008
Photo of TexIndy
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got in a trade with pitmonkey - many thanks! Poured from a 16oz can (no dating info but April seasonal release) into a pint glass. It was a very haze orange with a ton of yeast bits floating around. Mini carb geyser in center and good lacing. It has a thick off-white head that slowly settled into a slightly broken foam with a thick collar.

The aroma was heavy floral hops, grapefruit and tea. Like a hop punch in the face - in a good way. Based on the aroma, I was expecting a heavy hop bit but it was actually very subtle. The taste was really lacking in hop bite which was a big surprise. I don't drink tea but based on other reviews and my limited experience with it way back leads me to believe the dominant taste is tea. Makes it sorta watered down for me. What is there is good but wanted more hops. Of course that would make it more of a IPA of ADIPA so maybe this one is right on for the style. Mouthfeel hurt some by the watery feel.

Overall, a rather interesting beer. The aroma leads you in one direction and the taste in another with both of them good. Recommend. Another great one from Surly.

TexIndy, Dec 01, 2008
Photo of sholland119
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Pours a very clear light copper. A thin white head but very nice lacing.

S-Toasted, bready grains with a bit of citric sourness.

T-Simple but delicious. A grainy malt in the front, mixing with a grapefruit bite in the finish.

M-Lingering bitterness but otherwise dry and crisp.

D-Very nice sessionable beer. Nice bitter bite balances some graininess for a tasty, low ABV brew.


sholland119, Nov 03, 2008
Photo of ALESwhatCURESya
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thanks to a buddy of mine for bringing this back from MN this summer. My first sample of this was at the Whitefish Bay fireworks on the 4th of July and it was delicious (even out of the can). This pours, just as the can states, a pale orange color with a nice rocky, airy head of foam that dissipates to subtle lacing and white film. The aroma is filled full of peppery, earthy hops. Heavy resinous notes get me salivating for a taste. A soft biscuit-like smell balances the hops quite well. The taste is full of hop bitterness and malty sweetness. Nothing overpowering at all and the body, although full of flavor, is soft and light. This makes this beer remarkably easy to drink and makes me want more and more with each taste. This may be my favorite from Surly that I have had the pleasure to try. One of the top session beers in my opinion.

ALESwhatCURESya, Nov 01, 2008
Photo of Murchmac
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Happygnome and LNBA BIF for this brew.

Pours a glorious orange with a dense foggy look to it. Like shallow waters run deep. Not much of a head but leaves ring around the collar.

The can smells like fresh hop pellets that you're about to throw into your homebrew. Citrusy. Some bready maltness to it.

Tastes bitter, lots of citrusy hops floating a biscuit of malts, some lingering sweetness from the hops,

Aftertaste someone grating a grapefruit peel on the sides of your tongue.

Surly brewery does full flavored beers, not watered down bitter beer face. I like this place.

Murchmac, Oct 11, 2008
Photo of brewcrew76
4.4/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to tayner for this one.

A - Pours a very hazy copper orange with 2 fingers of rocky off white head and sticky lacing everywhere.

S - Grapefruit and floral hops, grean tea, very herbal, orange tangerine and apricot with biscuit, toffee and toasted bread.

T - Orange and tangerine with a tea like herbal flavor, somewhat floral with biscuit and wheat bread.

M - Light bodied with low carbonation and a dry finish.

D - This one goes down very easy and has a nice herbal hop kick.

brewcrew76, Oct 11, 2008
Photo of EGledhill
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

thanks to beerbeagle for the opportunity to try this one.

poured into pint glass

A. copper color with white head that leaves quick and leaves little lacing.

S. Faint smell of citrusy hops present. slight smell of spice. not overly impressive.

T. again, not overly impressive at all. slight citrusy grapefruit taste to it. Sweet grapefruit. and hops.

M. thin to medium mouthfeel.

D. If this one appeals to you, you could probably pound these all night. I give it the points on that but definitely not my thing.

Glad to have tried it but not impressed at all. In fact not impressed with any of the Surly brews I've tried yet. Wondering if surly's just a victim of the hype train.

EGledhill, Sep 27, 2008
Photo of prototypic
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to lightindarkness for this one. Much appreciated, dood.

Appearance: It pours a clear, light copper color. The head is foamy, white, and stands roughly two fingers tall. It didn't stick around too long and left a very light web of lace on the glass.

Smell: Hops kick it off and have an interesting aroma. They're a little floral, but mostly earthy and grainy. There's some citrus pineapple and grapefruit scents there, but they're not very strong and have a subtle effect. There's a very faint caramel malt aroma that emerges late. All in all, it's very straight forward and uncomplicated, but has a nice smell nonetheless.

Taste: Caramel malts actually lead the charge here. They're sweet and give it a nice base. Citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavors are sweet and complementary. Not a strong fruit flavor at all, but it works weel. The hops kick in and really take over. They give this beer a lot of pizzazz. They mostly floral and grainy, but they do have a solid bitter bite to them. Easily the highlight of the flavor profile. It finishes bitter and a little dry.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: It is light bodied, but it's not far from medium. Mouthfeel is smooth, but not silky. Carbonation is not really high which helps. Drinkability is very high. This is a really easy drinking English bitter. I could drink quite a bit of this and be more than happy to do so.

This is a nice English Bitter. Surly did a good a job with it. This style (by my standards) is dominated by a wealth of mediocre beers. This is a good one that's perfect for a session. Too bad I can't easily get more. Damn limited distribution.

prototypic, Sep 24, 2008
Photo of Wasatch
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to maximum12 for this brew.

Poured into my Surly glass a very nice cloudy golden brown color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger creamy off-white head, with some nice sticky lacing and small islands. The nose is malty, hoppy, bitter, with some citrus notes. The taste is malty, with some very nice hop notes, bitter, citrus notes. Medium body. Very drinkable, a very nice brew.

Wasatch, Sep 24, 2008
Photo of bbothen
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a light orange/rust color with a bubbly 2 finger head. Lots of stickiness on glass.

Nice hoppy citrus/grapefruit aroma with some orange zest & a bisquit like malt scent.

Full grapefruit/citrus hoppiness, mellow maltiness, understated hop earthiness, bready malt backbone.

Light, maybe medium bodied, mild carbonation, lingering dryness.

Easy drinkin bitter. Less filling, tastes great.

bbothen, Sep 23, 2008
Photo of Imstillthegman
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to brdc for this can, an extra he threw in on a recent trade.

Pours a lightly cloudy golden color with a nice two finger off-white head. Decent lacing.

The aroma is filled with herbal tea, along with some well-done toast and some citrus.

The flavor follows those same lines and adds a touch of graininess. The herbal and floral flavors are very enjoyable and not usually joined by any bitterness, which this brew has.

The mouthfeel is just a tad thin, but still very solid. Good carbonation keeps it exciting. Low abv + lots of flavor = excellent session beer. Thanks, Daniel, for the opportunity!

Imstillthegman, Sep 22, 2008
Photo of CaptainIPA
3.68/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

P: Presented in a 16 oz., pale orange/gold can with illustrations depicting Todd: the cynical, surly, bitter brewer. Received from Masala Mama as part of a WI/MN trade. Poured into a Hennepin flute.

A: Pours an iced tea-hued amber with a frothy, two-finger head that clings on and on.

S: Tea, ginger and floral citrus hops. A hint of brown sugar as it warms.

T: Opens with notes of orange marmalade, tea, grapefruit pith and biscuit. No notable sweetness. Bitter on the back end with a crisp hop presence. Finishes dry and somewhat grainy. Crisp and refreshing, but by no means robust.

M: Light-bodied with a thin mouthfeel and an active level of carbonation.

D: An exceptionally light body, modest IBU (37), low ABV, and interesting flavor profile make Bitter Brewer highly sessionable. Recommended if you're looking for a lighter beer with plenty of character.

CaptainIPA, Sep 22, 2008
Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 952 ratings.