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.

986 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 986
Reviews: 427
rAvg: 4
pDev: 11%
Wants: 223
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)
View: Beers (40) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Bitter Brewer Alström Bros
Ratings: 986 | Reviews: 427 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of capra12
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed solo courtesy of Speedwayjim, poured into an east end pint glass.

Appearance: Poured a rather foamy 1 finger head, orange/ tan slightly cloudy. spotty/weblike lacing.

Smell: citrus/ grassy hops with a hint of pine.

Taste: Opens with a subdued hop profile which consist of citrus/ and earthy hops. There is a subtle malt profile that is around but doesnt influence/mask the bittering hops which emerge in the middle end but arent overwhelmingly hoppy. There is a very subtle tea/herbal profile that comes and goes in the open to middle. The aftertaste on this is citrus/grassy with a fair amount of bitter.

Mouthfeel: moderate carbonation, with a light body and leaves a slightly dry palate along with a coarse body but clean also

Drinkability: I would have this again and recommend this to someone who seeks a citrus/grassy hop/bitter brew that has a clean and light body. Very enjoyable.

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

A : Poured a nice golden color with a thin white head

S : Lots of hops and pineapple. Some malt to the aroma also

T : Lots of citrus hops along with some fruit flavors. The malts that are present do a good job to balance out the hops

M : Good carbonation

D : Really good and easy to drink. One I wouldn't mind having on a regular basis.

Photo of N_Schleret
4.09/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a cloudy amber color with a half finger head that dissipates to a sudsy top.
S: Hops as soon as I open the can with a sweet malt backbone.
T: light malt, hops, and bitter.
M: Light body, medium/light carbonation, very crips.
O: Very easy to drink for the summer. Great to bring to the camper for the weekend and drink a handful.

Photo of syrupjoe
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

16oz can poured into pint glass

Pours with a one finger creamy off-white head. Head dies out rather quickly and leaves a decent amount of lacing. Hazy dark golden color with a decent amount of small particulates.

Smells of roasty, grainy, toffee with a definite tropical resinous hop presence.

Taste is fruity, bready, grassy, light and a bit sweet.

Rather light bodied with low to moderate carbonation.

Overall, a great summer beer. I can't get enough of this stuff when it's hot out. Tons of flavor while still being extremely quaffable. Will keep a stock of this in my fridge when it's in season.

Photo of devilben02
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This can came in an unexpected but very welcomed package from a friend who has family in Minnesota. It pours with a warm, light orange-amber color and a big, fluffy, sticky head. The aroma provides a nice balance of sweet caramel malt and some light herbal hops. The flavor likewise blends fruity, sweet malts with a bright yet somehow musty combination of hops, and the light effervescence further lightens the flavor profile. Overall, this beer , has a nice earthy quality, but it is at the same time light, bright, sweet, and quite drinkable.

Photo of dfillius
4.08/5  rDev +2%
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 InspectorBob
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into my Sam Adams glass. A hazy orange/amber color with about one finger of hesd with good retention and nice lacing throughout.

Aroma of grapefruit and orange. A nice balance of hops and malts.

The mouthfeel is light/medium bodied with some nice carbonation and some bitterness on the finish.

Very refreshing.

Could drink alot of this, a nice session beer.

Photo of
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Cafe 28

Slightly hazy, golden colored liquid. Topped with a small, white colored, creamy head. No lacing or legs. Brewed with glacier and warrior hops. "Lawnmower beer for hopheads".

Nice aroma, mainly grassy hops. Touch of yeasty/bread. Very nice.

Taste is similar, grass seems to be dominant flavor. Bit of bread and caramel to offer some balance.

Very light bodied, could be just a touch heavier. Carbonation seems pretty light as well. Nice and dry. Smooth and refreshing.

A highly enjoyable summer beer for the hop lover. I would/could drink a bunch of this on a hot day. Reminds me just a bit of Gumballhead - great flavor, light body and low ABV.

Photo of Parrotbeak
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Copper with a yellow hue, and a thin, white head that remains.
Smell is an almost even balance between malts and hops. Some light caramel, toffee, and nutty tones in there, as well as some light citrus notes.
Taste is nutty malts up front with some hops following close behind. More light caramelly and nutty tones, with the malts carrying through to the finish, along with some ample bitterness.
Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, though there is a crisp bite that comes in near the finish. light body.
Very good drinkability. Quite refreshing on a hot summer night, and the relatively low ABV helps.

Photo of mothman
4.08/5  rDev +2%
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 xnicknj
4.08/5  rDev +2%
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.

Photo of budgood1
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours out of the 16 oz. can a dirty dark peach colour with bronzed hues. a thin fine head appears and sticks a bit to the side of the glass leaving fine rings of lace. citrusy aroma, somewhat bready and toasty, also. taste is a nice balance between toasted maltiness and a citrusy hop bitterness that lingers on the tongue for a long while...making me long for another sip well before i should wanting another. it's a simple yet complex concoction as the malts and hops play well off each other making it seem like there is more going on than there actually is. pure genius. the body is on the light side as a low ABV bitter should be, yet the mouthfeel is lively, crisp and refreshing. drinkability is certainly skewed towards being a sessionable ale. in other words, very good.

a very tasty offering here. surly again impresses me with a twist on a style that sometimes isn't respected in america. recommended.

Photo of facundoCNB
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a clear light amber pour with 2 fingers of fluffy white head. smells of caramel, pine, orange peel. a nice refreshing citrusy hop taste with a hint of breadyness and sweet malt. dirt, pine, caramel taste. light body with a bitter aftertaste, yet somehow nicely refreshing, soda-like carbonation, decent lacing.

this is an excellent session ale, and a great esb. perfect for the summer heat! great taste, great mouthfeel, and looks excellent.. though, not too great on the nose, session beers are very hard to get this high of a rating. job well done by surly.

Photo of Scotchboy
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A pint can of awesomeness sent by Aaron (thanks man!) poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint.

A: Beautiful sunset gold with a large slightly off-white head...also, this thing poured with a ton of floaties....didn't notice that at first.

S: Floral hops with a citric edge, very American smelling, with a pale malt graininess underneath. Smells very refreshing.

T: Taste is similar to the nose, the hops are there for flavor but the bitterness is low; flowers, tangerine and grapefruit rind blend with notes of toasted bread, malted pale grains, and hints of caramel.

MF: Light to medium and refreshing, with lower levels of carbonation. Very drinkable.

O: A seriously drinkable summer beer in my opinion. This IS the beer I would reach for if I was looking for IPA flavor without the oppressive bitterness.

Cheers Aaron!

Photo of mynie
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4


Pours roughly the same color as the can, a very bright shade of orange topped with a fluffy white head. Smells of Surly yeast, citrus hops, and white bread. Certainly an American take on an ESB--and that's in no way a bad thing.

Tastes very much like it smells, almost like a very light west coast APA only with Surly's excellent yeastmanship helping hold everything together. The hops are subtle yet variegated, the malt is sweet, and the balance is superb.

Photo of angrybabboon
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cheers to Goblinmunkey7 for hooking me up

Review adapted from notes taken 8/19/11

Appearance: An interesting hazy orange/light copper color, nice little white head, great lacing

Smell: Pale and caramel malts, lightly toasted - floral hops with a touch of light citrus - smells very clean and fresh

Taste: Toasted, grainy malts - very dry - some light fruits, including orange - seems kind of American and kind of English with the hop profile - very clean, very balanced

Mouthfeel: Light to medium, nicely carbonated, crisp, smooth, stupidly drinkable

Overall: I could drink this beer all. day. long.

This is absurdly drinkable, and it has way more flavor than the 4% ABV would imply. It's relatively mild, but that is the point. For the style, Surly has nailed this.

Photo of mfnmbvp
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

16 fl oz. can, with canned on date 05/12/2014 printed on the bottom of the can. So this is some pretty fresh beer right here. Expectations are high based on this beer's great ratings.

Poured into a Duvel tulip glass.

A - Pours a nice burnt sienna orange colored body, not unlike an IPA. Three big frothy fingers of chunky off-white foam with excellent staying power. Lots of very fine sediment lurking in the glass. Looks very nice.

S - The aroma is very pleasant also - nice and balanced crisp caramel / bready malts paired with some fresh juicy floral / citrus hops - pine, grapefruit, orange marmalade. Light yeast presence.

T - The taste is delicious; this thing is packing a ton of flavor for such a low 4.00% abv. Perfect balance of crisp dry bready malts, and citrus orange hops.

M - The feel is excellent - smooth, juicy, and creamy, with just the right amount of hop bitterness leftover on the palate. Super easy drinking and light-bodied with excellent carbonation.

Overall, a wonderful summer beer from Surly. Super clean, balanced, and refreshing, and above all it packs a ton of flavor for such a low abv. Probably the best 'English bitter' style beer I've had as of yet. Definitely an essential summer beer.

Surly Bitter Brewer ---4/5.

Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

16 oz can poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass. Beer comes out a nice golden yellow color, looks like it has decent clarity. Glows when held up to the light. White colored head with mostly small bubbles that is actually a little creamy looking after a hard pour, but reduces to just a skimming across the top after awhile. VERY good lacing.

Never found English Btitters to smell all that great, but Surly does a pretty good job. It's hoppy without being overbearing or underbearing, you know it's there. Sort of a sweetness somewhere in the middle like a non acidic clementine. Decent malt backbone (all pale)for the style, but still a weak beer.

Flavor is slightly beady but some bitter citrus, lemon (bottom towards the peel) and grapefruit. A little earthy and slight hay and a slight fresh grassy flavor. Really good tasting overall.

Light bodied beer and extremely drinkable. Petty layered and somewhere between clean and oily, more towards the clean side yet reasonably crisp. Slight bitter pinch at the end and well carbonated. Overall a really good beer. Perfect beer if you're not sure what you're in the mood for drinking at the moment.

Photo of Blybloke
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Picked this up at The Liquor Barrel in Golden Valley.

Pours a nice orangish yellow with about an inch tight white cap.

It smelled great. Lemon, pineapple and grapefruit come to mind. Very inviting.

Taste didn't quite match the smell but it was decent. Nice mellow flavor, orange and like the can says, toast.

Mouthfeel was good.

Very smooth. Very drinkable with its relatively low ABV.

Bender is better for a session beer, but that's just my opinion. Pick this one up if you see it.

Photo of sommersb
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasted On: 10-20-2012
Freshness: Canned on 05-21-12
Packaging: 16 oz. can
Glassware: Nonic pint
Purchased: Received in a trade

Hazy and dark copper in color, with lots of bubbles and other particles seen in suspension. A couple of fingers of off-white head shows very good retention and a nice lace.

Impressive aromas of pine and citrus hops dominate the nose. The taste has a notable American hop presence as well, with citrus/grapefruit flavors. Breadiness from the malts helps even out the bitterness and makes for a good balance.

Medium bodied, with a moderate level of carbonation. Finishes dry and bitter. Overall a very pleasant ale from Surly.

Thanks to fLax for this one!

Photo of Urbancaver
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Well this is a nice little treat courtesy of mnbearsfan

Pours a hazy cloudy golden orange. A nice bit of white frothy head. Good head retention. Smells... Bitter, mildly bitter and hoppy but more sweet and earthy than anything. Tstes similar. Low impact, subtle bitter hops compliment a very smooth sweet malt backbone. The mouthfeel is really impressive on this beer. Smooth, clean, thick, very drinkable. This beer is really enjoyable!

Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.04/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A - Copper orange, clear, with a large white head that bubbled off quickly and reduces to a thin film, with mild lacing.

S - Surprisingly strong hop note, mostly of pine. Malt is also present, a quality of bread.

T - This is a subtle brew, but offers both cracker flavors and bread in the malts and an element of grass from the hop. There is a hint of citrus and pine, but it buried deep in the mix. Most important is the bitter shift at mid-point, where we get a more standard bitter.

M - For as bitter as this is, the brisk carbonation and light body and ABV keep things bright and easy. A true session beer.

O - Where I've found most bitters lack something at their core, this bitter is robust and fully realized, ultimately quite satisfying. This is not my favorite style, but this represents an exciting entry that I'd actually reach for when looking for a brew by the lake where I need to keep my edge.

Photo of stephensinner
4.04/5  rDev +1%

Photo of claspada
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance has great lacing; this is gonna be nice and sticky...
Aromas are initially of orange and clementine and then you get some fresh cut grass and notes of more lemony citrus. There is a slight bready pale malt in the background as well as it warms.
The tastes begin with a nice full pale malt backbone but quickly shifts to the hops flavors. The hops are earthy and grassy with slight grapefruit and pine as well. The lemon rind is also a nice ever present flavor throughout this beverage.
The mouthfeel is medium to full with adequate carbonation. Finishes fairly crisp and lightly sticky from the ample hopping.
Overall this is a great great great beer in the English Bitter category. This passes 21st Amendment Bitter American as my new favorite beer under 5 ABV. Extremely drinkable and crisp. If you enjoy a nice pale ale/bitter with English style hopping, you must seek this out. Highly highly recommended.

Photo of FtownThrowDown
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Can thanks to Pwoods.
Amber in color with a two inch head on the pour. Head quickly disappears but leaves nice lacing throughout the glass. Taste is subtle hops and I'm getting a hint of green tea. This is very sessionable and incredibly smooth and drinkable. Would be a nice session beer to have on hand for this time of season.
Another solid beer from Surly. I love these guys.

Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 986 ratings.