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Bitter Brewer - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

898 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 898
Reviews: 418
rAvg: 4.01
pDev: 11.47%
Wants: 218
Gots: 58 | FT: 2
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)
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Ratings: 898 | Reviews: 418 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Merchant46


4.68/5  rDev +16.7%

Appearance: A pleasant light amber color. Thick white head that dissipates quickly but maintains a presence. Usually few bubbles.

Smell: A fresh baked bread smell dominates.

Taste: Wonderfully earthy, with a bitterness that avoids being fruity or floral, that lingers nicely.

Mouthfeel: A little thin for an ESB, but actually seems appropriate for this beer.

Drinkability: I never have just one around, bcz I always want another (at least). The relatively low alcohol content is nice, considering how much of this beer I like to drink

Important note: You will really sell this beer short if you drink it ice cold. I usually take a can out of the fridge a half hour before I want to have one, then take the next one when I'm opening the first.

06-07-2010 00:03:17 | More by Merchant46
Photo of jjanega08


4.68/5  rDev +16.7%

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.

04-05-2009 06:32:26 | More by jjanega08
Photo of tempest


4.65/5  rDev +16%

On-tap at the Blue Nile.

Damn, I tried to come in skeptical on this one but it blew me away. It combines awesome hops with the mellow and subtle flavors of a true bitter. I'm knocked out that the true can separate. First a big fruity hops flavor with pineapple punch and citrus hit. Then really mellow vanilla and malt flavors shine through. This beer is deep - the flavors just keep coming. The only real fault I found is that the aroma didn't do much for me and there wasn't much lacing. Whatever on smell and appearance, this one tastes so good I dare say it might be the finest Surly yet.

I want more.

05-31-2007 05:47:38 | More by tempest
Photo of NuclearDolphin


4.65/5  rDev +16%

Poured into a Beer Stein

Appearance - Pours a very hazy and darker orange color. Head pours around 4 inches width. Both head and lacing retention are excellent!

Smell - Rich Floral Hops, Yeasts/Biscuits, Marmalade, Toasted Malts, and a slight grassy smell. This smells very fresh!

Taste - Sweet Yeasts, Floral Hops, Oranges, Biscuits, and Toasted Malts. For a English Bitter, this is a very rich tasting beer!

Mouthfeel - Very light bodied and virtually no carbonation. It's not only smooth and easy to drink, but also crisp and refreshing!

Overall - I enjoyed Honker's Ale before as my goto Bitter Ale, but now it looks like I have a new favorite. It looks good, smells great, tastes great, and feels absolutely refreshing. What more can I say? I will miss Surly when I move to Chicago, but hopefully I will see it once I move there!

04-24-2012 02:02:22 | More by NuclearDolphin
Photo of Stinkypuss


4.63/5  rDev +15.5%

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!

08-11-2008 22:18:27 | More by Stinkypuss
Photo of Hope4Hops


4.63/5  rDev +15.5%

Pours a golden orange with a very slight cloudiness. About half a finger of loose head. Head dissipates rapidly, but leaves a bit of a foam film across the top.

Smell is changes drastically from the can to the glass. In the can, the smell is very strongly hops. Earthy, grassy, citrussy. No real floral notes. Very strong sent from the can. Once poured, most of the scent dissipates. Plum wine and toast with a mild bubblegummy ester scent.

Smooth mouthfeel. Slightly thicker at the back of the throat. Rolls very well off the tongue. Light bubbles.

Taste is superb. Very clean. Citrussy, almost like bitter marmalade. Lots of hops flavor, but not as bitter as one would expect. Strong hops, mild bitterness. Subtle malt play. Adds a very mild toasty taste. The can describes toast and marmalade and that's surprisingly accurate.

All around, a very drinkable beer and perfect for the coming summer months. Not really something you'd want to drink in a Minnesota December, but a great picnic and BBQ beer.

05-09-2008 00:53:21 | More by Hope4Hops
Photo of zeff80


4.6/5  rDev +14.7%

A - Poured out a clear, golden amber color with a one-finger, khaki-colored head of foam. It left thin rings of lace.

S - What an aroma. Pine, pine, pine and more pine. Plus, it was phenolic, too.

T - It had a great pine taste with some nice caramel sweetness. It tastes like an IPA. Can says 37 IBU but it seemed much more bitter than that.

M - It was crisp, sharp and crackled on the tongue. A light to medium bodied ale.

D - Unbelievable. I tried this not because I like the style but because I love Surly. Man, it was worth it! Best Ding-worthy session ale ever!!

01-08-2011 03:14:38 | More by zeff80
Photo of Brad007


4.6/5  rDev +14.7%

Got this in a trade with klynch.

Color: Reddish-amber with a decent one-finger head and decent carbonation.

Aroma: Sweet and lightly malty. Very faint floral bitterness. Mild like the style implies.

Taste: Floral bitterness shows upfront with sweet malt in the middle finished by a light bitterness. Smooth and caramel-like flavor. A second sip confirms much of the same, except that the malt is more pronounced.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and nice bitterness. Malt still shows in the mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Low in alcohol and packed full of flavor, this is what a bitter should be. It's simply too bad that there aren't enough examples of bitters from American companies.

Pick it up and drink it.

06-01-2008 20:25:45 | More by Brad007
Photo of TIMMYJ21


4.6/5  rDev +14.7%

First run of the Bitter this year canned 05/19/11, in fact drinking one as I type.

A-pale orange in color puffy head, leaves a nice lace down the side of the glass

S-very nice aroma, to be expected in all surly brews, nice pine aroma with some citrus and floral notes

T-Mmm orange, not to hoppy, but still taste the nice bitterness, slight sweetness, with a little toasty bread like taste

Very drinkable beer, can consume a few of theses no problem with the low Abv 4%

05-27-2011 20:49:39 | More by TIMMYJ21
Photo of francisweizen


4.6/5  rDev +14.7%

Orange gold with a big white head of large bubbled foam. Aroma is crazy for an English or American bitter Citrus and floral but with a different mix of aromas one would normally find in a bitter. Crazy citrus with kaffir lime peel, pomegranate, and tea in the mix. A bit of grapefruit, marigolds, biscuit malt, and more. Taste is more subdued yet complex fruit sweet citrus and tea with a nice biscuit malt background and a hoppy-sweet finish. Mouthfeel is light and medium bodied which is perfect for a bitter, and drinkability is great. A really solid and unique take on the style. Awesome

05-15-2008 06:47:02 | More by francisweizen
Photo of bennetj17


4.6/5  rDev +14.7%

Lightly hazed coppery-orange appearance. Quite a bit of carbonation fizzing throughout, helping to sustain a dense layer of off-white foam atop. Fine lacing. Great smell of floral hops with a real citrus sweetness, almost like a fresh orange. Very intense and inviting.

The hoppy, orange fruit-like qualities continue in the flavor, although it doesn't taste very sweet as the malt is mostly in the background. Finishes with a moderate bitterness that keeps you wanting more. I'm trying to remember a beer that had that same unique fruit flavor, perhaps a mandarin Hefeweiss? As for the body, its smooth, slightly creamy, with great carbonation.

This beer was one of my favorites. A low ABV session brew, that has the hop intensity of beers twice as strong. The unique citrus aspect was interesting at first, but after one pint you just want more. I would especially love to try this on cask, as I can only imagine it being worthy of a long days session...

07-03-2008 18:00:39 | More by bennetj17
Photo of natasharai


4.58/5  rDev +14.2%

Appearance: Poured with some creamy foamy off white head that dissipated over a few minutes leaving a thin layer and some lacing at the top of my glass. The beer is clear and has an orangish dark gold color.

Smell: Fresh cut grass, sweet citrus, some sweet roasted malt

Taste: Fresh cut grass, piney dry hop flavor, some sweet citrus, sweet roasted malt, ends with a delicious citrus zing. As it warms up there are some hints of spice or black tea.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium carbonation, slightly dry, very refreshing.

Overall: Very drinkable! Very refreshing and delicious! Keeps you wanting more. None of the flavors are overwhelming, nice subtle spiciness as it warms up. Delicious beer!

04-14-2009 05:42:14 | More by natasharai
Photo of wardough


4.58/5  rDev +14.2%

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.

05-30-2009 00:54:02 | More by wardough
Photo of Atron67


4.58/5  rDev +14.2%

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

08-04-2008 02:08:07 | More by Atron67
Photo of photomike


4.58/5  rDev +14.2%

Pours a great looking amber color with a one inch hard white head with good lacing and decent retention. Good looking to be sure.

Smells precisely like my kitchen after a brew day. Sweet and worty with a nice orangey hoppiness tying it all together.

Flavor is somewhat similar. Nice sweet malts balanced perfectly with some orange-rind bitterness. Crazy delicious. Tough to say if this is perfectly "to-style," as I don't have a ton of experience drinking English Bitters, but yep. Crazy delicious.

Light bodied with sparkly carbonation and a clean finish. Great stuff.

I could drink a ton of this, and 16oz just isnt enough. So refreshing and really nice overall.

01-14-2010 05:13:21 | More by photomike
Photo of KarlHungus


4.55/5  rDev +13.5%

This beer pours a clear burnt orange color. The head is on inch in height, and recedes slowly into a quarter inch cap of lacing. The aroma is very floral with pine and hints of citrus. It smells like good gin. The taste is of pine, with lots of floral notes, and a lingering dry bitterness in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with lively carbonation and a velvety texture. Overall, this is quite a refreshing beer. I could easily drink this all afternoon.

05-21-2008 22:43:55 | More by KarlHungus
Photo of younger35


4.55/5  rDev +13.5%

I got a four pack of this in a trade at Dark Lord Day but I drank them all so fast (the next day) that I never got a chance to review. So I was happy to see this on tap at the Bavarian Lodge for the release of Surly Three. Drank from a 16oz pint glass.

Appearance- Pours a lightly dark orange with excellent clarity and an even better fluffy white head. A super nice cap and collar remain the entire beer along with rings and rings of lacing.
Smell- Loads and loads of straight up oranges. Amazing how much this smells like the skin of an orange. Slightly doughy malt that is obviously English and sort of earthy and dirty. The smell doesn't say sweet or bitter. It just says this is gonna be tasty. Seriously, I knew this was going to be heaven after smelling it.
Taste- Starts slightly dirty (or yeasty) with a lightly sweet caramel/toffee sweetness that I can't seem to pinpoint. The beer is indeed bitter but nothing crazy. More of that orange that dominated the nose but slightly more bitter than I honestly expected. Finishes with a bit more orange and some toasted goodness.
Mouthfeel- A light body that bugged me at first but it seems to work better as I drink. The carbonation is very light.
Drinkability- Damn good. Nice to actually find a beer with big flavor that has such a low ABV. It has a way more orange/tangerine flavor than a traditional English Bitter but that's what makes it so great. Very good brew that I enjoyed tremendously.

05-02-2009 15:15:52 | More by younger35
Photo of vette2006c5r

South Dakota

4.54/5  rDev +13.2%

Bitter Brewer pours a darker copper color, with a small dissipating head. There is this amazing bitter aroma, with hints of hops; very crisp. The flavor has this this very dry crisp taste, with a nice mix of a pale malts, and just a tad of hops. Nice full flavors and body, and finishes with this amazing dryness. Overall I love it, very drinkable flavorful and enjoyable.

08-29-2013 01:55:02 | More by vette2006c5r
Photo of crossovert


4.53/5  rDev +13%

16 oz can.

Pours a med-dark amber/gold with a soapy white head that dissipates quickly.

The smell is fruity and lightly hopped with a malty backbone.

The taste has a bit more citrus than normal, a bit yeasty note, some ok malts, not my favorite though. Not any bitterness at all.

Its a good session beer, a flavorful one at that. Probably the best session beer if you stick by the "4%" hard rule.

I had 3 more of these, and I totally appreciate this brew so much more, just fantastic.

07-09-2010 01:56:00 | More by crossovert
Photo of AdamGarcia


4.53/5  rDev +13%

16oz can served in shaker pint.

A: Brilliant clear copper. Looks identical to iced tea in some lights...almost red in others. Ivory head doesn't last long, but leaves some nice clingy lace.

S: Bracing, fresh spruce. Like a handful of pine sprigs covered in honey and spinkled with some spearmint. Citrus is expressed mostly as oranges, but a candied version. Very green and fresh. Marijuana-like aromatics, with just a hint of carmel in the background. 15 minutes after pouring I haven't even gotten around to taking a sip...this one smell great.

T: B-A-L-A-N-C-E. Beautiful flavors abound, but they are all harmoniously balanced. Don't think a 4% abv beer can have huge flavor? Try a Bitter Brewer. Subtle, yet satisfying. Biscuity malt and carmel up front. Hints of butterscotch. Malt sweetness gives way to sweet hoppy citrus. A bit of pine. Some tea-like dryness is present. Finishes pretty clean.

M: Slightly thin, but accurate for the style. Carbonation is well done.

D: Perfect. Flavors are inviting. Interesting but never overwhelming. Malt fix...check. Hops...check. Even the most seasoned beer connoissuer wouldn't grow tired of this one. Oh, and it's 4% abv.

Quite simply, If I this beer was available in my area it would be my go to. I would literally always have a case in my fridge.

09-03-2010 06:28:51 | More by AdamGarcia
Photo of ryantupy


4.53/5  rDev +13%

Picked this one up at The Happy Gnome.

A- Well it poured a nice slightly hazy golden orange hue. Hard to describe actually. In fact see Feloniusmonks review below for a better description. I just had a hard time putting my finger on it.

S - As expected hops are the first and most present aroma you will get with this beer. Sweet grassy hops backed with hints of fresh citrus and fruit. You can also detect a nice subtle hint of sweet malt.

T - A nice bitter hoppy puch in the mouth. It tastes great though! The hop flavors come through nicely. Citrus, sweet lemon grass, and a tangy hop kick at first. Malt sweetness is there but barely.

Overall - This was a very very enjoyable beer from Surly. It was distinct and stood apart from their other beers. I look forward to trying this beer once again next summer.

12-05-2007 02:44:40 | More by ryantupy
Photo of 77apm


4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

06-04-2014 03:47:57 | More by 77apm
Photo of Aguirre


4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

I had a couple of cans of this in Minneapolis this weekend while I was up there for a wedding and brought some home. This beer is awesome.

Pours a clear copper with a tight white head.

Smell is light, and biscuity. The hops are soft and floral.

Taste is exactly what I want out a beer like this. The can describes it as "toast and marmalade" which is a better job than I can do. It's got a strong malt body without being too heavy and the hops are well balanced and come in through the finish, earthy and delicious.

If it were readily available, I'd keep a few cans of this stuff around all the time for football or baseball games, or just relaxing after work. I love the low ABV, you can drink it all day.

Bitter Brewer is a fantastic beer I highly endorse. I think my macro loving friends would like this beer and it's a also great example of a style too few breweries attempt...maybe because it's hard to make one with the character and uniqueness Surly has done.

06-01-2010 02:18:06 | More by Aguirre
Photo of enelson


4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

12-20-2011 16:25:19 | More by enelson
Photo of craft_is_king


4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

08-24-2014 19:15:05 | More by craft_is_king
Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 898 ratings.