Bitter Brewer | Surly Brewing Company

445 Reviews
Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: English Bitter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.00%

Availability: Spring

Notes / Commercial Description:
Brewed with a significant portion of Simpsons Golden Promise, the malt character comes across as toasty, and the flaked oats provide some additional mouthfeel to offset the bitterness. The hops provide an orange aroma and flavor, almost like marmalade. The current signature hop is Mandarina Bavaria, a new aromatic varietal coming out of Germany that has distinct tangerine and orange-like notes.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 05-05-2007

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Reviews: 445 | Ratings: 1,087
Photo of Sammy
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.96/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at the 2013 Firestone Walker Invitational held at the Paso Robles Event Center in Paso Robles, CA.

Pours a murky dark orange with a foamy bone head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, citrus fruit, and citrus zest aromas. Taste is much the same with citrus and tea-like flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty and easy to drink.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

sometimes its not the most complicated beers that end up tasting the best, or being the most enjoyable. this little brew is a gem, and after visiting surly and having their beer around town for a few days, this stands out as one of their best. its pale and bright in color at the same time, hazy and heady, and has a bright tropical hop aroma, not at all what one would expect when thinking about an english bitter style. this has so much life to it, and not a real robust yeast flavor, which make it more american i think than english, especially considering its hopped like an ipa. to me, this was almost more of a session ipa than anything else. the hops hint at mango and pineapple, and there is only moderate hop bitterness here. there also isnt any of the crystal malt that has seemed to define the bitter, maybe some maris, but this is not at all about the grain. delightfully light on the palate, dancing carbonation and a zippy finish make it a perfect beer for warmer weather. pint cans are awesome for beers like this, and if it was sold here in colorado, it would be in my fridge all season. not sure how well it fits the english bitter category, but the beer in the can is just exceptional. love the hops on this, refreshing and palate cleansing and distinct.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

With full flavor, light body, and ultimate ease of drinking- Bitter Brewer is an ideal session beer.

Fruity malty aromas give the impressions of bruised oranges, and lemon-honey tea.

The copper-golden color actually looks orange when it hits the light just right. With bright clarity and froathy carbonation, the beer lathers an eggshell white head that reduces to a thin but consistent sheet, leaving nice random patterns of lace behind. Very clear, otherwise a classic pale ale appearance.

Flavors take the malty notes from caramel-bready to toasty, toffee, and mild grain. Fruity esters give the flavor of apples and oranges. But the hops give even more character with orange zest, lemon grass, and mint. The lable suggests marmelade flavor, and justifiably so.

Light in body, the initial sips seem creamier/froathier. But then the beer makes a quick transition to a light minty finish with clean bitterness and fleeting hop (citrus) taste. Very easy to drink.

Thanks Shango42!

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Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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

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Photo of largadeer
4.43/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Dark orange-amber with good clarity. The head and carbonation on this stuff is incredible; the torrent of bubbles streaming from the bottom of the glass is downright impressive. When the head does eventually start to settle it leaves behind huge sheets of lace. Damn impressive overall.

Smell: Biscuits, citrus, bread and butter, definitely has that signature English ale yeast aroma. Very floral. Subtle fruitiness as it warms. Nice complexity for such a light brew.

Taste & mouthfeel: Mild fruity sweetness (papaya and peach) and grapefruit-like hops. A light biscuity malt backbone keeps this one well rounded. Highly effervescent with a body on the fuller side of light. Drying in the finish with a nice hop bite that doesn't linger on the palate too long.

Drinkability: A perfect session beer if I've ever tasted one.

Notes: This is one hell of a good bitter and yet another stellar brew from Surly. These guys are on a roll it seems.

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Photo of LXIXME
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium white head slowly settles into a pretty decent lacing above a particle filled honey colored beer.

Light sweet malts behind a citrusy pepper like spices aroma.

Bitter dry hops taste with very light spices combined with a light backdrop of earthy grain malts taste. A light drying taste to this beer, very welcoming and makes you want to take another gulp.

Not a big bold or overbearing taste but rather a lighter subdued taste that is quite good.

This is an excellent beer to expand the horizons of American light lager drinkers, I know from past experience that when Bud drinkers try something from Stone or Rogue its basically like culture shock to them, but this beer in its light but yet solid taste of dry hops, etc. one might just find another convert to the world of great ales and lagers.

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Photo of zeff80
4.49/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

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!!

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.95/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL.

A: Poured a nice copper color with an off-white head and some pretty good lacing.

S: Lots of mild citrus scents melding together atop a nice bready malt base.

T: Slight bitterness and a little bit of malt. Nothing super complex, but blends together nicely.

M: Light-bodied and well-carbonated.

D: Quite drinkable, as is the tradition of the style. Not my favorite of Surly's, but a solid attempt at this style.

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Photo of mothman
4.09/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

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Photo of jlindros
4.28/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Got this nice lookin tall boy in a big Surly-fest trade with grub. Poured it into my semi pint with bubble on the top NERAX glass.

A: It starts with a nice pop as it smacks open and squirts a little beer at me teasing me for whats to come. It pours with a ridiculous head that takes up about 1/3 of the glass. The thick but fluffy head slowly pops its way back. It's a brilliantly clear pale amber orange color with a slight tan color.

N: Nose reminds me a lot of brewing. It has a mash like aroma of malts, some hops and a slight yeast. The hops are pretty nice smelling but not as strong as the Furious obviously. The hops definitely remind me of throwing them into the boil. The American hops aren't super hoppy, but have a nice floral and citrus, possibly Cascade or Amarillo. I get some grapefruit as well.

T: Taste is very raw and fresh ingredients. It's got some raw sweetness still but has a very strong raw malt taste. I think the low alcohol and low gravity make it have that raw wort taste. Very much reminds me of tasting the wort before it ferments, but much less sweet, although it does have some sweetness to it. Some more grapefruit, citrus, and floral tasting hops, and some grassy hops, come through but are still pretty light. I also get some raw hop taste, like chewing on the hops but much less bitter. A nice malty taste really shines through and contrasts the nice hop taste and bitterness. It's a pretty well rounded and complex taste.

M: Semi light, decent carbonation.

F: Finishes semi bitter and pretty dry compared to the starting sweetness. It clears off the palate well. It almost has a feel that you didn't even drink it, but there's a very slight lingering bitterness, and some slight grapefruit taste that hang around for a bit to remind you the delicious beverage in your glass. Pretty light and surprisingly refreshing of a bitter beer.

Final thoughts: This is a very easy drinking and delicious beer. It's got a great malt quality and hop taste as well as some bitterness that all blend together well. It reminds me very much of a British style IPA but American hops instead, which makes sense since it is American hops with British malts. Has a lot of fresh brewing tastes, the aromas, the malt taste, the hop taste, all of it reminds me of brewing. All of that, plus it comes in a tall boy can. Wow, I so wish I could get more Surly!

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Photo of chinchill
3.82/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

From 16 oz can to small snifter (once in Oct. 2013 and again [but full can] in Oct. 2015).

Hazy, murky golden-apricot body. Looks and tastes a bit like grapefruit juice.
Excellent aroma; lots of citrus/fruity aroma and flavor; dry.

Weak spot: somewhat thin mouthfeel, but the carbonation level is good.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can into a pint glass.

Pours a clear dark copper with a finger of half foamy/half creamy off-white head. A nice looking thin layer of retention skims along the top and leaves beautiful rings of sticky lacing down the sides of the glass. The aroma is a fresh smelling mesh of light pine and citrus notes in front of toasted and caramel malts.

The taste profile is very similar to the aroma with toasted caramel malts and citric fruit tang surrounded by just the right amount of dry hoppy bitterness. The mouthfeel has a light medium body with a smooth and creamy feel with just a touch of suspended hop oils. Finishes slightly bitter and dry.

If there's one thing Surly does well, it's creating full flavored beers and this is no exemption. Packed tight with flavors and easy sessionalbility, I could go at this all night.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Orange Crush with no detectable haziness (unlike the on-tap version). The hugely sticky head is the color of lightly toasted marshmallow and looks fantastic, both right after the pour and as it melts. Scattered sheets of soon-to-be-crusty lace please the eye as well.

The nose is oddly muted. What is appreciated is nice, but there's so little of it present that the above score is my only option. Each sniff delivers a barely toasted maltiness, coupled with a slightly more prominent hoppiness that is on the tropical side of the fruit bowl.

It looks like the boys at Surly are serious about including something less *full throttle* in their lineup. For some reason, I expected the canned version to be more bitter and much more pungent than the on-tap version. Let's call it Surly Conditioning Syndrome (SCS). It isn't, but it's still delicious beer.

An ABV of 4.0% and 37 IBUs means that multiple cans could be consumed in one sitting. Hey, that sounds like a session beer. As the ounces speed by, it becomes apparent that the genius of BB is that it's both delicious and remarkably well-balanced, without leading to palate fatigue. Try *that* with a few cans of Furious. Thank you, I think I will.

The Golden Promise malt lays down as solid a foundation as possible given the constraits of the ABV. The hop bill includes Warrior and Glacier, two varieties whose flavor profiles I'm not that familiar with. There's lots of ripe apricot, backed up by bitter orange and white grapefruit, bringing things to a tangy, snappy close.

The mouthfeel is perfectly calibrated for sessioning. Not that it's perfect (it's a little thin for me), but it feels right and has an ideal amount of carbonation. And the quality train keep rollin' along.

Other than an aroma that failed to meet me halfway (despite being dry-hopped), Bitter Brewer in the can is pretty close to the beer that I enjoyed from the tap last Fourth of July. Too bad it isn't in the same league as Furious, Bender and CynicAle. Then again, there are but a handful of breweries that can bring a trio like that to the table.

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Photo of billab914
4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to mnjeff for getting this to me in a great package of Surly products. Poured from a can into my Harpoon IPA shaped pint glass. Poured a yellow orange color with A thin white head. Nice lacing down the glass.

Aroma is citrusy with some sweet graham cracker bready notes. Taste is citrusy and sweet with a good amount of bitterness at the end. The sweet bready malt flavors go nicely with the hoppyness of this beer.

Mouthfeel is light with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is very good, nothing overpowering that I would get tired of. Very good tasting and drinkable beer.

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Photo of russpowell
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Received in a trade with feloniousmonk, Cheers Al!

Pours amber/orange with 3+ fingers of whipped up cream colored head. Good lacing& super head retention

S: Leafy & herbal hops

T: Leafy & herbal hops, & a slight fruittyness up front. As this warms I get dryness & a bit of caramel fighting through leafy & minty hops. Finishes with some mineral taste, leafy & citrusy hops

MF: Medium bodied with low carbonation, fairly smooth & with good balance

Drinks very easy, I could easily drink 3 or 4 before moving on. A good, not great take on the style. I put it up against most canned or bottled bitters I've had. Hops are a bit too dominant, but not perfection, but pretty good. Maybe if I had this on cask...

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Photo of mdaschaf
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes. Thanks to Shane for sharing this can last night, been wanting to try it out for a while.

A: Pours a slightly hazy orange with a frothy white head on top. Great retention and moderate lacing.

S: Surprisingly floral and hoppy. For an English style, I was not expecting there to be this much hop presence. There is also some sweetness and some bready malt.

T: The flavor profile is not as citrusy as expected based on the aroma, but there was a little bit of floral/citrus there coming through as some orange. Certainly has some bitterness and a bit of sweetness on the midpalate with some doughy malt. Finishes bitter.

M: Light to medium bodied with medium carbonation. Slightly bitter finish as the name suggests.

O: Again, a bit hoppier than I was expecting, but for me thats a good thing. I look forward to tying more in this style to see if this is an aberration. Extremely easy to drink.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.01/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Alicia for sending me yet another Surly can. Enjoyed with lunch today.

A: The pour is absolutely beautiful. A hazy burnt orange color with a fluffy cream colored head which clings to glass.

S: The nose has a nice sweet citrus aroma with a mild pine and some bready malt notes. There's also perhaps a slight grassy hop scent to the beer which I notice when I got to take a sip.

T: The flavor is subtly hoppy with sweet orange and miscellaneous citrus along with a mild bitterness on the finish. There's also a toasty, biscuity malt flavor which is the backbone of the beer.

M: The body is perhaps a bit thin with a low to moderate carbonation.

D: This is a fairly new style to me, but one that I'm enjoying more and more. I really like the subtle flavors and mildness of it which make this beer a really easy drinker.

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Photo of mdfb79
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 06/11/11 notes. Poured from a 16 oz. can into a pint glass.

a - Pours a hazy orange color with two inches of fluffy white head and moderate carbonation evident.

s - Smells of citrus hops, floral hops, oranges, fruit malts, and light toasted malts. Pretty nice nose.

t - Tastes of oranges strongly, also citrus hops, floral hops, light bitter pine hops, and fruity malts.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation.

o - Overall another good beer from Surly. This one had a lot of orange and citrus to it. Was a great beer to have at the beach; would certainly like to have it again.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.89/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Served from the can in a Second City glass.

Starting the Super Bowl evening off right with some badass K-Tina K-So (patent pending) and a Bitter Brewer. This stuff pours a mostly clear brass-tawny topped by a finger of off-white foam. The nose comprises grass, sharp flowers, light biscuit, and a touch of resin for the sake of it. The taste brings in more of the same, the bready biscuit somewhat tempering the grass, but still allowing those hops to shine. The body is a rather light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a crisp finish that keeps the grassy twang from malingering. Overall, a very enjoyable little beer, something I could easily see myself having more of in the future (if not tonight, even).

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Photo of woodychandler
4.37/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I am trying to get caught up on my Surly beers, thanks to a sudden in-rush of CANs from several people, including einweizenbitte, UncleJedI and PurpleHatJoan as well as Uncle Al aka FeloniousMonk. The CANQuest (TM) loves all of you!

From the CAN: "Beer for a Glass, From a CAN."; "Fresh Beer, Keep It Cold!"; "Get Bitter! - Todd W. Haug, Bitter Brewer"; "First one in, last one out, sweating in the summer, freezing in the winter. Years of toiling and boiling have turned our brewer into a cynical, surly, bitter brewer ... You too [CAN] get bitter without all the fuss. Simply crack open a [CAN] and fill a glass with our latest - Bitter Brewer. Pale orange in color, this ale gets intense toast and marmalade character from British malt and Ameri[CAN] hops. Dry-hopping brings the floral citrus aromas. So go ahead, get bitter! Get Surly!"

Ah, the Crack & Glug! A beautiful, thick, bubbly two fingers of ecru head sat bubbling, creating some beautiful lacing as it began to sit down. Nose was a mix of orange zest and grapefruit juice. Color was a slightly hazy orangish-amber. Mouthfeel was a little on the thin side but the taste was as advertised - toast and marmalade in the mouth. Finish was much more pronounced in terms of the marmalade and left a tingly feeling on my tongue. Sorry you are bitter, Todd, but this was suh-wheet! I am envisioning a whole cooler filled with Surly beers with me at the beach.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A – Nice bright amber body. Off-white head has a fine bubble structure with ok retention and lace.

S – Dry, soft orange and thyme with an undertow of sweet malt.

T – Light and brisk up front with fresh herbal hops. Dry center has a light, resiny sweetness and a crisp acidity. The brightness fades through the finish into a soft residual bitterness.

M – Light body.

O – A great session brew.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
3.06/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Can. Hazy, light orange body with an inch plus of white head. Aromas of citrus, earthy hops, pine, alcohol. Bitter indeed. Resinous, earthy hops. Light, even thin, bodied with aggressive bitterness, peaking mid to late palate. Not the easy drinking, session beer renowned in England.

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Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
4.02 out of 5 based on 1,087 ratings.
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