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 ONovoMexicano
3.65/5  rDev -9.2%

Poured into an English pint glass, a massive head is produced, frothy, wispy, and leaving lace everywhere as it recedes. The body is a hazy golden color with light carbonation. 4.1

Sweet and floral hops work the nose, but they seem a but subdued. I'll attribute this to the 2 month old can. There's a sweet, slightly caramel maltiness and a bit of orange aroma. 4

To the tongue, there's immediately fruity flavors like berry and pineapple, but they too are subdued. This leads into a more piney flavor, subtle vanilla and some sweet malt.

As far as the body, this thing is very thin and drinks light and easy, with a slight creaminess, until a wave of bitterness near the finish that lingers. 3.6

I like the fruitiness of this beer, especially fresh on tap, but the body is a bit too thin and the older can doesn't hold up quite as well. 3.65

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Photo of barczar
3.7/5  rDev -8%

Brilliant golden brew with grassy, dank, resiny aromas that are contrasted by grapefruit add tangerine, with a hint of biscuit malt. Flavor reveals sharp grapefruit, with a touch of tangerine sweetness,a light, crackery malt backbone, and a minerally, slightly bitter finish. Would've liked more citrus than minerally notes. There's a clash between tart lime and mineral characters that doesn't suit my palate.

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Photo of deedric
3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

At Great Taste pre party (so I won't get technical). Seems to be a nice representative of the style. Served too cold. Nice appearance, light copper. Aroma of pine. Mouthfeel is very reminiscent of the bitters do old. Lower carbonated as expected. Biscuity back flavor.

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.04/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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Photo of barnzy78
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Canned on 05/12/14
L - hazed amber/orange color with a frothy ivory head
S - citric American hops - grapefruit and orange rind, heavy toasted grain, caramel
T - huge toasted malt, biscuit, orange and grapefruit rind, very much like toast and marmalade as the can reads
F - thinner body, refreshing, finishes more bitter than expected while being modestly dry
O - definitely an Americanized version of the style. I do like it, but it isn't going to be a seasonal purchase for me; however it was nice to come back to it after 5 years.

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Photo of mfnmbvp
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
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.

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Photo of N_Schleret
4.1/5  rDev +2%
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.

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Photo of StoneTSR
2.98/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

APPEARANCE: Light gold in color with a nice half-finger of head foaming up on top. The lacing is pretty good, covering about 50% of the back of the glass. Good looking beer.

SMELL: Very hoppy on the nose for an English Bitter, smalls more like an APA or IPA; grass, pine, a hint of citrus.

TASTE: Wow, A LOT of bread on this one. Again, this is extraordinarily bitter by English Bitter standard. A big, grassy hop character defines the bitterness along with some citrus to tie it together. As the glass warms a lot more of the fruitiness of a typical Bitter comes through.

MOUTHFEEL: Bitter Brewer is very light bodied (too thin for my tastes) and very dry. The carbonation is very prickly.

OVERALL: This is a nice Session Pale Ale, but in terms of ratings it as a Bitter I have to give it lower marks. The carbonation is too much and the hop bitterness goes way beyond “assertive”, it is downright intense. Will I drink this one again, for sure, but it isn’t really an English Bitter.

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Photo of Nugganooch
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

16oz can provided by Allen “Mid” – thanks brother!
Notes from 05/04/14 using my FW Imperial Nonic glass

A: Unfilitered look with a body that moves from a golden straw yellow color into some darker orange hues. A healthy whip of ivory cream settles across the top with decent retention efforts and sticky cling action.

S: Lots of toasty malts up front like nutty biscuit and toasted bread aromas with a spread of orange marmalade. Dash of caramel sweetness and some peach fruit melds into a cluster of Floral hops. Smells nice and inviting to me.

T: English malt is standout with its toasty bread and biscuit like quality encompassing candied orange peels. Super floral like Honeysuckle with a slight herbal twist to it and a dose of ripened stone fruit underneath. The beer is plenty hoppy but not sharp at all with a low amount of actual percieved bitterness. Very smooth with the alcohol completely masked throughout. I must admit this is highly quaffable stuff.

M: Moderate body on account of the more filling English malts. Low to even carb keeps it lighter with a nice creaminess and a touch of drying snap towards the finish. Comes off a little watered down at times. Slightly oily but mostly clean on the whole.

D: This is a nice little bitter and would go great if served as a Real Ale. All things considered it is well balanced and offers up some good flavor points. It is far from any type of a game changer but I don’t think of an ESB in that regards any matter. Just a really well crafted brew with no frills. Glad to have tried but not something I would probably go seeking out.

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Photo of alphagnome
3.94/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a rich, golden oak color - very cloudy. Crowned with a respectable, finger-thick head, off-white in color - that hangs around for awhile and leaves a bit of lacing behind. Carbonation is insane... very, very active. Making the carbonation more noticable, fine sediment caught in suspension, being pushed around by the bubbly.

A bit of a let down, as aroma is one area where Surly shines. That's not to say it doesn't smell delightful, it does, it just seems a bit muted. Nice (but light) tropical fruit notes mix well with equally light floral hops. Zesty tangerine and orange peel.

Nice and sweet right front, with plenty of citrus notes. The sweetness doesn't last long though, as a pleasant bitterness sweeps in balance things out. Nice boquet of floral and citrusy hops. Nothing is overpowering, but very tasty.

Light to medium body. Highly carbonated. Easy to drink and very refreshing. Semi-dry finish.

Another impressive brew from Surly. Easy to drink, nice balance, and flavorful. Well worth picking up.

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Photo of d5001986
3.99/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can poured into tulip.

Pours hazy golden with small bubbly head.

Smell is tropical fruit, citrus hops, yeast, and very slight cloves.

Taste is tropical fruit and orange with a light lingering bitterness.

Feels medium bodied with a higher amount of carbonation.

Overall this, as most other Surly offerings has not failed to impress. The tropical and citrus hop character was the highlight for me. Fans of Surly's IPA's will likely appreciate this one.

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Photo of arc3636
4.02/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

A - medium coppery color with thick white head. Fairly cloudy

S - sweet aroma from the malts and the fruity/floral hops

T - mil, but solid flavor. Citrusy hops and malty sweetness that carries into the aftertaste

M - thin mouthfeel due to lower carbonation

O - first English bitter I've tried, enjoyed it

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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 guityler83
4.37/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured a one and a half finger tall of off white head that sustained for a good minute before leaving a chunky honeycomb laceing on the edge and a small layer on the top. The color in the english style pint glass is a golden orange with a bit of haze from the sediment in the can but otherwise very clear.

S: Mild earthy and spicey hop aromoa. Slightly biscuity malt character. And sweet fruity yeast esters.

T: Crisp and mild bitterness with hop flavors consistent with the aroma. The fruity yeast esters are a big component in the flavor and meld very nicely with the sweeter biscuit and toasty malt flavors.

M: Crisp mouthfeel with a mild level of carbonation. A light body but doesn't really get wattery with the nice bitterness that is left in the aftertaste.

O: Extremely sessionable refreshing but never boring bitter. English syles arn't really my thing but this one blew me away. Drink it fresh and often.

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Photo of PHBoiler
3.82/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured 16 oz can into Surly Pint glass

Golden almost amber body with a finger width white head. Lacing was relatively good throughout the drinking experience.

Smell is not overpowering. Light piney hop scent.

Taste is indeed bitter upfront with some creaminess and caramel flavor in the body. Solid ESB that drinks very smooth.

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.54/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

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.

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Photo of rlee1390
3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-Cloudy orangish-yellow, one finger head.

S-Some citrus hops with a straw-like malt backbone. Floral/grassy notes as well

T-Starts with a nice straw/wheat note. Ends with some mild citrus. Also is herbal/floral in the finish. Mild bitterness. Almost tea-like in the herbal/floral flavors.

M-Medium bodied, some carbonation, slight hop resins.

O-An easy drinking summer beer, with some hop bite. However the tea-like flavors are not doing anything for me.

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

Canned on 05/07/13.

A: White frothy head on pour though dies off pretty quickly...with a bit of lace floating on top. Medium, amber to orange, slightly transparent if it wasn't for the unfiltered cloudy haze in the glass... decent amount of carbonation along with the small particles...

S: Right off the bat, this smells like a American take on the classic bitters, almost a Bitter IPA... lots of hop aromas, lots of floral, maybe some orange and sweet malts.... not a lot of bitterness on the nose...

T: Once tasted though the bitters do come out, with the classic English bitter tea taste, with a jasmine, rose floral herbiness to the hops, little more citrus and orange also underneath, along with more of a multi-grain type of malt sweetness. Not overly bitter or sweet, like a good iced (real) tea on a hot day...

M: Light, crisp, refreshing with good level of carbonation.... what can you say but very easy drinking and sessionable...

O: Haven't had a lot of English Bitters (like most N.Americans it seems except when it comes to this one), but this one finds a very nice balance of something that isn't too sweet, too hoppy, too heavy... just a perfect pub summer sipper... if anything I think this could do with a little more malt complexity and would like to try it on cask, to see if it could be a little smoother or something....

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

From: France 44 dot com
Date: Canned 2013-05-24
Glass: US standard pint glass

A solid session bitter, Surly's Bitter Brewer brings in pale and caramel malt flavors to work with modestly fruity, herbal, and bitter hops. An easy-to-drink beer that would be perfect for enjoying continually at a pub for many hours, doing whatever. Definitely one to partake of again if available.

Pours a 2cm tall head of foam, made up of small and medium-sized bubbles that are white in color, creating a fairly sudsy appearance, lasting around one minute before settling to a thick ring around the glass and a few, small islands of thin foam atop the body. Lacing is good, though not excellent, patchy patterns cling to the sides of the glass. Beer is a fairly deep, dark golden orange color, bordering on brown, with light bringing out brighter golden orange hues with a modest yellow tint. Carbonation is visible through the semi-hazy (unfiltered, 20-30% opaque) body, medium in activity and number.

Aroma is like tea sweetened with (malt) sugar, accompanied by slight herbal, orange and lemon characters.

Front of palate picks up sweet pale and lightly caramelized malt sugars with fruit-like esters and hints of tea and orange. Mid-palate of sweet, caramelized malt sugars with hints of orange, kumquats, balanced bitterness, tea, and light herbal hop characters. Back of palate features pleasant bitterness with interesting herbal hop characters, light orange, and faint malt sweetness. Aftertaste of mild hop bitterness, slight caramelized malt sugar sweetness and graininess, and light herbal and tea-like presence.

Beer is medium-light to light in body, with carbonation of medium-low intensity, resulting in a slighty fizzy, somewhat watery mouthfeel. Closes quite dry, with light residual stickiness clinging to the lips and palate.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A-Pours a slightly shaded amber. The beer has a subtle glow to it. Thin head is white and sticky. It leaves bubbly lacing freckles along the glass.

S-I find a lot of English Bitters and ESBs to have a hop aroma akin to tea. I find this aroma in Bitter Brewer. I also get more of an Americanized hop aroma. Some clear caramel sweetness and a fruity yeast profile.

T-The nose was more satisfying than the flavor. The hops are tea leaves and slight citrus. Also some herbal hops. The hops balance out the fruity yeast notes and the traditional caramel malt. I could stand a bit more intensity. Also, I think the flavors, when described, sound more intricate than they taste.

M-Very drinkable. Slight bitterness. I was actually caught off guard by how low the ABV was. Now knowing its a 4%er, I give this beer more credit.

O/D-This was a slight disappointment but I did not know how low the ABV was until I looked up and check while reviewing. This was a pretty neat beer but I think its a bit overrated due to how well Surly is received in the craft beer community.

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Photo of papat444
3.83/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to kjyost for this.

Poured from a 16oz. can, canned on 05/07/13.

Appearance: Chilled haze on an orange-copper body, 2-3 fingers worth of head with patchwork of lacing left behind.

Smell: Ripe fruit (oranges or peaches, both?), plush and fleshy.

Taste: Malty at first, bit of minerals, mild saltiness, fleshy fruit, biscuity, dry orange finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bitterness, full body for the style.

Overall: Having had benchmarks from the origin of the style, this doesn't quite measure up. Still, it is a well made ale and glad to have tried it.

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Photo of jreindl
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another fine brew from Surly.

Pours a reddish orange with a thick dense off white head with small bubbles. Decent retention and lacing.
Has a grainy malt sweetness on the nose, but is predominated by tangerines and orange zest.
A solid backbone of crackery, grainy malt with a hint of caramel, with the hops dominating the pallet. Not overly bitter, well balanced. Very citrus, like the can says, think marmalade. The hops linger nicely.
Medium bodied with low carbonation, finishes clean.

Overall a very drinkable beer. Nice Americanized take on a classic bitter, although way out of style with the hopping. Will be drinking more of these this summer for sure.

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Photo of ZAP
4.24/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Re-reviewing as my original score does not reflect how good this this tastes to me right now. as compared to five years ago.. Some notes remain the same..

Lighter bodied session style ale...

Very interesting aroma of tangerines and just like the can says orange marmalade. Has some of the same aroma that Surlyfest had....I should know I had about 15 of them last fall and got burned out on them a little at that point..

The taste is a combination of biscuity malts and fresh floral malts with some fruitiness as well (pears)

I'd call it light bodied...leans towards the high side of light bodied but more light bodied than medium bodied..

Really an enjoyable beer to drink.

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Photo of BobZ
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pint can poured into a Duvel tulip. Another thanks to roon.

Appearance: Orange/amber with a nice 1" head that shrinks a bit to 1/4" with nice sticky lacing.

Smell: Bready malt first with a little bit of hops beneath.

Taste: Similar to the nose with big bready malt up front with a bit of caramel followed by a nice floral/citrus hoppy finish with a pleasant level of bitterness. Really a nice amount of flavor here.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, well carbonated, and very clean on the palate.

Overall: Extremely flavor packed and sessionable take on the style,I had this beer outside on an early summer day and it was a great fit.

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Photo of JamesMN
3.41/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Canned on 5/7/13.

Appearance: Caramel honey colored brew with a lot of small particles in suspension below a one finger frothy off-white head. A bit of clarity but the hop matter (or whatever those bits are) get in the way of a better appearance.

Aroma: Quite bready in a graham cracker sort of way. There is something in there which reminds me of Grain Belt Premium, like an orange peel or marmalade.

Taste: A nice mellow flavor that has some girth to it at times despite its remarkably low 4% ABV. Starts with a bit of caramel malt and quickly gains a respectable 37 IBUs of hop bitterness. There is a nice sweet orange hop character and a peppery grain flavor that pair well. Finishes smooth and has a warm aftertaste of biscuit with lingering bitterness on the tip of the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Lively with a slightly below medium body and good amount of carbonation. Easy drinking and sessionable if you enjoy the style.

Final Thoughts: A decent beer that fits within style guidelines while still unique enough to pick out of a lineup. It's beers like Bitter Brewer that give hope for a future wave of low ABV beers being the craft beer trend. Would I drink it again? Sure.

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