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 Buebie
4.02/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 16oz can into a tulip.

Appearance is amber hazy bronze. Head is fizzy with a 3 finger white top. Medium laceing with some retention.
Smell is of prodminatly hops (citrus, pine) with a touch of malty dough sweetness.

The taste up front is an apealing citrussy hop flavor with grains and a bit of sweetness. SBittering hops come into the swallow with more pine and a lemony rind kick. Lemon lingers into the finish, as does the piney hops.

Mouthfeel was creamy with carbonation, a bit thin though, light crisp and dry on the finish.
A good dosage of carbonation zing on the tounge.

Overall a good brew, but not my cup of tea as far as beers go. It is definatly a terrific sessionable brew.
You can drive home safely after a couple of these.

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Photo of aforbes10
3.68/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

on tap at Stub n' Herbs in Minneapolis. Pours straw-red with a shirt creamy head and long, sticky lacing. light, pale malt odor with a dry grainy orange hint. Extremely light orange taste at first, almost ephemeral. Bitterness rises quickly, and seems disembodied from the beer. Its not a hop bitterness, per se, its just bitterness, seemingly unrelated to the soft, light, otherwise easy drinking beer. The only trace of a floral hop is manifested in my after-burps. Light bodied, soft. An easy drinker, with good bitterness. nice.

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Photo of mhewes
4.12/5  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.

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Photo of gford217
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can courtesy of MeLikeBeer poured into a snifter.

A: Pours like a hazy iced tea with a decent off-white head that shows good retention and lacing.

S: Smells a little like iced tea too with leafy hops and some spices on top of the malt background. Definitely some citrus and pine hops with lots of grassy scents in there.

T: Taste also has pine and citrus hops, mainly grass and leaves. Definitely get oranges, grapefruits and lemon zest in the taste. The hops were a bit tart and balanced out well with the sweetness of the caramel malts.

M: Mouthfeel is medium and very (you guessed it) bitter with strong carbonation.

D: This is definitely a drinkable brew despite the bitter connotations and taste. It tasted like a beer version of a nice iced tea on a summer afternoon.

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

I had this on tap at the HopLeaf in Chicago, served in a goblet (odd choice, I expected a pint glass for a bitter). The beer was slightly hazy copper colored, almost no head. The aroma is toasted malts and a little bit of pungent hops. The taste is sharp with hops bitterness at the beginning of each sip, leaving a beautiful biscuity after-taste at the end. Smooth and creamy mouthfeel, very easy to drink. Another winner from Surly in my opinion.

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

There is a wonderful hop presence in the aroma that reminds me of opening a fresh pouch of hop pellets (fresh and grassy). Underneath lies a sweet fruit (light citrus and fresh). Wonderful.
Big full, large bubbles off white head. Amber of orange (dull gold), largely clear.
Flavor is more malt dominated with a soft hop flavor in the front lasting through a longish finish. Slight fruit quality. A touch of bitterness, but hops are stronger in flavor and it's similar to the aroma.
Thin and close to water like, but not in a bad way. Smooth, anyway and lower carbonation (fine by me).
Easy drinking, flavorful, interesting tastes. Yum. Great for the summer.

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Photo of morimech
3.81/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a light copper with 1 inch of creamy white head. Retention is good as well as large amounts of lacing.

Has a distinct citrus hop aroma. I do not smell much else. I expected a nice bready malt aroma but none was found.

Mainly hops in the taste as well. Some biscuit malt is noticed right at the finish. Not that well balanced but the hop flavor is pleasant.

Has a light body with low carbonation.

Has a nice hoppy flavor but not much of a malt backbone compared to most Bitters. Has a low ABV and the lighter body makes consumption extremely easy.

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Photo of Floydster
4.23/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

16 ounce orange tall can received as an extra in a trade with WankerWeasel, thanks for providing this beer, I was actually just about to put this on my wants list before my package arrived today, split with my dad tonight, poured into my Redlands mug

A-Bright golden orange color with some amber highlights, 1 1/4 inch of a somewhat foamy white head, stuck around for about five minutes, decent retention, great lacing

S-Hops and lots of them, bread, grains, orange jelly, grassy accents, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, and biscuit

T-Toasty right off the bat, some floral accents and citrus in the middle, finish is dry with some strong hoppinness, earthiness came out shortly after that and the middle became more bready, settled down a little bit but the oranges were definitely there now, still a fair amount of hops intially and in the aftertaste, enjoyed the balance in this beer and the mix between slightly tart hops, toasted bread, and a boat load of hops worked very well

M-Dry, citrusy, and you guessed it bitter mouthfeel, nice popping level of carbonation, thin bodied, taste lingered well for such a little beer, got less dry as time went on

D-Could drink several of these because it is so light and smooth, alcohol percentage is very low, easily could down a four pack, no alcohol in the flavor, would make a nice session beer

Another solid offering from Surly, have not had many beers of this style but this was good and I could drink it often, too bad this is a one time release, wish I had more of this stuff, my can said 4% ABV instead of 4.5 not that it matters that much, would like to drink again soon, recommended

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Photo of grandq
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a honeycomb amber with a thick off white, two finger head that goes right to the edge of the gold rim on my Brooklyn glass. Smells floral and bready, with the faintest twinge of spiciness. Honeydew melon in there too. Taking a sip - floral and grassy upfront and throughout, apricot playing a close second fiddle with distant background notes of toffee and shortbread. Caramel and lemon zest become more apparent at warmer temps. All quite light, though the hops are certainly in control of the flavor profile. The mouthfeel is prickly and effervescent but with sufficient body to stand up - by no means thick but certainly not watery. Really refreshing and doesn't overpower the tongue.

I love a good bitter and this is, well, a good bitter - on the hop assertive end of the spectrum, but no less drinkable for it. I do find it slightly overcarbonated, but that's hardly going to stop me from knocking back a few for a session. Thanks owed to mully for the opportunity to do so. Would love to have this on cask - which would probably bump up the score here.

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Photo of seaoflament
4.18/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Scoobydank for the four pack!

Pours a golden color with a good inch+ of foam, every Surly beer I've poured has looked good so far.

Smells like a bitter but with fuggles and citrus combination. Lots of toast with some earthiness, hints of caramel, and some nutty malts. Really fresh hop aroma.

Tastes very toasted at first. Hard to describe, but very noble hop taste with a slight citrus finish, works really well. Quite a bit of biscuit malt too. There's also an earthy flavor. A slight metallic taste is detected in the aftertaste but it's possibly the hop profile.

Great mouthfeel, I could drink this all day.

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Photo of MMAJYK
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Nice light honey color; golden brown and somewhat clear. Head is 1/2" and fizzling down to nothing in a hurry. Lacing is just a little spotty down the glass and a light film on the surface of the liquid.

S- Caramel malts and honey-like scents mixed in. A little bit buttery, but not bad. Hops are very earthy and seem fresh.

T- Mild and light with a wonderful bittering hop hitting midstream and finishing dry. The hops are quite earthy and "dirt-y" but just making them jump out at you more. Maybe harsh is a better word, but in a good way.

M- Light and thin. Carbonation is medium to high.

D- Very drinkable. I really like this brew for the fact that it adds some balls to a lighter beer style. Leave it to those boys in MN to nail it. Great job!

Thanks a bunch to pitmonkey for trading this to me!!

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Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I got cans in the mail at about the same time from MeLikeBeer and starofindia. Thanks guys!

This one pours a slightly hazy orange-amber with a rough film of little bubbles. A lot of bubbles were stuck all over my glass too.

Smells of faint dinner rolls and rye with a dry pineapple stemming from the rye. This seems to be capped off with an almost bubble gum sweetness followed by powdery smooth birch bark. There's an ubiquitous dry melon here too.

Tastes smooth and grainy much like the smell with a far more pronounced birch bite that lingers on into the finish slowly becoming more organic and alive. Great finish!

Felt a little on the frothy side as the carbonation seemed to fuzz up a little too much for my liking, slowing me down just a bit.

Another tasty beer from Surly. Keep 'em commin', boys!

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Photo of Brad007
4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

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.

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Photo of ncvbc
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a light golden orange with a medium white head, low but steady carbonation and rings of sticky lacing down the glass. Smell is light and of tangy citrus fruits and light malt that is mostly of grain and bread. Peaches and orange. Taste is much of the same. Very nice and refreshing. A good splash of tropical fruits and some green hops, mostly an orange flavor. A cereal flavor and light toasted bread. Somewhat assertive bitterness but not too much by any means. Great brew, easy going down and perfect for the summer.

Thanks to scoobydank for the can!

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Photo of hoppymeal
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a light caramel copper in color, slight haze, a decent sized off white, creamy head slowly recedes to a ring. Aroma is grassy, lemon citrus and just a bit of honey sweetness. Some graininess in the aroma as well. Taste follows with a good sized grassy bitterness coming on strong and lasting fairly long in the taste, blending well with the light maltiness. Bready grains and a hint of lemon and citrus in the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is light, hops are peppery and crisp and leave just a hint of dryness on the tongue. Very refreshing beer for some yard work today. Thanks to Eben and Travis for the sample.

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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 DefenCorps
4.48/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

16oz can received from MeLikeBeer. Thanks!

A: Golden copper with a massive head and tons of carbonation. Pretty lacework!

S: Light with a wonderful citrus (orange) dry hop aroma. Mild fruitiness with some papaya.

T: Light hop bitterness up front followed by caramel, biscuit and mild nutty notes. The finish is dry, light on the bitterness and great

M: Crisp on the tongue with good carbonation. Light in body and great. I haven't had too many bitters but I imagine this will be a treat on cask.

D: Very drinkable - I know when I'm drinking my next three - hot summer day, come here and fast!

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Photo of bigelo1016
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- poured a hazy burnt orange with a fluffy white head

S- malty with citrus hoppiness, maybe a hint of pine

T- sweet caramel malt, bitter hops and almost a lemon zest. delicious

M- nice body, with a decent amount of carbonation

D- very drinkable and refreshing, great beer

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Photo of dogger6253
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark, golden color, but with a little opacity to it. The head is a clean, off-white color that tops it off nicely. Lots of earthy notes in the nose, bits of citrus hops running in and out. There is a yeastiness to the aroma as well. Flavor is surprisingly complex. Lots of hop character, but not as dominating as you'd think. There is a lot of malty sweetness going on, caramel and vanilla with a lemon zest finish. I'd like to see more people drinking this beer. It's very accessible and maintains a depth that lots of session-style beers lack.

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Photo of slyke
4.48/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Another tasty offering from Surly, Bitter Brewer pours a beautiful orange color with an ample, slightly off-white, pillowy head.

The smell has a citrus note and toasted character.

The taste is where the toasted character really comes out in this beer. Maltiness is present as well along with the citrus note again.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and coating. A nice carbonation - not overpowering.

Drinkability is exceptional with this beer. I don't know how my glass empties so fast. This is not a chugging beer, but one that you find yourself constantly going for another mouthfull to let it wander the tongue. Try some, but not too much, I want to stock up!

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Photo of BeerTruth
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got a 4-pack of this today, threw one in the fridge right away. Thanks travloh!

16 oz. can poured into a nonic.

Pours a somewhat hazy copper hue with a fluffy two finger off-white head that sticks around for a long ass time. Minimal lacing is left behind on the sides of the glass. Smell is sweet caramal malt, rye bread, and a touch of clementine and grapefruit. A light floral aroma and some nuttiness tickles the nose as well. Very pleasant beer to sniff. Taste begins with a quick but strong bitter burst followed by lemon flavored tea and caramel glazed peanuts. Dry midway with a brown sugar sweetness and pink grapefruit. Aftertaste is floral with a bit of earthy hops and molasses. Light to medium body with a fairly creamy feel. Carbonation stings the mouth with a puckering effect. This is definitely a session beer and a damn good one at that. If I could get this on a regular basis as well as ST Hop Sun, one of each would be in the fridge all year round. Luckily I have three cans left, I'm putting the next can in the fridge NOW.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.45/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Semi hazed, strong, dark, golden hay color with an overall peachy tone. Nice frothy, crunchy, yellowed foam gathers quickly to about a half inch thick and remains there for quite a while. Lots of thinnly placed lacing in drizzled, spotty patterns.

Aroma is quite pungent and hopped to the gils with a moderate array of citrusy zest and guts with a grassyness whirling about. Herbal notes of all kinds of strange floral stuff make it all the better.

Taste is hazed in a hop fog of broad crusty grasses and lofty puffs of citrus bringing orange, grapefruit, and lime pith mixed with peach fuzz and dried pineapple husk. The grassy herbal undertow grows and grows and it warms creating a more toasted edgyness to it. finishes with all sorts of fun hop grasses and fuzzt fruityness.

Feel is about medium with an all over buzz and cleansing of complex hop tones that grab at the forefront and don't let go. Toasty edges hold firm for good length into the finish as it gets all complex and fulfilling.

All in all, drinkable, and then some. Only 4.5%!! A keeper of a fun, yet bittered brewer brew.

Note: Have had many of these on-tap and find its much more fruity and creamier with an unholy yummy drinkability thats killer good. I may need to review that at some point if I can ever remember to.

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Photo of Scrumtralecent
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured from a can into a pint glass. Pours a light amber color that is quite clear to show some carbonation. There is a slight head with little lacing left behind.

S: Smell of malts is what I sense the most. Slight hoppy background along with what seems like a little grapefruit.

T: The taste is of grainy malts with a tinge of bitter in the tail end. Fruity flavors linger along with the hops in the end. Not really any detection of alcohol, but to be expected from the alcohol content.

F: Very refreshing beer along plenty of cabonation, hops, and bitterness to let you know it's there. Does a good job of not overpowering the senses too much.

D: Another great beer by Surly. Delightfully bitter yet with enough taste to keep you coming back. Had no trouble at all taking down this beer.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 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.

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