Bitter Brewer | Surly Brewing Company

Bitter BrewerBitter Brewer
1,088 Ratings
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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Ratings: 1,088 |  Reviews: 446
Photo of AleWatcher
3.88/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into pint glass.

An orangey color. Off white head of 2 fingers. Streaks and chunks of lacing.

Toasted bread and syrupy oranges-- think of how canned oranges in syrup would smell. Actually works well.

Taste follows nose. Slight sweetness... Toasty bready maltiness... Sweet oranges on the finish... Nice bitterness on the finish-- less than an IPA-- but more than a lot of pub ales.

Body is good. Medium feel. Slightly oily, good creamy carbonation.

Highly drinkable. The low ABV makes this super easy to sip... Ding would be proud: I'm enjoying a session ale!

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Photo of woosterbill
4.4/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pint can into a Duvel tulip. Big thanks to HopStoopid120 for hooking me up with this one, my first of the English Bitter style.

A: A measured, deliberate pour yields a perfect 2-inch head of fairly coarse white foam that just barely reaches above the rim of the tulip; below lies a placidly clear, orange-amber body with some fine carbonation rising up to maintain the head. Retention is pretty good, and theres some light, clumpy lacing left behind. Looks good to me.

S: Light citrus hops blend pleasantly with toasty malt. I thought the can was full of it when it mentioned marmalade, but I can kind of sense what they're talking about. Simple and extremely enjoyable.

T: Orange hops open things up brightly, then give way to smooth, bready, toasty malt. No marmalade, but plenty of good honest beer flavor leading up to a cleanly bitter finish. The finish is so clean that it could almost be called watery, which is this beer's only flaw - but it isn't much of one for a 4% brew. Awesome.

M: Light bodied with a huge amount of rather prickly carbonation - considerably more than I expected for the style. A bit too fizzy, but not a deal-breaker by any means.

D: Maybe not the most drinkable example of the style, considering the ample dose of American hops, but I could drink this all day long. And what a day it would be!

Notes: What a terrific beer. It tastes hoppier and better than a lot of IPAs, and yet the malt somehow has a terrific, complex presence as well. It reminds me a lot of FFF Pride & Joy (although a bit sweeter and more citrusy), and that's a great thing. Yet another winner from Surly. Thanks again, Tony.


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Photo of wcudwight
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Honey colored that's more orange at the bottom and becomes more golden at the top. 1 finger sticky white head that leaves lot's of sticky lacing behind. Smells like a tropical fruit bowl. Lot's of flavor packed into this one. Tangerine, grapefruit, and other citrus flavors. Some sweet and pale malts to round it out. The mouthfeel feels light for the complexity and flavor profile of the beer but I think it's exactly what the brewer was shooting for. This is the best session beer I've had yet. The hop profile is perfect to drink a few with out having palate overkill. That with only a 4% abv makes this the ultimate session beer.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.24/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Copper colored beer with not much of a head, no real retention on it. Looked a bit watery.

S - Smells like an english, with english malts, caramel and a bit of sugar. Some sort of odd vinegar quality to it.

T - Tastes alright, but there is definately a little bit of vinegarness here. English malts and slightly metalic.

M - Light bodied, moderate carbonation.

D - It's semi-easy to drink, but should be easier at 4%.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.37/5  rDev +9.8%
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 dpnelson1978
3.8/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 oz. can into glass pint.

$3.00 / ea.

A: Bright orange body topped with a huge rocky head of moderate retention that leaves heavy sticky lace and a thick rocky cover.

S: Floral hops dominate with hints of bready malt not far behind. Simple but effective.

T: Distinctive bitter flavor with resinous qualities dominates from start to finish and beyond. Hints of grapefruit citrus poke through over a bready backbone.

M: Light body with light to moderate carbonation. Very light bite with noticeable tongue tightening bitterness.

D: If bitter session beers are your thing, this is the one to try. The flavors are solid, the abv low and the hops cannot be denied.

O: I enjoyed this one noticeably more the second time I tried it. I can only assume that my palate changed, but I'll be sure to try this one again in the future.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.76/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark golden color, good head, good retention. Aroma was kind of macro-ish.

Good bitterness for a 4% beer, not really hoppy, but definitely bitter. Subtle floral hopping. Cascade maybe in a light amount. Light mouthfeel, never heavy, just a resonance of mild bitterness. Definitely comes across good, just as advertised.

Scored these at Buckbean for only $1 a piece, proceeds to charity, these were the Surly beers that didn't make it from Canfest.

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Photo of jrallen34
2.8/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

On tap into 4oz tasting tulip...Poured a light, clear and watery copper with light head that doesn't last...The aroma and taste to me are super generic versions of an English ipa. Sugar and caramel come through mostly with watery metallic hops on the back. The feel is too watery. Surly mostly nails it, but to me this is a macro versions attempt at an esb.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.82/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

The wife and I shared this gem courtesy of Kbeals... thanks a bunch Kevin!!

Pours with a thin white head atop a slightly hazed orange brew.. only splotches of lacing..

Nose is nice... light lemon with some herbal tea elements.. grainy pale malts and hints of flowers...

Flavor begins with a minor bitter astringency that is nearly perfectly balanced the pale malts and bits of biscuit.... Does the brewer use "tea leaves" in this brew? Really makes me think of the tea I have at work everyday... body is pretty lite as it should be.. carbonation may be a tad high for the style, but what do I know?

Doesn't seem too English to me.. but I dig it.. and that is enough. I loooove session beers... Love them.

Thanks again Kevin.. this is a "new to me" Surly Brew... your return box is gonna be nice. :-)


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Photo of brewerburgundy
4.21/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16oz can, goblet, no canned on date.

Mild, tropical orange beer with a tan head. The head is soapy, and started off at about three fingers. It has faded pretty quickly to a very sticky ring and the thinnest of covers.

Husky grain is evenly distributed against whiffs of orange in almost a orange or orange pekoe tea way. Multigrain toast.

The claim about orange marmalade on toast from the can is valid. Obviously, the orange preserve flavor isn't jumping the way it did in Surly's Wet last night, but the malt is tastier. The toast is still multigrain with a little astringency, though that may be hop bitterness. The malt is not sweet, and while it dries in the end there is appropriately no alcohol. Mineral elements combine with hop bitterness to make for crispness.

Wet and smooth with little carbonation, the brewer let the flavor do the talking.

I think this is the first time I've had what seems to be a proper Bitter, or at least what is pieced together in my mind as a very good one. Surly really is impressing and I think this should be a year round beer. More than enough flavor with great balance make this a great truly English session beer.

Thank you Shango42.

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Photo of jeffthecheff
4.42/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear amber color into my imperial pint glass with a nice, off white head.

Aroma is nicely hopped, with an American inspired citrus aspect. This has a really interesting hop and malt profile that I've yet to encounter. The marmalade and toast description on the can is spot on. I feel cheap for putting that in a review, but there isn't much to add to that.

On the palate is a lightly toasted malt flavor with a light bitterness. Fruity orange and a leafy, woodsy hop flavor come together for a deep hop profile. Mouthfeel is on the wet side with a suprisingly substantial body. Still, the overall character is nice and light, making me crave another session beer.

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Photo of Ineedabeerhere
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Doug! From notes, 9/17 and a couple other cans since then.

Pours a nice dark-amber-caramel color with a nice 2 finger head formed, leaving great weblike lace and filmy retention.

A little bit of a bright floral, earthy combo of hops is noticed right off the bat. Really on point. Not too aggressive, but just assertive enough over the tastiness of the malt character with some dried apricot as well. The taste follows as well with an upper low level of bitterness. It is clear, but not overpowering, the great, classic toastiness of the malt is in the background and just has so much nuance. Somewhere between a slightly overcooked pie crust and a pancake. Just an excellent beer that makes a ton of flavor and subtlety for being only 4%. I will drink this any day.

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Photo of jpmclaug
3.65/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the can into an imperial pint glass. Thanks goes to chixdighops for trading me a 4 pack of this.

A - Clear, dark amber color with a big bubbly white head on top. Lots of bubbles running up the side of the glass on this one.

S - Nice light pale malt aroma with a a nice floral hop aroma.

T - Similar to the aroma. A balance of pale malts with a little floral hop bite. No caramelly, smooth notes that I usually expect from bitters. A bit more of a hoppy bite than most bitters.

M - Really the only thing holding back this beer. Way over carbonated for my preferences in this style.

D - Pretty drinkable. As stated earlier it is way too carbonated for the style however. I really prefer smoother bitters. The flavor is pretty solid abit more floral hop bite than normal but pleasant. Certainly a beer worth trying.

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Photo of Bubba83
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Provided by Kegatron. Served at around 50 degrees.

Tall boy can pours into a 16oz Imperial Pint glass with two finger widths of off-white frothy head. Color is a nice drab orange with some nice highlights and plenty of bubblies! Good retention and very nice lacing for the style.

Smells like toast in a toaster, with some orange jammy bits and citrus rind. A bit of cereal grain and earth also resonate clearly. Quite complex for the style, and everything smells balanced and spot on.

Boy oh boy, they were right about the Orange Marmelade from the text on the can. Surpising depth in that orange character, and it really does remind you of a sweet jam. A lot less toast flavor than the smell would suggest, but it's sort of in the background. The fruity character jumps forward mainly, with some lemon and apricot duking it out as well. Finishes up with some earthyness along with sort of a floral undertone. I would have liked a little more toast for a bitter, but I can't deny that it is quite tasty.

Dry dry and more dry. I like dry beers, but holy crap this is dry! Get me a glass of water kind sir! Pretty light feel that massages your tongue and kinda makes you feel like you're eating some raw grains. Carbonation and consistency are right, but I'd actually prefer it to be a little creamier so my mouth can enjoy it better.

Not the most drinkable bitter because of the dryness, however there is no alcohol to speak of and the flavor component is refreshing. I like the hop kick near the end which is showing a bit of American flare to the style. Overall, a winner that everyone should give a whirl.

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Photo of Bendurgin
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured this into a pint glass. The color is a nice light amber with a bubbly white head about an inch thick. The aroma is wonderful on this. Floral hops with orange sweetness and bit of oak. Slightly bitter with a solid malt profile. The taste is dry and absolutely bitter. Bitter grassy hops with light malts. I'm into this one. Already lamenting that I only have one can left. The mouthfeel is light and subtly carbonated, nothing offensive here. And at four percent, a tailor made session beer that's easy to kick back and enjoy.

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Photo of Ragingbull
3.6/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Amber color with a thick frothy head about 2 or 3 cm thick that clings all over the glass after pouring. The beer has american hops and british malt. The nose is gently hoppy. It seems that the hops in the nose is imparted by the flavoring hops and that there wasn't much done with aromatics. Gentle flavor of hops and malt working together. The body of the beer is mostly a malty read and there seems to be some orange zest or lemon peel or both. Light body and finishes very clean. The mouthfeel is pretty ordinary as there is nothing about it that I can even make note of. It just slides down your throat. The hops seems to almost get lost until the finish and aftertaste. The brewery itself describes the beer as "marmalade" flavor, so I guess I am on it with the orange.

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Photo of wagenvolks
3.98/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16oz can into a BlackStar Co-op tumbler glass. Props to ballz50401 for the trade!

Bitter Brewer blends a beautiful body of rustic copper with a big, foamy head of meringue foam. The head is rocky and full of large bubbles that get displaced as the carbonation from below creates a creamy consistency. The aroma definitely highlights the American influence over the English style, as grapefruit and floral notes from the hops add a nice balance to toffee malts and caramel sweetness. Well-balanced, that's for sure.

The English malts shine through on the flavor with a perfectly-restrained sweetness that suggests toffee, dates, and mineral water. Yeast adds notes of tobacco and shoe polish, with a healthily bitter floral kick on the finish from fresh-tasting hop cones. Mouthfeel is aggressive, as Surly beers tend to be, but not overly so. Big bubbles from the CO2 roll across the palate to make the body feel even thinner than the style dictates. Still, Bitter Brewer is an excellent take on an obscure style. Wish I could come across more English Bitters like this in the states...

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Photo of newk340
3.83/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: a translucent golden amber with subtle carbonation.

S: hints of hops and wheat gently tease the nostrils.

T: smooth blends of hops that tickle the tongue while citrus hints spatter the throat with the swallow.

MF/D: an initial buzz of carbonation that dissipates as quickly as it hits the tongue for a smooth swallow. excellent session beer.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume II, Issue VI:

Hmm ... brewed in the tradition of a traditional English Bitter, but made with American hops. Guess that makes this an American Bitter? Love that angry brewer on the back of the can! Anyway ...

Hazy amber, with bright orange hues and a solid white foam lace that gently clings to the glass. Aroma is oh so pleasing on this one. Floral, woody, dense with jam-like oranges and a light grainy note in the back. Body is very light and fluffy with a lively level of carbonation that complements a prickly hop presence that's snappy, bitter, but clean and crisp. Not sharp. Full of complexities, like pithy, coarse wheatgrass, floral bouquet, rosemary and bitter orange peels, with a grainy breadiness beneath and some mineral notes. No real sweetness to speak of, it's all about the raw hop bitterness. Bone dry finish, with a strong biscuit flavor in the linger. Some bicarbonate, too.

We need more beers like this. Session beers, that are moderate in alcohol, packed with flavor and keep you grabbin' for more. Get bitter!

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.31/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

16 oz. of aluminum-clad goodness, an appreciated extra from BA 'yourefragile'. Poured to a pint glass and enjoyed with Popeye's chicken/red beans & rice after 7+ hours of concrete patching and painting. Labor Day? Hell, yeah...

4% Alc/Vol; IBU - 37

A: Tab opens with a regular 'pop'; a dollop of ivory foam peeks out and hardens - my beer just birthed a marshmallow! Into the glass, a lightly-fogged amber/honey showing off a bounty of busy bubbles. Excellent head, lumpy and long-lasting, and a patchwork of glass-hugging seafoam.

S: A tangy-dry bready aroma, with wispy notes of flowers/grass and honey, a stammering citrus (lemon?).

T: Pale malt with a wowing, bright bitterness - peach and citrus. Rye-like spicing and an almost hidden sweetness. Not brazen, just a perfectly balanced grassy hoppiness atop a caramel base. Strong flavors for the style, definitely memorable.

M: Smooth and light-bodied, a cheerful carbonation and lasting toasted malt bitterness.

D: Sure it was an exhausting day and all, but, good lord, this disappeared quickly! I'll give BB credit for slaking a *killer* thirst, but moreso for having a perfectly palate-pleasing blend of malt and hops and an oh-so-sessionable weight. Bitter? Only that I don't have any more to enjoy...

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Photo of Ryan011235
4.02/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Samuel Smith pint glass on 9/2/10

Courtesy of biglobo8971

Bitter Brewer is burnt amber in color; pale with a slight haziness. Pored two fingers of foam that rose over the rim of the glass. After several minutes the head has dropped, leaving behind a skim in the middle & clumpy retention & lace. Both thin even more by the end.

A dry, toasted malt character supports sharp hop aromas. Floral hops are most apparent, with notions of earthy pine & mild citric zest rounding it out. After a few moments & a swirl or two, notes of toasted bread & caramel emerge. Very good aroma.

When it comes to taste, bitterness is indeed the focal point. Dry, rather brash pine bitterness is unleashed immediately & is followed up with a thin citrus twinge. Toasted bread & the faintest of caramel. Has an almost fruit juicy quality about it; almost. Astringent bitterness picks up towards the finish.

Medium body sporting moderate carbonation; enough to keep things moving along. Initially it finishes quickly with the aforementioned astringency, though residuals of the malts & hops creep back in & linger briefly.

Drinkability is fine; I think this does a pretty good job of getting across the bitterness of Todd the brewer as described on the can. Very curt & brazen bitterness, especially considering the abv.

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Photo of AdamGarcia
4.52/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

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.

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Photo of blackie
4.1/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

a: standard pint, a light copper-amber in color, low head

s: the nose is very much tealike, some light toasty malts metallic hops and some grassy citrus, pretty simple stuff

m: light bodied with a moderate level of carbonation

t: very light toasted malt body with a very prominent tea flavor, metallic hop bitterness really stands out against the low malt back, some citrus

d: a straight session beer, not the most interesting thing out there but it does fit the style

sampled at Stub & Herbs, Minneapolis

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Photo of johnnytfresh245
2.4/5  rDev -39.7%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured this beer from the can into a glass and was a liked the light color of the beer. I didn't like the smell and maybe next time I'll just keep it in the can. It smelled like citrus but not hop citrus, but as if there were some additions other than hops to aid in the citrus-ness. I was also a little put off by the body. I know this is a light beer but it feel really dry to me. Overall this is not something that I would seek out

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Photo of SanDiegoBeerLove
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours Amber with Red Highlights and about finger of head. Head

S - Smells Citrus, Yeast, Grass, Pine, and Flowers.

T - Tastes of Citrus, Pine Resin, Minerals, and Bready. Not that Bitter but they must be using water Heavy on Minerals for this beer.

M - Very light body, Watery, but Medium Carbonation.

D - This is a very good Session beer but the lack of flavor hurts my wanting for more than one.

For the style this a good overall beer.

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Bitter Brewer from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.98 out of 5 with 1,088 ratings
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