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 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 MattyG85
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 16 oz. can into a Sam Adams perfect pint glass. Canned on 5/25/11.

Appearance: Deep golden orange with lots of rising bubbles. Solid finger and a half of off white head that has great retention and a good amount of lacing.

Smell: A sweet citrus aroma with lots of orange and lemon is backed by caramel malts and piney hops. Smells like orange marmalade jam on toasted bread. A very interesting and appealing aroma.

Taste: A sweet and slightly tart blend of citrus fruit followed by bready caramel malts. Hop bitterness is light but enough to balance the sweetness. Tastes sweet but not to the same level as a citrus packed DIPA.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with a medium level of carbonation. Very crisp.

Overall: A very good summer brew that is lighter but packed with flavor. Good balance in the citrus sweetness, bread, and hops.

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

Pint-sized can served cold into a smaller-than pint-sized pint glass.

Bitter Brewer is a slightly hazy golden orange color with thick sticky head.

Aroma is fresh and very hop-forward. It has great American hop character which is unlike every other English bitter I've ever had. Really pleasant to my nose.

Flavor is a little more mild than the aroma would have you expecting but it's still really well bittered with hops. A little toasted malt and caramel flavors blend with the citrusy American hops really nicely.

Mouthfeel is very light in body but well carbonated and balanced. Each sip leaves me wanting another.

Overall a great session beer. A perfect blend of English malt and American hops. Who knew the two would get along so well together?

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Photo of Axic10
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can thanks to notCreative. Poured from can into a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a light golden/slightly amber with a finger of foam that lingers around nicely.

Smell: Faint hop aroma with a strong smell of grain and malt coming in at the end. Nice smelling beer.

Taste: Bready malt taste at first, followed by a slight bitterness from the hops, finished of with a malty sweet aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, smooth and crisp.

Drinkability: Very drinkable at 4%. I really need to drink some more English bitters, as they are an underrated style. Very easy drinker, not offensive at all. Great beer.

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Photo of jeffthecheff
4.42/5  rDev +10%
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 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 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 EwaldEichstaett
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap at the White Horse in St. Cloud (great bar by the way).

A: Very impressed by the appearance of this beer. It came with a good sized head that lasted. Even at the end of the beer there is some foam remaining in the middle of the glass. As you drink, the sides of the glass remain covered with dried white foamy lacing. The beer has a nice dark golden brown color.

S: Big floral hoppy fruity tones with some malt underneath. The smell of this beer is huge.

T: This beer tastes so cool and fresh. It is a little tangy and spicy at first moving on to a floral and grassy taste and ending with a nice hoppy bitterness. The beer get more of the grassy flavor the warmer it gets. The flavors are very distinct and the beer has an excellent balance.

M: Feels great over the tongue. The alcohol is not perceived at all. Spicy and smooth at the same time, this beer is an excellent thirst quencher.

D: While you could drink this beer all day long. I would prefer to move to a different (stronger) style of beer after one or two. Probably more of a personal preference than a fault with the beer.


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

Given to me by a very generous friend...thanks Mike!

A - Poured a slightly cloudy reddish/orange color with a nice fluffy eggshell colored head that retained well for the first few minutes, then receded into a nice cap.

S - Very citrusy nose...grapefruit rind and floral hops abound. Yummy smelling brew!

T & M - A nice hoppy number, but not in an overwhelming sort of way. Spicy and citrusy all at once. Just a little maltiness to add to the complexity. Light to medium body, creamy mouthfeel. Finishes well.

D - I love this beer. It's one that has a low enough ABV to make it sessionable, yet the taste is bigger than most session brews. The only bad part is the fact that Surly doesn't distribute to WI...looks like I'll have to rely on my MN pipeline to keep getting my Surly fix! YUM!

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Photo of kenito799
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

On tap at Sea Salt, Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis.

Medium clear brown, soft tan head, not a lot in the plastic cup, nor can lacing be assessed. Pleasant fresh malty aroma.

This is a delicious balanced bitter...hops quite restrained, malt crisp and dry. They have nailed the style. Low alcohol. perfect session beer, one that you will not tire of, fantastic with food. It's now in cans. Another great effort by these surly guys.

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Photo of alleykatking
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Got this as an extra from alexgrahamlv....thanks for everything once again Alex!

A- Pours a light lightly hazed orange color. 1 1/2 finger tannish light mocha head sits on this beer just making my mouth water. Lacing while light it seems sticks to the glass at a very nice rate.

S- Very light in the overpower department with this beer. Nice light grassy and citrus tones in the front of this beer balances well with a light toasted caramel malt. Couldn't have asked for a better smelling bitter.

T- So this is why Surly is becoming a sought after beer. This is good stuff here. A perfect balance of citrus and pine upfront in this beer. The middle is toasted caramel and a light grassy taste as well. The ending on this is a nice light bitter that makes me want to drink more of.

M- Nice lighter mouthfeel. Carbonation is good with where it is at. Beer just dances off the tongue. Nice grassy bitterness left on the palate after the beer is gone.

D- This is a very drinkable beer which I was glad I got the chance to try. Now I am going to have to go and try to get some more of it! Great job Surly!!!

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Photo of travloh
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from growler to Sam Adams beer glass at 46 degrees.

Appearance is a little cloudy, dark amber. Not much head even after aggressive pour from growler, about 1 finger and it is gone quick.

Smell is malty with a hint of hoppiness...faint but it is there.

MMMmmm....this stuff is good and the first thing I think of is how I could drink this all night. Light but not weak. Goes down so good with not much aftertaste. It also has the taste and feeling of freshness, as well it should, as it was just released.

This beer is very drinkable. Like I said, light but with enough flavor for us beer geeks.

I reviewed this beer not knowing much about this style. Its not the hop-monster I usually enjoy. That being said it is a very drinkable beer that you could suck down all night and not worry about the hidden alcohol kicking your ass.

I should also mention that this brewery is local to me and Surly Furious, to me, is the nectar of the gods. My opinion may be biased. Enjoy!!

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Photo of dfried
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pretty light yellow, but not quite macro pale, in color, sudsy white head. Sweet sugary, grainy malt aroma jumps out at you along with citrusy and grassy/earthy hops. The flavor has a lot going on for such a simple brew. Hop flavors are quite pronounced and noticeable but are definitely tamed on the bitterness scale since it is dry hopped. Plenty of citrusy orange rind, with gentile floral notes. This played well with the sweet creamy malt, for such a light colored beer there was a lot of vanilla and toffee notes, but the body remained quite crisp and clear with this great mix of flavors. Hops and malt together kind of reminded me of orange cream. Clear notes of peach or nectarine in the aftertaste.

Overall: this is one of the best session beers I have ever had and I think you would agree. Light gentile body, bustling with hop flavor but without much bitterness. It just keeps you coming back for more. IMO this would be a great gateway beer for the MBC crowd, but it still has the respectability and quality of Surly.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
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 AdmiralDiaz
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from 16oz can to pint glass.

A: Pours a orange-copper body with a large off-white head with great retention and a half a glass of lacing.

S: Smells of strong hops with floral and citrus notes on top of grass and caramel. Not an extremely bold beer but still complex scent.

T: Very similar to the smell. Strong grass hits upfront turning into bold hops with a malty not turning into a bitter finish. Very nice and mellow taste but still highly enjoyable.

Overall: Mouthfeel is very light and well carbonated. Drinkability is amazing, as is should be. I could easily drink a couple four-packs. Perfect for summer! well done Surly!

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Photo of Gobearswalter34
4.39/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a hazy grapefruit color with a thin white head. Smells of lots of citrus fruit. Quite bitter with very juicy citrus fruit with a grapefruit mango presence. Wonderfully light body and quite refreshing. I could drink many. The 4% alcohol will allow for that. There is a malty cracker taste that makes it unique as an English Bitter. Lots of carbonation adds to the zesty yeast taste. I like!

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

Big thanks to Mully for hooking me up with a bunch of this.

16oz. can poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a nice amber orange color with decent visibility. As always with Surly, a nice strong head forms, holds very nicely, and produces great lacing.

S: Hmm... Odd. The first can that I had a couple days ago Simcoe style weed/catpiss combo going, lol. This is had just a tiny touch of that in the back but more of a tea like fragance as the main show. A touch of citrus and grainy sweet malts. Malts smell like steeping homebrew grains.

T/M: Bitterness is at a good sessioning level. Hops are more floral, earthy, and grassy but with a bit of that funky twang. Malts taste exactly like they smell. A touch of dryness in the finish. Body is medium light and carbonation is just right.

D: Just a tasty and drinkable brews. Nothing mind blowing but definitely another well above average brew from Surly. Though, the more that I drink of this, the more I like it.

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Photo of Humulus85
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I look forward to this every year, first time reviewing. Poured from the 16oz Surly can into my Samuel Smiths pint glass.

Pours a hazy orange with a nice, white, two-finger head. Great retention gives way to a crazy amount of sticky lacing.

Smell is unique. Marmalade upfront with a backing of bready malt, some grassy hops, and esters. Light and crisp.

That strange, but delicious, orange marmalade flavor upfront. Toffee and biscuit malt makes up the backbone. Not a big hop profile, but wonderfully bitter throughout.

Mouthfeel is light, great carbonation, and not a hint of alcohol.

Overall this is truly a world-class session beer. So much flavor in such a light bodied, low abv brew. The only draw back is that it is Surly, so it is not cheap at $9 per 4-pack. My go too brew the spring camp/boating trips. Recommended to all who can get it. Cheers!

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Photo of WYVYRN527
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second time I have tried this release from Surly. This time I actually have a little better environment for posting an accurate review.

A- Pours a deep, golden orange with lots of carbonation at first, but dissapates slowly. It retains a slight head about 2-3 millimeters thick.

S- On the nose, sweet malt shines through off the bat, followed by a citrusy, floral hop aroma.

T- Upon the first sip, notes of orange and honey are the most dominant, followed by a mild hop character that lingers on the palate for minutes after.

M- This beer is medium to full-bodied, yet with a delicate, silky mouthfeel.

D- Overall, this release is very approachable, especially for those who love hops. It's low alcohol by volume makes it a beer that can be enjoyed in sessions. Definitely another job well done by the guys at Surly!

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Photo of brewcrew76
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to tayner for this one.

A - Pours a very hazy copper orange with 2 fingers of rocky off white head and sticky lacing everywhere.

S - Grapefruit and floral hops, grean tea, very herbal, orange tangerine and apricot with biscuit, toffee and toasted bread.

T - Orange and tangerine with a tea like herbal flavor, somewhat floral with biscuit and wheat bread.

M - Light bodied with low carbonation and a dry finish.

D - This one goes down very easy and has a nice herbal hop kick.

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

A- Pours a deep orange color with a huge, pillowy off white head which leaves a lot of lacing on the way down.

S- Huge floral hop notes, some sweet fruit and mixed spices.

T- Taste mimics the nose, starting off with big, full hop notes and ending with a creamy finish. Not as assertive as i expected from the nose but good none the less.

M- Fairly thin bodied with carbonation on the low side.

D- This is an incredible session beer. If it was available around here I would make it my go to. I didn't know a beer under 5 percent alcohol could have this kind of hop profile without being incredibly bitter.

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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 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 homebrew311
4.37/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Received as an extra from millah- thanks man! Can never get enough Surly!!

A: pours a bright clear gold with a white, sticky looking head, good lacing and retention

S: lemon zest and citrusy aromatic hops on the front, rich caramel malts are next with a sweet finish

T: sweet malts come through on the front along with nice fruity hops which introduce some bitterness to the malts, malty finish with notes of bread, very well balanced

MF: smooth and crisp, medium carbonation, light body

D: another low alcohol masterpiece from Surly. I have gotten to the point where I am confident that any Surly product I try will impress me regardless of style

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