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 FightingEntropy
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This light golden-orange beer with a white head packs a punch of hops. Clearly bitter, and, like many of Surly brews, calling it a style is a bit of a misnomer. Anyone who really like the English Bitter listed above will be surprise by this one. For me the nose is a great invitation of twangy hops, but the taste is a bit too much. The bite is acrid, and tough, but not in a totally bad way. It's well brewed to be just that--but it's not fun for me to drink, and the malty base and body are too weak to match up to the hops, which linger ad infinitum and build uncomfortably over the course of the beer. With that said, I can see why those very things would be a postive for a lot of people.

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

Pours a clear orange/amber color with 2 fingers of foamy eggshell head with nice retention and good lacing. Smells of pine, grass, honey, lightly toasted grain, and citrus fruit. Tastes of earthy hops, grassy hop pellets, toasted grain and biscuit, and a finish of dry pine. Medium to medium light in body with low carbonation. Somewhat watery and lacking in a lot of malt presence, but packing in the hops like they're actually grown in the can. Low in ABV and very sessionable for those who like a more bitter beer.

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

Maybe my favorite of the Surly beers that have crossed my path, I think, and that's not a knock on Furious or Bender. Thanks to brdc for this one.

A pale copper pour with a frothy, exceptionally smooth finger or two of head that sticks around 'til towards the end.

Flavor is a biscuity, bready malt backed with a snapping bite of lightly astringent citrus hops. The effect is a pleasing, well-balanced dryness. There is not an incredible complexity.... but the malt and hop flavor are distinct and pleasant. Eminently quaffable.

Nicely carbonated, medium to light bodied.

Minor quibble: can claims this is only 4% ABV.

Would order pints all day long, if I had them.

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Photo of budgood1
4.08/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours out of the 16 oz. can a dirty dark peach colour with bronzed hues. a thin fine head appears and sticks a bit to the side of the glass leaving fine rings of lace. citrusy aroma, somewhat bready and toasty, also. taste is a nice balance between toasted maltiness and a citrusy hop bitterness that lingers on the tongue for a long while...making me long for another sip well before i should wanting another. it's a simple yet complex concoction as the malts and hops play well off each other making it seem like there is more going on than there actually is. pure genius. the body is on the light side as a low ABV bitter should be, yet the mouthfeel is lively, crisp and refreshing. drinkability is certainly skewed towards being a sessionable ale. in other words, very good.

a very tasty offering here. surly again impresses me with a twist on a style that sometimes isn't respected in america. recommended.

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

Pours a nice clear amber color with one inch of white head sitting on top. Good retention and a bit of lacing.

Aroma is delicious. Some citrusy hops, a little piney.

Taste is quite nice. A little citrus hoppiness with a good malt profile. Bready, with a tea like finish.

Mouthfeel is Medium bodied with a nice gentle carbonation tingle.

Drinkability is high. Great flavors, low alcohol, feels good, very easy to consume. A nice session brew.

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

Poured from pint can into shaker pint glass.
A: Darker golden color with 1/2 inch white head. Decent retention.
S: Honey, hop, and malt.
T: Nice bitter note hits fairly quickly. Earthy herbal notes, chalky soil, hint of floral note in background. Above average complexity for the style. More of the hop note comes through after a few sips.
M: Soft and oily feel. Nice slow taper of the bitter finish.
D: Bitterness is held nicely in check. A good representative of style. Fairly refreshing brew. Decently complex, but not outstanding. I would certainly recommend this one.

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Photo of bennetj17
4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Lightly hazed coppery-orange appearance. Quite a bit of carbonation fizzing throughout, helping to sustain a dense layer of off-white foam atop. Fine lacing. Great smell of floral hops with a real citrus sweetness, almost like a fresh orange. Very intense and inviting.

The hoppy, orange fruit-like qualities continue in the flavor, although it doesn't taste very sweet as the malt is mostly in the background. Finishes with a moderate bitterness that keeps you wanting more. I'm trying to remember a beer that had that same unique fruit flavor, perhaps a mandarin Hefeweiss? As for the body, its smooth, slightly creamy, with great carbonation.

This beer was one of my favorites. A low ABV session brew, that has the hop intensity of beers twice as strong. The unique citrus aspect was interesting at first, but after one pint you just want more. I would especially love to try this on cask, as I can only imagine it being worthy of a long days session...

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

16 oz. can.

Deep copper body with golden edges. Thick finger of clingy, cobwebby, light beige head. Good lacing and retention. Nose of zesty, fresh marmalade and citrus hops (maybe some pine in there as well). Minerally biscuit/cookie malt in the background. Nice.

Toasted malts up front along with some toffee/biscuit flavor. Minty and citrusy hops follow soon after. Nice and bitter with developing into marmalade on toast. Hint of butter. Citrus and mild pine bitterness in a dry finish. Moderate body with nice, even carbonation. Would be really nice on cask methinks. Still a very good brew from the can! Keep up the great work Surly!

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

App: Medium amber and quite clear with a two finger off-white head that never disappears. It's foamy and thick and brilliant.

Smell: Great floral aroma with a lot of intricacies. The malt background is there too, but not doing much on the nose. The hops really are the thrill for this aroma.

Taste: The malt background is hidden a little too much by the hops, but still makes it out in subtle biscuity nuances. The hops are still floral on the taste, but settle down quite a bit to make beer all about mouthfeel.

Mouthfeel: Bitter and crisp at the same time. Reminded me of orange marmalade, but only after reading that description on the menu. It takes over the palate and is quite refreshing.

Drinkability: One of the best bitters I've ever had, and I would gladly make this a regular if I could get it regularly. Unfortunately I don't think I can.

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

Thanks to BAer chonyr for bringing this to the Great White North.

A nice looking brew, an orange tinted amber ale is capped by a one finger off white head. OK retention, already leaving some lace as the head subsides, and continues to leave random, chaotic patterns of sticky lace . Very mildly carbonated.

Nice aroma on this one, some toasted multigrain bread, and the hopping does provide for the orange marmalade as stated on the can. Some tea like aromas linger in the background.

A tasty brew from one bitter brewer! Much like the aroma suggests, however there is also a somewhat substantial clean hop bitterness (surprised?) with the citrus/marmalade qualities being somewhat more subdued. The toasty whole grain bread is there, and a slight kiss of toffee, but the tea like notes are more substantial than i was led to believe from the nose of this brew.

A nice light bodied brew, although the malts are not quite up to the task of standing up to the hop bitterness. Also somewhat astringent and tea like.

If hops and some astringency are your thing this beer is for you. I'm finding this to be pretty drinkable, but this may be too extreme of a small beer to be truely sessionable for myself. That said this is a very tasty small beer, and one that i wish i had more of so i could challenge myself to see just how sessionable it is. The burps come up as tingly pine... just thought i would throw that in there. Another ballsy beer from the ballsy brewery we know as Surly.

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

on tap at clark street ale house in chicago, an oasis in the hotel district...visited about a month ago, reviewed from cell phone notes

appearance: served in an imperial pint, strong apricot-amber body with a surly haze about it, creamy beige head

smell: strongly hopped per the surly norm, biscuit malt, grassy hops, tea, citrus fruit

taste: a delightfully enjoyable english bitter that i was excited to see on tap as i dont get many chances to try surly since i dont venture into minnesota very often, if ever...bready malt structure, pungent citrus hops, grassy and herbal tea, creamy and satisfying

mouthfeel: creamy and smooth, refreshing and bold

drinkability: high

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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 timbro81
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to dfried for the opportunity. Pours a light copper/orange color. Nice fluffy head that settles to a nice little layer. Proper amount of carbonation for the style. Small amounts of lacing that travels down the glass. Smells of light toasted malts with a light yet fair amount of earthy floral hops. Mouth feel is light and clean. Nice level of hops throughout the mouth. Citrus hops up front, that transitions to a more floral type. I touch of toasted malts comes in for the aftertaste. I really light and highly sessionable beer. Utterly fantastic.

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

I had high hopes for this beer. While I've never cared much for it on tap, I hoped that the cask version would be better(take for example the Summit IPA, which is terrific on cask, but the cold version leaves me, well, cold). This beer(disapointingly) is just a warmer version of the cold Bitter Brewer. Served on cask, this pours a hazy amber color, with a frothy white head and ample lacing on the glass. The smell is malty with a hint of lemon. The lemon smell is an overwhelming flavor in the beer. It's hard to taste much else, although there is a bready malty flavor as well. The mouthfeel is rich(typical of Surly brews). There is just too much lemon flavor in this beer for me to appreciate it. This is a rare misfire for an otherwise terrific brewery.

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

I got this brew in a trade with tytoanderso, Thanks Tyler!

16oz can served in a standard pint glass.

L - slightly cloudy, burnt orange color with a light tan head that left a little lacing.

S - tea leaf and floral hop aromas.

T - bitter orange-tea flavor with some sweetness near the tail end.

F - light/medium bodied with a smooth feel.

D - easy drinking and pretty tasty.

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