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Beer Reviews

Bitter Brewer

Surly Brewing Co.
Brooklyn Center, MN

Style: Bitter

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
I’ve been to a couple of brewfests where Surly was offering beers, but I’ve yet to experience the stories I’ve heard from several people about the servers being, well, surly. One person I talked to put it thusly: “Nothing like getting swore at by the guy you’re buying beer from.” Other than the fact that that is a lot of prepositions, it plays along with Surly’s whole theme of a rancorous and downright pissed-off outlook on life, what with all the death metal, swearing, and beer names like Furious, CynicAle, and Darkness.

Now comes Bitter Brewer, a genuine bitter, one of those styles peculiar to the Brits. Bitters should be low in alcohol, high in hops, with a lighter body than you’d find in a pale ale or IPA. These are sippin’ brews, and Bitter Brewer is no exception.

It pours a muddy amber with a thick crown of super-fine, sticky foam. The aroma is loads of bright, piney hops—thanks in large part to the fortnight of dry hopping the beer goes through—over top dry, biscuity malt notes. The taste stays closely along those lines: hops, hops, hops of the exuberant American variety all over the front and middle of the sip. Some maltiness does show up at the end, but it is dry and bready, letting the hops be the star of the show. The body is medium-light without tasting water, with a sharp, hard mouthfeel that any English-style pale beer absolutely demands.

Add all that up and you have an extremely drinkable brew—a true session beer in every sense of the word. Most authentic bitters, being ales, will exhibit some esters to keep things a bit more interesting, but Surly’s version is bone dry from sniff to final quaff. The hops provide the real interest here, but the bitterness is not overpowering. According to Surly’s web site, this brew is a one-off, but hopefully they’ll bring it back as a regular in their lineup.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on July 23, 2008.
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