I am going to round out my trio of Surly reviews with one for Bitter Brewer which is their take on the English bitter.
BB poured a nice orange-brown and was completely clear. The head was very creamy and lasted a good long while. It clung to the sides of the glass well for some nice lacing. There were a few stray bubbles making their way up the glass. During my initial whiff my nose was overwhelmed with fruity aromas from the malt, namely apricot. However, there was some very faint grassy hop in there too.
Taking a sip, I was first greeted by that fruity malt but it quickly gave way to the hops which seemed to register on every part of my tongue. Despite the name, BB isn’t a mega hop bomb that will set your lips a-puckerin’. Yes, there was certainly a goodly amount of bitterness present but what was really notable was the big, fresh grassy/floral flavor of the hops with the emphasis on the latter. To my palate, the malt was drowned out by the hops but it was still there as evidenced by the mouthfeel which never felt watery.
While it mellows as you get to the bottom of the can, Bitter Brewer is all about that floral hop flavor being in your face. One pint was enough for me. Having said this, the floral taste was a very welcome change of pace. The German, Czech, and Polish lagers I’ve been drinking lately use hops that impart more of a herbal flavor while the pale ales that have crossed my path used C-hops which emphasize citrus. And so it was great to drink something which went in a different direction. While Surly tweaked the English bitter, they get credit in my book for keeping BB at 4.1% ABV - nice and sessionable and within the range for the style - instead of making a bigger beer.
Junk food pairing: I found that Bitter Brewer went well with corn nuts. The toasted flavor helped make up for the lack of malt and made for a nice balance on my palate.