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Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

743 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 743
Hads: 1,849
Avg: 4.11
pDev: 15.57%
Wants: 457
Gots: 268 | FT: 11
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
American Brown Ale |  5.10% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: tavernjef on 02-04-2006

Here's what happens when substance meets smooth. This oatmeal brown ale defies traditional categories. Bender begins crisp and lightly hoppy, complemented by the velvety sleekness oats deliver. Belgian and British malts usher in cascades of cocoa, coffee, carmel and hints of vanilla and cream. An easy-drinking ale with many layers of satisfaction.
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Reviews: 743 | Hads: 1,849
Photo of tedvr
4.24/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours very dark with a thin white head. Smells are coffee with a malt background. Taste are coffee and malt with a nice balance. Mild carbonation. Really nicely balanced beer.

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Photo of Stevem68
3.87/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a nice caramel like dark Amber color. Has a caramel malt like aroma. Flavor is a little malty, caramel, a hint of vanilla and hops. Very smooth mouthfeel but a little light to me. Overall not bad but it feels like it doesn't know what it wants to be.

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Photo of bwood06
4.16/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap into pint glass

A - Very dark mahogany. Almost black in color. Thin khaki lacing. Can't see carbonation due to color. 4/5

S - Dark stone fruit. Chocolate. Nutty and earthy. Light caramel sweetness. Floral hops. 4.25/5

T - Sweet caramel up front transitioning to dark stone fruit and dark chocolate. Herbal hops finish with a slight pineyness. Very nicely layered. 4.25/5

M - Very smooth and creamy with a moderate tingling carbonation. Coats the mouth very nicely which allows the flavors to come out. 4/5

O - Very nicely layered beer which I find to be uncommon for a lower alcohol offering. Would gladly drink this beer again, with or without food. 4/5

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Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: Pours brilliant brown under a 3” light tan foam cap that slowly recedes and produces fine lace. S: Light roast, chocolate, spice. T: Mild bitterness, chocolate, coffee, caramel, spice. F: Creamy smooth, medium body and carbonation. O: One of the better brown ales out there.

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Photo of leroybrown10
3.8/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Pours a medium brown color with big ruby/garnet highlights. 2 finger head is tan in color and quite long lasting. Big sticky lacing left behind.

Aroma is very subdued. Some mild coffee and chocolate. Toffee and light molasses.

Taste is similar to the aroma. Subdued but not to the extent of the aroma. Coffee, cream, mild roasted malt. Some toffee and caramel. Not really getting any hop flavors. Undercurrent of chocolate though out.

Very nice mouth feel. Medium body with a cream/velvety feel. Medium carbonation.

A decent brown ale that was a mild letdown after having previously had Coffee Bender. Flavors and aromas are good but need a boost in intensity.

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Photo of Welch
4.58/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great Ale! Pours a extra dark brown but not quite black. Light oatmeal colored head dissipates after a few minutes. Smells of caramel, oak, coffee beans, a hint off vanilla and a faint tinge of alcohol. Tastes of oatmeal, oak, dark chocolate at first but finishes very malty. It is lighter in taste than expected, which I like. The can states that it begins hoppy but I only detect a little hops. The mouthfeel is rich. It leaves a slight film on your tongue similar to a very dark chocolate. That quickly dissipates. Overall I am hugely impressed with this beer. This drinks just as well in winter as it does in the heat of summer. I will definitely have this again.

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Photo of AlpacaAlpaca
4.22/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I spy a few dubbel-esque qualities lurking in this well executed, lightly hoppy, very balanced brown ale. I generally like my brown ales to be a little less thin, but not all browns can have the body of a Palo Santo.

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

Great beer! I had this while in Minneapolis. I can see why Surly's is popular. Great looking pour, not too bitter, and pretty smooth taste. I'd like to try some other Surly brews.

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Photo of mdcrouser
4.38/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown, with slivers of light edging in shades of deep red. Chalky, chunky head rests solidly in a deep tan.

Cocoa, roasted coffee, some alcohol on the nose - inviting in its depth.

Much thinner than the porter it actually resembles, but with malty dark bread, followed by coffee and even chocolate on the tongue. A hint of hoppy bitterness is present, but not at the fore. I'm not usually a fan of brown ales, but this one has enough flavor to be enjoyable.

Highly drinkable - well done by Surly.

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Photo of cjohns73
4.2/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a can. Look is dark dark with minimal head that doesn't hang around. Smell is similarly OK, but taste is really solid with nice roastiness. Its in the feel that this stands out. Thin, yes, but so smooth and just slightly bitter on the finish. Have to compare again with Coffee Bender, but this is a standout beer.

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Photo of maedhros09
4.19/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Look: Very dark brown, barely transparent (not unlike some lighter porters). About a finger of head upon pouring, leaving a bit of lacing and a film.
Smell: Caramel, roasty, almost chocolatey
Taste: Moderate cereal sweetness with a bit of acidity, spiciness and finally a mildly bitter herbal hoppiness with a lingering roastiness in the finish. Nicely balanced!
Feel: Medium body, pretty active carbonation but a nice smooth texture once it settles down a bit.

Overall: I started this one a little underwhelmed but was converted by the end. Surly makes a great case for this under-appreciated style. I'm not very familiar with brown ales but this one strikes me as being on the darker side (flavor- and appearance-wise), almost like some lighter porters. Flavor abounds yet it is ultimately balanced and very drinkable.

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Photo of OrestesMethuon
4.13/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Mild, mellow—and surprisingly light, yet still slightly chewy—Surly's Bender is brown on all the right levels; and, for an ale this dark—it pours a muddy-gold stream, but sits pitch-brown in the glass—it's extremely "easy-drinking" indeed. It boasts a clean, creamy nose, with layers of toffee, old coffee, and verdant, unripened hop notes, which—along with its minimal head out of the sixteen-ounce can (and into a Fairhope Brewing 1st Anniversary tulip-pint)—strongly suggests that this won't be a standard soggy-biscuit brown. Once sipped, those suggestions are confirmed: while certainly "lightly" hopped, there is a pleasant dull, scuffed-down bitterness that matches some of the cocoa-nib and espresso-dust valences that course through the bodied sweetness. These sugars, however, are dark—almost reminiscent of black-strap rum—but likewise very restrained; the cleanliness of Bender's taste, as well as its mouthfeel, always appear paramount. And, moreover—despite the low booze-level—it seems to me that good, really-brown Caribbean rums form a sound analogy for one of the primary aspects of Bender's flavor-profile: very refined sweetness; rich, mellow, smooth burnt-bite; and bitterness that draws from both those qualities for a warmth that fills the body, without any heaviness filling the stomach.

I still think Bell's Best Brown is my favorite "session brown", but Bender is right up there—being a little less complex, and weaker in its bite, while at the same time having a plusher texture and nice, porridge-like grist, thanks to the oats in the malt-bill. It's rare, regardless, to try a brown that coheres to stylistic constraints and simultaneously refreshes the palate, but Surly hits that svelte mark.

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Photo of sjccmd
3.84/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with ruby highlights. Light tan head. Decent lacing.

Roasted malts dark fruits and some citusy piney hops. Fruitier than I expected. Would have liked the roasty character to take over more.

Taste follows aroma. For a brown ale, I prefer chocolate and roast to dark fruit. While this has both, dark fruit makes a bit more presence than I'd prefer. Firm bitterness.

Pretty full bodied, low carbonation. Not solidly dry, but not cloying.

Nice brown, but lacking real depth of malt character. Just a tad.

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Photo of Reinbeck11
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Look Light brown or even clear brown color. Good foamy head
Smell Very light scent(too light). Would like a stronger bold scent.
Taste Clean crisp taste. Taste you want in an oatmeal malty beer shines through.
Feel Smooth drinking brown light on your tongue, easy finish
O-all Very good brown, lightness of smell and crisp/clean flavor profile makes it a good food friendly beer. Easy drinking brown ale for a day long good time.

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Photo of IPAGeorge
4.02/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An easy drinking brown ale with desert characteristics and some porter to it. Only being a 5%abv it drinks nicely. Brown sugar is the first notion with raisin quickly following Carmel aftertaste. Great beer to have with a steak or some pecan pie or nothing at all ;)

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Photo of untitledeuphoria
3.74/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Canned 11.14.13. Drank 10.17.14. Poured into a 16oz Shaker.

A: Khaki one and a half finger head, light and bubbly with massive pitting. Recedes quickly, leaving traces of soapy lacing. Settles a ruby brown with light passing easily around the glass edges, but not through the center. No visible carbonation.

S: Mild British hops, soft oats, thick malt, brown sugar, and a hint of caramel. A surprisingly timid nose IMO.

T: Bready, processed grain, loads of smooth sweet malt with a bitter caramel finish. Traces of cocoa appear sporadically.

M: Silky, very light and extremely smooth. A drinkable brown ale that does not succumb to off flavors. Light carbonation matches well with the little kick of hops evident. Finishes clean and wet on the tongue.

O: Im not too sure what to say about this one. On one hand it is one of the better brown ales I have had, but on the flipside, I don't think that is saying much. I was expecting something unique from Surly, something that would stand above the crowd, but instead it is simply an above average brown ale.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Surly Bender has a thick, beige, crackling, foam head, a clear, somewhat bubbly, brown appearance, and substantial lacing left on the glass. Aroma is of rich, sweet, malty, brown bread, and the flavor is of the same elements, with wonderful, non-fruity and non-piney, straightforward bitterness. The oats also shine through, as one sips it down. Mouthfeel is medium and a bit velvety. Surly Bender finishes semi-wet and easy drinking.


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Photo of Oakenshield53
3.5/5  rDev -14.8%

Man, I WANT to like this stuff, but it's finally time to admit that I just don't.

I mean, it's well made. I can see the draw, but there's a reason they make different beers after all and for me, this is chaos in a can and not in a really good way. It's like that guy in a office meeting who's always agreeing with every alternative that gets brought up.

Complex, certainly, and I like complexity generally. But I like a more structured, curated complexity than Bender offers, which is all over the map.

Too many flavors moshing that don't individually have enough heft to create a good character which registers.

Lots of better alternatives in this category, in my opinion.

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Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Canned 7/25 and poured 8/28. Got this at Four Firkins for $3.29 a single.

Appearance: A clear, ruby brown/black color with a finger of sand colored head. Solid lacing as well. (4.25/5)

Smell: Doesn't smell particularly special, but it's pretty nice. It mostly smells like a well done version of the style with the usual roasted and caramel malts. There's a hint of coffee that would no doubt be more significant in the coffee version of this beer. (3.75/5)

Taste/feel: Well, that's easily the best damn brown ale I've ever tasted. Yeah, you get the "usual" roast and caramel flavors, but there's something about this beer. There's a vanilla flavor coming in from somewhere that just works unbelievably well with the feel, which is full bodied. The carbonation is low/medium, and is basically perfect for Bender. After taste is mostly caramel malt, but there's a little roast in there as well. It sort of comes together as a caramel popcorn flavor, but I could just be imagining that (probably...). (4/5, 4.5/5)

My first brew from Surly, and I'm left impressed. Brown ales in my past experience were just... brown ales. This beer adds something exciting with the vanilla flavor it has, and the feel is fantastic. If you're a bit down on brown ales, try this one out, because it's certain to show you just what the style is capable of. The price of $3.29 for a single can is a bit high, but it's 16oz, and of great quality -- so keep that in mind.

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Photo of Franziskaner
4/5  rDev -2.7%

Dark brown to light black in color and essentially impenetrable to light. Brussels lacing. There's a miniscule layer of khaki colored head but it only covers about a third of the top of the beer. Luscious aroma of chocolate and dark malt greets my nose. The flavor is full of dark malt and caramel. The mouth is light and fairly quaffable considering the amount of flavor packed into this beer.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.52/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Refrigerated can, poured alongside Coffee Bender.

Deep, dark brown in color, but pretty much translucent when held to the light; a medium-sized tan head receded to a collar, leaving some lacing on the glass. Malt-driven aroma, toasted bread, cocoa, herbal hops. In the taste, caramel malts, pumpernickel, herbal/floral hop notes, nutty, with hints of cocoa, mineral, earth. I'm not a big fan of brown ales, but this one is much more complex than most. Medium body, average carbonation, and overall pretty drinkable for the style. I enjoyed this much more than its over-coffee-fied alter-ego.

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.35/5  rDev +5.8%

A - Dark, dark brown, mostly opaque, but with some transparency, particularly at the edge. Head is short, light tan, fades pretty quick, but sets up some pretty nice lacing and sticks around as a line at the top well after the pour.

S - Malt and grain, roasty toasty, with a nice sweet caramel element. A hint of molasses.

T - Following on the nose, with a dark brown bread (a la molasses bread) coming in first, fading into a more bitter toast and coffee core that leads to a slightly sour bitter finish, closing out with a slow line of sweet malty flavors.

M - Smooth, with some silkiness from the oats, but pretty light overall. There is a touch of bitterness in the close, but no build.

O - A top notch brown, which is one of my favorite styles. If I had more ready access, this would be a central player on my beer line-up. Instead it makes a special treat that I'll be sure to pick up whenever I make it to Chicago or Minnesota.

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Photo of majorbase2
3.77/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown head with an inch or so of light brown head. A tad bit dark for Decent retention and a good amount of lacing. A little bit of mild sweetness in the aroma paired with dark chocolate and a little nuttiness. Good balance in the taste. Nothing over the top. A little bit of sweetness, followed by caramel. Lightly roasted coffee and slight hints of chocolate.A little bit thinner than I expected, with a touch of creaminess. Goes down really easy. I could knock back a few of these.

Overall, I consider this one to be a curious case. This is the second can of this that I've had. The first one was a bit fresher. I'm not liking it as much this time around. The aroma and taste seem a bit milder this time around.

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Photo of juanny
4.11/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

This is an excellent brown ale and has a unique style focused on smooth, velvety oats.

Rich dark brown appearance with a small off-colored head, great for a brown ale. The nose consisted of a gentle sweet maltiness along with a nutty malt roast. The flavor profile begins with a mild hop presence, leading into the dominant silky-smooth maltiness of the ale from the heavy dosage of oats. The finale is roasty-toasty with very subtle hints of chocolate and cream, much more subdued then some other brown ales I've had that are almost porter-like.

For me, it's that velvety oat mouthfeel that defines this universally liked beer. It does have just enough hops and is not too heavy in the mouthfeel such that I was able to enjoy it on a summer evening. A beer worthy of drinking again and again, but there are a wide variety of brown ales that would offer a different and also worthy drinking experience.

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Photo of Qbdoo
3.27/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Looks good like a brown ale should, but after that is pretty unremarkable. The taste is fine but the texture of the beer is somewhat thin for a brown ale. I expect a bit more chewiness. The scent, like the taste, is fine - a bit of coffee and a slight toastiness - but not overpowering. Seems like an easy-drinking, summer version of the style. A decent beer but not something I'll look for again.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 743 ratings.