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Bender - Surly Brewing Company


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1,427 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1427
Reviews: 721
rAvg: 4.1
pDev: 10%

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:
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.

(Beer added by: tavernjef on 02-04-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,427 | Reviews: 721 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of alphagnome


3.88/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown body reminiscent of coffee with a hearty head that last the duration of the glass and leaves heavy lacing.

Surprisingly bland for a Surly brew. Musty malts. Vague nutty presence. Light cocoa nibs and oatmeal. Molasses.

Roasted nuts and malt, molasses and bitter chocolates are the dominant flavors here. Well balanced . Black coffee on the finish and aftertaste.

Light carbonation. Semi-dry finish. Easy to drink medium-bodied beer.

Not as good as everything else I've had from the Surly line up, possibly their weakest entry. However, that's not really a bad praise, since Surly's line up is rather fantastic. I'd say this is definitely worth a try - but recommend going straight to the Coffee Bender.

Serving type: bottle

10-28-2013 01:11:58 | More by alphagnome
Photo of Stevedore


4.09/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz can dated 2/2013 served in a pint glass at Keegan'sin downtown Mpls today 3/30/2013.

Aroma: smells sweet, in terms of caramel and toffee. There are hints of roast malt that I typically get from porters and stouts. A little bit of chocolate as well. It's a strong nose itself with the sweetness combining with the chocolate maltiness. Very pleasing. (4)

Colour: pours dark brown, looks like a typical brown ale. Pours with a fluffy brown head that gets as high as 3cm before settling down within minutes, allowing me to pour the rest of the 16oz can in. Not bad looking but not particularly impressive. Not much in way of lacing. (3)

Flavour: wow, this is definitely an unique blend of brown ale and porter styles. As it says on the can, I get a nice sweet hoppiness in the front end, it reminds me of some earthy fuggles. Then in the second half, I get basically a bit of vanilla and coffee, and a lot of chocolate and caramel toffees that comes from roasted malts, flavours I typically associate with the porter/stout style. I really, really enjoyed drinking this beer. Don't think the complexity you find here can be found in most year-round brews. (4.25)

Mouthfeel: this must be where the oats really come into play as I get a thicker medium body in the Kathleen department. Great carbonation, and the aftertaste is basically toffee from the roast malts. Really, really smooth, thick and creamy for a brown ale if you can call it that. It's even a bit sticky. (4.25)

Overall: I thought this was a really nice combination of sweet hoppiness with the dark, earthy maltiness typically associated with porters and stouts. I really enjoyed it and I will be bringing some home with me back to Wisconsin. (4)

Serving type: bottle

03-31-2013 02:15:24 | More by Stevedore
Photo of emyers


3.58/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark ruby-brown with a big off-white head. Leaves a nice lacing.

Smell: Mild, but pleasant. Toffee, bread, yeast, just a hint of chocolate.

Taste: Toasted biscuits, more toffee, roast, nuts and caramel sweetness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: The oats really come through here. Very smooth. Light to medium carbonation. Goes down easy.

Overall: A solid representation of a brown ale. I really like the addition of the oats.

Serving type: bottle

12-14-2012 08:24:31 | More by emyers
Photo of joemcgrath27

Alberta (Canada)

4.6/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - dark but clear deep brown, thumb of head dissipated slowly leaving plenty of consistent lacing
S - plenty of nutty and cola aromas, mild molasses, touch of vanilla and coffee
T - sweet nutty malt with light fruity syrup, cola, espresso builds through the finish with the nutty flavour lasting from front to back, this is truly exceptional
M - creamy smooth, sweet and full, this would be such a great session beer
O - this beer really blew me away, it is so creamy smooth and big on flavour, I like brown ales but its not a go to style for me generally, but this beer has the best qualities of this style, BIG THANKS to andrenaline for introducing me to this brewer by including their beer in our recent trades

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2012 03:41:37 | More by joemcgrath27
Photo of kawilliams81

Yukon (Canada)

4.23/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz can into a Jester King pint.

A- pours dark amber, brown with a 2 finger tan head. Big walls of lacing coat the glass.

S- sweet toffee, toast, brown sugar, some roast.

T- toasted caramel malts, toffee, slight roast and bitterness.

M- medium body and carbonation. Refreshing and easy drinking.

O- very tasty brown ale. Nice sweet malts, roast, and bitterness to balance this beer.

Serving type: bottle

10-18-2012 01:32:58 | More by kawilliams81
Photo of RoamingGnome


4.18/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 16 oz can into Cheers drinking mug. Served chilled...

A) Deep dark brown. Nice 2 finger rocky head that was khaki in color. Ample lacing...

S) Nice darker malt, light roast, earthy and a bit nutty, some bready sweetness.

T) Near the nose, some coffee too, and a little caramel, but really what stood out for me, and the thing I enjoyed most was the hops presence in this brown ale. A real pleasant earthy/grassy hops to this. Excellent aftertaste...

M) Good medium body on this brew. This goes down super smooth, with moderate carbonation. Really good mouthfeel, high drinkability.

O) This is another really good offering from Surly. Really tasty + easy drinking. This brewery has really impressed me. I wish I had easier access to their beers. Glad to have tried it, and glad to recommend.

Serving type: bottle

10-04-2012 04:25:25 | More by RoamingGnome
Photo of jegross2


3.35/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the Bender from Surly Brewing Company. Thank you BeerAdvocate user FunHog for hooking me up with this one!
Score: 82

04/19/11 canned beer poured into a Goose Island Irish-style imperial pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark chestnut/caramel brown color with a finger of super creamy khaki-tan colored head that sticks around a while. Opaque with yellow-brown highlights at the top and ruby highlights at the bottom of the glass. Excellent lacing. 4/5

Smell: Caramel and vanilla cream soda. Notes of coffee/espresso, earthy hops and a light nuttiness. Chocolate malts too. 4/5

Taste: Caramel and nuts. Some chocolate malt ball flavor, bready malts and butterscotch on the mid-palate. Light vanilla and hint of coffee. Hints of hoppiness at points. Crisp caramel and hazelnut finish. Gets sweeter as it layers and warms. Pleasant flavors, but no linger. I get hints of stainless steel sweetness at points. Maybe this one is better fresh. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-high carbonation. Finishes bittersweet. 3/5

Overall: A solid brown ale that is worth hunting down. This one is probably better fresh. Surly has much better offerings than Bender, however. It is probably worth noting that I am not a big fan of brown ales.

Recommendation: I can safely recommend this one to casual beer drinkers and beer geeks alike, but if you are trying Surly beer for the first time, nab a Furious instead.

Pairings: I was drinking this one with an Oatmeal Raisin cookie, but a chocolate chip cookie with nuts in it could work well too.

Cost: $12 for a four pack of 16 oz cans.

Serving type: bottle

12-24-2011 05:34:33 | More by jegross2
Photo of jmarsh123


4.18/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown with traces of red and a finger of off-white creamy head.

Aroma is sweet caramel and some bready malts.

Starts off with a bready malt sweetness. A bit of a hop spiciness invades at the end and it finishes a bit drier than expected with a good lingering bitterness.

Fairly creamy and full bodied for such relative low ABV. Good carbonation levels.

Very satisfied by this Surly offering. A lot of good complexity and mouthfeel for a beer barely over 5%. Also a decent amount of subtle hoppiness for a brown.

Serving type: bottle

12-17-2011 00:33:43 | More by jmarsh123
Photo of psuKinger


3.88/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What a great find on the shelves in PA! Bottle poured into a standard pint glass. My first experience with "bender", and my second experience overall with Surly.

A: Pours remarkably dark for a Brown Ale, with a thin off-white head on top.

S: Muted notes of roasted barly and "nuts".

T: Simple and direct at first. Smooth, with lots of nutty and semi-sweet flavors arriving on the finish. Roasted barley present at a mild level throughout. A very enjoyable Brown.

M: Light and lively at first, with a good thick mouthfeel on the back end.

D: Very smooth and quite drinkable. Overall, I enjoyed this beer and would gladly have another!

Serving type: bottle

10-01-2011 16:11:29 | More by psuKinger
Photo of burnstar


4.4/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a very dark brown. Opaque/black in the glass. Nice sized head. Great lacing. Smell is very mild. Burnt toffee. Taste is full of malt complexity. Toasty. Background sweetness. Slight burntness. Rich malt. Mild caramel. A touch of herbal hops. Great full bodied creamy mouthfeel. Well carbonated. Very drinkable. Overall this is an excellent beer. I've even attempted a couple batches of a clone homebrew of this, which actually came pretty close btw. Perhaps a defining american brown ale- highly recommended.

Serving type: bottle

09-27-2011 00:11:47 | More by burnstar
Photo of SWMeyer4141


4.13/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wife had this ready for me along with some chili dogs when I got home...

Poured into a Claret

Appearance-Dark brown with about a one finger khaki head. Some nice lacing.

Smell-Surlys beers sure do smell good.... Lots of nuts, chocolate and a light bitter coffee kick.

Taste-Starts off semi-sweet roasty taste along with some nuts. In the middle some chocolate and a slightly bitter hop finish.

Mouthfeel-Creamy, smooth, nicely carbonated. Medium bodied.

Overall-Another solid Brown Ale that I've had in the past few months.

Serving type: bottle

07-14-2011 04:21:55 | More by SWMeyer4141
Photo of cpolking


4.1/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours very dark brown, almost black, opaque except around the edges where the light makes a ruby translucence. The head is small, thin and light brown but leaves medium lacing down the glass.

The aroma is dark roasted malt, a bit of coffee and dark chocolate torte with a touch of raspberry.

The taste is black and bitter coffee, dark chocolate and raspberry. This is a like a liquid bittersweet dark chocolate, mocha, raspberry flourless torte that leaves a lingering but bitter aftertaste.

Serving type: bottle

05-06-2011 02:08:20 | More by cpolking
Photo of n2185

North Carolina

3.63/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown with only traces of red near the edges and a finger of tan head. The head recedes into a thin ring with little lacing.

S: Some roasted malts up front followed by sweet, nutty aromas. There is also a surprisingly strong citrusy hop aroma on the finish.

T: Roasted malts at first followed by a fairly subtle nutty flavor. The hops kick in, providing a piny bitterness to go along with the bitterness from the roasted malts. I also pick up some slight nutty flavors on the exhale.

M: Medium body and carbonation that goes well with the bitterness and leaves a clean finish.

O: A pretty decent beer. Nothing spectacular and very porter-like for a brown ale, but decent nonetheless. I wish the nutty flavors had come through a bit more instead of hiding behind the hops and roasted malts.

Serving type: bottle

04-23-2011 01:15:05 | More by n2185
Photo of CuriousMonk


3.6/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to funkyaudio for the extra! Poured from can into tulip glass. Pours muddy brown with a rocky, fluffy, tan head that sticks around leaving excellent poofy lace along the sides of the glass. Aroma is fresh, floral, light peppermint, mint chocolate chip. Taste is cola, sweet, roasty, bitter chocolate. Soft, bubbly palate. Really just a solid session beer. A good brown ale is a difficult thing to find.

Serving type: bottle

04-20-2011 15:20:44 | More by CuriousMonk
Photo of claspada

New Jersey

3.43/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Aromas of dark sweet caramel and oatmeal maltiness with s substantial earthy hop character.
The tastes begin with light bitter cocoa and coffee. Some sweet caramel maltiness mixed in with an earthy almost metallic bitterness. Am I making this up because it came in a can, not totally sure to be honest, probably is my guess. A little too bitter for my liking.
Good carbonation, semi dry finish and slightly light to medium bodied. Overall this is an average brown ale; I've had much better and I've had much worse. Too hoppy and over-hyped in my opinion. Cigar City Maduro Brown is heads and tails better in every aspect and considering I can get that locally I will not be revisiting this beer.

Serving type: bottle

04-16-2011 19:05:30 | More by claspada
Photo of scottfrie


3.78/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16oz can into SN tulip pint glass. Huge thanks to Chriscrundwell12 for this one.

A: Pours a dark ruby color with a couple fingers of dense light brown head that took its time to recede into a fuzzy film that left patches of sticky lacing down the glass.
S: Moderate notes of roasted grains and sweet malt. I also get a touch of fruit although I'm not sure which one. Berries maybe.
T: A great balance between sweet malts and a touch of bittering hops. Roasted, sweet and lightly fruity with a touch of nut flavors and leafy hops. Finish is full of coconut and the aftertaste is quick and easy.
M: Medium body with a slick mouthfeel and bubbly carbonation. Carbonation starts off a bit too spritzy and distracting but mellows out over time.
O: Very solid brew that I could drink again and again if I were in a malty mood. Thanks again for this one Chris.

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2011 03:03:23 | More by scottfrie
Photo of jpmclaug

South Carolina

4.15/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the can into my pint glass. Thanks to chixdighops for the trade.

A - Dark brown body, maybe a ruby glow when held to the light. A light tan head rests on top

S - subtle notes of chocolate and malt. Maybe a slight hit of hops but not much.

T - Light roasted notes over a big chocolate malty base. The hops balance this out but don't really shine through.

M - medium bodied, real smooth and creamy

D - Pretty drinkable. Lighter than a porter but has a lot of similar flavors. This is a style that I usually avoid but this beer is really top notch. I wish I could get it around here. I'd pick up quite a bit of it. I will get more of this any chance I get.

Serving type: bottle

10-28-2010 23:54:06 | More by jpmclaug
Photo of kzoobrew


4.33/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to gratefulbeerhead for this can, cheers Eric!

Deep mahogany and ruby body. Body is clear and clean. One and a half ecru head set atop works its way back slowly leaving a slim cap. Plenty of sticky lacing left clinging to the side.

The nose is quite a bit stronger than the majority of brown ales on the market. Dark bread aroma is abundant followed soon by a healthy dose of nuttiness. Hints of cocoa and coffee come and go in pleasant waves. Hops come through in a restrained yet pleasant fashion. Slight fruitiness with a substantial amount of earthiness.

The flavor is pretty much exactly what you would expect from the nose. Deep brown bready malts and nuttiness. Coffee and cocoa flavors meld perfectly. Slight caramel flavors underneath. Subtle vanilla flavor meanders through showing itself intermittently.

Medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation. The texture is smooth and creamy. The flavors dig deep into the tongue making for a long finish.

Bender is certainly a top tier brown ale. Everything about these beer is on point. The flavor and aroma are bold yet smooth. Easy to drink but with enough flavor that will allow you to savor. Excellent beer.

Serving type: bottle

10-09-2010 17:25:14 | More by kzoobrew
Photo of a74gent


4.28/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a tasty, tasty drink.

Appearance is exactly the sort of nice toasty dark brown color that you'd expect. A nice foamy head that takes its time going away.

The smell is nonexistent to me, but then my nose isn't always the most sensitive.

The taste is a nice sweet brown ale almost with a little chestnutty flavor balanced with the oatmeal addition.

Mouthfeel is fabulous and full with creaminess especially as it warms up.

This one is very, very drinkable....so long as you like this flavor, I don't think the night would ever stop with this smooth, enjoyable ale.

Serving type: bottle

09-15-2010 00:58:17 | More by a74gent
Photo of GilGarp


4.7/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Awesome extra from my wants list given by the ever-generous BA, BuckeyeNation.

Served cold into my St. Bernardus Watou glass, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a Belgian strong dark ale. The color is dark redish brown with good clarity. The thick off-white head is somewhat short-lived but it leaves some lacing behind.

Aroma is classic brown ale with nice toast, caramel, and toffee. It's sweet and inviting - I can't wait to take a sip.

Flavor is exactly what it should be. The roasty malts give a subtle chocolate/caramel flavor while the hops impart just enough bitterness. There's a sweetened coffee taste with toasted marshmallows and toffee. Is there even a hint of graham cracker? Wouldn't this be amazing with a s'more?

The mouthfeel is devine as well. The oatmeal really helps it out here. It could stand to have a little more body but it's so creamy smooth, I think I can forgive it.

Overall it's a fantastic beer and a classic version of the style. I'm looking forward to my next visit to Minnesota.

Serving type: bottle

02-10-2010 00:38:25 | More by GilGarp
Photo of cvfish


4.38/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - This beer poured a walnut brown color that produced a fluffy tan head which had a great amount of retention and laced the side of the glass beautifully

S - The aromas produced by this beer were toasted nuts, some light hints of cocoa, mild coffee, and some earthiness

T - The taste of this beer was toasted malts and nuttiness, some mild cocoa and coffee, followed by some earthiness, much like the nose, much like a coffee muted Coffee Bender (no shit, Sherlock), but I tried that one before the regular Bender

M - The mouthfeel of this beer had a medium body and a moderate amount of carbonation

D - The Brown Ale style, I feel, is one of the most under appreciated styles in America today, but this beer is one of the best in the biz and love the art on the cans, kudos to Surly

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2009 21:58:01 | More by cvfish
Photo of crossovert


3.83/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Pours from the can with a dark red tinged brown and a tan/off white head that stays for awhile before leaving.

Smells decently hoppy with the classic surly hop scent that smells like fresh hops. There is also some nuttiness.

This is a smooth easy drinking beer, there isn't anything fantastic about it. The taste is far less onthe hppy side and instead is very nutty with hints of coffee and cocoa. Hops appear more in burps.

Overall it is an average, semi watery easy drinker.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2009 00:41:02 | More by crossovert
Photo of tburkhart


4/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very nice brown with a fingers worth of creamy head that settles quickly. Very nice belgian lacing.

Smells of chocolate and coffee. Very nice smell

Tastes very creamy. Chocolate with hints of chocolate undertones.

Coats the mouth quite nicely without over doing it.

Very good beer by Surly. This one has been sitting in the fridge for awhile and I just couldn't get to it, glad I did tonight.

Serving type: bottle

09-03-2009 23:49:13 | More by tburkhart
Photo of popery


3.9/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown liquid that really appears to be a deep magenta when held up to the light (not a flaw, all dark beers seem to have this tendency despite common color descriptions). The beige head leaves excellent lacing.

S: Nutty and malty with a slight metallic tinge. I don't know if this some kind of deep-seated subconscious suspicion of canning, but there's a note in there that doesn't quite work perfectly. It's a minor concern, but that's pretty much my bread and butter when I review a beer from a high quality brewer, like Surly.

T: I can't say that I'm the biggest fan of brown ales, but this beer is really quite good. There are hops, good clean malt and an appropriate level of nuttiness. There are also subtle notes of chocolate and roast. I appreciate Surly's ability to be subtle with these notes as many dark sessionable ales seem to hit you over the head with the darker barley flavors.

M: Good feel. Nothing to stand out, positively or negatively.

D: Easy to drink brown ale. Darker ales have somewhat heartier flavors often and lighter dark ales sometimes fall into the trap of using too much specialty grain for their size. Bender does a very good job of providing a balanced brown ale.

Serving type: bottle

04-17-2009 07:15:54 | More by popery
Photo of CoolJosh


3.55/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A big thanks to treyrab for sharing one of these with me. I enjoyed this beer a lot, but reviewed more on its representation of the style. Tasted more like an oatmeal coffee stout then it did a nut brown ale.

A. Very dark beer brown, looks more like a darker quad with some pretty nice lacing light tan head with little foaminess.

S. 3.5 Slight coffee and chocolate, and a fair amount of oats come through in my personal sniffing, some tin is coming out

T/M. 3.5 some bitter chocolates and coffee roasts. Very malty and a fair amount of oats coming through. A little on the airy side, but not out of character for the style.

D 3.5. Ok but way over rated, not what I was expecting and some bland off flavors, not at all representative of the style

Serving type: bottle

01-04-2009 05:24:19 | More by CoolJosh
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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 1,427 ratings.