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Bender | Surly Brewing Company

752 Reviews
For Trade:

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.10%

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.

Added by tavernjef on 02-04-2006

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Reviews: 752 | Ratings: 1,905
Photo of woemad
4.17/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

16oz can from a ninja box sent me by SammyJaxxx. Canned on January 6, 2016, per the stamp on the bottom of the can.

Poured into a Selkirk Abbey pint glass, this was a dark brown color with lighter highlights towards the bottom, and became a hazy dark ruby when held up to light. Big, beige foam head initially, which dropped fairly quickly, but was easily agitated back to life. Spotty lace.

Roasty malt aroma, with hints of coffee and some nuttiness. It gets a little sweeter as it warms.

Fairly expectable Brown Ale characteristics, but still better than a lot I’ve had. Slightly bitter, roast malt flavor, some coffee notes, some brown sugary notes, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and a dry finish, which is about the most obvious hop component. I really like how the sweetness is not overstated the way it is in a lot of Brown Ales.

Medium bodied, with a good level of carbonation, and a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

Nothing dramatic, just an excellent example of a Brown Ale. I’d keep this in my fridge pretty regularly if it was available locally. Thanks, SammyJaxxx!

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Photo of rodbeermunch
4.06/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hits the clarity meets brown color conundrum. Good off white head 3/5". Aroma flicked the vanilla bean. Some nice brown malt tones.

Taste had a plethora of different flavors. Brown malt, vanilla, coffee (from the malt), even a slight hoppiness. Very good, very sessionable. Would bang again.

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Photo of Rockjocknroll
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Thick and hazy SRM app. 25 with great lacing off a big tan head.
S: Crystal malt, bitter roasted grain, toffee and sugar
T: Very similar to aroma with tons of roasted malt, brown sugar and an almost coffee-like note.
M: Big and bold up front with minimal carbonation and a fast mellow finish.
O: A great brown. I love a good brown and they're hard to find; seek this one out. Lots of great flavor but not too heavy. Thanks Jesse!

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

one of the best browns i've had. good smell. very refined taste. not overly hoppy. just right. doesnt feel like it fills you up. good malt feel. Surly is awesome

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Photo of stevoj
3.83/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Flight at MSP. Sweet, smooth brown ale. Sweet malt nose, some chocolate comes on at the tail end. A bit on the sweet side, but very tasty. This was my second favorite of the bunch.

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Photo of BeerGeek50
4.54/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours lightly hazy to a deep reddish brown hue. dark beige head with lots of lacing. caramel, brown sugar, nuts, chocolate, vanilla, ready aroma. super smooth. loved it.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
3.84/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

16 oz can into Tulip.

Pours a chocolate brown color with highlights of honey; a popcorn yellow 2 inch head that leaves webs of dense lace.

Aroma is of coconut, chocolate, glazed pecans, and antiseptic/alcohol.

Taste has a sting bomb of citrus/pine to start; moves into a malt assault with roasted nuts and charred barley; ending on a light chocolate note and a chaser of vodka or some other clean alcohol.

Painful carbonation to start...fills up the belly with foam; has a noticeable coffee-like nutty dry parch on the finish.

An ale with only 5.1% ABV should not smell OR taste like alcohol. At $10.99 a 4 pack, this was a huge flaw that I cannot look over for the price point. I do like this one better than the Coffee Bender (which I will review later), and although it's an almost solid brown ale, it's just got some glaring flaws on top of a premium price tag.

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Photo of superspak
4.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16 ounce can into pint glass, canned on 7/24/2015. Pours lightly hazy/cloudy deep reddish brown color with a 2 finger fairly dense and fluffy khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, chocolate, cocoa, light coffee/vanilla, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, chocolate, cocoa, light coffee/vanilla, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness. Light herbal/spicy hop and roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; with a great bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a very smooth, moderately creamy/silky, and slightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish as expected of 5.1%. Overall this is an excellent American brown ale. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; and very smooth and easy to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of NickTheGreat
4.44/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L (4.5) - Very very dark colored beer. Almost cola. Not a lot of head, but my glass was too small!
S (4.25) - Nice roasted aromas. A little nutty and a bit chocolatey.
T (4.5) - Very tasty beer. Has the expected roasty coffee taste, but a bit more. A little bit of that alcohol taste. Very well balanced beer.
F (4.5) - Very and creamy beer. Easy to drink. A slight alcohol burn, which I like for this style.
O (4.5) - This is a great beer. It hits everything you want in this type of beer. I would like to have this in my cellar most all the time.

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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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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 752 ratings.