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Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,695 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,695
Reviews: 733
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 10.05%
Wants: 439
Gots: 191 | FT: 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:
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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Ratings: 1,695 | Reviews: 733 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jwc215
4.43/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours deep brown with ruby highlights. A thick, off-white head descends to a thin cover, leaving plenty of lacing on the glass.

The smell is of a berry fruitiness with dark malt and caramel. Hints of coffee.

The taste is of coffee with cream, caramel and cocoa. Sweet, but controlled by a berry-like fruitiness and a bitter earthiness. Cherries, cocoa and vanilla intermingle in the long, tasty finish.

Velvety smooth, it is full-bodied and creamy. Flavors hang on.

Wow! This is delicious stuff! Unique too! The layers of flavor, inclusion of oats and general complexity while still remaining so smooth make this stand way out. Yum..wish it were available in my area.

Thanks to WankerWeasel for this work of art!

Photo of kojevergas
2.85/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Served on-draught into a pilsner glass in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reviewed from notes. Expectations were moderately high given the reputation of the brewery. This was my first Surly beer, though I uploaded this review after my other Surly ones.

A: Pours a half finger head of fair cream, good thickness, and poor retention. Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Coffee, heavy nuts, vanilla, and light cream. A mild strength aroma.

T: Light coffee on the open, pleasant vanilla and light cream in the body. Nutty hops and light caramel. The finish is a touch metallic, which I find unpleasant, but it might be a draught error. Overall, it's decently complex and balanced.

Mf: Smooth and wet, and just thick enough. Kind of suits the flavour, but it isn't tailored to it.

Dr: Quite drinkable for the style, but for my first Surly beer, it's a bit of a disappointment. Coffee is a strange choice for a would-be brown ale.

Photo of Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev -2%

Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to chewy08rx for sending me this can.

The beer pours a sightly hazy brown color with a tan head. The aroma is a mix of chocolate, caramel caramel and some toasted/lightly roasted malt. The flavor is more of the same. I get a lot of chocolate as well as some roasted malt and some light grassy hops. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A very nice American Brown Ale and one I wish I had regular access to.

Photo of InspectorBob
4.18/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from can into my Duvel Tulip, a dark deep rich chocolate brownie color with about one finger of tannish head leaving some nice lacing.

Aroma of caramel,toffe and chocolate.

Hoppy, malty, a nice balance

Mouthfeel was medium bodied, very smooth and creamy with slight bitterness on the finish.

Best brown ale I've ever had.

When are you coming to Jersey.

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.44/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a four finger thick, lightly brown-tinged, tan colored head that sits atop a dark amber brown colored beer that shows a brilliantly clear, ruby hue when held up to the light. The aroma is richly aromatic with notes of sweet, concentrated fruit, dark malts and hops; dissecting where each of these start and end might be a bit of work though as the aroma is quite well integrated. Notes of raisins, perhaps some vanilla accented cherries, some berry notes and even some sweet citrus peel aromas mix with notes of toasted malt, browned biscuit-like malt, caramelized grain sugars and a huge toasted, dry, soda cracker note in the finish. A fabulously aromatic brew, this really has such a well integrated, loudly aromatic nose; this is an example of why I like a well made brown ale; there is not so much dark / roast malt that it dominates the flavor profile and the simple (though certainly not simplistic) malt and hop notes are able to shine through as well. Somehow there are notes of vanilla and spicy oak in this beer (and they are quite noticeable halfway through this beer); I don't know how they got here, but they are a welcome addition that add some additional complexity to an already great aroma. Unlike many beers, where the aroma fades as you start drinking the beer, the aroma here actually gets better and more complex as you work your way through it. Definitely don't forget to continue to stick your schnozz in this brew in between sips.

Sweet malt flavors encapsulate the palate and actual cling to my mouth almost like a much bigger beer would. Fruity notes of raisins and sweet, ripe berries mix with an interesting, almost vanilla like note. Some dark malt notes are noticeable from the get go; actually just a hint of roast character mixes with the hop character, both of which contribute a solid, though not in any way dominant, bitterness. This beer is really fairly sweet and fruity tasting, that is probably the distinguishing characteristic. It does not make this thick, cloying or not quaffable though as this is definitely a fairly sessionable brew.

Have I said how much I love great beer in a can. Well I do, imagine how much easier shipping would be if the norm was craft beer in a can; still I do find the champagne cork finish too perfect for certain styles of beer. This is a great brew, I really like the aromatic complexity (especially the surprise oak-like aromatics) and the flavor aint half bad either. The oak notes even start to creep into the flavor of this beer towards the end of my glass.

Photo of GClarkage
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

05/29/08- Shared with BA member Talisker.

Presentation- 16oz can, did not check into the freshness info. Poured into a Duvel tulip.

Appearance- Deep amber in color with a full almost inch slightly off white head. Leaves some light sugary lacing.

Smell- Equal scents of caramel malt and fruity and earthy hops. Probably more hops in the nose than malt.

Taste- Lots of varied flavors in this beer. Almost want to say too many. Hops have a bitter fruityness. Almost, actually, definitely put forth a tart and almost sour taste. The malt is about even with the hops though. It's like a two part taste. The malt is lightly sweet and caramely with an earthy nuttiness with maybe even a touch of coffee and chocolate.

Mouthfeel- Good carbonation level, with a definite bitter hoppy aftertaste.

Drinkability- Very good, and very eccentric ale. Well balanced with lots of stuff going on. Would have again for sure.

Photo of Halcyondays
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From a 16 oz. can, thanks Andrew,

A: Pours red-brown with a soft off-white head, some lace.

S: Roasted malt, coffee along with some sweet malt and chocolate.

T: Brown and caramel malt right off the bat with some dark chocolate. The mid-palate takes a turn with the oatmeal - into oatmeal stout character, sweet lactose/milk stout type flavours. Creamed coffee in there as well, very interesting.

M: Creamy, medium-bodied, very smooth.

D: Surly continues to impress me today. This is a markedly full-flavoured beer for ~5% and if I ever go to MN, I'm going to buy this again. Wonderful beer.

Photo of orangesol
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this one in a recent BIF package from biglobo.

A - Pours dark brown with a fluffy one and a half finger tall off-white head leaving sticky lace down the glass.

S - Smells of caramel, toffee, vanilla, roasted nuts, chocolate and a bit of hops. Not too bad so far.

T - Starts off with a bit of sweetness - mostly caramel and toffee - slowly giving way to hints of vanilla, chocolate and a touch of molasses. Some faint hop bitterness comes through as it warms up.

M - Medium body and flavor with moderate carbonation. Creamy feel initially growing a touch thin toward the end of the glass.

O - This one was pretty damn good. It had a lot of flavor but it remained easy to drink. One of the better brown ales I have had in quite awhile.

Photo of duceswild
4/5  rDev -2%

Photo of dbrauneis
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a clear very dark reddish brown in color with some garnet red highlights and light to moderate amounts of carbonation. The beer has a finger tall creamy dark beige that reduces to a few small patches of large bubbles, a very thin film covering the entire surface of the beer, and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: The overall aroma of this beer is malty and sweet with notes of caramel and roasted malts. There are lighter aromas of cocoa, coffee, and pecan nuttiness.

T: Moderate flavors of rich caramel malts with some lighter notes of roasted malts and hints of cocoa. There are also some light amount of coffee flavors, pecan nuttiness, and very subtle hints of vanilla. There is a light hoppiness near the finish that contributes some light bitterness.

M: Medium bodied with moderate to heavy amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: Extremely easy to drink and sessionable - really nice rich flavors and the added benefit of coming in a can which makes it a great choice for tailgating during football season.

Photo of wethorseblanket
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%

Photo of stakem
4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thank you to Heath (Kegatron) for giving me this can.

Poured into a snifter, bender appears a dark brown color. However, when it is held up to the light it shines as a clear deep amber red color. More than 2 fingers of tan stained foam for a head sit atop this brew and slowly receed leaving a webbing of lace around the glass.

The aroma of this brew has a pleasant forwardness of mildly citrus hops that come across with a light touch of herbal character. A scent of mineral quality is present before the onset of the maltiness smelling mildly nutty and with a bit of chocolate. As this brew warms it has a very mild and sweet vanilla scent about it that I did not pick up on right away.

The taste includes all things covered by the aroma and then even more. The hops present themselves with a light citrus taste and mild bitterness that persists into the finish. A bit of the mineral quality is present but blends into the flavor of the malt which tastes mildly nutty, chocolately and like roasted grains. In the backend there is a sweetness quite contrasting to the initial light bitterness that has a mild fruity flavor.

The feel of this brew is quite smooth and excessively drinkable. Medium in the feel with an acceptable amount of carbonation. Lots of flavors going on in this that reach outside the spectrum of the typical brown style. Very well done.

Photo of yourefragile
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can poured into a nonic

Deep translucent hazel brown color with ruby flares against light. Light tan colored frothy head with low retention and streaky thin lacing. Nose is roasted malt, bready, nutty, slight coffee and sweet chocolate. Flavor has amazing balance of both sweet and bitter, alternating between roast malt and nuttiness versus a fresh hoppy bitterness. Creamy, medium body with light carbonation but strong bite from hops. An excellent, refreshing hoppy brown.

Photo of woodychandler
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The below was one of my lesser efforts in terms of reviews. I was talked into opening that CAN even though it was just a case of gilding the lily and I did what I CANsider a poor job on it. CAN you forgive me? Re-reviewed Sa, 02 July 2011.

From the CAN: "Beer For a Glass, From a CAN."; "Fresh Beer, Keep It Cool!"; "Get Surly! Here's what happens when substance meets smooth. This oatmeal brown ale defies traditional categories. Bender begins crisp and lightly hoppy, complimented by the velvety sleekness oats deliver. Belgian and British malts usher in cascades of cocoa, coffee, caramel and hints of vanilla and cream. An easy-drinking ale with many layers of satisfaction."

At last, a Crack & Glug - the first in a while. I got a finger-and-a-half of dense light-tan head with good retention. Color was garnet/deep-ruby with NE-quality clarity. Nose was very chocolaty up front with caramel and grassy hops underneath. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, not quite creamy, but close with tastes of milk chocolate, caramel and a light coffee bitterness in the mouth. Finish reminded me of coffee with cream. Not bad, but I really dig the Coffee version better.

Original review follows.

CAN you believe it?!? I really thought that I had screwed the pooch on this one. Omar specifically brought some cans with him to Boston to give to me for review and I thought that I forgot to review them before drinking. Instead, I have copious notes encompassing numerous notebooks and I just got them back from a local transcription service. Lo and behold, here was my review!

A small, wispy tan head. Mouthfeel was thin to medium. Color was a deep brown with ruby highlights. Nose had a definite chocolate scent. Lots of chocolate in the mouth. Warming, it was better. Lots of brownie-chocolate in the mouth. Finish remained very chocolaty, more of a dessert beer IMHO.

Well, not one of my better reviews. If anyone would like to trade me for some more in a CAN, I would happily re-review this beer.

Photo of LXIXME
4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A big tan to light brown head slowly settles down a top clear burnt amber colored beer.

Dark roasted malts, hardy vanilla bean, roasted chestnuts, and specialty coffee aroma.

Dark roasted sweet malts with a coffeeish and roasted nut tastes make this a pretty tasty affair.

A full bodied beer that has a dryish aftertaste that still brings the roasted malt tastes with it.

A very worthy beer, I enjoyed this on a warm summers day, I can only imagine how good this would be on a cool winters night.

Photo of Billolick
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%

Photo of corby112
3.76/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes:

Pours a very dark ruby red/chestnut brown color with deep mahogany edges when held to a light source and a thin foamy tan head that quickly fades into a thing lasting ring. Minimal spots of lacing left behind.

The aroma is slightly bland and for me the least impressive characteristic of this beer. Plenty of malt in the nose with hints of oatmeal, chocolate, toffee and caramel.

Surprisingly hop forward that adds some crisp bitterness up feot balancing out by the mellow chocolate malt center. Slightly roasty with hints of bread, toffee and nut as well as a slight lactic creaminess. The bitterness lingers throughout into a roasty dry finish but this beer is very well balanced and easy to drink.

Photo of mothman
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into Ommegang Chalice

Color is a dark chocolate brown. Pours 2 fingers of tan head. Decent retention leaving a bunch of splattered lace.

Aroma: Chocolate, coffee, cream, and caramel. A nice smelling brown. I like the subtle notes of the coffee.

Taste: A lot of cream for this type of beer. Caramel and vanilla notes are represented as well. I also get chocolate and just a little bit of coffee. A lot of roasted malts.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and creamy, a little crisp for the decent amount of carbonation. Medium to full bodied. Ends with a big roasted malt flavored aftertaste that is slightly dry.

Overall, another beer from surly that I enjoy. These guys just seem to know how to make good beer. Very sessionable and definitely something I can always have in the fridge, however I still will take a coffee bender over the regular bender.

Photo of weeare138
3.62/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to zrrbrrt for opening this...
Appears a slighty hazy(though still transparent), dark brown with a mild red hue. A rocky, tan head slowly quickly fades out and leaves scattered spots of lacing around the glass.
The smell is yeasty, toasty nuts, fruits, grassy, light caramel, brown sugar, cocoa, and a touch of clove like spiciness.
The taste is of the mentioned aromas with perhaps a touch of mild sourness picked up, along with an astringency that is noticeable.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied, mildly roasty, with cocoa hanging on the palate leading to a gentle bitterness.
Overall, I'm not really sure what the hype is about. I thought it was good but it didn't really knock my socks off in any way. Maybe I'm just not a huge Brown Ale fan?

Photo of mdaschaf
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to BeerThursdays for sending this one my way.

A: Pours nice ruby/brown color with a two finger off-white head, thick and foamy. Great retention.

S: A surprising amount of hops, some nuts, caramelized sugar, and some doughy malt.

T: Lots of caramel, a hint of smoke, there is a sweetness in the midpalate. The finish has a slight coffee dry flavor. Not as hoppy as the aroma lead on, but they are present in a slight floral taste.

M: Medium bodied with medium carbonation, the level of carb seems just right. Very smooth and crisp, surprisingly refreshing. Slight dry finish.

D: A very tasty, sessionable brown. Great flavor and extremely easy drinking.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.01/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap at the Hopleaf a while ago. I liked it, and it was a slightly unusual take on a brown ale, but it didn't blow me away like Furious did. Poured a dark brown with a creamy head that fades away to athin cap that sticks around. Excellent lacing. The aromas are spicy and malty up front, almost prickly, and then slightly sweeter and more roasty on the finish. There is a slight sour graininess at the end as well. Almost porter-like in its aromas. The taste is very smooth and the flavors are a little lighter than expected from the nose. Light chocolate, light roastiness, fresh cream, and a light grainy flavor at the end (rye?). Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with some light grainy tannins on the finish. A good effort if not speectacular. Goes down real easy.

Photo of tempest
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at Champps in Maple Grove.

A brown ale with balls. So much so, I dont even know if its really a brown ale. Dark brown, the color of a porter, with great tan lacing. Slightly roasted and sweet malty aroma. Taste is complex with roasted and chocolate malts, american hops, and maybe even oatmeal. I think I tasted oatmeal. Very smooth beer, kind of thick, but very smooth. Give me another.

Photo of BARFLYB
3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to LaCoursiere for adding this in our recent trade.

A- Surly Bender pops open with some ivory foam already formed in the can. Once out, the liquid takes on a shoepolish brown look with some red poking in at the sides. Not much of a cap, no lacing.

Smell is fairly easy for a fairly simple beer, Bender does have pungent strength. This includes a boatload of English malt giving off nuts and slight toffee and grain.

Taste starts off malty and nutty and well, that's pretty much it. But wait, English malt is just large in this. A bit of chocolate malt in there as well, maybe a pich of cocco flavor/brown sugar. Bender is a str8 forward style with a str8 forward taste. No bells or whistles.

Feel is kinda tame and the carbonation is pretty dull. It just sort of goes down smooth like and there is no prick. For the style though, not everything needs to pop like that.

Bender is great beer and one I would take down with some BBQ, it seems like a great match. 5% leads to all day drinking.

Photo of ejimhof
2.75/5  rDev -32.6%

Bender from Surly Brewing Company
91 out of 100 based on 1,695 ratings.