Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

743 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 743
Hads: 1,851
Avg: 4.11
pDev: 15.57%
Wants: 457
Gots: 269 | 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.
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Bender Alström Bros
Reviews: 743 | Hads: 1,851
Photo of tempest
4.23/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

 397 characters

Photo of Halcyondays
4.2/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

 595 characters

Photo of yourefragile
4.22/5  rDev +2.7%
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.

 482 characters

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks again to Oneeye for the trade.

A. From a 16 oz. pounder into a pint glass. Pours dark brown with a large off white head. A wonderful lace show follows.

S. Sweet malts, molasses, brown sugar. Inviting.

T. A nutty roasted brown ale taste. Starts off a bit malty. Molasses in the finish. Some citrus hops are there to play along in the deep recesses of my mind. Some hershey syrup like chocolate taste as it warms.

M. Medium bodied bordering heavy. Smooth and refreshing.

D. I really do enjoy this. A great great session beer.

Notes: One of the best Browns I've had. Makes those NewCastle boys look like a bunch of chumps.

 632 characters

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.01/5  rDev -2.4%
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.

 776 characters

Photo of Zorro
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sampled through the efforts of Imstillthegman and 1000 Miles (or East/West again) BIF.

Clear chestnut brown beer with red highlights when held up to the light. Good light brown colored head.

The smell is sweet and malty with lots of molasses and chocolate in the scent. Not a lot of patent malt scent about all I can smell is a slight smokiness. There is a Russian black bread aroma to this but no fruit or flower aromas.

The first sip neutral and bready with a slight tartness and smoky flavor from the patent malt. Slightly bitter and fairly strong chocolate and dark bread flavor. There is a little malt roast in this but it is far from too strong and is actually quite subtle. Mostly this is chocolate and bread in flavor basic but good.

The mouthfeel is thick.

One of the more drinkable brown ales out there this is one that you can drink all night if you wish. This isn't quite as good as DFH Indian Brown though.

 924 characters

Photo of HopHead84
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Received as an extra in a trade with objectivemonkey. It took me two months to get around to drinking this one, but I think now is as good a time as any.

Poured into my Bruery tulip. The beer is very dark brown. The light brown head is large. After two minutes it has fully receded and left a lattice-like pattern evenly around the glass.

The aroma is of caramel and toasted malt. No alcohol is present in the nose and there is a mild note of earthy hops. Initial flavor has some bitterness to it. The beer tastes like light roast coffee with some chocolate notes to it. The sweet malt is nicely balanced by a nice level of hop bitterness which has a mild citrus element to it. The finish reveals a bit of alcohol and is long and dry. The mouthfeel is fantastic. Medium full bodied with great carbonation.

I'm surprised by the subtleness of this beer. I'm never impressed by brown ales because I find the style to be lackluster but this was very enjoyable!

 960 characters

Photo of biegaman
4.94/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16oz can thanks to Bennetj17!

A muddy brown body embraced by more gentle, chestnut highlighted edges. A thin, sienna coloured line ropes around the beer.

For me, the smell of this beer, in part to whatever ingredient, summoned thoughts of autumn. It is a warm home. It is wet leaves, damp air, cooler evenings and rediscovered fireplaces. I'm not exactly sure where I get this idea from... but I do know for what reason: the beer offers such an over-abundance of smells that its aroma lets the imagination run wild.

To my nose, this offers teeming, plentiful notes of pumpkin pie, brown sugar, molasses, chocolate cream, vanilla and a ton of hops! I mean literally - a ton.

The mouthfeel is smooth and crowded with flavours and textures. A bursting amount of hops demand attention as they instantly leap onto the palate and grasp the taste buds, vinous notes throttle the throat. Sweetness and bitterness are in perfect harmony. The tastes seem to pinnacle with a coffee bean bitterness and lingering notes of roast, smoke, and dark chocolate.

The beer just keeps getting better: Chocolate covered hops, with lots of chocolate and even more hops. Deliciously toasted malts. Hazelnut. An epic struggle that fits caramel vs. vanilla, coffee vs. cocoa, and an over toning presence of oak. This is all the most wonderful flavours beer has known somehow rolled into one...

The beer is exactly what the brewers boast: 'substance meets smooth...with many layers of satisfaction'. In very few beers can you find such a superabundance of flavours so well blended and with such refined character. I was simply amazed with how the many scents, textures and tastes of this beer could not only co-exist, but come together as they do. Like no other, Surely Bender balances sweetness and bitterness and leaves no element overlooked or shortchanged.

A most sessionable beverage that manages to pack in more flavours and textures than reasonably imaginable for a beer its strength. I can't find any ways to improve this beer; it is simply wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

This does blur style guidelines and is a reflection of talent and craftsmanship. Befitting to its name, I could easily drink this endlessly, day and night.

 2,227 characters

Photo of weeare138
3.62/5  rDev -11.9%
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?

 756 characters

Photo of Wasatch
4.38/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to Faro for this one.

Pours a nice clean dark brown color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger plus tannish creamy head, lots of nice sticky lacing throughout the drink. The nose is malty, slightly roasty, with a nice touch of caramel. The taste is malty, lots of caramel. There is a tangy/bitter finish. Medium body. Very drinkable, probably the best brown ale I've had to date.

 396 characters

Photo of Duff27
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Monster two-inch light brown head atop a almost opaque but somewhat clear brown beer. Slightly above average head retention and lacing.

S- Bready, "nutty".

T- Toffee notes, maybe a little coffee. Roasty with a touch of sweetness. Hops aren't very apparent.

M- Medium to medium-light mouthfeel. Smooth.

D/O- A true sessionable "dark beer" clocking in at 5.1%abv, Surly Bender is great to have a few of something when not in the mood for a pale ale. Hats of to Surly for this and it's brother Coffee Bender for what would be the "flagship for the style" if it would get distributed elsewhere besides Minnesota.

 615 characters

Photo of John_M
3.9/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Ike's at the MSP airport.

The beer pours a mahogany brown color with good head retention and lacing. On the nose, I get an impressive aroma of coffee and chocolate. Maybe some vanilla as well. Flavors on the palate generally replicate the nose, except there's some interesting hoppy grittiness as well that adds to the appeal. Mouthfeel is at most medium bodied and drinkability is very good. There was some sort of slight bitterness I don't associate with hops right at the end, but otherwiwse this beer is pretty drinkable.

Brown ales are not my favorite style, but this is pretty tasty and impressive.

 617 characters

Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a soft brown hue with a one and a half finger creamy off white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured a soft toasted grain, some cocoa powder and a candy sugar.

The taste consisted of a moderately robust burnt grain, touches of dark chocolate and coffee. There was a touch of sweetness and some estery yeast notes.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness with a dry finish.

Overall a tasty and highly quaffable brown ale. Complex.

 462 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
4.48/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

16oz can received in trade from awesome BA, Mully. Thanks a bunch. Poured into my New Belgium snifter.

2" lite tan rocky tan head dies back leaving very nice lacing... Dark brown brew with dark ruby highlites.. pretty.

Aroma is pretty damn good ... A little bit of cold coffee with chocolate and a defined nuttiness... sorta citrusy hop notes play through all the goodness. As it warms the coffee and nuttiness really comes out quite a bit.

Flavor is very much an American Brown ale ... but an incredibly dialed in American Brown.. all the waves of flavors play together perfectly with the very smooth palate keeping everything intermingling and providing a long complex finish. Very toasty and nutty with distinct chocolate overtones .. more cold coffee.. righteous citrus hoppiness ... silky smooth mouthfeel and immensely drinkable.

I could honestly say this may be the ultimate session beer... Mully provided 2 cans in trade ... My trading partner drank 1 the first night we got the package... damn it damn it damn it! I really need a steady supply. This is the perfect beer for when you just want something complex and flavorful but don't wannt to get knocked on your ass. Cheers to Surly for packing so much comlexity into 1 little 16 oz can.

Matt, thanks again .... I've been dying to try Surly beers and you were the hook-up. Let's do more business.

 1,362 characters

Photo of vfgccp
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A – A beautiful brew. Deep mahogany with ruby highlights. Off-white head hangs around with nice retention and leaves a nice lace.

S – Sweet roasted cashew, walnut and hazelnut. Brown sugar and nutmeg.

T – Bitter chocolate covered hazelnuts. Nice soft roast middle with a resurgence of chocolate through the finish.

M – Medium light body with a soft mouthfeel. Shade thin.

O – A great brown; one of my favorites.

 426 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a coffee brown with a decent sized medium tan head and good carbonation. Nose is rich and malty, some cola sweetness and nutty notes. Rich and malty in the taste as well, some chocolate, big dose of caramel malt and finishing with a nice hoppy dryness. A very tasty and easy drinking brown. Not one of my fav stylesbut great!

 332 characters

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

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer has a dark brown body with a thick light tan head that last a good while. The body is to opaque to see any carbonation but it does let some light through.

S- The smell of smooth dark roasted malt has some crisp citrus hop notes in the finish.

T- The dark roasted malt has a slight sweet caramel malt note with some more dry chocolate malt notes and a faint nutty quality to the chocolate. There is a green citrus hop finish that offers a nice bite with a note of pine resin in there.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel.

D- This beer has some nice dark malt flavors but they are supported by lighter malt flavors adding a nice complex taste with a very nice smoothness. Those big malt flavors are well balanced by some big hops flavors with good complexity also.

 828 characters

Photo of aasher
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I was really excited to get a couple cans of Bender. We had asked someone from Minnesota to bring us some Surly back from his hometown and he did, some two months later. I had totally forgotten about it so this was a nice surprise. I poured this can into my Founders snifter. This beer pours a Coca Cola like dark brown with ruby accents and a one finger, foamy beige head. The aromas are very malty with some light hazelnut and some caramel. The flavors are of light roasted malts and slight chocolate. It leaves a nutty, bitter, and dry after taste. I'm surprised there isn't more to this. It's solid but nothing to write home about. It drinks well, pretty smoothly and with light carbonation. It's ok, just a solid brown ale.

Edit: Interestingly enough, a couple days after posting my original review I decided to drink another one just from the can. It really, really opened up the flavors in a very surprising manner. This time it featured a nice chocolate malt flavor throughout. Now I'm perplexed.

 1,005 characters

Photo of akorsak
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 16 oz can from a trade with UPSJeff.

A: The can opens with a hiss, releasing a bit of foam at the mouth of the can. When poured into my Troegenator mug, that same foam measures near a finger and leaves no lacing. The body of the ale is dark ruby red color, think grape juice mixed with prune juice and maybe some coffee (for added darkness).

S: The ale has a caramel malt aroma, grainy with a clear sweetness to it. Some milk chocolate and citrusy hops round it out.

T: The hops are not as pronounced in the mouth as they are on the nose. Darker elements dominate the mouth, with dry chocolate and sweet caramel up front, nicely followed by a thick blackstrap molasses flavor. The thickness and flavor could easily be mistaken for a stout. As the fuller flavors fade, a dry graininess reminds you that this is not a stout. Some nutty flavors kick up and finally mesh with bigger hop flavors. The bitterness is strong, especially long after the sip is gone, with a pleasing citrus finish.

M: The mouthfeel is full from start to finish, with big stout notes, drier brown ale flavors and a strong hoppy finish. And all this came from a can?

D: The abv is low enough that this is easily a session beer. A nice drink from Surly, who has yet to disappoint me.

 1,261 characters

Photo of corby112
3.76/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

 715 characters

Photo of tobelerone
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nearly cola colored body with a small light brown head that dissipates fairly quickly. Spotty lacing. Good bready maltiness in the nose, grassy European hop note comes through on the back end. Tasty and smooth brown ale with a nice rich malt flavor, lots of chewy smoothness from the oatmeal, and a bit of a bitter hoppy bite in the finish. Hints of coffee, cocoa, and subtle roastiness. Retains a good deal of drinkability and a creamy mouthfeel despite fairly crisp carbonation. Refreshing and very well-made, quite flavorful for an often bland style. Another impressive Surly offering.

 588 characters

Photo of ppoitras
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

16oz can received via I Want That BIF from flexabull. Thanks for the opportunity.

Upon opening, can foamed over, then poured into an imperial pint glass, forming a 2" brown head over the slightly cloudy chestnut brown brew. Head lasts amazingly, with hearty frothy lacing. Aroma is hearty grains, with a touch of fruitiness and alcohol. Taste is follows along, thick maltiness with a twinge of fruit. Mouthfeel is creamy smooth, and drinkability is very easy as well. Made my first Surly worth the wait.

 507 characters

Photo of beertunes
3.4/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to phreak1984 for this beer. Poured into 10oz glass. Poured a very dark brown with little head but decent lacing.

A coffee forward malt aroma is the first thing you notice, followed by the expected roasted flavors. That nice, roasty malt flavor was first across the tongue, with a sharp coffee flavor dominating the back end.

The body was good for the style, full without being heavy. Drinkability was good, but the coffee is not a pleasant taste for me. Overall, a decent beer that I'm glad I finally got a chance to try.

 531 characters

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

A: Deep mahogany with a big tan head, good retention, some lacing.

S: Big aroma: Penty of hops (orange rind & floral), dark fruits, fruit bread, brown sugar.

T: Dark fruit, roasted nuts, fruit bread, orange rind, toast, berries, cotton candy, dark toffee & caramel, good bitterness. It's quite fruity, but nothing dominates... plenty of depth.

M: Moderate body is smooth & creamy with a hint of acidity.

D: Very drinkable.

A great brew all around.

Thanks for the trade Eric (DaPeculierDane)!

 497 characters

Photo of DrJay
4.12/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received from JeffKrenner as part of BC2. Thanks!
Clear and dark brown with ruby highlights and a short, dense tan head off a vigorous pour. Plenty of fine lacing. Aromas of pine, caramel, toffee, and lightly roasted malts dominate. Some fruit character, a bit figgy. Maltiness was reminiscent of old ales. Stiff bitterness throughout, quite strong in the finish. Toffee and caramel sweetness provide some balance and light pine/floral hops round things out. Medium body and carbonation, some creaminess and a little dry. This beer definitely shows some aggression, but it's really quite nice. I'd love to try this on tap. Recommended!

 636 characters

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