1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,608 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,608
Reviews: 729
rAvg: 4.09
pDev: 10.02%
Wants: 432
Gots: 171 | FT: 9
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Bender Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,608 | Reviews: 729 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Pauly2X
4.47/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Very dark mahogany w/ ruby highlights. One finger head.

S- Good balance between rich caramel and smooth roasty aromas.

T- The malt balance is superb. Caramel up front fades into the background to showcase more of a roasted character. Chocolate, and mocha flavors come to mind with a hint of coffee. Just enough of a hop presence lingers in the wings throughout. The finish leaves you with a pleasant roasted dryness.

M- Rich meduim body with smooth carbonation.

D- Good thing I have relatives in MN to bring this stuff down for me.

This just might be the best american brown... period.

Pauly2X, Jul 03, 2009
Photo of tai4ji2x
4.68/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

thanks to natasharai for this particular can.

500ml. no date. (some numbers next to the UPC, but i'm told these are of no significance here). tasted in late april/early may 2009.

silkiest pour EVER for a non-nitro beer! head almost acts like your typical nitro reverse-waterfall...

dark brownish ruby color. dark and translucent, with gemstone red quality under the light. huge 3-finger light tan head is creamy, foamy, and slowly recedes to a constant, thick layer of bumpy, rocky goodness. splotchy lace at first, then luscious rings and webs later on.

aroma: malty with light roast, and an earthy oat character, melding with gentle to moderate grassy hop note. hints of coffee, cocoa, and indeed some trace of vanilla, as the can description claims. more coffee hints in back.

taste: dark, semi-sweet malts and caramel. oats and roast coffee/cocoa, with mild to moderate hop bitterness. earthy. rich, creamy and robust. simple but lovely.

feel: almost viscous, but velvety. wow! touch of astringent character, but then melts back to smo0o0o0oth creaminess. moderate, tingly carbonation further helps for flavor lift and some additional body - not as if it needed any more!

holy crap!!

tai4ji2x, Jun 28, 2009
Photo of alcstradamus
3.88/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A--Dark brown pour that appears black with a red hue in my snifter. A little over a finger of head leaves a trail of spotty lacing as I sip the glass

S--Lightly toasted grains with a touch of floral hoppiness

T--Taste is mostly just malt, but with a little bit of a hop kick that adds just enough flavor to make it interesting. I tend to find brown ales rather bland, but this is definitely an exception. It reminds me of an under-hopped IPA...which I know sounds weird but that's the best way I can describe it.

M&D--Medium bodied and washes down clean with a grain aftertaste. This is a highly drinkable ale, great for session drinking but coming from a style that doesn't stand out. Good job again Surly!

alcstradamus, Jun 25, 2009
Photo of zebulon
2.53/5  rDev -38.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Had it on tap at restaurant in Mpls.

A Very brown to brown-black. Opaque can't see through. Tan head 1/2-1/4 inch which gradual disappeared.

S Weak malty sweet aroma

T Malt in background, mild sweetness overwehlmed by bitterness. Bitter pine hops and bitter coffee tones. Not the interesting bitterness of a complex IPA. As it sat the bitterness mellowed but not much flavor in background came out. I am surprised at the high ratings and the descriptions of complexity. I wonder if I had a bad batch?

M Light on tongue in spite of bitterness.

D Not a sessions beer. You really have to be in the mood for this. I had it before dinner
which is were it might work.

zebulon, Jun 18, 2009
Photo of BamaBeerBuff
4.5/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to mikereaser for giving me the opportunity to sample this brew.

A: A deep brown color with nice ruby highlights. The head is initially very thick and creamy. It takes for ever to settle and has very nice retention at a solid 1/4 inch of foam sitting on top the whole time. Thick sheets of lace on the glass, as well.

S: Initial waves of toasted nuts, toffee, and fruitiness give way to chocolate, coffee, and caramel. Complex and bold. A great aroma.

T&M: Complex, bold, and balanced flavor. Smooth malty flavors of chocolate and coffee, in that order. Citrus-like hops emerge mid-palate to make things more interesting. The finish features a more herbal hop presence and an ever-so-slight roasted malt flavor. The body is medium and the feel is quite creamy, with a restrained, light carbonation that really suits the beer well. Impressive.

D: This is a session beer, for sure. It explodes with flavor, but isn't heavy at all. One of the best brown ales I've had.

BamaBeerBuff, Jun 15, 2009
Photo of damienblack
4.43/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Mucho thanks for BDLbrewster for this beer!

Pours very very dark brown, espresso brown into the pint glass. Can't see through it at all. Dark, but not real thick. Thin head, but retains nicely, and leaves a bit of lacing. Smell is average. Not much nose, a bit of dark malt is all. Taste is a whole new ballgame. Up front, a balance of sweet malt with dark malt. Then the oatmeal smoothness begins to kick in, along with some coffee/chocolatey stouteyness. It almost is like a stout that is flavorful without being harsh and burnt. Smooths out to vanilla, and a healthy dose of hops on the finish. Just enough hops to be interesting without overwhelming everything. Perfectly carbonated, super creamy, flavors blend and linger on the palate. Perfectly sessionable and very drinkable. If this were available in MA I would drink this all the time. Just awesome.

damienblack, Jun 12, 2009
Photo of blackearth
4.8/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured from a 16 oz. can has an extremely dark amber color, which you can only see by holding to the light. From a distance it looks black. Off-white head that falls to a thin layer of bubbles with good lacing. Aroma is of roasted caramel, chocolate and vanilla. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel with a subtle amount of carbonation. Flavors of sweet malt and burnt chocolate with a subtle hop and coffee aftertaste. One of the best beers I have ever had.

blackearth, Jun 07, 2009
Photo of alovesupreme
4.03/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A reddish brown liquid with an interesting head that looked as though it were a solid.
Smells of coffee, honey, vanilla and an unidentifiable aroma,.
A malt character dominates with a slight hop presence. Honey, caramel and vanilla build the body.
A full mouthfeel that is pleasantly carbonated.
A good beer that I would like to have at some point in the future.

alovesupreme, Jun 05, 2009
Photo of OStrungT
4.58/5  rDev +12%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer pours a dark mohogany color, with a thick and creamy tan head. The head fades very slowly, leaving a good lacing.

This beer smells of roasted malts. It has a pleasent caramel sweet aroma also. Some toffee notes are present. There is also a very subtle hint of milk chocolate.

This beer pretty much tastes like it smells. Roasted malts, caramel, toffee and milk chocolate.

This beer is medium bodied. It is slightly low in carbonation. It goes down smooth, leaving a caramel sweet aftertaste.

This beer would make a good session beer. It is low in alcohol, and the flavor is mild but good.

Overall: Thanks go out to OHLRangers for generously hooking me up with this beer. It is great. I love it.

OStrungT, May 28, 2009
Photo of aggiearcher13
4.5/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Briskly poured into an imperial pint glass. Dark brown, I can see through the glass when I hold it up to the light but it's hazy. About a half inch of light brown head that hangs around for more than a minute.

S: Very malty, dark fruits and some spice that I can't quite put my finger on.

T: Whoa, that's just flat out good. Carmel, vanilla, biscuit, dark fruits, a little bit of hops.

M: Creamy and smooth, I'll chalk that up to the oats. Good carbonation, quite enjoyable.

D: Pretty high, it's low ABV and just plain great for a brown ale.

Overall, this isn't a beer that will be rated as high as and RIS or DIPA, but there's really not reason it shouldn't be.

aggiearcher13, May 28, 2009
Photo of philbe311
4.65/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A big thanks to Buebie for sending this my way...

A - A very active pour... Dark mahogany color teetering on the edge of black... Two fingers of tightly compact frothy ecru colored head fade, but never fully disappears... Good stickiness on the glass...

S - A very malt forward nose... Roasted malt goodness... Cocoa... Caramel... Coffee... Vanilla... Cinnamon... Hints of some dark fruit... Terrific nose...

T - Delicious coffee and roasted malt... Bitter dark baker's chocolate... Nutmeg... Faint caramel... A little bit of a hop kick emerges at the end... Consistent taste through out...

M - Medium to full bodied... Ridiculously smooth... Rich and creamy with a slightly burnt texture... Subtle carbonation on the tongue... Coats mouth fully and evenly...

D - Wonderful all the way around... The taste and mouthfeel are exceptional... A wonderful introduction to Surly... The only problem with the beer is that it isn't regularly available in PA... World class...

philbe311, May 27, 2009
Photo of marvin213
3.78/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I'm not used to pouring a canned beer into a glass, but I'm looking at a half glass of foamy Mr. Bubble-type head atop another half glass of what looks like a Guiness. As far as I can tell, it's a black beer except for the very bottom of my pour that indicates a brown. The head has dissipated some, almost in half, but more than inch just sits there beckoning like a root beer. I'm trying to remain objective with my first canned review. I'm still not sure what to think, but the lacing left on the sides of the glass from the thick, caramely head looks cool.

The smell is kind of rough. I'm not sure about the vanilla and caramel mentioned on the bottle (maybe I detect the oatmeal), but I feel like there's more distinctive from the aluminum can than anything else. Am I being too unfair to the beer in the can? The longer I wait, the more I think good smells are actually trying to escape from their pent-up state within that can. It just seems like it's more difficult for the beverage's aroma to stimulate my brain than it would be were I to pour the same thing from a glass.

The taste is pleasant, and I acknowledge it's more aligned with what I was expecting from a beer of this design and with this sort of reputation. I can taste the cocoa and other descriptors on the can, but I can't help but wonder if this beer would taste significantly different (and better) were it stored in a glass. Why is it not? Is it clever marketing? It works as far as making it interesting, but it's also a purty good beer underneath. How much difference does the can make? It's a good beer, no doubt; and, I guess, as intended, it's oddly pleasant for a beer coming from a can.

After the initial aluminum sensation, I get that the beer is indeed comprised of appealing cocoa, caramel, and vanilla. The mouthfeel is pleasant.

It's a sweet brown beer coming out of a can. It's weird, for sure. It's good, and I'd have another. Still--why doesn't it come from a bottle? In 12oz servings?

marvin213, May 25, 2009
Photo of MeisterBurger
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a dark cola color with a clumpy brown head and a lacing that's bordering on the artistic.

Smells of roasted caramel, coffee and malt and just a tinge of fruity hops.

Roasty nutty malt with a subtle piney hops and an espresso bitterness in the finish. As it warms and the palate adjusts to the hops, the chocolate and caramel flavors leap to the fore along with whispers of vanilla. Just an all round full flavoured complex (but not too complex) enjoyable brown ale.

Mouthfeel is medium-low and a little on the carbonated side. I'll give my next one a harder pour to hopefully knock some of that down a bit.

Anyway, yes. Surly does it again! A supremely drinkable beer and a tasty example of a style I'm normally not that into.

MeisterBurger, May 21, 2009
Photo of ChopperSmith
3.73/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I really enjoy the beers our new little local Minnesota brewery, Surly, is putting out. Brown Ale's aren't my favorite style, but I can appreciate that Surly has done something very unique and tasty with this beer.

I *love* the Surly Cynic Ale, I like their Furious Pale Ale and this one isn't too shabby either. Although it's my least favorite of the year round Surly varieties that are available.

Appearance: Pours dark brown with a small tan head that doesn't retain for long.

Smell: The nose immediately brings to mind coffee, burnt caramel, and malty goodness.

Taste: The flavors up front are burnt caramel, toffee and hints of coffee, followed by a malty and slightly bitter aftertaste. More flavorful than the typical Brown Ale.

Mouthfeel: A little thin and undercarbonated for my liking, but smooth and somewhat creamy.

Drinkability: Like I said earlier, not my favorite beer style, but this is one I would make an exception for. A tasty little brown ale with enough extra flavor to make it interesting.

Serving suggestion: Standard pint glass.

ChopperSmith, May 18, 2009
Photo of JasonA
4.35/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours an opaque brown. Solif, thick 2 fingers of head into my Saranac glass. Extensive lacing, thick down the sides.

Roasted malt, roasted nut, medium malt. Deep malt. Malt smell blends well delicate hop aroma.

Rosted nutty, medium malt. Finishing dry dark malt. Stoutish finish, interesting. Maybe some bittering in the middle.

Not sweet at all, malt bill pretty dry. Lots going on throughout. Incredibly dry at finish.

Very full bodied brown ale. Lots going on, almost not sessionable, though still is. Id love to have some more.

JasonA, May 15, 2009
Photo of twelvsies
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks again to sonicdescent for a sweet selection of Sulry. 16 oz tall boy can, poured into a pint glass. Handsome tan head floats atop a dark brown beer, slightly translucent red around the edges. Nose of brown sugar and plenty of roasty malt goodness, and hints of chocolate. Flavor is very robust on this one. Lots of malt here, bits of coffee and chocolate and a nice smooth oatmeal cookie character rounds it out. Very very smooth and a pretty full body, though not heavy, manages to support all the flavor this beer is offering. Totally awesome brown ale at a reasonable ABV that I could see drinking all the time if I were a Minnesotan. Hope these guys go national.
Worth noting that I much preferred this to the Coffee Bender - I thought it had a much better body and overall complexity, despite one less ingredient.

twelvsies, May 06, 2009
Photo of BigBry
4.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 4-pack of 16oz cans last time I was in St. Paul, MN.
Pours a deep, dark brown with red highlights, and a thick tan foam. Great head retention, sheets of thin lace hang around for the duration. Sweet, malty aroma, nutty and some caramel.
Taste of caramel and chocolate, some nut flavor. Also get some coffee, but smooth (not like the bitter/cold pressed kick of Coffee Bender). Just enough hop bitterness in the finish. Smooth, creamy, lots of complexity.
Body and mouthfeel are medium leaning to full. This easily rivals alot of porters and even some stouts in this department.
Lots of depth and complexity, one of the best examples for the style I have tasted.
Paired with Black Forest cake brought out even more enjoyment.

Note to Self: Ranked #2 American Brown Ale (behind only Coffee Bender) when I tried it.

BigBry, May 06, 2009
Photo of cdViking
4.47/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Received in trade from Ryan. Consumed on 5/3/09.

Pours nice dark, crimson brown with good amount of head that dissipates rather quickly. Smells sweet and malty with a slight hint of honey. Taste is nice and toasty, with the malt and honey coming through, and a nice, subtle toffee flavor. Wonderful carbonation and thickness. All of this and a low abv make this one of the more drinkable beers I've had in a long, long while.

cdViking, May 04, 2009
Photo of bobsy
4.47/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep oaken brown with ruby highlights and a creamy tan head that magically leaves sheets of lacing even when it has diminished to a small cap. Brown bread aroma, with large notes of toasted walnuts and brown sugar. Its an enticing beer even before I lift it to my lips.

Surly have the description of this beer on target. There is an initial hop bite, but its then replaced by waves of malt. Caramel, nut and chocolate dominate at first, but a darker malt checks in, with the appearance of coffee and cream flavours. There's also a touch of vanilla in there as if the beer was oak aged. The bitterness reasserts itself in a lingering finish. There's so much going on in this beer.

Body and carbonation are medium. My only real complaint about this beer is that I felt the carbonation was maybe a touch too aggressive for the flavour and the creaminess of the mouthfeel.

There's a reason this beer is seen as one of the best examples of its style in the world. There's a hell of a lot of depth and complexity to its flavour profile, and this puts it head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries. The appearance and aroma are stunning, but I do feel slightly let down by the mouthfeel, which is adequate, but doesn't match the high standards of the beer's other components. Huge thanks to Bryan (BigBry) for this can and an assortment of other great beers.

bobsy, Apr 29, 2009
Photo of ajayma
3.95/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Opal. Thin head.

Light hints of cocoa and brown sugar.

Full in body. Oatmeal seems to impart some smoothness but is counteracted by a palate-scrubbing carbonation.

Starts with a balanced burst of hops and rye-ish malt. Notes of bitter cocoa and lightly-roasted coffee bloom with a tinge of acidity. The finish imparts a gentle but lingering bitterness, coffeeish with a mild citric hoppyness.

Very quaffable. Manages to be thrist-quenching and sating at the same time. Ideal setting for this beer? Hmm...I'm thinking, outdoors, a temperate fall afternoon, Reuben sandwich.

ajayma, Apr 28, 2009
Photo of katan
3.88/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at ike's msp airport.

A - pours a dark brown color with a mocha chocolate head. Tons of lacing. Carbonation appears light.

S - roasted malts dominate the scent. Certainly a malt monster. No hops to speak of.

T - starts off more bitter than sweet. Must be a hefty bittering hops addition to this beer. Mid stream the sweetness builds back with two row flavor. Eventually finds balance. Finished with the malts turning roasted combined with bittersweet chocolate.

M - moderate body driven mainly by the potent carbonation. Beer itself is fairly thick as well from the malt concentration. Light sugary mouthcoating in the aftertaste.

D- fairly drinkable. Moderate abv works for me. Not filling.

I would summarize this as a better fat tire.

katan, Apr 24, 2009
Photo of Martin2D
3.98/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Thin blackish, red with a fading white head

S - Hints of fruit and alcohol

T - Delicate roasty flavors matched with hints of dried fruit. There is also a strong aftertaste of alcohol.

M - Medium-heavy carbonation and medium-light in body. The mouthfeel is a bit light for my liking.

D - Kind of threw me off because I thought this was supposed to be a porter, but I kind of figured it was a brown ale on tasting. Pretty good flavors, the strong alcohol flavor doesn't make this that drinkable though.

Martin2D, Apr 23, 2009
Photo of Reanimator
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a bit like a Coke, quite dark and opaque. The head sticks around for a looong time, great lacing. Smells pretty hoppy for a brown. Has that distinct brown ale bite, very flavorful and complex! On the downside, mouthfeel might be a bit thin. Pouring a beer like this out of a can was definitely unexpected.

Reanimator, Apr 21, 2009
Photo of Onenote81
3.88/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Can received from phreak1983 in a recent trade. Thanks much!

Pours a deep tawny brown with a massive off-white head on top. Great retention leaving with it some nice spotty globs on the glass edge. Smells of bread, brown sugar, oatmeal, and some hints of vanilla.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy due to the oats. Nicely done. Flavor of molasses, brown sugar, bready malts, and finishes just slightly with some vanilla creaminess.

Very drinkable brown ale. The best I've had to date.

Onenote81, Apr 18, 2009
Photo of popery
3.9/5  rDev -4.6%
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.

popery, Apr 17, 2009
Bender from Surly Brewing Company
91 out of 100 based on 1,608 ratings.