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Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,528 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,528
Reviews: 724
rAvg: 4.09
pDev: 10.02%
Wants: 427
Gots: 169 | 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
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Ratings: 1,528 | Reviews: 724 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of HopDerek


4.68/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass only because the can told me to.

Appears clear dark brown with rich ruby red hues in the light. 1/2 inch of thick, lasting tan head covers the glass with great lacing. Smells of caramel, chocolate, roasted malt, and grassy hops. Taste is almost more of a porter than a brown ale with bitter cocoa and caramel beginnings, coffee, and a grassy hop finish. Medium in body and very smooth with low carbonation. My first Surly brew, but definitely not my last, one of the best canned beers I've ever had, surprisingly rich for a brown ale.

Serving type: can

09-20-2007 21:23:43 | More by HopDerek
Photo of morimech


4.23/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Looks almost like Coke when you pour it from a can into a glass. Forms a solid one inch tan head that dissipates slowly. Good lacing throughout the consumption.

The smell is of caramel and a slight citrus hop note. Otherwise the aroma is subdued.

This taste like no other brown ale I have ever had. The standard maltiness is there but there is also a hop bitterness that makes you sit up and take notice. A bit of chocolate and toffee can also be tasted.

Medium body with low carbonation. Finishes clean with little aftertaste.

Brown ales are not my style but the hoppiness really make this more appealing to me. Definately will continue to consume this great beer in the funky 16oz can.

Serving type: can

09-15-2007 21:32:25 | More by morimech
Photo of akorsak


4.13/5  rDev +1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

09-14-2007 22:04:39 | More by akorsak
Photo of happygnome


4.58/5  rDev +12%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

a: transparent dark brown color with strong notes of ruby, half inch of tannish colored head that lasted for the half an hour that i enjoyed this. Lots of sticky lacing all of the way up the side of the glass, very attractive looking beer in my opinion
s: caramely, chocolatly with strong notes of herbal hop aromas very inviting
t: defenatly an american style brew, much more hop flavor than malt however the malt flavor was very present towards the finish, well balanced beer that tastes amazing
m: medium bodied beer with clean texture a little less than average carbonation

overall, i really enjoyed this beer, and recommend it to anyone. I usually dont think of a brown ale with spicy food, but i think that this one would accompany spicy food nicely

Serving type: can

09-11-2007 15:22:38 | More by happygnome
Photo of westweasel


3.7/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a can into a Sam Adams tasting glass. The beer was a clear dark brown with a ruby hue. There was a very thin tan head. As the beer went down, there was not much lacing left on the glass.

The smell was memorable. It was mostly chocolate, with some coffee and cherries mixed in. The taste was chocolate, some alcohol, and some slight roastiness.

The mouthfeel was fairly thin. The drinkability was very good. I think it was best when it was really cold.

Serving type: can

09-09-2007 22:25:51 | More by westweasel
Photo of

4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

16oz. can in trade from jeffkrenner - Thanks!

Clear, dark mahogany with lots of ruby. Medium sized, creamy, tan colored head. Little bit of lacing, no legs.

Aromas of herbal hops, hints of chocolate, and maybe some caramel. Fairly mild despite deep inhalations.

Taste was more bitter than sweet, but very well balanced. Some chocolate and caramel. Fairly mild hop profile, grassy and mainly at finish.

Medium body. Medium to light carbonation. Refreshing with a very smooth texture.

Excellent brown ale and something I will get more of. As a hop lover, this is not a style that normally gets my attention, but this one certainly did.

Serving type: can

09-06-2007 17:06:44 | More by
Photo of far333


4.6/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Opaque chestnut colored with a light brown tightly bubbled head that starts out cratered and rocky, but then evens out to a firm flat top.

Aroma of cocoa and sweet dark malt, some grassy notes, and a hint of smoke and cherry.

Rich flavor that matches the aroma fairly closely, but kicks up the smokey nuance and the malt. Malt seems to morph in and out of many flavors - cocoa to molasses to brown sugar to espresso and then back to cocoa but then on to oak and then bitter chocolate. Grassy hop burps. This is really good. Richer than the typical brown ale, perhaps due to the oatmeal and not as sweet as some can be.

Full and creamy mouthfeel, a bit powdery and tannic, but satisfying. Way way way drinkable, one of the best brown ales I've had. Many many thanks to BuckeyeNation for sending this one my way.

Serving type: can

08-31-2007 22:51:40 | More by far333
Photo of plaid75

New York

4/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

Serving type: can

08-29-2007 00:19:51 | More by plaid75
Photo of shadow1961


3.98/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Surly Bender pours two fingers of dense, creamy tan foam over an
almost black brew. The nose is dark malts and spicy hops. The flavor
is really complex- Molasses, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla notes backed
up by grassy and herbal hops. The mouthfeel is round and crisp, yet dry.
This beer is broadly in the style of the much maligned Brown Ale, but
incorporates elements of porters and American IPA's. Surly is really pushing
the boundaries here, and this sort of innovation is why a tiny little brewery
that's only been around for a year has such a big reputation. One of the top
two best Brown Ales I've ever had.

Serving type: can

08-25-2007 23:40:32 | More by shadow1961
Photo of ALESwhatCURESya


4.58/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A friend of mine hooked me up with a few cans of this. I have heard a lot of hype about this up-and-coming brewery so I couldn't wait to see if it was true.

The can graphics look a little more like an energy drink, but that has nothing to do with the contents inside. I do love the idea of a 16 oz can.

A-Deep chestnut body with tan, mocha head that formed slowly, but retained presence. A ruby glow reflected off the light nicely showing off its dark, but visible, clarity.

S-A nose full of bitter, roasted malts and dark fruit. A nice, prune-like and caramel smell was wonderful. Hints of cocoa round out this gem.

T/M-This was a big surprise and the hype was definitely valid. I never thought I would get excited about a brown ale in a can. The tastes were explosive and full of depth. The bittersweetness reminded me of a well-done baltic porter or RIS. A nutty profile is present, but doesn't overtake the other flavors. A slight cinnamon spice comes through as it warms. The flavors definately open up as it warms to cellar temp.

D-Again, I never would have believed that a brown ale in a can would be so wonderfully crafted. It is so easy to drink, I can see why Minnesota wants to hoard this stuff.

Truly great beer for a style that is often over-looked.

Serving type: can

08-23-2007 01:06:00 | More by ALESwhatCURESya
Photo of evanackerman


4.15/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

wow, what a surprise, I didn't excpect much from this by looking at the can, I had never heard of the brewery before, but I am blown away by this beer.

appearance is deep tawny, typical porter look, with a nice beigen head with good lacing.

smell is a standard stout aroma, rather bland, the weakest point of this beer,

taste is much more like a hoppy porter than any brown ale i've ever had, but this is a very good thing, toasty malts with a very pronounced bitter hop presence. very tasty.

mouthfeel really shines here, very smooth and creamy, excellent!

drinkability is high,

overall, a highly enjoyable brew! I'll have to seek out more offerings from this brewery. I love the 16 oz. cans also.

Serving type: can

08-20-2007 23:42:19 | More by evanackerman
Photo of BeerBelcher


3.85/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Flyer for bringing this beer from a recent visit to Minneapolis.

I found this beer to be rather good, but I didn’t find it to be spectacular. I feel that on this site it is the beneficiary of scarcity, although I did enjoy it.

It pours a dark brown with striking blood red hues as light dances through it. Bender has a somewhat scarce but pleasing light tan head composed of inconsistently sized bubbles. Aroma is a pleasing but understated caramel and toffee smell with some alcohol esters. Flavor is pleasingly sweet and roasty, but with a bit of a watery mouthfeel which seemed to get stickier as I drained my glass (and as it got a bit warmer).

Quite good.

Serving type: can

08-18-2007 03:39:11 | More by BeerBelcher
Photo of kmpitz2


3.85/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16 oz can. The beer is a solid brown color with a finger of head that settles out at just a coating over top. Clarity looks good and there is almost no carbonation seen in the brew. The aroma is light roast with a mild nuttyness with caramel sweetness throughout. The flavor is more forceful than the aroma. Initial flavor is nuttyness with nice roast hitting behind that. It then goes to a caramel and nut again finishing with a mild citrus and pine hop and bitter. Mouthfeel is moderate with a minimal carbonation. This one is tasty. It brings a lot of flavor and is a nice brown ale. I would have this one again for sure.

Serving type: can

08-15-2007 01:17:26 | More by kmpitz2
Photo of franksnbeans


4.18/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very dark brown color with a creamy tan head that dies pretty quick and leaves lacing. Smells very mild of toast, malt, and cocoa. Tastes a tiny bit of chocolate notes, roasted nuts, a citrusy rind, and some nice hops at the finish. This is very tasty and different for a brown ale as it finishes with some bitter hops. Feels crisp, very smooth and lively in the mouth from carbonation. Very drinkable. This is a light, delicious and different brew. Well done Surly.

Serving type: can

08-14-2007 23:47:03 | More by franksnbeans
Photo of TexIndy


4.35/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got in a trade with Faro (excellent trader) - many thanks! Poured from a 16oz can into a pint glass. Until I read and tried Oskar Blues beers in cans I had a huge bias against canned beer. Mainly due to miseducation and having crappy macros in crappy cans. Oskar got it right and so does Surly. Sounds like cans are going to become more common and I for one am okay with that - if for nothing else they are a lot easier to ship when trading.

The color was a dark brown with ruby higlights against a strong light. It had an large beige head that slowly settled to a constant film. Good lacing. The aroma was roasted malts, toffee and a little coffee. For a brown, it has a really good smell. The taste was awesome. From the 1st drink, I knew I had to start trading for more. It starts with a light hop bite then the malts kick in with a great slightly roasted bitter finish. Had a great balance. This would make an excellent session beer. Also would be a great beer to try on your friends who are looking to trade up in taste. Overall, an excellent beer and glad I finally got to try it. Gonna have to find more. Highly recommend. Would be heavy rotation if avail here.

Serving type: can

08-11-2007 22:07:11 | More by TexIndy
Photo of Flyer


3.13/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I'm surprised to see this is a "brown ale," because I had it on tap and it looked and tasted like a stout. As such, it was a good, solid, hearty stout, but without much complexity. The aroma and taste had plentiful roasty malts with some distinct coffee notes. It had a relatively clean finish for a stout (but I guess that's because it's a brown ale). I probably wouldn’t go out of my way for this, but it’s good choice when it’s available

Serving type: on-tap

08-06-2007 03:05:10 | More by Flyer
Photo of Crosling


3.13/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

16 ounce can. Dark ruby color with a full, wispy light tan colored head. Light chocolate and grassy hop aromas. Very light chocolate and roast flavors, with hints of hazelnut. Smooth with a nice finish. Better than most brown ales, but still as a beer, it’s just ok.

Serving type: can

08-01-2007 06:48:57 | More by Crosling
Photo of Bamabrew22


4.03/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

My first chance to sample something from the world of Surly and it did not disappoint. Had this on tap at the MSP airport on the way out of town. Great example of a brown ale.

A: Beautiful dark brown, mahogany tint with a fluffy tan head that lingered for quite some time.

S: Toffee, roasted/burnt caramel.

T: Notes of chocolate, dark pumpernickel bread, toffee flavor as well as decent aroma and spice from the hops. Definitely a sweeter character to it. Quite nice.

M: Nice tongue-coating viscosity to it. Pleasant.

Great example of a brown ale. Quite a tasty brew that I am really glad I was able to sample on tap.

Serving type: on-tap

07-30-2007 14:15:56 | More by Bamabrew22
Photo of brentk56

North Carolina

4.75/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Pours a hazy mahogany color with garnet highlights and a creamy tan head that persists reasonably well and leaves shards of lace

Smell: Toasted brown bread, cocoa and hints of sweet orange

Taste: Starts out with a brown bread with chocolate and mild coffee flavors; hints of oat peek through by mid-palate; after the swallow, the beer shows that it is not just another brown ale by bumping up the bitterness with a nice citrus flavor

Mouthfeel: Creamy and full bodied with a prickly carbonation

Drinkability: Off the charts, this is one great brown that pushes the style in a direction any hophead would appreciate

Thanks, tempest, for the opportunity

Serving type: can

07-30-2007 00:57:19 | More by brentk56
Photo of brewcrew76


4.18/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - A brilliant deep brown/mahogany with a thick creamy khaki head. Plenty of lacing left behind.

S - Toasted nuts, baked bread, slight hint of chocolate and a touch of smokiness.

T - Bready with chocolate and caramel followed by roasted nuts and a touch of smokiness.

M - Medium body and creamy (almost nitro like).

D - A solid brown. All 3 Surly beers I have tried now have bold dominant flavors that are enjoyable (truly fitting the name Surly).

Serving type: can

07-28-2007 22:33:39 | More by brewcrew76
Photo of DrJay


4.1/5  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!

Serving type: can

07-21-2007 03:37:15 | More by DrJay
Photo of BEERchitect


4.25/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first taste of a Surly Brewing Company brew. Turns out, it was worth the patience and the hype. The sound of the beer hitting the bottom of the glass promises malty richness. The appearance is a meduim viscous, dark brown with ruby highlights. A 1" head never fell. Aromas of solid barley malts, semi-sweet cocoa, and bold coffee notes blended well with complementary caramel, toffee, and a touch of fermented roasted malts. The flavors closely resemble the terrificly balanced aromas but show impressive intensity, strenth, roundness, and without compromising the balance. The cocoa flavors portray mild bitterness and solid richness. The coffee is very Columbian, and the hop bitterness balances the bitterness found in the cocoa and coffee. A mild lacto-sweetness rounds out the coffee acidity well. As the beer falls into the finish a firm nutty (pecan) flavor intensifies and carrys the beer into the finish. Very clean and bitter-balanced in the finish, allowing a soft, coffee / chocolate lingering. Not sure if this is the best Brown that I have ever has, but I am certain that I have had none better. Thanks Nathan15.

Serving type: can

07-16-2007 21:11:24 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of Damian


4.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Drank from 1 pint/16 fl. oz. can
Acquired in a trade with mnfinnkidd

Poured a dull, dark, orangey-brown with ruby highlights when held to the light. There was absolutely no head on the beer (it appeared to be completely flat, although this was not the case).

The aroma was incredibly malty rich and sweet. Notes of rummy alcohol, dark and dried fruits and a distinct yeastiness were noticeable. At one point, some flowery, fresh nuances (most likely from the hops) came out as well.

The taste was quite similar to the aroma. A mix of super sweet caramel and toasted malts ran the full length of my palate. Sugary toffee was noticeable as well, along with burnt currants, raisins and plums mid-palate. (At times, I felt like I was drinking a Belgian strong dark ale.) As the liquid warmed, the beer really came alive and the sweet caramel flavors further intensified. Dark, roasted coffee and some alcohol warmth became noticeable on the back end and carried into the finish. The finish was dry, crisp (most likely from the oats) and a touch hoppy with lots of residual sweetness in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel was creamy, frothy, pillowy and full-bodied for the style, with a rich, velvety texture that allowed the liquid to glide along my tongue.

As for drinkability, this beer was smooth enough to be sessionable, yet flavorful enough to stand on its own.

All in all, this was a very unique and intense brown ale. Few others in its category even come close to displaying the complexities found in this brew. I only wish it were available in my part of the country.

Serving type: can

07-14-2007 05:27:29 | More by Damian
Photo of Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

3.48/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Can courtesy of Stine: Poured a cloudy dark brown color ale with a nice foamy head with better then average retention. Aroma of caramel malt with light bitter hops. Taste is also dominated by caramel with some light bitter hops. Body is quite full with some great carbonation. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this one considering the brilliance of the two other offerings I had from this fine brewer.

Serving type: bottle

07-13-2007 14:46:24 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of BeerTruth


4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to umustdrink for this treat!

16 oz. can poured into a nonic.

Pours a dark-dark brown with a semi-opaque hue and a small one finger khakit colored head that dies down quickly to a thin layer which stays throughout. Stickiness is pretty good, not the best for a brown ale though. Very nice on the nose with a sweet malty mix of chocolate, oatmeal, and caramel. Simple but good, me likey. Taste starts off with a quick subtle hop bite but is then taken over by a smooth flakey oatmeal goodness. Flavor ends with a sweet coffee/cream like taste that lasts forever on the tongue. Mouthfeel is fairly full bodied with a good amount of carbonation, very smooth going down. Drinkability is great, could easily be a session beer. More breweries need to make quality brown ales like this. Good work Surly.

Serving type: can

07-07-2007 16:36:15 | More by BeerTruth
Bender from Surly Brewing Company
91 out of 100 based on 1,528 ratings.