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Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,711 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,711
Reviews: 735
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 10.07%
Wants: 438
Gots: 201 | 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: 1,711 | Reviews: 735 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jdklks
3.18/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

from notes:

A- brownish amber, off white head.

S- tree bark. fruit- apricot. smells like any other brown ale, sweet, etc. etc.

T- sweet. brown sugar sweet. just as it smelled, like any other brown ale, but it is even sweeter than most.

M- light-medium bodied. nothing special.

D- drinks okay, but i wouldn't want to drink it again!

Photo of Jmoore50
2.92/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Got this fatty growler in the mail through a trade. The best part of this beer is the quote from the brewery. "Good beer is an acquired taste, you just acquired some." ha ha awesome.

This is my first Surly brew, not impressed at all.

The appearance was average for a brown ale, poured pretty thick, the growler held the carbonation and the head came to a two finger beige head.

The smell with the pour was like brown sugar. It actually was a text book brown ale smell. It smelled too sweet for me though, and for the record, I really don't care for brown ales.

The taste was okay at first, but I got some fruity taste off of it. Just something that I don't really care for. I am sure if you're a brown ale connoisseur then you probably would love this, but I am nothing like a brown ale connoisseur.

Overall I had to have a friend drink sixty percent of the growler for me, so I would never buy this ever again, but since it was a gift....Thanks.


Photo of tconboy
3.23/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Pours a deep dark brown with puffy tan head. Smells of coffee and malts and chocolate. Tastes a little bitter, nice coffee and sweet flavors blended together in this. Less than moderate carbonation, very thick. This is ok, I think I will try something else next time around.

Photo of Oxymoron
3.72/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Im not going to start seeing robots from the future am I? Pours a mostly clean chestnut brown color with a light red hue throughout. A soft white tan that does last a while but eventually does dissipate over time. Limited lacing as well.

The nose has a light but nice malt backing. Some mix of chocolate, biscuit and victory giving it a slight nutty aroma. Some light sugary notes with a hint of brown sugar. There is some noticeable yeast character with some light phenolics, plums and some pineapple. A light spice as well, mostly nutmeg but some cloves as well.

The taste is limited, specifically the malt, compared to the nose. Some chocolate notes but there is more of a generic grain/husky flavor more than anything. The lighter body doesn't help this either. The yeast notes are a bit cleaner with some nice phenolics. A light clove flavor in the finish. Some minor citrus hop notes in the finish. A slight soapy taste in the finish as well. Very clean other than that.

The body is light to moderate. This is where the beer falls off for me. I would like more depth for a Brown. Overall I think the whole beer itself is good with clean flavors but give this is a skinny beer. Give me some body!

Photo of CrellMoset
4.08/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can courtesy of Phocion, split with some friends as part of my 1-year on BA Anniversary tasting. My portion poured into a brandy snifter.

Appearance: A dark brown, ruby-studded brew with one-finger of tan head that fades quickly. The collar is pretty thick, and the lacing is island-like, soft, but bubbly and covers a fair percentage of the glass.

Aroma: Faint, watery cocoa and a decidedly wholesome, oatmeal note are the dominant notes here. A little two-dimensional, but not unpleasant.

Taste: A big improvement over the aroma. Many more complex notes coming through with this one - big cocoa and wholesome oat notes are still dominant, but plenty of other toasty malt notes, subtle coffee notes, slight subtle hoppy notes, mild bitterness. Very solid.

Mouthfeel: Big effervescence in a relatively thin body, though it still manages to be remarkably even and creamy, which works nice with the cocoa and oat flavors here. It's very smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: Perhaps the best of the Surly brews I've tried thus far tonight (haven't had Darkness yet, and I tried Furious before). This is a flavorful, low-in-alcohol, crisp, and refreshing brew, striking the right balance between complexity and simplicity. Give this one a try - if I lived in Minnesota, it'd likely be a go-to.

Photo of PhxHorn
3.58/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

This one is a medium dark brown with a lumpy yellow head. Smells mildly of chocolate and coffee. Tastes very mildly of malt, chocolate, maybe some fruit, but it's such a mild flavor that nothing really makes itself known. Mouthfeel is just a bit too thin for my taste. A good beer, very drinkable, but nothing too special.

Photo of erosier
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Scoobydank for this one!

L: Pours a nice brown color with a large and airy tan colored head that laces the glass all the way down before fading to a slight ring around it.
S: Smells of sweet malt, caramel malt, some citiusy hops at the end, and a very nice sweetness that comes through, like brown sugar.
T: Very nice balance of roasted malts and caramel malts. A tiny hint of citrus at the end of it, but then it leaves a very sweet taste in your mouth that reminds me of brown sugar.
M: Very clean, smooth, sweet, refreshing, nice amount of carbonation too.
D: Very drinkable beer, this can was gone and I'm glad Scoobydank sent me 3 more! The flavors are all balanced and it's really a nice session beer.

Photo of Ineedabeerhere
3.48/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Received from Uncle Jedi in a trade- you're the man!

Light brown with some ruby highlights along the edges pours into a brooklyn shaped pint with a 1 inch light tan head.

Subtle roasted malt aroma-with a surprisingly noticeable hop presence (at least for the style IMO). Nice light chocolate and toffee flavors with a good nutty presence. I would've expected a little more out of this one but it is certainly sessionable. I am definitely be interested in trying the coffee version though.

Photo of PittBeerGirl
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to deliriumfest for this one in a trade! 16oz can poured into a pint glass.

A- Body is nearly transparent mahogany hue. Pours with a 1-2 finger off-white foamy head. Head eventually fades to 1/2 finger and has perfect retention from there. Plenty of lacing left all the way down the glass.

S- A bright citrus hoppy scent comes through first. This is followed by roasted chocolate and caramel malt accented with a touch of vanilla and toffee sweetness.

T- The flavor initially has a big citrus hop accent but a nice balance of caramel and chocolate malt can be detected in the background along with a hint of vanilla. For the finish a bit of hop and roasted malt bitterness comes through but is balanced by the ever steady flavors of citrus hops, vanilla, and caramel malt. What lingers is some citrus hop flavor along with a subtle hint of everything else going on.

M- Medium tingly carbonation and a medium weight body. Body is smooth and a good amount of hop oils can be detected.

D- This is an awesome brown ale. One of my favorites so far. Reminds me a lot of Terrapin Indian Brown. Great hoppy characteristics accent a nice, complex brown ale with a good mouthfeel. Would trade for this again; though it is similar to the Terrapin which is locally available. Drinkability is great and ABV is undetectable.

Photo of Proteus93
4.08/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Shared with dkachur and CrellMoset.

A: Deeper amber brown... some topaz highlights. A great sticky lacing with a beautiful latticing over the walls of the glass.

S: Roasted malts, cracker and biscuit, lactose.

T:Like the aroma, a roasted maltiness and cracker. Some coffee notes and a bit of chocolate. A little richer than most browns I have had... it's a bit more in the direction of a porter on my palate.

M + D: Smooth, lighter carbonation. A good body to it. Feels good, tastes quite nice, and goes down smooth and easy.

Photo of CoolJosh
3.56/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A big thanks to treyrab for sharing one of these with me. I enjoyed this beer a lot, but reviewed more on its representation of the style. Tasted more like an oatmeal coffee stout then it did a nut brown ale.

A. Very dark beer brown, looks more like a darker quad with some pretty nice lacing light tan head with little foaminess.

S. 3.5 Slight coffee and chocolate, and a fair amount of oats come through in my personal sniffing, some tin is coming out

T/M. 3.5 some bitter chocolates and coffee roasts. Very malty and a fair amount of oats coming through. A little on the airy side, but not out of character for the style.

D 3.5. Ok but way over rated, not what I was expecting and some bland off flavors, not at all representative of the style

Photo of IBUnit63
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Courtesy CrellMoset (in-person trade back home in Virginia). Into Duvel tulip.

Excellent doughy head - about 2 fingers with muffin tunnels. Almost sourdough consistency. Moderate staying power. Solid lacing tops great espresso-dark body. Sparse but quick carbonation. Good chunky seam. Much darker than the average brown, of course.

Solid hop pine meets solid grain - raw and stewed/boiled - with slight sarsparilla tinge. Oats yield sweetness up against big caramel malt.

This has some depth - malt is definitely the star here - a little dark fruit (probably prune) provides complement to the malt forwardness, the charred notes and ample piney hops.

Solid palate feel...everything complements each other and there's good balance in abundance, but we could use a little more Beautiful Chemistry to pull it all together. Still, this is very enjoyable.

Haven't been disappointed with any of the Surly offerings just yet. No exception here.

Photo of sprucetip
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thank you, Jeff, for the hand delivered can. Just my second Surly so far.

Thick brown head with good retention and lacing. Medium brown, clear with red highlights when held to light.

Smells of roasted malt, hop bitterness and malty sweetness, blended and balanced.

Almost but not quite sweet up front, then grainy and roasted malt through the middle before a hoppy bitter finish that is almost clean, but lingers a bit. A bit out of balance toward the hops.

Good carbonation level, but a bit thin overall.

Plenty drinkable. Not too heavy, but with plenty of flavor. Reminds me of DFH India Brown Ale

Photo of lhaqq
3.99/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a translucent dark rubyish brown with a fair-sized tan head.
S: Great smell. First off is pretty sweet, similar to milk chocolate. Shifts into a clean, sweet maltiness.
T: Taste is not as good as I was hoping given the smell. A bit saltier than expected initially. Kind of nutty with a little bit of dark chocolate bitterness at the end.
M: Not too heavy or too light of a body. Good level of carbonation.
D: Usually have a couple of these. Couldn't have too much though, as it gets somewhat heavy.

Photo of seanpachefddfa
4.5/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

thanks to mikesgroove for this one

appearance- poured a dark brown maybe the darkest brown ale I have seen. A good sized light brown head.
Smell- dark malts, sweet caramel, some grassy hops, and just a bit of chocolate and fruit
taste- getting all the taste from the nose + some a bit of coffee and some nice spice
mouthfeel- medium body with good carbonation.
Drinkability- I am in love with surly all of their beers are great. makes me wish I lived in Minnesota

Serving type: can

Photo of MacDomer
4.16/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this one from MasterSki - thanks for the extra, Alex. My first Surly!

A - Pours a deep brown with burgundy and ruby highlights around the edges. An easy pour gives this one a nice one finger head, but this dissipates within about five minutes, leaving a smooth light brown froth dancing on the surface. Great colors to look at! Some pretty respectable lacing to boot.

S - Nice, accessible pleasant smell of light coffee, caramel, pale malts. Really nice for the style. Hints of graham cracker and sweet honey.

T - This is very tasty. Really good flavor here, including coffee, a bit of milky sweetness, caramel and toasted malts. This one has some porter characteristics in the flavor profile. As it warms, I'm beginning to get the faintest hint of milk chocolate and smoke, as well as grainy brown bread. Anyone else know Brownberry?

M - Smoooth! Perfect light carbonation to help this one flow...boy, this is velvety. On the medium side of medium-light body. Some hops at the end help with balance and provide some decent bitterness. Pretty long finish, actually.

D - I'll seek this one out again, and if it were local, I'd have this on hand all the time. Great mouthfeel, really good everything else. I bet this one would be great with all kinds of food, too.

Photo of Fatduck
4.3/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another beer from surly, The only reason It's taken me so long to review this beer is because I drink it all the time, one of the beers that frequents my fridge a lot.

Pours a dark brown, with a big tan head. Its not a brown ale, its not a porter, its a Surly!

Taste great, feels great and at 5.1ABV its one of the lower alcohol beers they offer. I can drink a 4 pack in a sitting, and on a cold ass day like today (-4F) I just might.

Photo of Mistofminn
4.28/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz tall boy into the only clean glass I had on hand (I couldn't wait to clean something else haha)

I finally got around to trying this and boy was it a treat! It pours a dark amber color with caramel highlights. A nice 2 finger tan head with impressive lacing that stays the course of the drink. No carbonation present.

The aroma was of roasted coffee, dark bakers chocolate, and malts. What a pleasant smell!

The taste is wonderful. Pretty much what you would expect from the smell, dark chocolate, coffee and malts. There is also a slight bitterness at the end that blends perfectly with the other flavors, but doesn't stand out.

The mouthfeel is honestly my favorite part. I don't think I've had a beer this smooth in quite some time. Perfect! It's heavier than I expected, not thin or watery in the least. No carbonation present but that doesn't hurt it in any way in my opinion.

It is fairly drinkable, but not something you would chug. The thing is though, I don't want to drink it fast. I want to savor it and make it last as long as possible!

What a great brew. To date I think it's my favorite. This, in combination with Summit Oatmeal Stout I think will get me to adventure more into darker ales and other brews. Bravo!

Photo of swizzlenuts
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

The beer is poured a brown/dark ruby colour with a nice off white head, with okay retention, but great retention. The nose of the beer is chocolaty and sweet, which is a great surprise. When drinking this beer it's apparent it's not a normal brown ale, but that makes it that much better. There is a nice chocolate flavour mixed with some great sweet malts. There is also a bit of maybe hazelnut in the back as well. The flavours are complex for this relatively low alcohol beer. To me, this is one of the ultimate session beers. I could and would drink this all night. The mouthfeel is solid as well.

Photo of Wetpaperbag
4/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- This is a dark brown beer with a fluffy tan head. The head is very pillow/cloud fluffy. The head is not wanting to go to say the least.

S- Subtle hop smell, with sweet malts, honey and kind of a clove smell.

T- Good malt taste, but there is a slight hop bite as well. I'm getting the sweet coffee taste, but didn't get that in the smell. Cherry is there as well as some darker fruits. Nice solid tasting beer.

M- Not too thin, but almost.

D- Very drinkable, nice solid beer, especially one that is in a can.

Photo of Risser09
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16 oz can poured into a snifter · Fridge temp · 2008

Appearance: Dark brown beer with a 1" light tan head. Good retention & plenty of lace.

Smell: Caramel, nutty, pecan, almond. Lots of nutty brown flavors.

Taste: Bitter forefront gets taken over by deep, nutty flavors. Toasted coffee, almonds, charcoal and lots of other dark flavors.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and smooth drinking. Dry, bitter finish is acceptable. Nice beer from a can. Alcohol is slight.

Drinkability: Very good. Nice brown ale. A good canned beer that I would buy if it were local.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.42/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown with a thin creme head. Nose is vegetal. Minor coffee. Flavor is brightly coffee like. I feel like it's unroasted beans. Still gives a full and fairly robust profile though. I like. Feel is smooth on liquid and the carbonation is middle of the road (I remember the carbonation being abrasive when I had it on-tap.) I like this beer. Easily an all night brew (if it were readily available that is.)

Photo of kkipple
3.9/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This can has been sitting in my fridge for too long now. I forgot where I got it... probably some trade up in Chicago... anyway, tonight it is 65 degrees in early December and pouring rain outside. I'm going to eat a bowl of chili after this and put on a film and pretend like it's really 15 degrees and snowing softly. Yeah, right.

Anyway, Surly Bender is an attractive rich brown beer with red highlights that looks muddy and thick, yet really isn't. A fine toothsome head rises as I pour from the 16oz can into my tall glass, and leaves no lacing as it departs for... well, wherever beer head goes to die, I guess.

Aroma is tight and clean, if a little on the fruity side. Typical brown ale malt profile with hints of nuts and brown bread is bolstered by an oaty richness and more than a few whiffs of dates, light roasted coffee, and... ah, there's the malt sweetness! It's hidden, but there.

Flavor is a mixed bag, mostly good. Medium-toasted malts, hop bitterness that is borderline excessive, coffee, and a grainy oat-rich creaminess that gives this brew some heft and saves the day. This brew has style but has been hit with the ole "American" hammer and is just a little too much of a flavorful mashup to hit classic status. Which is too bad, because this is ultimately interesting.

Mouthfeel is good; creamy and smooth with a fine level of tingly carbonation and a bitter, almost sour, date-malt-coffee finish. Holds up to repeated drinking, anyway.

Yeah, I could have another. If I were making this, I'd tweak the hop bill down a notch, add a bit more sweetness and while we're making a kitchen sink beer, maybe some wheat malt to aid retention... but I'm not, and this is still solid.

And there goes 350 reviews. Time flies when you're drinking beer!

Photo of emerge077
4.18/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Two pints today at Four Moon Tavern.

Black body with foam that is the true definition of creamy. It leaves rings of in the glass that are connected by sheets of lacing. Head retention is good, and stays for the majority of the glass. Toasty malt nose. This beer showcases the malt, very smooth with some mellow wood and tobacco up against brown sugar and dry malt, with a hint of apple from the yeast. An earthy hop presence is noticeable in the first few sips, and even more later into the session. This seems to be the point of intrigue for me, that lasting earthy bitterness that lingers into the aftertaste, but disappears shortly thereafter. Very smooth and medium bodied, not filling, easy to session without sacrificing flavor. Nice stuff.

Photo of BeenJammin
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Surly Bender pours black with a large creamy tan head. The nose is roasty, coffee, and cocoa with some citrus hops in there too. There are some really bold flavors in here. There is a chocolate, roasted coffee and vanilla. There is also some fruitiness and some nice bitterness and citrus hops for a brown ale. Very drinkable.

Bender from Surly Brewing Company
91 out of 100 based on 1,711 ratings.