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.

1,612 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,612
Reviews: 729
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 10.05%
Wants: 433
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: 1,612 | Reviews: 729 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of throwitallaway
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Thanks for hooking it up zealot! Decanted from the can into a pint glass. Pours an amber color with a small head that sticks around. Smells like citrus hops with caramel malts and a pleasant nuttiness underneath. Tastes very interesting. First there's bitter, resiny hops. Then the malts kick in with a nice breadiness, and a little caramel. Mouthfeel is right in the middle and smooth. Drinkability is massively high, as this beer goes down extremely easy. Overall this is a very interesting brown ale that's been hopped up to IPA levels. Totally into it.

throwitallaway, May 15, 2008
Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark red brown, with a nice head of off-white/beige foam. Aromas of steeped deep coffee, nice roasted malt, a bit of chocolate, a hint of vanilla, and some caramel candy. Taste is malty and roasty up front with some coffee and a tad of chocolate and vanilla in the malt profile. Hopping is light, but noticeable and blends the overall flavour very well. Mouth feel is medium bodied, but not thick, drinkability really remains quite awesome for a brown ale. One of the best browns I've had.

francisweizen, May 15, 2008
Photo of bgramer
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at Maproom.

This was given to me off tap with a finger of head. This is a very dark brown beer with strong nutty and coffee aroma. It's very malty, roasted, a hint of burnt, some nuts and coffee flavors dominate and it's dry and a bit spicy.

This is a very drinkable brown ale.

bgramer, May 13, 2008
Photo of Murchmac
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to the AKBeast for this one!

I have been wanting to try Surly stuff forever. This does not disappoint.

Pours a really eye grabbing dark dark brown, in the scary scary woods.

I didnt wait to smell it, just jumped right in and drank the s.o.b.

Nutty, chocolatey, malty, a little hops thrown in there, smooth with a lingering sweet and alternating tangy aftertaste. With every sip this beer gets more complex, never really liked vanilla in a beer until I had this one. Is a little annoying at the end of the beer. This beer is special though, and not adam sandler little nicky special.

I love the smell of malts in the morning. Dark sugars, coffee smell too. Nutty smell as well.

As Peter Griffin says, "Fricking sweet" I'd sell my mother to get another one of these, just not on mothers day.

Murchmac, May 11, 2008
Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to kplynch for the trade.

Bender pours a dark brown with ruby highlights and a good light tan head. nice lace. Nose is very malty with a touch of schwarz smell. Nice malty taste with good subtle coffee, some grain, ever so slight roastiness. Mouthfeel is good, a little dry. Drinkability is quite good, easily poundable. A good brown ale, but I don't think it is quite as spectacular as most feel it is. A solid brew, defenitely would be a regular if it was local. I would much rather have access to some Furious though! Good beer.

AKBelgianBeast, May 02, 2008
Photo of genog
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

got to sample bender for the first time on tap. Had two pints at hopleaf last weekend while we were in town for DLD.

Poured a very light brown color with minimal head. Smell was a little spicy, with some strong fruity, floral aromas and some limited chocolate sweetness in the back. Taste was slightly sour, and a little to the funky side, with some dominant grain but not as much as I remember. Mouth feel was a little creamy, but much more watery than other surly beers.

Bender in the can is one of my favorite beers of all time. On tap it was not as good. I am hoping it was just a bad keg, or line and this is not the way it usually is. But this is all I have to go on.

genog, May 01, 2008
Photo of soupyman10
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Got this one in Minnesota and took it along for the ride. 16 oz can into a pint glass. Pours a nice looking deep brown color with a finger of tan head. Fairly weak in the lacing department. I can smell is across the room; tons of caramel malt, spiced up with delicious funky hops. Lots of dried fruit aromas floating around. Flavor is excellent. Deep, roasted malt starts it off. Interesting lemony hops show up later and linger. Make sure to drink this one warm; otherwise you're missing on the real fun. Interesting roasted feel to the hops, how the two elements mix themselves together. Some light fruitiness in the taste as well. Body is full and delicious, creamy and with a perfect spicy carbonation. Overall, a very tasty beer. Doesn't really touch the Furious, in my mind, nor is it quite as good as the DFH Indian Brown, but its a solid effort, nonetheless.

soupyman10, Apr 16, 2008
Photo of ckeegan04
4.18/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark brown with a two finger dirty brown head. Excellent lacing throughout the entire glass.

S - Some chocoalte and caramel. Almost smelled like a porter.

T - Roasted malts and chocolate. Some faint sweetness as well. Piney hops at the end as well to provide some good balance.

M/D - Very smooth and creamy. A very sessionable beer.

I would say this beer is almost porter like in smell and taste. I'm not a huge brown ale fan but this one was darn good.

ckeegan04, Apr 14, 2008
Photo of Tucquan
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at Ike's bar and resturant at the Minneapolis / St. Paul airport in Minnesota.

The ale was served in a 16 oz glass. It is very dark and has a short head.

The taste is somewhere between a brown ale and an outmeal stout, hinting at chocolate and dark cherry with a bunch of hops thrown in to give it a citrus overtone. With medium mouthfeel and carbonation, tt was a nice surprise that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Tucquan, Apr 12, 2008
Photo of TheBlackMallard
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Best enjoyed while listening to Off With Their Heads.

Pours a dark brown with ruby highlight and a tan head.

Smell: Cocoa and crystal malts.

Taste: Toffee, chocolate, finishes of caramel with a hint of coffee.

Smooth, creamy, and would be an awesome go to beer.

TheBlackMallard, Apr 12, 2008
Photo of TheodorHerzl
4.28/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received in Week2 Powerball from MMAJYK. Thank you!

Bender pours with a very dark brown body with a two finger frothy tan head on it. It left great lacing that lasted the entire beer. The nose is earthy and nutty with caramel undertones with loads of chocolaty malt coming through. The flavor profile is a big surprise for a brown ale. The malt base with the chocolate and caramel is coming through very strong. Secondary flavors also include grassy hops that go from earthy to an almost slight pine that seems to fade in and out with each drink. As the beer warms I get some bittersweet coffee and vanilla beans in the flavor profile as well. The mouthfeel on this beer is creamy and velvety smooth that leaves just a slightly dry finish. The drinkability is very top-notch on this offering and at this ABV is quite sessionable.

I loved this beer. If it were available near me it would always have a place in my fridge and belly.

TheodorHerzl, Apr 11, 2008
Photo of maximum12
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

As a rabid Surly partisan, I generally stick with Furious, but will take on the odd Bender.

Bender is brown, a little light leaks through around the edges of the beer. Almost no head to speak of. Little in the way of smell, either, beyond a faint whiff of malt & alcohol.

Tastes good, for a brown. Not my favorite style, but this is the second best brown I've had, & since the other was bourbon-casked, I'm not even sure that's a fair comparison. Bender is smooth as a baby's butt, malty, fills up the mouth.

Extremely easy drinking - perhaps I've been sampling too many 10% ABV beers. And thanks again Surly for the full pint pours. Beautiful.

A very good brown.

maximum12, Apr 10, 2008
Photo of BigJTrucker
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Special thanks to BA "Turbine2475"

Pours a deep mahogany, very little head. smell is very light, but reminiscent of raisins, hints of vanilla. Taste is nice and malty, some fruity notes, faint coffee or tobacco, not much hops bitterness to speak of. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a bit drying on the back end. A very good, drinkable brew. Wish this was distributed in my area, i'd definitely pick up some more.

BigJTrucker, Apr 06, 2008
Photo of jeonseh
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to my friend who brought these back to South Bend from MN for me.

A - A dark, brown color that has amber, reddish and golden hues. A little bit of carbonation sits on the bottom of the glass and there is a small head that sits on top.

S - Actually a rather fruity scent and even a hint of a roasted nuts and a hint of caramel, toffee, and even brown sugar. There also seems to be a slight hint of orange as well. Just wish it were a bit bigger as it was a bit hard to discern and get a smell sometimes.

T - A nice balance of sweet and bitter that adds a nice complexity to this one. There was a hint of citrus and orange that seems to complement and counteract the sweeter malt of caramel and toffee that is in the beer. The orange zest taste is strong especially at the beginning as it is the primary and first taste that I get. The malt is only there really to try to counteract and prevent the orange flavor from becoming overpowering. There is also a slight roasted hazelnuts taste that comes through as well to add some complexity to it. There is a slightly dry finish as well that adds a slight bitterness to the beer as well.

MF - A nice big body to this one that is a bit chewy and thick and only a slight bit sticky. Thought this was a lot more bready than I would have expected as well.

D - Overall a nice brown ale that I was a bit surprised to find such a strong orange taste in there that balances against the sweeter malts. I was a bit surprsied as to how much the orange hop flavor shined through but I guess I shouldn't have been given Surly's love of hops. An interesting twist and I will enjoy drinking the other 4 however I won't really go out of my way to get some more. A good deal though esp for the price.

jeonseh, Apr 05, 2008
Photo of marcpal
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This was my first venture into Surly, heard many good things and really want to get at their hoppier stuff.

Pint poured from tap at Hopleaf, Chicago.

A: Looked like a light porter and there was little to no head. Mocha colored lacing.

S: Tons of nuts and coffee, chocolate and other grains. Draws you in and a really strong part of drinking this beer.

T: Oats and nuts of a toasted roasted porter.
Good but didnt quite blow me away. The malts were the factor here, and not much in terms of the hop aspect. Kind of expected more.

M: Not overly dry, carbonation fit well and good chewiness.

D: Not really an American Brown is it? Surely drinkable and it is filling without being overbearing in any way.

Definitely a well made beer, maybe its just not my style. Gotta get me some furious.

marcpal, Apr 03, 2008
Photo of DefenCorps
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Recently acquired a 4-pack at Dark Lord Day. Poured into my Russian River pint glass

A: Deep brown with a dense tan head that slowly recedes, leaving some lacing. Pretty!

S: Sweet caramel up front with some vanilla and a hint of hops. There's a nutty angle to this one too

T: Caramel, hops, coffee, and a hint of oatmeal. Fresh, this one's a treat. The hops are definitely assertive for a brown and have an earthy, herbal angle which goes very well with the sweetness from the malt. The oatmeal makes this ridiculously smooth and the finish is medium dry with a mild hop bitterness

M: It's a little flat but it goes well with the silky smoothness from the oatmeal.

D: Very drinkable, I hope i had more than 2!

Old review from an older can:
16oz can poured into my hefeweizen glass

A: A vigorous pour reveals a very deep brown beer with a solid 3 finger head. Appealing with excellent head retention. 4.5/5

S: Sweet caramel up front with a hint of hops. As it warms up, there's some vanilla too. 4/5

T: Caramel and hops up front with a hint of coffee.4/5

M: Unbelievably smooth 4.5/5

D: A delight to drink.4.5/5

DefenCorps, Mar 31, 2008
Photo of turbine2475
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Junnilla for this trade:
A - Dark Brown with a ruby hint that had a decent head that clings to the glass as it disipates into a thin lace.
S - All hints very subtle, caramel, earthy hops, and vanilla stained tobacco.
T - Caramel rules but not overwelming, has some faint vanilla and maple with a pleaureable accent of hop bitterness.
M - Smooth with good carbonation and a light coating that hammers home the light hop and caramel addition.
D - Great session beer. Whould agian love to have this beer in my area, but i will definately atempt to make what I have last as long as possible...Not making any promises though.

turbine2475, Mar 24, 2008
Photo of jokelahoma
4.28/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Apparently there's some discrepency as to what style this is. Some say American Brown, others say Oatmeal porter. I believe both.

Poured into a pint at Blue Nile in Minneapolis. It's a deep, deep brown, almost black, much darker than one might expect from an American brown, to say the least.

The aroma is also unusual, in a very good way. It's not terribly hoppy in the nose, like a good brown ale. but it has a toasted oatmeal smell that leads me to believe they put the oats in the overn before they brew with 'em. That makes the oatmeal much more upfront than in many oatmeal stouts, even. It's a very enticing aroma.

The flavor also falls between black and brown, if one can assign flavors to colors here. There's a good bit of caramel sweetness like a brown, but the sip end with a good deal of black malt dryness, just like a weel made porter. it's an interesting combination that works extremely well. This is nowhere near as hoppy as most porters, brown or robust, yet moreso than many browns. Overall, this is a good and interesting combination of flavors, and a nice "tweener" between these two styles. Impressive stuff.

The mouthfeel is a bit chewy as one would expect from an oatmeal beer. Anything with a good hearty infusion of oatmeal is going to have the creamy thick mouthfeel. It's not thick enough to require you to work at drinking it, mind you, but there's no question you're drinking *something*. That's a good thing.

As with Furious by the same brewer, I can't get into the "Jesus came back as a beer!" hype the brewery gets, yet there's no denying they make good stuff. This one is no exception. Bender is not an outstanding beer, but it is a long, long way from bad. Well worth seeking out if you're in their distribtion area.

jokelahoma, Mar 20, 2008
Photo of WesWes
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark brown color with a thick frothy tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a nice roasted malt scent with just enough crystal malts to add a slightly sweet aroma. The taste is good. It has a smooth, roasted and crystal malt flavor that goes down real easy and finishes dry with a slight metallic edge. It has an excellent roasted character. The mouthfeel is great. It is a medium/full bodied beer with near perfect carbonation. This a very good drinking beer. It's a wonderful example of the style; great taste and aroma. Thanks again to jjayjaye for for hooking me up

WesWes, Mar 13, 2008
Photo of explosivebeer
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a lovely dark brown and immediately had a hint of banana esters. It was lightly nutty with some chocolate and caramel notes. Overall it was an excellent beer and the best I've ever had out of a can. I only wish it had a more widespread distribution!

explosivebeer, Mar 11, 2008
Photo of irishkyle21
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My second offering from Surly (both thanks to oakbluff) and Bender does not disappoint. Its dark brown color, off white head and nice lacing team up to make this a good looking beer.

Smells of caramel malts, nutty, a bit of bread and grassy bitter hops.

Mouthfeel is rich and creamy. Starts of malty (chocolate, nuts, toffee) then the hops join in (bitter, citrus) and fruits, just to mix it up a little.

irishkyle21, Mar 11, 2008
Photo of grandq
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours deep dark brown with a dirty off-white head. Ruby hues shine through along the sides. Caramel is the first thing to hit the nose along with molasses and a faint hint of coffee. Taking a sip, caramel and light hops greet me up front, opening the door to a more malted, roasty backbone inside. Toasted and nutty come to mind, and I'm also getting a fair bit of coffee and even a bit of baker's chocholate and cherry. A smooth flavor progression, ushered along by subtle hop bittering, practically hidden as it does its job. I've noted in several reviews I tend not to like caramel too prominent in my beers, but this does a great job of not letting it become too singular or overpowering. Still a touch sweet. Goes down very smooth and creamy, evaporating the bold body smoothly away. Seems like pretty soft water. Surprisingly low on carbonation, hardly a fizzle when I cracked the can.

A rather good brown, up there with my local go-to, Sixpoint Brownstone. Cheers to Mully for the chance to try it.

grandq, Mar 07, 2008
Photo of illidurit
4.53/5  rDev +11%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Perfect pour into a nonic. Deep opaque brown with a perfect crest of tan foam. Gobs of lacing on the glass, and pretty nice retention.

Great sweet malt aroma with a dose of nuttiness and a hint of hops.

Malt flavors up front with toasty caramel and a bit of chocolate, then nutty/oaty notes wash through, leaving a mild hoppy finish.

This would make for an incredible session beer if I had more than one here in California. Really smooth in body and taste.

illidurit, Mar 02, 2008
Photo of jjayjaye
4.45/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thank goes out to DavidEddie for this one (mind reading karma extra).

Pours a barely translucent dark brown with mahogany hues and a nice foamy tan head that resists fading. It leaves good amounts of sticky lacing patterns behind. The smell is really nice. The aroma is primarily sweet malty chocolate and brown sugar. There's something else there also that I can't put my finger on, not molasses, but it's sending "thickness" signals. A nice tingle of carbonation, full bodied mouth feel with pleasant creamy texture that finishes with a gentle note of hops. Full of flavor, the mouth complements the Tootsie roll chocolate mixed with 'malt shop' something and Malted Milk Ball...what-ever-it-is. An easy drinker and the 5.1% ABV makes it one of the best sessionable things going on...and I bet it's lo-cal too! Also want to thank Pitmonkey for the recent trade. Highly recommended.

jjayjaye, Mar 01, 2008
Photo of Tolann
4.65/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Initial review 11/24/2007:
A - Dark in color nearly opaque. Not cloudy. Lots of thick head and leaves a heavy lace like cement on your glass.

S - Sweet hops, with hints of caramel and more of a milk chocolate.

T - Some chocolate, some bitterness, sweet vanilla cream...a complex flavor. You can taste more of the coffee if you slurp the beer.

M - medium body and smooth feel. very pleasant to drink

D - I like this beer a lot and love Surly! I wish it were easier to get more!

review 2/28/2008:
Love Surly!

A- very dark in color. Not opaque and doesn't have a haze. Some creamy brownish head that appears very thick. Good for a 'milk mustache'. Leaves a lacing all over the glass that is pretty tight and will be a joy to clean...

S- Can smell this without sticking your head in the glass. Hops first as with many of Surly beers, but then caramel and malt. This is a brown ale, and shouldn't be as hoppy as the others. Then again, leave it to Surly to break all the rules. Little bit of vanilla cream. YUM

T- Some up front bitterness, but its so smooth it goes easy on your pallet. Some warm sweetness most likely from the caramel and malt. More hints of bitter chocolate and coffee.

M- smooth and not over carbonated. a medium body. some aftertaste sticks to the roof of my mouth in the back, but its not bitter hoppyness. no boozy feel.

D- heavier in the stomach that I wouldn't want to have several of these in 1 sitting. Smooth enough tho that I'm not going to share my pub can. Such a good beer again from Surly. Love this stuff and will have to get more to replenish our stash.

Tolann, Feb 29, 2008
Bender from Surly Brewing Company
91 out of 100 based on 1,612 ratings.