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Bender | Surly Brewing Company

751 Reviews
For Trade:

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.10%

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.

Added by tavernjef on 02-04-2006

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Reviews: 751 | Ratings: 1,904
Photo of alphagnome
3.85/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown body reminiscent of coffee with a hearty head that last the duration of the glass and leaves heavy lacing.

Surprisingly bland for a Surly brew. Musty malts. Vague nutty presence. Light cocoa nibs and oatmeal. Molasses.

Roasted nuts and malt, molasses and bitter chocolates are the dominant flavors here. Well balanced . Black coffee on the finish and aftertaste.

Light carbonation. Semi-dry finish. Easy to drink medium-bodied beer.

Not as good as everything else I've had from the Surly line up, possibly their weakest entry. However, that's not really a bad praise, since Surly's line up is rather fantastic. I'd say this is definitely worth a try - but recommend going straight to the Coffee Bender.

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Photo of sixbluntsdeep
4.88/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a standard pint glass.

A: I poured conservatively into my pint glass which left a half-finger, extremely thick head that left heavy lacing. If poured from the tap, I bet the head would be huge. Color was a dark amber/caramel when held up to a daylight CFL.

S: The malt and caramel hit the nose hard, with a chocolate/coffee undertone. Brown Ales aren't my choice of beer when I drink, but this one does it right. An almost creamy smell.

T: Almost stout-like. Top notch taste. Creamy, goes down smooth, taste and aftertaste are excellent. Drank with dinner of home-made burgers and potato salad. Excellent addition.

M: It's like I'm drinking a malt, and I love malts. Thick, creamy, full mouth experience which hits every part of the palate.

O: 4.75/5. I've never drank a perfect beer, but coming from an IPA guy, this comes damn close.

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Photo of JohnG190
4.39/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown with a thick off-white head with good retention. Moderate lacing. Aroma of roasted malts and biscuit followed by chocolate and caramel notes. Great earthy aroma. Roasted malt hits the palate first, followed up by a sweet oat flavor, reminiscent of brown sugar on hot oatmeal. Very smooth and complex. Oats give this brown ale a thick, rich mouthfeel. Great carbonation. Extremely drinkable. Finishes dry and slightly bitter. Overall, one of the best brown ales I’ve ever had!

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Photo of BeerWithMike
4.22/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tried this one while up in Minneapolis last Saturday night (9/21/13). Never seen this brew and was 'On tap' at the hotel we stayed at for the weekend (Marriott Courtyard). The bartender gave me a taster the night before since they were closed and it was late AND we knew the bartender. ANYWAY, ended up drinking two 16-ounce glasses the next night.

Pours a very dark brown that is almost black actually. Had a 1-finger tan head that lasted a bit. LOTS of lacing was seen with each sip. The aroma of roasted malt hits your nose up front with a slight coffee smell. The taste was pretty much the same with some sweet spice (?) and very smooth. Went down very easy. Overall it was great and hense a 2nd tasting (16 oz) was needed. :)

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Photo of Durge
4.05/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An outstanding look with dank dark coffee brown hue, a stubborn light tan head and an incredible sheet of lacing! The aroma is surprisingly subtle but certainly delivers very pleasant caramel malt with just a hint of grass hops. The flavor comes on nicely with much more malt and a smooth coffee blend. I get some grass hop edges and taffy sweetness along the lines of Circus Peanuts! But it's all quite tasteful and makes got a classic American Brown Ale. The body is solidly medium with modest carbonation and a slightly chalky feel. Solid stuff.

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Photo of notchucknorris
4.36/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a deep dark brown color with chestnut highlights. A 1/2 finger head shows good retention and leaves just a trickle of lace down the glass.

S: Toasted malt, brown sugar, cocoa, oats, some toasted wheat bread and a rich nutty flavor. Smells pretty great.

T: A nice mix of toasted malt and light roasted coffee with a nice trace of earthy hops lingering in the back. Finish brings some brown sugar, oats and hazelnut. Mouthfeel is slightly creamy and carries all the flavors really nicely. A really great brown. Maybe the best I've had.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.11/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Thanks again to maximum12 for always hooking it up with Surly stuff, much appreciated. Damped, muddied brown with some swamp-ish carbonation that's lively as all hell; bubbles just flying upwards towards the big, khaki-colored head. It's thick, lasting, and chunky the Oprah in '88. Copious amounts of seemingly sticky, webbed lace spots haunt the sides of the glass forever.

After one rummage into the glass, I can already say that this is one of the better brown ales I've smelled. I'm not a huge fan of the style... I normally hate when people say that, but oh well. I'm guilty. Brown ales are just something that have never really "done it" for me. But the nose on Bender is quite lovely... Toasty bread, sweet caramel, soft cocoa powder, a hint of cola, and some tame backside vanilla sweetness. A nice little concoction if I do say so myself.

The taste is plentiful with good, creamy chocolate notes; just mildly sweet and balanced admirably by the slightest touch of roast. A little hint of cola mid-palate before the nutty floodgates open; a nuttiness comes on strong with some sweet coffee grounds and some finishing dryness. The mouth feel is quite nice - I wonder if the oats are responsible for the creaminess on the palate? Things finish nicely with some lightly sweet cream and a dash of earthy hops and cocoa.

On the real tip, Surly continues to impress me with every single beer they put out. IPA? Awesome. Douple IPA? Amazing. Imperial Stout? Fabulous. Helles Lager? Exemplary. Brown Ale? Yup, damn delicious. I can say that this is probably one of the most enjoyable brown ales that I've had, and certainly one of the most memorable. I would definitely revisit if it were available in my area. But I've gotta work on getting some Coffee Bender first!

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Photo of MadScientist
3.89/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: A dark brown ale with good clarity. The head is thin, tan and made of compact, long lasting bubbles.

S: A medium roast and some light coffee from the malt. Slight dark fruit and almost no hops.

T: A decent bitterness with a fair amount of malt but with very little sweetness. It has medium coffee and mild toast malt flavors with slight dark fruit. The balance is somewhat bitter with a dry finish and a dark malt aftertaste.

O: Somewhere between an American Brown and Porter with a malt flavors and hops bitterness dominating.

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Photo of joe1510
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can

Received this in a recent trade with mully, thanks Matt! Bender pours dark mahogany, bordering on a dark brown, that glows when backlit. The craggy beige head grew to a finger on the pour and left good lacing on its way down.

Big aromas from a lower abv brew. First off is a big whiff of brown bread followed by a touch of rye like spiciness. Coffee, caramel and a swirling of vanilla join the party and make for an interesting brown. There's a mildly spicy, fruity hoppiness toward the back. Lots of complexity in the nose!

The flavor mirrors the aroma nicely. The only difference I come across is a (more than the nose suggested) generous hopping that are all at once fruity and spicy. I even get a touch of that leathery goodness found in some other brews. This is an exciting brown ale and I don't think I've ever said that before.

The oats add a nice creamy texture that really helps this beer stand apart. The body is medium and incredibly smooth.

The drinkability is way up there. The low(er) abv and big flavor make for a great session beer.

Another home run from Surly! This is an exciting, delicious brown ale. Keep it up over there guys.

Reviewed: 3/30/08

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Photo of papat444
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to kjyost for this one.

Poured from a 16oz. can, canned on 05/21/13.

Appearance: Ecru-colored head atop a dark brown body, couple of good rings and slightly better retention than the Coffee Bender.

Smell: Hints of cocoa, dried fruit, all malt, assorted nuts.

Taste: Oatmeal, cocoa, nutty, good flavors.

Mouthfeel: Smooth & sleek yet robust enough with a bit of gritty bitterness.

Overall: A decent stab at the style but not my preferred interpretation.

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Photo of Powderhornphil
4.03/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours deep chestnut brown, 1 - 2 fingers creamy head. Recedes to leave light lacing.

Smells like a rich brown ale. Hints of chocolate roast, very slight roasted coffee. A vanilla creaminess is also present.

Tastes and mouthfeel are very nice for the ABV and style. Roasted malt notes along with cocoa and a slick, creamy oatmeal feel.

An enjoyable beer and likely one of the best examples of a brown ale in the 5 percent range without flavor additives.

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Photo of GJ40
3.96/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled from a 16oz can in an imperial pint glass. Thanks surge1311!

A - Brown with a hint of red and some light coming through. A big beige head that doesn't interfere but refuses to walk away.

S - Brown sugar and oatmeal with a hint of molasses and roasted marshmallows.

T - Delicate yet complex with oats, bread, fruit and a mild bitterness that plays nicely. There's a mild sweetness throughout.

M - Creamy with a nice low carbonation. The carbonation seems to exit in unison to create that sturdy head.

O - a refreshing, interesting beer. Well done!

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Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.09/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Deep rich brown. Relatively clear with a slight chill haze. Head is tan, sticky, thick and has decent retention. Leaves some solid lacing.

Smell: Full of caramel malts. Biscuit hits through on the back of things. Cocoa, hints of vanilla, maybe even some toffee. More complexity than I expect from the style. Hints of citrus and something almost grassy. Slightly roasted with a solid bready component.

Taste: Rich roasted malts. Not overt. Building sweetness adds some caramel and a solid bready note. Nicely hopped with a leafy citrus thing going on. A bit grainy with hints of cocoa and caramelized malts. Warm brown bread. A hint of coffee bean and toffee.

Mouthfeel: Smooth with a solid creaminess. Moderate carbonation with a mediumish body that gets a boost from the the whole creamy thing. Nice and clean. Yeah, it's solid.

Overall: Rodriguez, Bender Rodriguez.

A top of the line brown ale. A malty experience with a soft hop profile to give it a bit more character. A bit rough around the edges, but I expect that from Surly and from style. It shows character more than lack of skill. I love tracking this down from time to time.

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Photo of Treebs
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16 oz. can served in a Surly tulip. Thanks to iadler for the beer! Canned on 4/1/13.

A: Pours an opaque brown color with a khaki color head forming on the pour. It recedes slow to a thin ring that leaves sticky sheets of lace down the glass.

S: Big steel cut oat whiffs right off the bat. Nice light cocoa with a smidgen of bitter bakers chocolate.

T: Just the nose, but with a ton more flavor. Big oat presence with a dash of cocoa powder. Raw green hops pop up slightly in the mid-palate and the finish is a creamy mixture of caramel and sweet malts.

M: Medium to light bodied with a slightly drying finish. Medium carbonation level with a residual sweetness.

O: Great brown ale. I enjoy Coffee Bender a touch more, but this is still top notch.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.01/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- pours a dark chestnut brown with a ruby hue, huge rocky and frothy light-tan head with great retention, leaving solid lacing

S- sweet and slightly nutty malt, grainy oats, a bit of cocao and hop bitterness

T- sweet malty notes with some great bittersweet chocolate flavors, notes of caramel and some herbal earthy notes, the oats add a nice silky grainy flavor, herbal hop bitterness gives a slighty tart, somewhat-dry finish, a touch of coffee on the linger

M- medium body and carbonation, foamy mouthfeel with a silky finish provided from the oats.

O- not your typical brown ale, almost drinks like a porter, nice chocolate flavors with some good herbal hop notes to balance. One of the better I've tried of the style

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

a really nice brown ale, moving in that more hoppy direction, a real marker for the style in my opinion. the pour is chocolate syrup in color but not nearly as thick. only a little light comes through, and there is a foamy head the color of oatmeal that rises up maybe three inches and leaves good lacing as it drinks. the nose is bitter cocoa and bitter hops, maybe with a touch of pine to them. there is also a slight smoky aroma from the roasted barley malt that gives this more of a fall than spring beer aura to me. the flavor is big, lots happening for a brown. piney pitchy sappy hops first, which fade into a bitterness that is more malt driven. the cocoa element carries over from the nose but sweetens up just enough to counteract the bitter, and the finish is long and luxurious, exacerbated by the wonderfully full body, creamy texture, and soft carbonation of this beer. to be able to have this and sixpoints diesel in such close succession was a real treat. even though they call that one a stout, these are probably the best two American brown ales going at the moment. this is sensationally good.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.07/5  rDev -1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz can dated 2/2013 served in a pint glass at Keegan'sin downtown Mpls today 3/30/2013.

Aroma: smells sweet, in terms of caramel and toffee. There are hints of roast malt that I typically get from porters and stouts. A little bit of chocolate as well. It's a strong nose itself with the sweetness combining with the chocolate maltiness. Very pleasing. (4)

Colour: pours dark brown, looks like a typical brown ale. Pours with a fluffy brown head that gets as high as 3cm before settling down within minutes, allowing me to pour the rest of the 16oz can in. Not bad looking but not particularly impressive. Not much in way of lacing. (3)

Flavour: wow, this is definitely an unique blend of brown ale and porter styles. As it says on the can, I get a nice sweet hoppiness in the front end, it reminds me of some earthy fuggles. Then in the second half, I get basically a bit of vanilla and coffee, and a lot of chocolate and caramel toffees that comes from roasted malts, flavours I typically associate with the porter/stout style. I really, really enjoyed drinking this beer. Don't think the complexity you find here can be found in most year-round brews. (4.25)

Mouthfeel: this must be where the oats really come into play as I get a thicker medium body in the Kathleen department. Great carbonation, and the aftertaste is basically toffee from the roast malts. Really, really smooth, thick and creamy for a brown ale if you can call it that. It's even a bit sticky. (4.25)

Overall: I thought this was a really nice combination of sweet hoppiness with the dark, earthy maltiness typically associated with porters and stouts. I really enjoyed it and I will be bringing some home with me back to Wisconsin. (4)

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Photo of vette2006c5r
3.91/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bender pours a black color, with a nice large white lacing head. There was a unique sweet like aroma. The taste had mild malt flavorings, with a strange candy like sweetness that followed. Full flavor, and easy to drink. Overall a sweet candy like brown ale.

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Photo of wyatt13
4.22/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

My first Surly! Received a couple cans of this from a friend that goes to college up at St. Olaf. Thanks Ethan!

Poured from a tall boy can into my 7venth Sun tulip. Canned date of 12/31/12.

A - Pours a deep amber brown, capped off by a luscious two finger khaki-colored head. The center of foam quickly collapses in on itself, but sticky foam stays clutching the walls of the glass.

S - Immediately hit by the typical roasted malt character of a brown ale...but there's plenty other mischievous things hiding under here. By that I mean light-roasted coffee, replete with sweet & fruity notes of a freshly roasted batch & some bitter dark chocolate. A bit of a caramely note lingers in the nose.

T - Man, this is tasty! The taste largely follows the nose, with incredible balance. Hop bitterness adds an interesting element near the finish, but that is quickly forgotten by a closing salvo of smooth vanilla.

M - Very little carbonation, with a thinner mouthfeel. Very drinkable -- no barriers present themselves to quick quaffing & I find the glass is emptying too quickly.

O - Really delicious brown ale. I just returned from a trip to Florida, where I drank a lot of fresh Cigar City beers, including their Maduro brown ale. At first taste, I prefer Bender & this only heightens my jealousy that Surly's beers are largely unattainable for me.

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Photo of WankelEngine
4.01/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16oz can into a wine glass

A: Pours a mahogany brown color with a creamy tan head that slowly fades to a moderate cap of foam. Next to no lacing.

S: Brown sugar and maple are contrasted by some mild, fresh hops. Just a touch of chocolate.

T: The hops are more forward here, and project some herbal/floral notes. This does a great job of balancing the beer, which otherwise consists of fairly sweet caramel and oats.

M: Medium bodied by smooth and full thanks to the oatmeal. Medium-low carbonation.

O: A solid brown ale. I am not generally a huge fan of the style, but it's well balanced and drinkable.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.99/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From: France44 dot com
Date: Bottled 12/2/12
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Surly's Bender takes a varied and diverse approach towards the brown ale style, bringing in noticeable cocoa alongside bread-toffee sweetness, vanilla, and the occasional flash of something coffee-esque and reminiscent of wood-like, herbal hops. Yet, for its interesting aromas and flavors, the beer also seems a bit muddied and indistinct, with a slightly harsh vanilla (or something) presence in the aroma and a bit too much astringency in the taste. A beer I would enjoy occasionally due to its easy sessionability and generally good flavor/aroma.

Pours a dark beige head of about 2cm, made up of small bubbles, which has average retention length of about a minute. In its decline, the foam leaves significant lacing along the sides of the glass, from waves in retreat to thick lines and splotches. The body is a dark brown to nearly black color, with light revealing a secret, transparent ruby color. Carbonation is visible only at the top of the glass, the body being opaque enough to render it mostly invisible. What is visible indicates a fairly lively beer, due to the many small bubbles seen edging their way to the top.

Aroma is of toffee, chocolate malts, vanilla, with biscuit-like accents, along with woodsy hops (probably Willamette or something similar). The vanilla aspect seems particularly pronounced for some reason, occasionally being more noticeable than the toffee, which I find somewhat unappealing. Otherwise, this smells fairly compelling.

Overall, the beer has fairly strong toffee-bread flavors that are balanced by cocoa, vanilla, and mild hop bitterness; a bit astringent, though, and also somewhat muddied in the mix of flavors, if one wants to be critical. Front of palate finds cocoa, vanilla, and hints of rich toffee sweetness. This leads to a mid-palate of toffee sweetness and rich brown bread tempered by cocoa, vanilla, faint coffee and mild bitterness with light wood-like hops that also have a touch of citrus. Back of palate finds toffee and bready sweetness overpowering cocoa, faint coffee, and vanilla. Fairly pleasant aftertaste, though somewhat astringent, of moderate bitterness that blends well with the chocolate, toasted nut, and coffee flavors of the beer that hang around.

Beer is medium to medium-heavy in body, thickness likely due to the addition of oats. Carbonation is of medium-low intensity, leading to a smooth, fairly substantial mouthfeel with light flecks of carbonation felt across the palate. Closes quite dry, almost astringent, with light stickiness lingering on the palate.

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Photo of Sarlacc83
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz can from kscaldef that he ordered online. Thanks!

A: Toasted brown coloration with a placid browned head. No legs to speak of, as you'd expect from a 5% beer.

N: Lots and lots of coffee and oats. Has that graininess to the nose of beers from days past. Leather and pine accent the very bitter baker's chocolate. Very bready and toasty with a slight pecan flavoring.

T: Lots of roasted coffee and some toasted staves. Hops are noticeable, adding an earthy floor to the proceedings with a touch of pine and some grapefruit. Burnt caramel and baker's chocolate. More of the oats.

M: Quite smooth and light, yet it some how feels full, like eating a piece of bread.

O: An accomplished brown ale that rolls around the tastebuds and is deserving of the high ranking it has accomplished.Seems to me to be the kind of thing you'd find yourself drinking in an English pub, albeit a quaff a bit hoppier and more forward than a bitter.

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Photo of sevenarts
3.83/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep, dark brown, with a reddish tinge when held up to light. Generous, fluffy tan head that fades quickly but leaves behind some nice lacing.

S: Some subdued malty aromas, brown sugar, hints of mild chocolate, a whiff of hoppiness. Nothing very strong.

T/M: A good malty treat, with caramel, sugar, chocolate and coffee, some mild but lingering hop bitterness on the back end. Tingly, carbonated mouthfeel.

O: A fine, tasty, mild brown ale with a good amount of subtle, gentle flavor to it. The Coffee Bender, with its massive infusion of big coffee flavor, is better, but this is a nice and easy-drinking base beer.

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Photo of emyers
3.58/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark ruby-brown with a big off-white head. Leaves a nice lacing.

Smell: Mild, but pleasant. Toffee, bread, yeast, just a hint of chocolate.

Taste: Toasted biscuits, more toffee, roast, nuts and caramel sweetness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: The oats really come through here. Very smooth. Light to medium carbonation. Goes down easy.

Overall: A solid representation of a brown ale. I really like the addition of the oats.

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Photo of joemcgrath27
4.55/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - dark but clear deep brown, thumb of head dissipated slowly leaving plenty of consistent lacing
S - plenty of nutty and cola aromas, mild molasses, touch of vanilla and coffee
T - sweet nutty malt with light fruity syrup, cola, espresso builds through the finish with the nutty flavour lasting from front to back, this is truly exceptional
M - creamy smooth, sweet and full, this would be such a great session beer
O - this beer really blew me away, it is so creamy smooth and big on flavour, I like brown ales but its not a go to style for me generally, but this beer has the best qualities of this style, BIG THANKS to andrenaline for introducing me to this brewer by including their beer in our recent trades

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 751 ratings.