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Bender - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

743 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 743
Hads: 1,852
Avg: 4.11
pDev: 15.57%
Wants: 457
Gots: 269 | FT: 11
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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Reviews: 743 | Hads: 1,852
Photo of Imstillthegman
4.33/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Faro for this can as part of The Great BIF Race 2007.

"Beer for a glass, from a can"....I couldn't agree more. Bender pours a semi-opaque brown with lighter, cola-like hues on the edges. Edges are clearer as well. Nice, big tan head fades down to a thin bubbly cap. This is one brown brown ale.

The aroma is malty, with some nuttiness, bread, and a sweet fruit way in the back. The smell makes me want to take a bite out of it.

Flavor is earthy...bit of tobacco, maybe? Dark roasted malts, nuts, a touch of yeast, and a subtle sweetness at the end blended with just a hint of bitterness. Me likey.

Creamy medium body. Smooth and easy drinking. Why, oh why, don't you Surly guys come out east?

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Photo of flexabull
4.45/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Notes from when I sampled this a few days ago.

Big thanks to LeonTrotsky and todd1 for sending me a few of these.

Pours from a very cool looking tall can. Looks like cola when poured. It's a bright brown color, clear, and with a nice white head.

Aromas are big. Nutty, bread like, and yeasty.

Upon the first sip, I notice the excellent mouthfeel. Big, smooth, creamy and full. Beer tastes a bit crisp, earthy, coffee like, nutty, and with some sweetness from the roasted malts. Finish has a kiss of bitterness from the hops.

Drinkability is top notch. All day.. every day... a perfect example of an American Brown, and would be an ideal session beer.

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Photo of hero27
4.38/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can..and a very cool looking one at that.
5.1% abv.
45 IBUs

Thanks go out to RobertDwight for hooking me up with a 4-pack of this.

Pours a very dark, reddish-brown with a sizeable tan head.
Aroma is of chocolate, nuts, & burnt malts.
Earthy malt flavors really take the reigns here..with plenty of complexity to keep you interested in a style that often gets overlooked.
Creamy mouthfeel helps blend in all the soft flavors very well..slightly dry in the finish. Very tasty, now I see what all the fuss is about...these folks at Surly seem to know what they're doing.

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Photo of demcorhip
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Great stuff, its nice to see the hype is well deserved. Thanks to nonBA Boob for bringing this north.

A dark ale, almost black with garnet highlights. Nice 3 finger tan coloured head formed on the pour into my Samuel Smith pint glass. Mildly carbonated and decently laced with intricate, almost clingy, lacings.

A very nice smelling brew. Creamy treacle and nut covered oatmeal. Hints of vanilla, cocoa powder, and anise also present. A decent amount of citrusy hops in the back end with the character of ruby red grapefruit.

Pretty similar to the nose. A slight roasted character appears before hops do. Slight surprise as the hops have a nice citrus character, but more like white grapefruit and orange peal versus the ruby red appreciated by my nose.

Creamy and smooth mildly carbonated almost medium bodied brew. Despite treacle character toasted nutty malts manage a somewhat dry finish, and are aided in doing so by the nicely balanced hop bitterness and wisp of roasted character.

Very drinkable brew. Would make a great segue into porters and stouts for novices to those styles due to its very mild roastiness. A great and easily drinkable brown ale in its own right and well deserving of the hype. I will be looking for this surprisingly complex brown ale again, and would enjoy seeing how it stacks up against other similar brews i enjoy.

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Photo of auxiliary
4.33/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

appearance - Deep brown color, nice head and left some nice lace on the glass.

smell - Smell of toasted malts and nuts

taste - Toasted malts and a nutty tang to it. Real nice flavor from a can?

mouthfeel - Medium body, low carbonation.

drinkability - I like brown ales, and this is one of the best I have tried in awhile.

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Photo of kenito799
3.95/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16oz can poured into a chalice.

Very happy to try Surly products on this visit to the Twin Cities. I was also pleased to see a craft brewer turning to the can for prservation of freshness and protection from light. I hope to see this trend spread.

This excellent brown ale poured a dark coca-cola brown with a small foamy head that receded to a ring. Roasted aroma was released more as the beer warmed, definite coffee notes, as well as distinct hoppy pine.

Mouthfeel is a bit light, not much body, on the crisp side, which isn't really in keeping with the style, but doesn't detract too much. Taste is very good, an interesting interplay between roasted coffee and chocolate and crisp hoppy bitterness. With a bit more body this would be even better (would love to try this from a cask) but this is an excellent effort. Some of these will find their way into my luggage for the trip home.

Edit: I brought some home and it has been in the fridge since laet May (4+ months). My review and impressions stand...the can preserved this low ABV beer perfectly. It is a bit more bitter and a bit more creamy in the mouth than I remember...therefore I will increase the "mouthfeel" score from 3 to 3.5.

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Photo of Graham21
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Surly made its way to Iowa (shout out to mom). Pours a dark reddish brown color, like dark cherries. Nice 4 finger head that left frothy lacings on the side of the glass. Smell of malts, fruits, yeast, vanilla, dark chocolate. Ths taste is def. not what i expected. It almost hits you like a stout. Dark roasted malts, hops, chocolate, coffee, nuts, smoky meat. Amazing! medium bodied, nice carbonation. A trreat to my taste buds.

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Photo of ArrogantB
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bender is a very, very dark brown beer. The head is a coffee-stain color and bumpy around the edges. It smells like chocolate milk as well as oats, mmm. The taste is really, really good but I can’t liken it to another flavor. The mouthfeel is very smooth. I don’t usually like brown ales but this one is a standout beer. I also really like the 16 ounce cans Surly uses, nice.

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

thanks to wankerweasel for this...
ironically enough, i had a craving for a coke and didn't have any. so i had this instead. going into the nonic it looked like a coke in terms of color, just not quite as black. tilting the glass shows this beer's clarity. light brown head. sweet chocolate aromas along with coffee beans, brown sugar, dark dried fruit and toffee with some dark bread notes thrown in. moderately sweet going down with some light underlying hop bitterness and carbonation preventing it from becoming cloying. this drinks more like a doppelbock than an ale to me. medium mouthfeel. some roasty and nutty notes on the back end. really good stuff at this abv and plenty going on to keep your interest.

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Photo of Viggo
4.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Beer for a glass, from a can! Thanks to bax72 for sending me this for BC2. I had a small sample of the Coffee Bender at DLD courtesy of JeffKrenner, too bad not enough for a review!

Pours a clear reddish brown, nice thick tan head forms, settles down to a decent layer, some spiral lacing on the glass. Looks like a brown ale. Smell is sweet and malty, toffee, earth, floral, some citrus, bread, nice light roast, smells pretty great. Taste is nice malty caramel up front, citrus, grass and bread, roast, iron, fruits in the finish, nice bitterness, lots of flavour. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, low carbonation, very smooth, pint is going quick. Nice example of an underappreciated style! Thanks Chris!

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz. can. 5.1% ABV, 45 IBU. Mahogany in color, but still fairly clear. Nice rocky tan head, that holds together very well. Great patches of lace left on the glass at the end.

Cocoa, caramel, and some light floral hop notes.

Coffee and cream flavor, toffee and vanilla as well. Lightly hopped, just to balance perfectly. Crisp. Lingering coffee flavor.

A bit of silky mouthfeel. Medium body, lower carbonation. Lots of flavors going on here. Complex, especially for a 5% Brown Ale. Fantastic.

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Photo of mnstorm99
4.53/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My wife's favorite beer. Brown Ale is the closest thing to call this beer although it is much deeper than any othe Brown I have had yet. Beautiful dark brown pour, with a disappering tan head. Nice lace that clings well to the glass. Smell is somewhat malty with a nutty tinge to it. flavor a touch of nutty hops and big malty finish with touches of carmel and coffee like flavors. This is not my favorite style of beer, but they packed alot of flavor into this one. If there are other Browns out there like this I might have to start drinking more.

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Photo of jwc215
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours deep brown with ruby highlights. A thick, off-white head descends to a thin cover, leaving plenty of lacing on the glass.

The smell is of a berry fruitiness with dark malt and caramel. Hints of coffee.

The taste is of coffee with cream, caramel and cocoa. Sweet, but controlled by a berry-like fruitiness and a bitter earthiness. Cherries, cocoa and vanilla intermingle in the long, tasty finish.

Velvety smooth, it is full-bodied and creamy. Flavors hang on.

Wow! This is delicious stuff! Unique too! The layers of flavor, inclusion of oats and general complexity while still remaining so smooth make this stand way out. Yum..wish it were available in my area.

Thanks to WankerWeasel for this work of art!

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Photo of oakbluff
3.8/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Can obtained from DBL in Minneapolis- poured into a Russian River tulip glass. Pours out a cola/rootbeer colour. Not much head to speak of. Smells nutty and some hops. Mouthfeel is very smooth (from the oats) with moderate carbonation. Very tasty brown ale, the hops add nice flavour without too much bitterness. Typical brown ale malt- nutty, roasty without heavy body. The oatmeal adds texture and an added taste dimension. This is a good session brew- not up to the level of Furious, but a great effort.

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Photo of icemonkey908
4.85/5  rDev +18%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this one on tap a while ago. Presented a wonderful dark brown in the pint glass. I remember being surprised by the flavor of this one. It is not like other brown ales I have had but it is definitely a wonderful beer with very complex flavor. The flavor is nutty, with hints of chocolate and a lot of malt with just the right amount of hops to bring it all together. Delicious.

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Photo of mcallister
4.45/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A damn fine looking brown ale and the best looking beer by far I've seen from can. Deep russet with reddish orange highlights gleaming depending on light enfraction. Tan head fades quickly and leaves no lace.

Very nutty burnt toffee aromas with a piney hop feel. Milk chocolate and prune with other dried fruits partering to make this a brown ale to be reckoned with. Bits of maple and brown sugar as well.

An absolutely delicious beer. Good hop character leaning toward pine, bittering and a bit flora. Brown sugar and milk chocolate with dried fruit and nuts. Carbonation is a bit prickly and couldn't be any better for this beer. This is an absolute gem and maybe the best session beer I've ever tried.

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Photo of skillerified
4.77/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This one's a beauty. Dark pour, maybe a little dark for a Brown Ale, but the style seems highly interpretive anyway. Mostly dark mahogany colors, red around the edges. Fluffy light tan head on top that peaks at about two fingers, then fades to a nice cap that's seeming to stick around. Maybe a little light on the lace though.

The Belgian influence seems strongest to me. Notes of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices. Bready and yeasty with some hints at sweet fruit, slightly vinous. Makes me think of the kind of cooking people do around Christmas time. Also reminiscent of a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout. Maybe a touch of a citric orange rind. Slightly alcoholic, but with a fruit touch to that too, sort of like a fruit based cordial. Deep and complex.

Again, the Belgian influence is strong on the palate. Light caramelized coffee with touches of a creamy coffee based liquor. A touch smokey. Soft dark bread with a vinous character baked in. A definite alcohol note is present, but not so strong as to be unpleasant.

This brew has a strange warm and inviting texture to it. The moment it hits the lips and finds it's way inside, you feel like you're coming home on a cold winter night with a nice fire already blazing in the fireplace. Strange way to describe mouthfeel, but that's what it reminds me of. It's extremely smooth and well balanced. Seems to get a little sticky at the back of the throat as it goes, but that's not necessarily all bad.

I think I'm ready for another one already. Damn fine brew. Definitely lives up to the hype.

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Photo of blitz134
4.16/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brown ales aren't my favorite style by any means, usually a bit too light for me. But I've heard good things about this one. Lets see...

Clear, crimson body. Quite dark, but light showed through when held up. Poured with about 2" of tan head that receeded slowly in a lumpy mass and stuck all over the glass. Seriously impressive for a brown ale, the best looking brown I've seen to date.

Aroma is quite upfront compared to its competitors. Lots of toasted malts with its share of chocolate and a hint of nuttiness. Has some creamy nuances as well. Nice.

Taste is loaded with flavor. Toasted malts as expected, more cocoa and that typical brown ale twang with its slight acrid bite which I also find typical of oatmeal brews. A bit of earthy, herbal hops in the finish. Quite good.

Nice medium full body. Quite the change from the watery browns I'm used to. Lower carbonation levels allow the flavors to come through but add just a bit of crispness.

The oatmeal does wonders for this beer. It really brings out the mouthfeel and head retention and works well with the typical brown ale flavor profiles. This one goes down easy, but I couldn't put back as many as I could of a normal brown due to how heavy this one sits on the stomach. This is a must try though, no doubt...the best brown I've had, period.

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Photo of umustdrink
4.29/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Deep amber color. Head is a light brown and settles to a film. Lacing is average.

S - Smell is a sweet dark caramel malt, slightly toasty and with a faint nutty character.

T - Slightly bitter to start with a sugary sweetness, leads into an oily nuttiness and finishes with a bitter caramel.

M - Consistency is medium. Carbonation level is just about right, providing a short bite.

D - Overall, a very solid beer, in the can or on-tap.

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Photo of slyke
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bender pours dark red-brown - so dark that it looks black until held to the light. It has a two-finger tan head that sticks well and laces very nicely.

The smell is roasty. More like a stout or porter than a brown ale. There is a bit of citrus and mustiness there as well.

The taste has roastiness and a bit of oatmeal. Oh my God - Roasted Oatmeal! There is a coffee-like note in there too.

Mouthfeel is great. Nice and full at the center of the tongue with hoppy crispness around the edges.

Drinkability is stellar. Low enough alcohol to session, but intensely interesting in flavor and mouthfeel that one is completely satisfying as well. Strongly recommended.

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Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.95/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can. Sea salt and orange zest aroma. Wispy. Moist and fresh. Oat dust and lemon juice. Restrained. Pours a touching florid mahogany, with blood red fringe and a soapy tan head, creamy. Nice lacing. On the tongue, a robust kick of malty sugars and roasted malt. Begins with a salty sea oat sweep and then slides into a coarse and grainy tooth of grain, orange peel, toasted almond and sweet honey. The oat brings in great character to this brown. Not overly hoppy, in my opinion, a nice balance with some floral and resin bitterness in the back end. A rather quaffable and delicious brew. Nicely constructed.

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Photo of cbl2
4.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my friend Anna, a Minnesota native for grabbing this while visiting home. No best by date.


Pours a dark mahogany brown topped by a thin film of tan head.


Sweet roasted dark malts dominate the nose. Notes of peanut, coffee and a faint herbal aura imparted by the hops, which lend this brew their 45 IBU's.


Slickly smooth mouthfeel kicks off this bitter/nutty brown. Dark roasted malts impart a pleasant hazelnut coffee feel to this. Malts are nicely complimented by a grassy bitterness that is imparted by the hops.

This is the first sessionable beer I've had in a while. Low alcohol combined with big flavor is something I usually don't encounter. Surly has brewed up a nice concoction here.

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Photo of WeisGuy
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to JeffKrenner for the Surly hook-up.

a - pours a deep dark brown, nearly black, two-finger tan head with good retention and great lacing

s - great mix of bright hops and roasted malt and caramel, hints of vanilla and coffee as well

t - semi-sweet roasted malt up front with a nice mild hoppy bitterness in the body with some nuttiness as well, finish is vanilla and coffee mixed with some bitterness, very very nice

m - great fuller-bodied mouthfeel, probably a product of the oats, moderate carbonation, finish is only slightly dry

d - very drinkable, a great sessionable brown if I've ever had one

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

Poured from a 16oz "tall boy" can into two 20oz imperial pints. Thanks to Killer for the assist. Extra special thanks to JeffKrenner for the MN hookup. I owe you brother!

A: Grade B maple syrup brown with russet highlights. Small khaki head. Some yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.

S: Sweet malt and something creamy like oats dominate the aromas here. Mild hoppy aroma as well.

T: Excellent toasted malt, caramel, and chocolate flavors are in the forefront. Bringing up the rear is a lightly tart fruit and hop 1-2 punch.

M: Sort of thin and quite prickly at first but it comes alive and gains thickness as it come up to temp.

D: Superlative drinkability. This is a fantastic sessionable brown ale that only loses points for being a little on the thin side at first pour.

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Photo of MuenchenerKindl
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from a big can to a tall glass mug. The liquid is a nice Brown, deep and clear with good carbonation. The head is tan 2++ fingers and leaves nice lace.

The smell is sweet, nutty malt and a slight hopyness.

The taste pushes on over and above. The malt is an eye opener. Nutty with abundant chocolate notes. Yeah this beer from a can matches the best DFH Indian brown I have had. The is a superior tasting brew and really sits aloft in the style. A nice hopy finish but the malt stays for a very nice balenced beer.

The mouth feet is also superior, Very smooth and creamy, thck not sticky, great carbonation. Real nice.

The drinkability is great I will try for more in a trade.

I can not thank NFLMVP enought for enlisting objectivemonkey to sent me a taste of this great brew. you two are awesome, Thank you so much.

Prosit und Zum Wohl, MK

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 743 ratings.