Surly Brewing Company

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Brown Ale - American
Ranked #25
Ranked #4,043
4.09 | pDev: 10.02%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Notes: 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: 766 | Ratings: 1,998 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of MNAle
MNAle from Minnesota

3.16/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Sweet aroma, dark fruit, slight aroma of dark malts. Deep ruby with rising bubbles topped by a 1/2 inch tan, thick head, leaving nice lacing as it slowly settles. Thin feel. Mild taste with a subtly bitter, dry finish (despite the sweet aroma) that hardly lingers at all in the aftertaste. Taste is also subtle: dark fruits, mostly, touch of roasted malts. Very middle-of-the-road brown ale. Easy drinking. OK, but far from outstanding. I bought it because it was Surly's first beer, I've never tried it, and Surly is stopping canned distribution. This beer is all about subtlety, subtle aroma, subtle taste, subtle hops, subtle malts. In summary: ordinary tending toward macro level. Ratings here must reflect the Surly mystique rather than this actual beer. This is a nice beer, but only nice. Good for an evening at the pub, but not to seek out. I am astonished, given the ratings here, how pedestrian and mediocre this beer is. It is better than Newcastle, but only just. Understandable why Surly is making it tap only.

Feb 13, 2019
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TheSixthRing from California

4.23/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From tasting notes 05/18/18
Poured from a can into a pint at StoneArch in the MSP Airport, St Paul, MN

Appearance - Served up from a can, standard pint pours dark cola brown with beautiful ruby highlights when held to light. Light tan, finger width head that  holds firm until devolving to a thin, consistent layer of suds, thickening up quickly around the edges.

Smell - Mild aroma, with hints of chocolate, oat, brown sugar and floral hoppiness.

Taste - Flavor profile is mostly soft, but also assertive with floral and lesser citrus hops and with a fair roasted edge. Decent chocolate notes emerge mid-taste and follow through into the finish. Some cream and caramel. Finish is mostly balanced, edging slightly toward sweet with the accumulation of said flavors, and its a beautiful, harmonious blend.

Mouthfeel - medium-bodied with low, bubbly carbonation. Creamy texture makes this an easy drinker with a slightly dry finish.

Overall - I had the coffee version earlier today and it makes me question why they would do that. The former isn't bad at all, but this is far better. Soft, easy drinker with a surprising depth in the flavor profile. One of the best browns Ive ever had if I'm being honest.

May 27, 2018
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Ciocanelu from Romania

4.3/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown color with amber hues and light brown head. Aroma has toasted malt, some hazelnut, light liquorice and some red fruits. Taste has nice toasted malt, some caramel, sweet coffee, nutty biscuits, quite a lot of flavors. Medium body and carbonation. Really easy drinking yet tasty and complex.

Oct 29, 2017
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bnes09 from Illinois

4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Perfect brown color with a slight haze. Dense and frothy head towers over the liquid and blankets the glass in clouds of lacing. Pretty basic aroma with caramel malt and nuts. Rich caramel malt character shines through. Nutty, oaty, smooth and creamy. Medium body and soft carbonation adds to the smoothness. Malty, subtle grain texture. Solid.

Sep 04, 2017
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tigg924 from Massachusetts

4.31/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours clear, dark reddish brown in color with 1/4 inch head. Taste is caramel with milk and baker's chocolate and a touch of . Medium light bodied, sweet, with low carbonation...Really liking this one the more it warms...Layers of complex flavors..Glad I picked up a full four...Really great for the style.

Aug 20, 2017
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ipeters1017 from Wisconsin

4.11/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark reddish brown with a finger of tan head that dissipates quickly. Smells malt-heavy, and I get a bit of toffee and caramel sweetness. Nothing super distinct, just a lot of malt. Taste is similar to the smell, with a touch of coffee as well. Mouthfeel is smooooooth and the carbonation lingers just a tiny bit, and it's not terribly heavy. The oatmeal really shines here.

The brown ale is one of my favorite styles, and Surly never disappoints. Very easy-drinking, and it makes a great base for the coffee variety as well.

Apr 06, 2017
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Lucular from Maryland

4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I would give this a slightly higher score if it weren't for an ash-like flavor. Not quite a cigarette flavor (that would be worse) and not entirely off-putting, but not a beneficial flavor either. Still definitely a tasty and well-balanced beer.

Jan 23, 2017
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Taybeh from Minnesota

4.09/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hard to believe I haven't rated this one before, though I suppose that I drink this less often than most of Surly's other offerings often found on tap around the Twin Cities. This one is from a tallboy into a nonic. Pours a sienna slightly hazy brown, a good off-white head that leaves some decent lacing. Nose has some great bready malts, baker's chocolate, a little vanilla, and some herbal hops. The brown ale isn't really a favorite style of mine, but...for the style, this is a real winner, and the taste follows the nose, though there's some coffee and caramel as well. medium body, oats make it nice and smooth, really great mouthful.

Dec 21, 2016
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obrike from Texas

4.1/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very easy drinking brown ale with a bit of porter to it. This baby is uber smooth and would be the perfect compliment with dessert. A bit of brown sugar and maybe raisin on the taste? Quite good.

Low abv makes it a safe and tasty treat. Enjoy.

Nov 30, 2016
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bbtkd from South Dakota

3.58/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Surly Bender, 5.1% ABV, 45 IBU, American Brown Ale. Pours thin and dark brown, with one finger white head. Nose is slight coffee and malt, hint of chocolate. Taste follows - not much flavor, tastes brown. OK mouthfeel, and overall meh. I prefer Coffee Bender, but this was a better alternative than the macros and ex-craft on tap.

Oct 22, 2016
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Ricelikesbeer from Colorado

3.86/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I really haven't tried very many (if any at all) American brown ales that have really wowed me or made me want to buy them more often. coffee bender and other coffee brown ales or imperial versions have been far more interesting, but the base style really isn't one of my favorites. Still, it is Surly beer, and rare in Colorado, so I thought I'd give it a try. The thought of a malty tall boy during the fall season sounds good to me.

L: light brown with some ruby highlights, decent clarity. looks filtered. medium carbonation. light lasting white head

S: light malty nose, some toasted notes with suggestions of bakers chocolate

T: light caramal sweetness up front. this beer is sweeter than I would have thought. some toasty malted notes, and feint chocolate, like dutch cocoa. really no hop suggestion, slight esters on the finish but overall clean and crisp finish. although sweet, the beer finishes dry enough to keep it in balance. perhaps the 45 IBUS of bitterness listed on the can also keep things in check.

F: nice lingering mouthfeel. light carbonation. not overly thick or cloying

O: This is an interesting enough beer that I would certainly buy it again, and it is extremely easy to drink. If you're looking for an approachable malt bomb this ones for you! Would be a great gateway beer for non-craft drinkers.

Oct 07, 2016
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ctylinebeer from Pennsylvania

4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

16 oz can poured into a pint glass. Comes in a 4-pack.

L - reddish brown color; hazy hue; no lacing on the glass; layer of foam covering the surface

S - chocolate, coffee, cocoa, dark roasted malt, earthy English hops. Quite aromatic for being in a pint glass.

T - coffee and cocoa, dark malt, bitter black coffee, malty oatmeal, dark chocolate, slight noble hops. Mostly malt flavor, little to no hop character

F - crisp ale feel; semi heavy body; no leather or syrup feel

O - awesome brown ale by Surly. Balance is what they're good at and they really did well with this one. They let the malt be the main event and not the hops. A sessionable dark beer without the weight of a porter or stout

Aug 22, 2016
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tone77 from Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Yep. You guessed it. This beer came courtesy of the amazing woodychandler. Poured from a 16 oz. can. Has a very dark brown color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of chocolate, nuts, coffee. Taste is much milder than the aroma would suggest. Chocolate, vanilla, touches of oats and coffee. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is an enjoyable beer.

Jul 21, 2016
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woemad from Washington

4.17/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

16oz can from a ninja box sent me by SammyJaxxx. Canned on January 6, 2016, per the stamp on the bottom of the can.

Poured into a Selkirk Abbey pint glass, this was a dark brown color with lighter highlights towards the bottom, and became a hazy dark ruby when held up to light. Big, beige foam head initially, which dropped fairly quickly, but was easily agitated back to life. Spotty lace.

Roasty malt aroma, with hints of coffee and some nuttiness. It gets a little sweeter as it warms.

Fairly expectable Brown Ale characteristics, but still better than a lot I’ve had. Slightly bitter, roast malt flavor, some coffee notes, some brown sugary notes, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and a dry finish, which is about the most obvious hop component. I really like how the sweetness is not overstated the way it is in a lot of Brown Ales.

Medium bodied, with a good level of carbonation, and a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

Nothing dramatic, just an excellent example of a Brown Ale. I’d keep this in my fridge pretty regularly if it was available locally. Thanks, SammyJaxxx!

May 31, 2016
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

4.06/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hits the clarity meets brown color conundrum. Good off white head 3/5". Aroma flicked the vanilla bean. Some nice brown malt tones.

Taste had a plethora of different flavors. Brown malt, vanilla, coffee (from the malt), even a slight hoppiness. Very good, very sessionable. Would bang again.

Mar 29, 2016
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Rockjocknroll from California

4.1/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Thick and hazy SRM app. 25 with great lacing off a big tan head.
S: Crystal malt, bitter roasted grain, toffee and sugar
T: Very similar to aroma with tons of roasted malt, brown sugar and an almost coffee-like note.
M: Big and bold up front with minimal carbonation and a fast mellow finish.
O: A great brown. I love a good brown and they're hard to find; seek this one out. Lots of great flavor but not too heavy. Thanks Jesse!

Feb 23, 2016
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BIll_Currie from Wyoming

4.02/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

one of the best browns i've had. good smell. very refined taste. not overly hoppy. just right. doesnt feel like it fills you up. good malt feel. Surly is awesome

Feb 11, 2016
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stevoj from Idaho

3.83/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Flight at MSP. Sweet, smooth brown ale. Sweet malt nose, some chocolate comes on at the tail end. A bit on the sweet side, but very tasty. This was my second favorite of the bunch.

Dec 28, 2015
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BeerGeek50 from Minnesota

4.54/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours lightly hazy to a deep reddish brown hue. dark beige head with lots of lacing. caramel, brown sugar, nuts, chocolate, vanilla, ready aroma. super smooth. loved it.

Dec 27, 2015
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hoptheology from South Dakota

3.84/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

16 oz can into Tulip.

Pours a chocolate brown color with highlights of honey; a popcorn yellow 2 inch head that leaves webs of dense lace.

Aroma is of coconut, chocolate, glazed pecans, and antiseptic/alcohol.

Taste has a sting bomb of citrus/pine to start; moves into a malt assault with roasted nuts and charred barley; ending on a light chocolate note and a chaser of vodka or some other clean alcohol.

Painful carbonation to start...fills up the belly with foam; has a noticeable coffee-like nutty dry parch on the finish.

An ale with only 5.1% ABV should not smell OR taste like alcohol. At $10.99 a 4 pack, this was a huge flaw that I cannot look over for the price point. I do like this one better than the Coffee Bender (which I will review later), and although it's an almost solid brown ale, it's just got some glaring flaws on top of a premium price tag.

Dec 18, 2015
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superspak from Ohio

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

16 ounce can into pint glass, canned on 7/24/2015. Pours lightly hazy/cloudy deep reddish brown color with a 2 finger fairly dense and fluffy khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, chocolate, cocoa, light coffee/vanilla, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, chocolate, cocoa, light coffee/vanilla, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness. Light herbal/spicy hop and roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, brown sugar, brown bread, toasted oats, nuttiness, herbal, floral, and roast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; with a great bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a very smooth, moderately creamy/silky, and slightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish as expected of 5.1%. Overall this is an excellent American brown ale. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; and very smooth and easy to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

Dec 08, 2015
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NickTheGreat from Iowa

4.44/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L (4.5) - Very very dark colored beer. Almost cola. Not a lot of head, but my glass was too small!
S (4.25) - Nice roasted aromas. A little nutty and a bit chocolatey.
T (4.5) - Very tasty beer. Has the expected roasty coffee taste, but a bit more. A little bit of that alcohol taste. Very well balanced beer.
F (4.5) - Very and creamy beer. Easy to drink. A slight alcohol burn, which I like for this style.
O (4.5) - This is a great beer. It hits everything you want in this type of beer. I would like to have this in my cellar most all the time.

Dec 02, 2015
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tedvr from Ohio

4.24/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours very dark with a thin white head. Smells are coffee with a malt background. Taste are coffee and malt with a nice balance. Mild carbonation. Really nicely balanced beer.

Oct 17, 2015
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Stevem68 from Ohio

3.87/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a nice caramel like dark Amber color. Has a caramel malt like aroma. Flavor is a little malty, caramel, a hint of vanilla and hops. Very smooth mouthfeel but a little light to me. Overall not bad but it feels like it doesn't know what it wants to be.

Oct 12, 2015
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bwood06 from Wisconsin

4.16/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap into pint glass

A - Very dark mahogany. Almost black in color. Thin khaki lacing. Can't see carbonation due to color. 4/5

S - Dark stone fruit. Chocolate. Nutty and earthy. Light caramel sweetness. Floral hops. 4.25/5

T - Sweet caramel up front transitioning to dark stone fruit and dark chocolate. Herbal hops finish with a slight pineyness. Very nicely layered. 4.25/5

M - Very smooth and creamy with a moderate tingling carbonation. Coats the mouth very nicely which allows the flavors to come out. 4/5

O - Very nicely layered beer which I find to be uncommon for a lower alcohol offering. Would gladly drink this beer again, with or without food. 4/5

Aug 21, 2015
Bender from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 1998 ratings