Bender | Surly Brewing Company

759 Reviews

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

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: 759 | Ratings: 1,953
Photo of Lupe
5/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Part of my Beer Powerball winnings.

Pours a deep mahogany color with some lighter hues when held to the light. The 3 fingered tan head is slow to settle, sticking around for awhile and leaving behind a nice amount of lace.

Intriguing aroma of coffee, cocoa, caramel, and nuts combined with a healthy dose of floral, and a touch of citrus, hops.

I was in love with the first sip. Solid roasted bitterness upfront, with coffee, dark chocolate, and faint char. Sweetens up with caramel stepping in along with a rich oat smoothness. Mild nutty and vanilla tones play on the tongue. Hops come in adding dryness, a touch of citrus oil, and amazing balance. Incredible.

Silky smooth on the tongue, medium bodied, and a perfect level of carbonation. Probably the easiest drinking beer I have ever had, and the definition of a session beer. One can is not enough. I could have this morning, noon, and night. Just has whatever you're in the mood for - roast & toasty, sweet, nutty, and hoppy. I love this beer and must have more.

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Photo of jkwikkel
5/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Gorgeous, looks like the illustration on the can, dark with a thick creamy head

S - Again, gorgeous, nutty, with a slight hint of grain and hops.

T - Better than I could have imagined, like a hybrid between a porter and a pale ale, strong malty taste, with a sweet, bitter aftertaste.

M - Clean, smooth, perfect

D - I could drink a whole case, 100%, I'm having a hard time stopping...

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Photo of biegaman
4.94/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16oz can thanks to Bennetj17!

A muddy brown body embraced by more gentle, chestnut highlighted edges. A thin, sienna coloured line ropes around the beer.

For me, the smell of this beer, in part to whatever ingredient, summoned thoughts of autumn. It is a warm home. It is wet leaves, damp air, cooler evenings and rediscovered fireplaces. I'm not exactly sure where I get this idea from... but I do know for what reason: the beer offers such an over-abundance of smells that its aroma lets the imagination run wild.

To my nose, this offers teeming, plentiful notes of pumpkin pie, brown sugar, molasses, chocolate cream, vanilla and a ton of hops! I mean literally - a ton.

The mouthfeel is smooth and crowded with flavours and textures. A bursting amount of hops demand attention as they instantly leap onto the palate and grasp the taste buds, vinous notes throttle the throat. Sweetness and bitterness are in perfect harmony. The tastes seem to pinnacle with a coffee bean bitterness and lingering notes of roast, smoke, and dark chocolate.

The beer just keeps getting better: Chocolate covered hops, with lots of chocolate and even more hops. Deliciously toasted malts. Hazelnut. An epic struggle that fits caramel vs. vanilla, coffee vs. cocoa, and an over toning presence of oak. This is all the most wonderful flavours beer has known somehow rolled into one...

The beer is exactly what the brewers boast: 'substance meets smooth...with many layers of satisfaction'. In very few beers can you find such a superabundance of flavours so well blended and with such refined character. I was simply amazed with how the many scents, textures and tastes of this beer could not only co-exist, but come together as they do. Like no other, Surely Bender balances sweetness and bitterness and leaves no element overlooked or shortchanged.

A most sessionable beverage that manages to pack in more flavours and textures than reasonably imaginable for a beer its strength. I can't find any ways to improve this beer; it is simply wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

This does blur style guidelines and is a reflection of talent and craftsmanship. Befitting to its name, I could easily drink this endlessly, day and night.

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Photo of dave43
4.92/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

To be honest I'm a sucker for all of surly beers (mostly) but Bender has to be my favorite. It pours with a great head and lace. Carbonation is minimal but well balanced. Nice deep garnet darkish color. It smells of toast, chocolate, malt, coffee all at the same time. Man it is complex. Tastes what it smells like with a hint of vanilla. The head brewer, Todd Haughty is genius for putting this together. My first Surly beer I had in their first year of business and it remains my go to. The only thing better is a moes bender or coffee bender.

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Photo of ryantupy
4.9/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice rich brown hue with a rocky tan head on it that lasts almost through out the whole pint. Smells of roasted malts with some subtle sweetness to it. It tastes of roasted malts, a subtle sweetness, caramel, chocolate and a small hop character in the finish. A medium bodied beer for the most part that has a nice slightly carbonated mouthfeel. Overall a beer with some great malt character with small subtle hints of other great flavors. This beer has a nice complexity to it with suprising character that is very pleasant.

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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 hopsbreath
4.85/5  rDev +18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of those beers that I've had multiple times but am just now getting around to reviewing. Thanks goes out to zimmerbloke, beerandraiderfan, and possibly another BA who slips my mind at the moment, for sending some of these out my way. I frequently share beer with my wife. Tonight though, she has wine in her balloon glass and I've got a Duvel glass with 16 ounces of Bender inside. It may as well be my birthday.

A: The beer in the glass appears to be dark pruney brown with a finger and a half of tight khaki head on top. Upon closer examination by holding the glass to direct light, I see that this is instead dark cherry red. Spotty lacing looks great on the glass. 4.5/5

S: A nutty roastiness dominates the nose here. Its like oven toasting a handful of pecans. Some citrusy hops help balance out the aroma and builds complexity. Some dark stone fruits are part of that complexity and keep things interesting. 4.5/5

T: More toasted pecans dance on the palate giving the beer its signature character. Bitter chocolate, toffee, pine, and a touch of vanilla are deep and thought provoking. Do 5% ABV brown ales get tastier than this? Nope. Nothing I know of even comes close. 5/5

M: So full, so smooth, and so crisp. I'm biased to most beers with oatmeal in the grist and this is no exception. Perfection again. 5/5

D: This is the kind of beer I want to see more of. Like its brother Coffee Bender, regular Bender packs a punch of complex aromas, flavors, and really has few flaws. In the world of brown ales Bender and its iterations is king in my book. Show me a better brown. I bet you can't. 5/5

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

Surly Bender aquired in trade with tavernjef
16oz can, served in a pint glass.

A - very dark brown color with a tan head that thinned to a ring/clouds leaving a wall of lacing.

S - sweet roasted malts, espresso coffee and slight cocoa aromas.

T - excellent tasting brew, roasted malt and chocolate flavors hit first, then a bitter espresso coffee taste kicks in for the finish.

M - medium/full bodied beer with silky smooth feel.

D - I think it would be very easy to drink these all night, but I only had 2 cans and wish I had 2 more.

Note: After drinking this beer I know why it is rated amongst the best for the style.

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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 Vancer
4.83/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Halloween frosty sent via
CEO / Old farters from unclejedi - many thanks again.

Damn close to black pour, tan head on this one is impressive as it floats and coats all the freakin way down the ol’ Cordendonk tulip.

Rich chocolatey whiff of malty oats, not bad at all. The amount of hop balance is ideal with this brew, nay, I say this is an exceptional AMERICAN brown ale. Even a pop of sweet coffee will adds to the tasting sensation. Easy drinking medium body - Yep, I’d have to say this is one great sessional brown.

You gotta try it, cause – this is one great canned beer, meant for a glass. Lightweight shipping, no light struck problems, perfect size of 16oz – the way of the future!

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Photo of mwilbur
4.82/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from can into NBB snifter.
A: Very dark brown with nice creamy tan head. Lingers well with good lacing.
S: Mmmmm...very complex...citrus hops, malt, oatmeal, and more.
T: Lives up to the anticipation the smell brings...nice balance of citrus hops and roasted malts. Smooth, but with a little dry bite at the end. Very fresh taste and the different notes once dry and hoppy, the next moment darker tones and malt are coming through. I pick up oatmeal and honey too. Excellent and very satisfying for discriminating tastes.
M: Simply wonderful. Smooth and medium bodied with a dry edge. Taste lingers nicely on the tongue.
D: You want to enjoy this baby. Take the time...certainly more than one will do just fine! So far Surly is living up to the hype...I've tried Furious as well and both are amazing beers...can't wait to try more from them.
FYI--Their beers aren't filtered or keep 'em cold or they may suffer.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.82/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16 oz can pours a dark garnet color with a moderate cap of creamy tan foam. Retention is average and lacing is pretty good.

Nose is roasted chocolate with some nutty, marshmallow and fruity aspects. Absolutely wonderful, hops are there harmoniously with caramel sweetness.

Wow, unbelievable. It is like a coconut-almond chocolate bar sprinkled with fresh ground coffee and shredded hop cones. Hands down the best brown ale I have ever had and might be my favorite sub-6% brew ever. Hops are just perfectly integrated and the mouthfeel so creamy. I would be hard pressed to ever get sick of this extraordinary beer were I to have unlimited access to it. Wonderful!

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Photo of CultureJamMN
4.8/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I've never had a beer where upon completion I felt compelled to write a thank you letter to the brewer... until Bender.

I am a brown ale fan, but I like porters as well... this brew is a blend that is like something that was developed with me alone in mind.

Beautiful cola color with a cappucino foam head. Head lasts almost all the way through, lacing great for a brown ale.

The aroma is caramel, with cocoa and a bit of dark fruit. Quite pleasant.

The taste is this excellent dance between brown ale and porter that you never really figure out. Fantastic doesnt do the taste justice.

All in all, this is my new default brew. It's the first one i'll look for when entering any bar. I could see drinking 6 easily.

If this is an indication of where Surly will be going... I'm sold.

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Photo of Stoneman78
4.8/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

One pint can, contents poured into Sam Adams Specialty glass

Appearance is a clear, deep brown hue with amber highlights, big thick brown craggy head mostly sustains, thin spotty lacing

Smell is a nice mix of malts including sweet cocoa, roast, toffee, coffee, and caramel, tones of nuts and surprising amount of grassy hops, slight alcohol, very aromatic

Taste is amazing and follows the aroma, roast and cocoa malts initially intersperse with grass hops and ride a creamy milk backbone, midway comes tones of strong oatmeal, caramel, and vanilla, finishes dry and bitter

Mouthfeel is medium-bodied, creamy smooth texture, mild to moderate carbonation

Drinkability is amazingly high and in the session range, this is probably the most flavorful brown ale I have ever had, the oatmeal, cocoa, and hops are all so well-balanced that i wish i had better access to Surly beers, looking forward to more of their beers very soon

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Photo of Ringo9er
4.8/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

If I didn't live in MN I would have to move here for this beer. I consider Bender as my go to beer for any drinking occasion. Wonderful appearance, smell, taste , mouthfeel, etc... I like brown ales in general - add the oatmeal smoothness and light hoppy presense and this is a great drinker. This is one of those beers that stretches the limits of its category, almost creating a new one. Now if I can only find a Coffee Bender tapping...

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Photo of blackearth
4.78/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured from a 16 oz. can has an extremely dark amber color, which you can only see by holding to the light. From a distance it looks black. Off-white head that falls to a thin layer of bubbles with good lacing. Aroma is of roasted caramel, chocolate and vanilla. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel with a subtle amount of carbonation. Flavors of sweet malt and burnt chocolate with a subtle hop and coffee aftertaste. One of the best beers I have ever had.

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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 TastyTaste
4.77/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What an introduction to Surly, I loved this beer. Dark body, impressive creamy tan head. Smell is rich and roasty, chocolatey and slightly sweet. Flavor was fantastic. Malty and chocolatey to start, black cofee and strong hops finish this one out very bitter and enjoyable. Enjoyed on-tap at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis. A fantastic place for my first Surly. Great work, keep 'em coming.

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Photo of wrightro07
4.76/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: a nice dark brown appearance with a fluffy white head.
S: There is a hint of hops and a nutty malt backbone. This is very pleasant for a oatmeal brown ale.
T: The taste is amazingly done for a brown ale. I have had many traditional brown ales in England and I love the twist Surly put on this brew using oatmeal. The taste is nutty with lots of english style malts balanced with a slight hop back drop. The oatmeal is what really makes it silky smooth.
M: I love the silky smoothness of this beer. The oatmeal really came through.
D: I could drink this beer all day. Really smooth brown ale that has exceptional characteristics for a brown ale.

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Photo of jeremy2027
4.75/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

poured into imperial nonic glass

Opaque Brown decent head great lacing

Awesome toffee and roasted malt aroma

Exceptional Brown Ale here, the malt character and toffee notes are amazing.

Creamy smooth mouthfeel with medium carbonation.

Wonderful beer, Thanks to sweetwillyrolbar for the kick ass trade. The only thing bad I can say about this beer is that they don't distribute to Texas. I would without a doubt buy this beer all the time.

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Photo of zulufactor
4.73/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

To preface I love this beer. Anyway...

A- Dark brown with a rich thick head

S- Toasty and malty with a bit of hops

T- Roasted malt and hops. a bit of chocolate and toasted oats. Balanced but by no means subdued

M- Silky with just the right amount of carbonation

as far as drinkablility is concerned, if I had a kegerator this is what i would fill it with.

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Photo of WxAxGxS
4.73/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Finally got my hands on a few 4-packs (16oz cans) in the cities, after tasting this oh-so-tastey brew last year while driving cross country.

Poors dark and almost red, but clear with a light brown head. Very sweet at first, opening up to a bready aroma with perhaps a hint of baking chocolate and brown sugar. Taste is smooth and creamy, almost a little light with a very slight metallic finish. Hints of chocolate and bread and a little hop citrus to it. Perfect amount of of carbonation for this brown ale.

I love Surly... Discovered it while drinking with a friend back in Minneapolis.... A shame I live in NY now.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.72/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer pours an opaque brown color with some mahogany aroun the edges of the glass. The head is three fingers in height and recedes slowly into thick lacing. The aroma is of chocolate, toffee, and nuts with a noticable fruity hop presence. The taste begins with toffee and nuts, moves into some fruitiness in the finish, then back to toffee, nuts, and malt in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with nice carbonation, and is rather smooth and silky. Overall, this is a great beer that I will drink again and again. It has been over six months since I last had it, so I can't say whether of not it is better on tap or in the can. However, I can say it is certainly great from the can.

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Photo of hanco005
4.72/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Since I was off work on Friday, my wife wanted to meet for lunch. We chose Champps in Maple Grove for the sole purpose of trying this. I asked if they had Bender or Furious and they said the have the Surly that is similar to Newcastle….we nodded and were presented with two huge mugs. I grabbed a napkin and a pen and “furiously” began to review Bender.

A—dark cola brown with about ½ inch of tan creamy head, fades rather slowly, leaving freckles of lace behind

S—chocolate and coffee are dominate, sweet and inviting, getting some grains as well.

T—delicious! The chocolate hits first, followed by the coffee, then gets a little oaty/woody, finishes bittersweet with a wonderful aftertaste

M—smooth, but a little grainy that is unique and makes it all the better, close to full bodied, nicely carbonated

D—Words cannot describe how good I feel this beer is….it’s definitely not like Newcastle as our host indicated. I’m not very good at writing reviews to begin with and my review really doesn’t do it justice. One of the best beers out there…congrats to Omar and the "short, taciturn man" on a job well done!

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Photo of lovindahops
4.72/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

OK, my third Surly.... sadly, last shipped from the four pack. Very excited about this one

A- pours a dark brown that is not quite opaque in the glass. A good head of foam recides but still lingers around. Traces of lacing on the side of the brew and the foam has some light reddish tints in on the perimeter

S- YUM! Mixed scents of caramel, molasses, brown sugar, slight dry pine hop scent, and slightly toasty bready oats scents. I like it the finish with the oats

T- ok... I am gonna say it.... OFF THE CHARTS! A perfect brown ale that blend the oatmeal brown sugar flavor is the perfect malt delivery with flavor. This may be the best brown ale on the market! Some vanilla on the finish with the expected dry theme. This is what I WANT IN A BROWN ALE! Unbelievable!

M- perfect carbonation with flavor waxing the mouth. It
s good

D- OK, not only is this the best american brown ale I have ever had... it's also absolutely delicious on the drinkability level for a craft beer. The makeup is absolutely perfect in the drinkability department. This will be a beer I continually highlight when the conversation comes up best beers ever. No exageration, I like Bender this much. I need more....

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,953 ratings.
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