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 chaz01
2.46/5  rDev -40.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Had this on draft at Jake Melnick's in Chicago.

A: Dark Brown with a black creamy head, nice lacing on the glass.

S: Some earthy tones in the aroma but not much.

T: Initially, earthy and orange notes. Also A little chocolate flavor reminded me of stale brownies.

M: Medium bodied and carbonation, hoppy bitter finish at the end.

D: I had this beer after drinking a glass of the Surly Furious. I couldn't really tell if the hoppiness I was tasting was leftover finish of the Furious, or if it was part of this beer as well, but that taste didn't work well with me in this beer. Hopefully, I can review it again if I come accross it.

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Photo of zebulon
2.56/5  rDev -37.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Had it on tap at restaurant in Mpls.

A Very brown to brown-black. Opaque can't see through. Tan head 1/2-1/4 inch which gradual disappeared.

S Weak malty sweet aroma

T Malt in background, mild sweetness overwehlmed by bitterness. Bitter pine hops and bitter coffee tones. Not the interesting bitterness of a complex IPA. As it sat the bitterness mellowed but not much flavor in background came out. I am surprised at the high ratings and the descriptions of complexity. I wonder if I had a bad batch?

M Light on tongue in spite of bitterness.

D Not a sessions beer. You really have to be in the mood for this. I had it before dinner
which is were it might work.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.85/5  rDev -30.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Served on-draught into a pilsner glass in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reviewed from notes. Expectations were moderately high given the reputation of the brewery. This was my first Surly beer, though I uploaded this review after my other Surly ones.

A: Pours a half finger head of fair cream, good thickness, and poor retention. Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Coffee, heavy nuts, vanilla, and light cream. A mild strength aroma.

T: Light coffee on the open, pleasant vanilla and light cream in the body. Nutty hops and light caramel. The finish is a touch metallic, which I find unpleasant, but it might be a draught error. Overall, it's decently complex and balanced.

Mf: Smooth and wet, and just thick enough. Kind of suits the flavour, but it isn't tailored to it.

Dr: Quite drinkable for the style, but for my first Surly beer, it's a bit of a disappointment. Coffee is a strange choice for a would-be brown ale.

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Photo of Jmoore50
2.92/5  rDev -29%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Got this fatty growler in the mail through a trade. The best part of this beer is the quote from the brewery. "Good beer is an acquired taste, you just acquired some." ha ha awesome.

This is my first Surly brew, not impressed at all.

The appearance was average for a brown ale, poured pretty thick, the growler held the carbonation and the head came to a two finger beige head.

The smell with the pour was like brown sugar. It actually was a text book brown ale smell. It smelled too sweet for me though, and for the record, I really don't care for brown ales.

The taste was okay at first, but I got some fruity taste off of it. Just something that I don't really care for. I am sure if you're a brown ale connoisseur then you probably would love this, but I am nothing like a brown ale connoisseur.

Overall I had to have a friend drink sixty percent of the growler for me, so I would never buy this ever again, but since it was a gift....Thanks.


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Photo of xpdrinker
2.93/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

16oz can poured into a Surly pint glass, both courtesy of @ShawnBGP. No noticeable canning/expiration date.

1-finger light-tan head rests atop a clear reddish-brown body. Minimal lace, head dissipates quickly. Nutty, toffee, caramel aromas and flavors. Oats and reams of office paper also come across the nose. Reminds me a lot of Cigar City Maduro, but lighter in body and alcohol comes through more easily. Prickly carbonation. Hops are a little more pronounced as it warms and the beer leaves a dry, slightly metallic finish with a faint hint of pepper and raisin.

Overall I do enjoy this beer (second time having it) but I'm more eager to try Coffee Bender. Maduro is one of my go-to beers here in FL and like I said, this reminds me of it, but I don't know if I'd drink it as often were I living in MN.

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Photo of TMoney2591
2.94/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Served in a Lexington Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter.

Thanks to VDubb, I finally got around to trying the coffee-less version of Bender. It pours a clear sunset topaz topped by a finger or so of lightly off-white foam. The nose comprises mild graham cracker, grass, flowers, and a touch of Oreo. The taste focuses on the grass, flowers, and mild lemon peel, all to the detriment of the grain-y, biscuit-y base. Basically, they took the "American" label stereotype and ran with it, over-hopping what may have been a nice enough brown ale. A shame, really. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a slick-ish feel. Overall, this brown just didn't sit right with me. It's too hoppy for its own good, and those grains mentioned in the blurb above don't come through at all. I wanted to like this stuff, especially given my love of Coffee Bender, but I guess I'll just stick with the coffee-infused version for the duration.

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Photo of mjryan
3.03/5  rDev -26.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer comes off to me as a cross between an Irish stout and Newcastle. Very dark brown, boardering on black. Nice head, no lace, good retention. Aroma is mild with a sweet malt character up front with a small dose of citrus hops. Flavour is rather bland. A little roasty, a little hoppy and kind of sweet. Very mild bitterness. Mouthfull is very creamy and smooth. Carbonation is medium. Not bad by any means.

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Photo of JDV
3.04/5  rDev -26%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Rich dark brown/black pour with a big lasting tan head. Smell is very smooth, and muted but a bit sourish as if not quite fresh. Some roasty notes in there as well. Nice mouthfeel. Smooth, creamy and perfectly carbonated. Flavor is nice for a brown. Not intensely flavorful, but nice and malty, with some roastiness and oaty creaminess. Good, but the smell killed it for me, and perhaps it just wasn't quite fresh.

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Photo of russwbeck
3.06/5  rDev -25.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Teabagged Bender with Willamette Hops in the cask.

A: Very hazy brown pour with hardly any head. It really looks a little strange sitting in the glass, probably the deepest Brown Ale I've come across.

S: A bit harsh, but otherwise nothing more than a malty brown ale aroma. Basic hops and sweet malt. Pretty average.

T: Continues the average trend. All malt, perhaps some fruit with a slight hoppy finish. I came to the sad realization that this really isn't a very good beer without coffee added. The flavor sort of drops off really early on in the process.

MF: Medium body with low carbonation, as you would expect from the cask. Served room temperature, like it should, and goes down really easily. I just wish I enjoyed it more.

O: I didn't realize Bender existed without coffee in it. Guess I should have done my research. This was the definition of average and I would recommend you skip it.

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Photo of Flyer
3.13/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I'm surprised to see this is a "brown ale," because I had it on tap and it looked and tasted like a stout. As such, it was a good, solid, hearty stout, but without much complexity. The aroma and taste had plentiful roasty malts with some distinct coffee notes. It had a relatively clean finish for a stout (but I guess that's because it's a brown ale). I probably wouldn’t go out of my way for this, but it’s good choice when it’s available

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Photo of oline73
3.15/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a can into a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Pours dark brown with some reddish light coming through at the edges. There is a half finger of light tan head that goes away completely.

Smell: Malty sweet, with notes of overly ripe dark fruit, caramel/molasses, and some roasty notes as well. Sweeter than I expected.

Taste: Initially very sweet with an extremely bitter finish for a brown ale. Sweet dark fruit up front with some molasses and roast, and then the sweetness fades dramatically and leaves a very bitter finish. I like my browns with more balance and nuttier.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with too little carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: Not a huge fan of this one, which surprised me because I love the coffee bender. Not sure how old this can was, I'll have to revisit this one in the future.

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Photo of Crosling
3.15/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

16 ounce can. Dark ruby color with a full, wispy light tan colored head. Light chocolate and grassy hop aromas. Very light chocolate and roast flavors, with hints of hazelnut. Smooth with a nice finish. Better than most brown ales, but still as a beer, it’s just ok.

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Photo of GossageBrewery
3.16/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured this American Brown ale from a tall boy can into a pint glass. It poured a clear brown color and it produced a small amount of head however it did have very good retention. The aroma of the beer consisted of roasted malt and floral hops. The taste of the ale was interesting. There was a base of roasted malt and dark chocolate. The beer seemed to have oily hop start, which gave way to a chocolate and then coffee finish. The finish was dry- medium bodied beer. Overall it is an interesting spin on an English Brown Ale- which is why it is classified as an American Brown Ale. i would drink this again.

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Photo of jdklks
3.18/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

from notes:

A- brownish amber, off white head.

S- tree bark. fruit- apricot. smells like any other brown ale, sweet, etc. etc.

T- sweet. brown sugar sweet. just as it smelled, like any other brown ale, but it is even sweeter than most.

M- light-medium bodied. nothing special.

D- drinks okay, but i wouldn't want to drink it again!

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Photo of tayner
3.18/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to MikeWeiss for this brew.

It poured out of the can dark with a nice medium tan head that stayed awhile.. pretty aggressive pour.

smelled good, roasted malts, slight hoppy scent, dark fruits lingering.

taste for me is over rated and just average. It was okay, malts, maybe some dark fruits, touch of hoppiness at the end. It was good, but nothing to set it apart in my mind from other brown ales.

A lighter mouthfeel than i expected based on the appearance.

It is drinkable, and i could drink many of these if that was the session beer of the night, but i wouldnt seek them out.

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Photo of VincentFrey
3.21/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Pour / Appearance: Mostly tan head, with heavy lacing as it recedes. Head thins and grips the edges mostly. Pours nicely; about 15oz fit very nicely with that head level in my Deschutes tulip. Muddy brown coloring, which fits the style but I've never found the most pleasing to look at. Then again, I could just drink from the can.

Aroma: Not much going on here sadly. No real scent pouring from the can, and from the tulip it's mostly mild caramel and biscuit, maybe some vienna malt. Hops are present, possibly of the noble variety though I doubt it, and don't do a ton to make a concentrated whole. Disappointed after the fully integrated, awesome Coffee Bender, but this wouldn't impress me on any brown ale.

Taste: ...Hrm. Hops become much more pronounced and bittering, mostly hints of grass and earth. That seems to be a theme with this blog lately, but with darker beers it's a much more reasonable choice than some wild citrus or fruit. For an American Brown I wouldn't say it's overhopped, but it's not a blend with the malt. That said the malt profile is basically biscuit, bread, and hints of roast. It feels like an American Brown ale on its way to being a Robust Porter.

Overall: Not that great of a brown ale, but at 8.99/4pk it's pretty drinkable. I'd just pick up Coffee Bender or a fuller bodied porter if available. Disappointing to me.

Bottom Line: Always worth a try since it hits about 10 different beer styles. That said I'd get a draft or a single can over a 4pk unless you're really into browns or Surly and can't get it easily in your area.

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Photo of tconboy
3.23/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Pours a deep dark brown with puffy tan head. Smells of coffee and malts and chocolate. Tastes a little bitter, nice coffee and sweet flavors blended together in this. Less than moderate carbonation, very thick. This is ok, I think I will try something else next time around.

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Photo of ShanePB
3.26/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served from the 16 ounce can, poured into a tulip.

A: Deep dark brown body with mahogany tints towards the surface of the beer. A thick, fluffy tan head forms on top and leaves really nice looking lacing and retention; a small patch with a thick bubbly ring. Really nice looking beer.

S: Dark roasted malts, faint bitter baker's chocolate, slightly bitter coffee beans with some bitter hops and oils towards the back end. Rounding out the nose are rich caramel malt elements.

T: Chocolate and roasted malts, some caramel, toffee, nuts, vanilla beans and a bitter floral hop note towards the back palate. Into the finish, the beer sits on the palate with a cream type of flavor, very interesting.

M: Bubbly, medium carbonation which is expected. A bit dry on the tongue and palate after swallow, though not sticky or off.

Even though Brown Ales are never my first choice in a beer, this one was pretty decent. There was a good deal of flavors coming through, making this a bit less boring than the majority of ones I've come across. I'm pretty excited to try the Coffee Bender now, considering I absolutely love coffee flavored beers.

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Photo of emmasdad
3.26/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks for dropping this one off Dan. Pours a deep, rich mahogany color, with a creamy beige head. Aromas of wood, dark brown sugar, nuts and molasses. On the palate, full bodied, creamy mouthfeel, well carbonated, with flavors of chocolate, nuts and roasted malt.

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Photo of Qbdoo
3.27/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Looks good like a brown ale should, but after that is pretty unremarkable. The taste is fine but the texture of the beer is somewhat thin for a brown ale. I expect a bit more chewiness. The scent, like the taste, is fine - a bit of coffee and a slight toastiness - but not overpowering. Seems like an easy-drinking, summer version of the style. A decent beer but not something I'll look for again.

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Photo of Jammies
3.3/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- deep brown with orange notes trying to leak through. Quarter inch of foam with great retention and terrific lacing

S- sweet and nutty. Very appealing fragrance

T- well balanced, sweet, and a slightly nutty flavor

M- light with a slightly hot finish

O- love the smell, but just didn't live up to its appearance and smell. good flavor, but not great

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Photo of jojox
3.33/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a - Dark amber. 1 finger head, solid.

s - Rich maltiness. Almost some belgian characteristics? I had Furious before this and Bender is so different, so... blah.

t - It's a balanced, but malty ale. A bit of roasted going on here. A bit too bitter to be smooth. It's kinda boring next to Furious.

m - Not smooth. A bit bitter

d - Okay, but really I'm done after one.

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Photo of StarlightSeraph
3.35/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to tprokop for throwing this in as an extra in a trade. Poured from a 16 oz can into my Sam Adams glass.

Appearance: Pours an opaque, coca-cola brown, with a finger-and-a-half of off-white head. The head subsided pretty quickly, but left good lacing.

Smell: Toffee and caramel filled the room as soon as the can was opened - this beer packs a punch. Bready malts are also present.

Taste: More toffee and caramel, just like in the scent. The finish is smooth and bready, and sweet, and it lingers for quite some time. Minimal hops. The faintest hints of roasted malts can be detected in the background. There is something unpleasant about something in the taste, which I just can't put my finger on. It's almost like something of an astringent sweetness. Faint hints of vanilla are also there - this beer is definitely complex, but it seems like it tries to do too much.

Mouthfeel: Medium thickness, but pretty highly carbonated - almost to the point of soda.

Drinkability: I've never been a huge fan of brown ales, so my opinion might be somewhat biased. Despite being relatively low in alcohol, something about this beer made it more of a sipper. I can't say I'd want to have more than one, nor can I say I'd seek it out again. Still, glad I tried it.

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Photo of ShadesOfGray
3.36/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 16oz can into my personalized Philadelphia Eagles pint glass. Pairing with a nice plate of sharp provolone and crackers. Pours a dark brown with a massive frothy head with excelent retention. Tons of lacing...and very sticky/long lasting at that!

Aroma is pretty average, like your typical brown ale...yeast and malts.

Flavor and mouthfeel: crisp, clean, roasted, high carbonation. It's tough to really pick anything else out of this that really stands out...just your average brown ale, just quality! Small amount of hops lingers in the back, and a decent drinker.

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Photo of jegross2
3.4/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the Bender from Surly Brewing Company. Thank you BeerAdvocate user FunHog for hooking me up with this one!
Score: 82

04/19/11 canned beer poured into a Goose Island Irish-style imperial pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark chestnut/caramel brown color with a finger of super creamy khaki-tan colored head that sticks around a while. Opaque with yellow-brown highlights at the top and ruby highlights at the bottom of the glass. Excellent lacing. 4/5

Smell: Caramel and vanilla cream soda. Notes of coffee/espresso, earthy hops and a light nuttiness. Chocolate malts too. 4/5

Taste: Caramel and nuts. Some chocolate malt ball flavor, bready malts and butterscotch on the mid-palate. Light vanilla and hint of coffee. Hints of hoppiness at points. Crisp caramel and hazelnut finish. Gets sweeter as it layers and warms. Pleasant flavors, but no linger. I get hints of stainless steel sweetness at points. Maybe this one is better fresh. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-high carbonation. Finishes bittersweet. 3/5

Overall: A solid brown ale that is worth hunting down. This one is probably better fresh. Surly has much better offerings than Bender, however. It is probably worth noting that I am not a big fan of brown ales.

Recommendation: I can safely recommend this one to casual beer drinkers and beer geeks alike, but if you are trying Surly beer for the first time, nab a Furious instead.

Pairings: I was drinking this one with an Oatmeal Raisin cookie, but a chocolate chip cookie with nuts in it could work well too.

Cost: $12 for a four pack of 16 oz cans.

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