Bender | Surly Brewing Company

760 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: 760 | Ratings: 1,956
Photo of KFBR392
3.73/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Canned 11/14/13

Appearance: Sits in the glass with a dark brown color. Half a finger of head on the pour which subsided a little bit and was present in a thin layer across the top while drinking. Above average active carbonation in the glass while drinking.

Smell: Lightly toasted malt accompanies tones of milk chocolate, some roasted coffee, and mossy grassy hop tones. There is a pleasant vanilla sweetness on the body that plays along with a nutty presence. This aroma is subtle but packs in plenty of nice tones.

Taste: Creamy malty fronts greets the palate. A body of oats, grain, nuts, and chocolate sustain the beer throughout. The finish is a slightly musty, burnt grain and malt flavor. The body is lighter then I expected.

Mouthfeel: Pretty light on the mouthfeel but tones of malt, coffee, chocolate, and nuts create a dry texture.

Overall: A nice brown ale but it was a little too light on the body for me. A little more really could have let the darker tones showcase themselves more and add some complexity. But this is an easy drinker with some really nice malty tones.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.34/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pint can, canned on 11/25/13
L - towering beige head caps a ruddy-brown body, incredible retention and lacing
S - brown malt, nut, chocolate, earthy hops
T - nutty, caramel, chocolate, earth, vanilla, toasted grain, oats
F - super creamy and smooth, medium-fullish body, temendous balance, nice spicy finish
O - wow, really good brown ale. I've had this before but I enjoyed it even more this time around. Definitely a must try. I can't wait for another!

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Photo of dar482
3.49/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer comes a bright clear brown color.

The flavor is of toasty malt, a light caramel, nuttiness, a bit of chocolate. The finish is quite simple and bland.

In the end, the beer has an extremely light body. The notes don't quite fire for a substantial brown ale.

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Photo of magictacosinus
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Here's a quickie while my onslaught of upcoming reviews reaches a close mark. Poured out of a 16oz can into a nonic pint glass. Canned on "10/21/13." Thanks again to amerak for this (as well as all of the other Surly beers!).

Pours a brown (duh) color that verges towards an opaque texture when held away from the light, complete with a frothy, foamy off-white head that leaves plenty of stickiness around. Great head retention, and looks simple yet very palatable on the eyes.

The aroma reveals a regal amount of caramel from the malts, as well as a minor bitterness at the finish. Pretty damn balanced, and perhaps immediately one of the most refreshing brown ales I've ever come across. Roasted cereal, evident oats, caramel, and citrus peel (a bit of pine is thrown in), as well as a light fruity robustness of yellow apples and cherry pits. No alcohol is evident, and it's completely straightforward on what it intends to be.

The beer is definitely a malty one, alright - although it's perhaps more hoppy than other brown ales I've had - this is Surly after all. Toasted cereal, oatmeal, caramel, lightly burnt honey, a little bit of the red fruit lingering flavor, and a bit of umami at the finish. Some would liken it to soy sauce (and, indeed, this wasn't present on the beer while fresher) but to me it's a savory effect (and dare I say saline?) that I appreciate fully. Well carbonated, with a creamy, soft mouth feel no doubt in part from the oats. The low ABV makes it quaffable, but it's high enough that it adds a sweet texture no different than an ESB British offering. Very flavorful, and very pleasing.

This is a great beer! I could definitely have more when I'm looking for a malt bomb that is creamy and refreshing. Perhaps the most traditional beer Surly has brewed, it's definitely my favorite brown ale brewed in the country. Of all the malt forward beers Surly has played around with, this is definitely their most successful.

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Photo of mfnmbvp
4.2/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 fl oz. can, with canned on date 11/14/2013 printed on the bottom of the can. Another new beer to me from Surly. Expectations are decently high, based on the experience I had with Surly Coffee Bender.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter.

A - Pours a nice dark mahogany colored body with some dark ruby hues when held to the light. Two fluffy fingers of khaki cream for a head. Thin streaks of lacing. Looks pretty nice.

S - Smell is really nice, also. Lots of different smells going on. Chocolate malt roast, cream, pine, citric orange, toasted oats, & some coffee bean roast.

T - Taste follows the nose. Chocolate malt roast, toasted grains, herbal pine, citrus hop bitterness, orange, some coffee bean, cream, some cola & vanilla notes creep out as you savor the beer.

M - Smooth and creamy mouthfeel from the oats, with a lightly toasted graininess & lots of resinous hop bitterness on the palate. Sticky, chalky, and bitter.

Overall, I thought it was delicious. Light, crisp, and extremely drinkable at 5.10% abv. A likely contender for repeat drinking. It's no wonder that Surly Coffee Bender is so delicious when the base beer itself is this good.

Surly Bender ---4/5.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.86/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

A-Pours a clear brown. Tan head is doughy and thick. It retains very well and leaves wavy lacing rings.

S-Softer aroma. Some cocoa powder and cola. Definite caramel. It's also got some darker bready notes. Pretty tame but agreeable.

T-The flavor has a hoppier element to it. The cocoa is back. Roasty and sweet. More cola flavor. Finishes with a dark breadiness.

M-Surprisingly light. Has some defined texture but it drinks very easily. Light bitterness and energetic carbonation.

O/D-Not as aggressive as I was expecting but I did enjoy it. A bit overrated here in my opinion. It's high-point would definitely be its drinkability.

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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 CowsandBeer
4.14/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thanks to Ubermensch26 for the four pack! Canned on 9/23/13 printed on the bottom of the can. Poured into a Tallgrass Brewing Cervoise glass at fridge temp.

Appearance: Pours two fingers of bubbly khaki head. Clear, walnut body. Eventually the head was reduced to a thin ring and cap.

Smell: Dark, crusty bread. Sweet coffee. Some floral hops. Nutty almond milk. Pretty good for a brown ale.

Taste: More of the same with that dark crusty bread, vanilla, bit of coffee, sweet nuttyness, slightly acrid, and a long bready finish.

Mouthfeel: High carbonation. Almost fizzy. Thinner mouthfeel. Somewhat creamy.

Overall: A good example of what a brown ale could be. The dark bread notes with that nutty sweetness and coffee were a stand out for me. I wouldn't mind a little more body, though. Overall well put together. Recommend to all brown ale lovers and haters.

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Photo of BeerLover99
4.44/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: deep brown/mahogany shimmer body, tan 1 finger head,
phenomenal lacing

S: cocoa, caramel, oat malt, hint of vanilla

T: vanilla, caramel, cocoa, smooth oatmeal finish

M: med/light, very creamy smooth with
semi crisp finish

O: What a treat! Mighty fine low ABV with
tons of flavor, could partake all night long
with this Upper Great Lakes
American Brown Ale standard.


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Photo of Jas45678
4.04/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 ounce can into tulip courtesy of lurpy1

Pours a dark brown with a nice one off-white head. Smell is roasted malts, carmel, coffee and chocolate, not a very strong nose. Taste is creamy roasted malts, coffee and chocolate with a slight bitterness. Medium bodied with mid to low carbonation. Overall a very good beer. Not a huge fan of this style, but I could drink this one regularly.

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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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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,956 ratings.
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