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: 1,951
Photo of aasher
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I was really excited to get a couple cans of Bender. We had asked someone from Minnesota to bring us some Surly back from his hometown and he did, some two months later. I had totally forgotten about it so this was a nice surprise. I poured this can into my Founders snifter. This beer pours a Coca Cola like dark brown with ruby accents and a one finger, foamy beige head. The aromas are very malty with some light hazelnut and some caramel. The flavors are of light roasted malts and slight chocolate. It leaves a nutty, bitter, and dry after taste. I'm surprised there isn't more to this. It's solid but nothing to write home about. It drinks well, pretty smoothly and with light carbonation. It's ok, just a solid brown ale.

Edit: Interestingly enough, a couple days after posting my original review I decided to drink another one just from the can. It really, really opened up the flavors in a very surprising manner. This time it featured a nice chocolate malt flavor throughout. Now I'm perplexed.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
4.12/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not too many brown ales impress me, but this one is darn good.

Pours a flat almond color with a head that's medium in the density department. Nice lacing.

Sweet caramel and nut aroma. This is very impressive and to the point. Toasted bread and leather are deep in the background.

A bit more sweet caramel in the front of the taste. Followed by the maltiness and finished with the nut. It's a smooth feel, and quite dry on the end. Easy drinking here.

Quite the nice brown ale

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Photo of WesWes
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark brown color with a thick frothy tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a nice roasted malt scent with just enough crystal malts to add a slightly sweet aroma. The taste is good. It has a smooth, roasted and crystal malt flavor that goes down real easy and finishes dry with a slight metallic edge. It has an excellent roasted character. The mouthfeel is great. It is a medium/full bodied beer with near perfect carbonation. This a very good drinking beer. It's a wonderful example of the style; great taste and aroma. Thanks again to jjayjaye for for hooking me up

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Photo of tone77
3.7/5  rDev -10%
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.

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

Thanks goes out to Faro for this one.

Pours a nice clean dark brown color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger plus tannish creamy head, lots of nice sticky lacing throughout the drink. The nose is malty, slightly roasty, with a nice touch of caramel. The taste is malty, lots of caramel. There is a tangy/bitter finish. Medium body. Very drinkable, probably the best brown ale I've had to date.

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Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to chewy08rx for sending me this can.

The beer pours a sightly hazy brown color with a tan head. The aroma is a mix of chocolate, caramel caramel and some toasted/lightly roasted malt. The flavor is more of the same. I get a lot of chocolate as well as some roasted malt and some light grassy hops. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A very nice American Brown Ale and one I wish I had regular access to.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks again to Oneeye for the trade.

A. From a 16 oz. pounder into a pint glass. Pours dark brown with a large off white head. A wonderful lace show follows.

S. Sweet malts, molasses, brown sugar. Inviting.

T. A nutty roasted brown ale taste. Starts off a bit malty. Molasses in the finish. Some citrus hops are there to play along in the deep recesses of my mind. Some hershey syrup like chocolate taste as it warms.

M. Medium bodied bordering heavy. Smooth and refreshing.

D. I really do enjoy this. A great great session beer.

Notes: One of the best Browns I've had. Makes those NewCastle boys look like a bunch of chumps.

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Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a soft brown hue with a one and a half finger creamy off white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured a soft toasted grain, some cocoa powder and a candy sugar.

The taste consisted of a moderately robust burnt grain, touches of dark chocolate and coffee. There was a touch of sweetness and some estery yeast notes.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness with a dry finish.

Overall a tasty and highly quaffable brown ale. Complex.

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Photo of BARFLYB
3.65/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to LaCoursiere for adding this in our recent trade.

A- Surly Bender pops open with some ivory foam already formed in the can. Once out, the liquid takes on a shoepolish brown look with some red poking in at the sides. Not much of a cap, no lacing.

Smell is fairly easy for a fairly simple beer, Bender does have pungent strength. This includes a boatload of English malt giving off nuts and slight toffee and grain.

Taste starts off malty and nutty and well, that's pretty much it. But wait, English malt is just large in this. A bit of chocolate malt in there as well, maybe a pich of cocco flavor/brown sugar. Bender is a str8 forward style with a str8 forward taste. No bells or whistles.

Feel is kinda tame and the carbonation is pretty dull. It just sort of goes down smooth like and there is no prick. For the style though, not everything needs to pop like that.

Bender is great beer and one I would take down with some BBQ, it seems like a great match. 5% leads to all day drinking.

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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 Gueuzedude
4.44/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a four finger thick, lightly brown-tinged, tan colored head that sits atop a dark amber brown colored beer that shows a brilliantly clear, ruby hue when held up to the light. The aroma is richly aromatic with notes of sweet, concentrated fruit, dark malts and hops; dissecting where each of these start and end might be a bit of work though as the aroma is quite well integrated. Notes of raisins, perhaps some vanilla accented cherries, some berry notes and even some sweet citrus peel aromas mix with notes of toasted malt, browned biscuit-like malt, caramelized grain sugars and a huge toasted, dry, soda cracker note in the finish. A fabulously aromatic brew, this really has such a well integrated, loudly aromatic nose; this is an example of why I like a well made brown ale; there is not so much dark / roast malt that it dominates the flavor profile and the simple (though certainly not simplistic) malt and hop notes are able to shine through as well. Somehow there are notes of vanilla and spicy oak in this beer (and they are quite noticeable halfway through this beer); I don't know how they got here, but they are a welcome addition that add some additional complexity to an already great aroma. Unlike many beers, where the aroma fades as you start drinking the beer, the aroma here actually gets better and more complex as you work your way through it. Definitely don't forget to continue to stick your schnozz in this brew in between sips.

Sweet malt flavors encapsulate the palate and actual cling to my mouth almost like a much bigger beer would. Fruity notes of raisins and sweet, ripe berries mix with an interesting, almost vanilla like note. Some dark malt notes are noticeable from the get go; actually just a hint of roast character mixes with the hop character, both of which contribute a solid, though not in any way dominant, bitterness. This beer is really fairly sweet and fruity tasting, that is probably the distinguishing characteristic. It does not make this thick, cloying or not quaffable though as this is definitely a fairly sessionable brew.

Have I said how much I love great beer in a can. Well I do, imagine how much easier shipping would be if the norm was craft beer in a can; still I do find the champagne cork finish too perfect for certain styles of beer. This is a great brew, I really like the aromatic complexity (especially the surprise oak-like aromatics) and the flavor aint half bad either. The oak notes even start to creep into the flavor of this beer towards the end of my glass.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.48/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

16oz can received in trade from awesome BA, Mully. Thanks a bunch. Poured into my New Belgium snifter.

2" lite tan rocky tan head dies back leaving very nice lacing... Dark brown brew with dark ruby highlites.. pretty.

Aroma is pretty damn good ... A little bit of cold coffee with chocolate and a defined nuttiness... sorta citrusy hop notes play through all the goodness. As it warms the coffee and nuttiness really comes out quite a bit.

Flavor is very much an American Brown ale ... but an incredibly dialed in American Brown.. all the waves of flavors play together perfectly with the very smooth palate keeping everything intermingling and providing a long complex finish. Very toasty and nutty with distinct chocolate overtones .. more cold coffee.. righteous citrus hoppiness ... silky smooth mouthfeel and immensely drinkable.

I could honestly say this may be the ultimate session beer... Mully provided 2 cans in trade ... My trading partner drank 1 the first night we got the package... damn it damn it damn it! I really need a steady supply. This is the perfect beer for when you just want something complex and flavorful but don't wannt to get knocked on your ass. Cheers to Surly for packing so much comlexity into 1 little 16 oz can.

Matt, thanks again .... I've been dying to try Surly beers and you were the hook-up. Let's do more business.

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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 yourefragile
4.22/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can poured into a nonic

Deep translucent hazel brown color with ruby flares against light. Light tan colored frothy head with low retention and streaky thin lacing. Nose is roasted malt, bready, nutty, slight coffee and sweet chocolate. Flavor has amazing balance of both sweet and bitter, alternating between roast malt and nuttiness versus a fresh hoppy bitterness. Creamy, medium body with light carbonation but strong bite from hops. An excellent, refreshing hoppy brown.

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Photo of tobelerone
4/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nearly cola colored body with a small light brown head that dissipates fairly quickly. Spotty lacing. Good bready maltiness in the nose, grassy European hop note comes through on the back end. Tasty and smooth brown ale with a nice rich malt flavor, lots of chewy smoothness from the oatmeal, and a bit of a bitter hoppy bite in the finish. Hints of coffee, cocoa, and subtle roastiness. Retains a good deal of drinkability and a creamy mouthfeel despite fairly crisp carbonation. Refreshing and very well-made, quite flavorful for an often bland style. Another impressive Surly offering.

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

Sampled through the efforts of Imstillthegman and 1000 Miles (or East/West again) BIF.

Clear chestnut brown beer with red highlights when held up to the light. Good light brown colored head.

The smell is sweet and malty with lots of molasses and chocolate in the scent. Not a lot of patent malt scent about all I can smell is a slight smokiness. There is a Russian black bread aroma to this but no fruit or flower aromas.

The first sip neutral and bready with a slight tartness and smoky flavor from the patent malt. Slightly bitter and fairly strong chocolate and dark bread flavor. There is a little malt roast in this but it is far from too strong and is actually quite subtle. Mostly this is chocolate and bread in flavor basic but good.

The mouthfeel is thick.

One of the more drinkable brown ales out there this is one that you can drink all night if you wish. This isn't quite as good as DFH Indian Brown though.

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

From a 16 oz. can, thanks Andrew,

A: Pours red-brown with a soft off-white head, some lace.

S: Roasted malt, coffee along with some sweet malt and chocolate.

T: Brown and caramel malt right off the bat with some dark chocolate. The mid-palate takes a turn with the oatmeal - into oatmeal stout character, sweet lactose/milk stout type flavours. Creamed coffee in there as well, very interesting.

M: Creamy, medium-bodied, very smooth.

D: Surly continues to impress me today. This is a markedly full-flavoured beer for ~5% and if I ever go to MN, I'm going to buy this again. Wonderful beer.

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Photo of John_M
3.9/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Ike's at the MSP airport.

The beer pours a mahogany brown color with good head retention and lacing. On the nose, I get an impressive aroma of coffee and chocolate. Maybe some vanilla as well. Flavors on the palate generally replicate the nose, except there's some interesting hoppy grittiness as well that adds to the appeal. Mouthfeel is at most medium bodied and drinkability is very good. There was some sort of slight bitterness I don't associate with hops right at the end, but otherwiwse this beer is pretty drinkable.

Brown ales are not my favorite style, but this is pretty tasty and impressive.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.01/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap at the Hopleaf a while ago. I liked it, and it was a slightly unusual take on a brown ale, but it didn't blow me away like Furious did. Poured a dark brown with a creamy head that fades away to athin cap that sticks around. Excellent lacing. The aromas are spicy and malty up front, almost prickly, and then slightly sweeter and more roasty on the finish. There is a slight sour graininess at the end as well. Almost porter-like in its aromas. The taste is very smooth and the flavors are a little lighter than expected from the nose. Light chocolate, light roastiness, fresh cream, and a light grainy flavor at the end (rye?). Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with some light grainy tannins on the finish. A good effort if not speectacular. Goes down real easy.

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Photo of Derek
4.5/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Deep mahogany with a big tan head, good retention, some lacing.

S: Big aroma: Penty of hops (orange rind & floral), dark fruits, fruit bread, brown sugar.

T: Dark fruit, roasted nuts, fruit bread, orange rind, toast, berries, cotton candy, dark toffee & caramel, good bitterness. It's quite fruity, but nothing dominates... plenty of depth.

M: Moderate body is smooth & creamy with a hint of acidity.

D: Very drinkable.

A great brew all around.

Thanks for the trade Eric (DaPeculierDane)!

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Photo of HopHead84
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Received as an extra in a trade with objectivemonkey. It took me two months to get around to drinking this one, but I think now is as good a time as any.

Poured into my Bruery tulip. The beer is very dark brown. The light brown head is large. After two minutes it has fully receded and left a lattice-like pattern evenly around the glass.

The aroma is of caramel and toasted malt. No alcohol is present in the nose and there is a mild note of earthy hops. Initial flavor has some bitterness to it. The beer tastes like light roast coffee with some chocolate notes to it. The sweet malt is nicely balanced by a nice level of hop bitterness which has a mild citrus element to it. The finish reveals a bit of alcohol and is long and dry. The mouthfeel is fantastic. Medium full bodied with great carbonation.

I'm surprised by the subtleness of this beer. I'm never impressed by brown ales because I find the style to be lackluster but this was very enjoyable!

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Photo of weeare138
3.62/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to zrrbrrt for opening this...
Appears a slighty hazy(though still transparent), dark brown with a mild red hue. A rocky, tan head slowly quickly fades out and leaves scattered spots of lacing around the glass.
The smell is yeasty, toasty nuts, fruits, grassy, light caramel, brown sugar, cocoa, and a touch of clove like spiciness.
The taste is of the mentioned aromas with perhaps a touch of mild sourness picked up, along with an astringency that is noticeable.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied, mildly roasty, with cocoa hanging on the palate leading to a gentle bitterness.
Overall, I'm not really sure what the hype is about. I thought it was good but it didn't really knock my socks off in any way. Maybe I'm just not a huge Brown Ale fan?

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Photo of corby112
3.76/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes:

Pours a very dark ruby red/chestnut brown color with deep mahogany edges when held to a light source and a thin foamy tan head that quickly fades into a thing lasting ring. Minimal spots of lacing left behind.

The aroma is slightly bland and for me the least impressive characteristic of this beer. Plenty of malt in the nose with hints of oatmeal, chocolate, toffee and caramel.

Surprisingly hop forward that adds some crisp bitterness up feot balancing out by the mellow chocolate malt center. Slightly roasty with hints of bread, toffee and nut as well as a slight lactic creaminess. The bitterness lingers throughout into a roasty dry finish but this beer is very well balanced and easy to drink.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.5/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this one in a trade with Wasatch. Thanks John!

This pours from 16oz can a deep brown with a large tannish head of foam that sticks around forever as a 1 finger layer and there's a butload of sticky lacing.

The smell is of sweet malt, grain, and roasted malt.

The taste has a nice malt sweetness up front. I get caramel malt, chocolate, dark fruit, coffee, and toffee. It has a good thick mouthfeel to it, the carbonation is on the light side, and it finishes slightly bitter and slightly sweet. Very tasty. And with its low abv content, it would be *easy* to kick back a few of these. Wow, this is *so* drinkable indeed!

Bottom line: This is an excellent example of the of the best that I've tried to date. Highly recommended!!

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

Poured a coffee brown with a decent sized medium tan head and good carbonation. Nose is rich and malty, some cola sweetness and nutty notes. Rich and malty in the taste as well, some chocolate, big dose of caramel malt and finishing with a nice hoppy dryness. A very tasty and easy drinking brown. Not one of my fav stylesbut great!

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,951 ratings.
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