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Bender | Surly Brewing Company

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1,972 Ratings

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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Ratings: 1,972 |  Reviews: 764
Photo of cosmicevan
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Shango42, so sorry I didn't get to this one sooner...just got another can from 2beerornot2beer so what better time than now to crack this open.

a - popped the can and filled my capt lawrence taster tulip. poured a deep rich brown with a transparent glow and a thick frothy head. head was off white and as it vanished, it left chunky lacing.

s - all the usual suspects for a brown ale (nutmeg, brown sugar, etc) but with a heavy sweet malt presence. almost barleywine like. the nutmeg sweetness is almost overwhelming.

t - brown sugar, nutmeg. not as sweet as the nose would leave you to believe, but definitely reminiscent of a barleywine...kind of like a brown ale style barleywine.

m - very nice and subtle. perfect amount of wateriness for what I'm seeking at the moment. not too thick, but not too thin. quenching.

o - said it before, said it again...like a barleywine. almost too much so. good sweetness, a bit soft for a brown ale and brown ales are usually a bit thin and soft...this one a bit moreso. nice flavor, nice feel, but other than that, pretty regular for the brown ale.

*** ** * ** *** edit 2/5/2012 - canned 12/19: only thing to add is not at all barleywine like to me. classic brown with huge earthiness. same scores, just lots of earth.

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Photo of BARFLYB
3.65/5  rDev -10.3%
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 Tripphop
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Nice dark brown color, creamy brown head, doesn't stay long. Aromas of faint burnt sugar and chocolate. Flavor is delightfully roasty with a nice bitter balance. Caramel, brown sugar, graham cracker, and a smooth rich finish. Very tasty, wish I could drink these daily.

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Photo of imbibehour
4.03/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the can into a nonic pint glass. Can dated April 6th 2011.

Nice creamy head of light tan brown three/four fingers tall. Body is a nice dark brown clear amber, very nice color. Nice solid cap on the head as well. Gorgeous body color almost black with these dark walnut brown and red hues.

Airy malt and faint roast on the nose, with a good hint of nut. Seems like a good dry roast nut.

Roast character and nut character comes through on the taste. Dry feeling of walnut on the swallow, and a strong malt aftertaste. Pretty good mouthfeel but feels a little fizzy and prickly for carbonation.

Overall though this is avery solid standard nut like brown ale and would have no problem grabbing again.

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Photo of callmescraps
4.15/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another Surly find. Very intrigued.

App- Nice clear brown color. Hints of amber highlights. Off white soapy head.

Smell- Rich and toasty. Some nuttiness. Definitely a hint of coffee. Some toffee as well. Nice.

Taste- It is quite nutty, and a little sweet. There is a slight fruitiness. Almost cherry. Very toasty, with a hint of cocoa. Some bitterness, and some earthy hops. A little floral too. Rich.

Mouthfeel- Super thick and nice. Very very creamy. Just lovely.

Overall- Very nice beer. It's rich and creamy in the mouth. Just a winner. I can people falling in love with this one.

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Photo of CliffBrake
3.53/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pretty deep red color with a light tan head that leaves minimal lacing.

Roasty aroma - a bit nutty and slightly spicy. Taste is bitter with some roast on the sides. Fairly one dimensional.

Light, tinny sort of mouthfeel. A bit harsh

Recieved in a trade of a broad assortment of Surly brews. I have liked to loved all of them up to this one, which is difficult to finish. Maybe the brown ale doesn't travel well?

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a slightly clear dark brown-red color with a big finger of frothy off-white head. The head fades down to a ring around the glass leaving behind some really nice lacing in the process.

S - Aroma is full of sweet caramel malts and a lot of nuttiness. There is a bit of roastedness and some light chocolate as well.

T - Starts off with a nice hit of sweet caramel malts and roasted flavors. Through the middle, some nutty flavors and a hint of chocolate flavor come out. The finish is a mix of nutty and caramel flavors and some sweet chocolate and just a hint of hops that lingers.

M - Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Feels smooth and fairly crisp and maybe a touch syrupy. The finish is a touch sweet and very nice.

D - Very drinkable. The sweet malt and nuttiness are really nice. The flavors and balance are really nice throughout the beer and the finish is just spot on with the amount of sweetness.

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Photo of aboucher0319
4.06/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Alright, first review here so here goes.

Poured can to pint glass.

A: Pretty dark, sort of reminds me of a stout more so than a brown ale. Leaves some lacing but not a ton.

S: Not as strong of an aroma as I was expecting but I do smell a faint toffee/coffee/chocolate flavor.

T: Mmmm...I really like this one. Good thing I live in MN! Similar to the aroma, I notice the chocolate/coffee flavors, and a bit of a bready flavor as well. Great taste all the way from when it hits your tongue through its after taste.

M: It's somewhat thick. Enjoyably so, mouthfeel is a definite positive trait to this one.

O: I really like the color and the mouthfeel a lot, and only could wish for a tad bit stronger flavor, but everything about it makes it a great session beer. Props to Surly.

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Photo of Duff27
4.08/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Monster two-inch light brown head atop a almost opaque but somewhat clear brown beer. Slightly above average head retention and lacing.

S- Bready, "nutty".

T- Toffee notes, maybe a little coffee. Roasty with a touch of sweetness. Hops aren't very apparent.

M- Medium to medium-light mouthfeel. Smooth.

D/O- A true sessionable "dark beer" clocking in at 5.1%abv, Surly Bender is great to have a few of something when not in the mood for a pale ale. Hats of to Surly for this and it's brother Coffee Bender for what would be the "flagship for the style" if it would get distributed elsewhere besides Minnesota.

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Photo of OddNotion
3.7/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another act of generosity from bs870621345, aka Bobby. He gave me a can of this and the coffee version. He claims it was paying me back for the Furious I gave him a month or two back, but he has more than repaid me before these beers exchanged hands. Anywho on to the review.

Poured into my DFH Signature Glass.

Appearance: Pours a very deep brown bordering on black but no quite there. Ruby notes throughout when held to the light. Roughly a one finger tan head.

Smell: Very nice sweet aroma some roasty coffee notes on top of dark fruits. Smelling some bready/toffee notes from the english yeast.

Taste: Very smooth and balanced. Getting the sweetness and some breadiness. Bitterness is negligable. No single flavor really stands out. It is a solid beer but nothing that blows me away. The warmer it gets the better it gets, but still nothing overly impressive.

Mouthfeel: On the thicker side for the style, but the nice carbonation makes it feel lighter. I do like it.

Overall: Solid for the style but it is missing something. There is nothing bad or offensive about the beer by any means. I am hoping the coffee will tie it together.

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Photo of Montrose79
4/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can poured into tulip

A- dark brown with thin head, decent lacing

S- nutty, chocolate, coffee, dark roast

T- chocolate, coffee, some hoppiness on back end

M- rather thick for a brown ale. Really like it

O- overall a really tasty beer. Can definitely drink a few of these in a sitting.

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Photo of bs870621345
4.23/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

No canned on date, picked up earlier this week and none of the cans had a date.

Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights when held up to light and a huge off white head and nice lacing.

Smell is light with hints of nuts, roast, herbs, caramel, and slight bread. Everything is sublte but nicely balance.

Taste follows smell opens up with nuts, and hops to balance, moves into a roasted caramel and pine flavor, finishes clean with nuts, brown sugar, and herbal hops.

Mouthfeel is moderate, but the carbonation is a tad low. I won't knock it until I do a more gentle pour next time.

Overall its good, A- is about what it deserves

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Photo of jcartamdg
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a ccb pint glass, half a finger head dissipates quickly, very dark brown in appearance. Aroma is malty sweet, coffee in the background. Taste follows the nose but with notes of vanilla and hops, pretty complex. Light carbonation and fairly thick. Not a bad brown at all, up there with my favorites of this style.

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Photo of cpolking
4.06/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours very dark brown, almost black, opaque except around the edges where the light makes a ruby translucence. The head is small, thin and light brown but leaves medium lacing down the glass.

The aroma is dark roasted malt, a bit of coffee and dark chocolate torte with a touch of raspberry.

The taste is black and bitter coffee, dark chocolate and raspberry. This is a like a liquid bittersweet dark chocolate, mocha, raspberry flourless torte that leaves a lingering but bitter aftertaste.

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Photo of SoCalStout
4.08/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On Tap at the Blue Nile in Minneapolis

A - A deep chestnut brown with hues of cherry mahogany. The fluffy, buoyant head slowly dissolves into a nice film with plenty of patchy lacing on the glass.

S - Oats, coffee, cocoa, and roasted malt.

T - Dark roasted malts with plenty of toasted oats and a nice wave of pleasant cocoa. The flavors are multi-layered, moving on to vanilla and hazelnut. Some coffee and nuttiness continues towards the end, eventually finishing dry with some sweetness.

M - Velvet smooth, creamy, darker medium body. Absolute silky dreaminess.

D - Great flavor, low abv, and excellent feel make for some amazing drinking.

This is one of the best drinking brown ales I've ever had.

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Photo of mdaschaf
4.23/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to BeerThursdays for sending this one my way.

A: Pours nice ruby/brown color with a two finger off-white head, thick and foamy. Great retention.

S: A surprising amount of hops, some nuts, caramelized sugar, and some doughy malt.

T: Lots of caramel, a hint of smoke, there is a sweetness in the midpalate. The finish has a slight coffee dry flavor. Not as hoppy as the aroma lead on, but they are present in a slight floral taste.

M: Medium bodied with medium carbonation, the level of carb seems just right. Very smooth and crisp, surprisingly refreshing. Slight dry finish.

D: A very tasty, sessionable brown. Great flavor and extremely easy drinking.

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Photo of Chriscrundwell12
4.03/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz can into a Surly Imperial Pint Glass.

A- Two finger frothy head, poured aggressively, dark brown appearance, brownish red hues come off the bottom of the glass, nice sticky lacing, well carbonated.
S- Nice hops upfront, hints of coffee beans, roasted malts are apparent.
T- Tastes as it smells, very smooth, hints of coffee beans, hops are present, well balanced with the malts and hops, hints of nuttiness and cocoa as well.
M- Medium mouth feel, smooth, nice carbonation
O- Very easy drinkability, nice sessional bear that is quit refreshing, smooth and well balanced.

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Photo of n2185
3.64/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown with only traces of red near the edges and a finger of tan head. The head recedes into a thin ring with little lacing.

S: Some roasted malts up front followed by sweet, nutty aromas. There is also a surprisingly strong citrusy hop aroma on the finish.

T: Roasted malts at first followed by a fairly subtle nutty flavor. The hops kick in, providing a piny bitterness to go along with the bitterness from the roasted malts. I also pick up some slight nutty flavors on the exhale.

M: Medium body and carbonation that goes well with the bitterness and leaves a clean finish.

O: A pretty decent beer. Nothing spectacular and very porter-like for a brown ale, but decent nonetheless. I wish the nutty flavors had come through a bit more instead of hiding behind the hops and roasted malts.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
4.12/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out brown with as much clarity as one can have for being brown colored, beige head. Aroma was stronger on the vanilla than I would expect. Good earthy malt vibe.

Taste, pretty lively for a brown ale, slight coffee (nowhere near the amount of Coffee Bender), vanilla, even a tingly amount of hops present. Medium bodied, easy drinking enough, hides alcohol, definitely one of my favorite renditions of a brown ale.

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Photo of chilly460
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a dark leathery brown with honey colored highlights at the edges, darker then most Brown ales. Solid finger of medium tan head emerges nicely. Solid consistent lacing all the way to the bottom of the glass.

S - A nutty roastiness dominates the nose here. Definitely hints of coffee and dry cocoa as well. Some citrusy hops help balance out the aroma and were a surprising bit that added complexity.

T - Wow, a lot going on for a Brown. Initial taste is the light roasted coffee, then the nuttiness comes in. Some dry bitter chocolate as well, along sweet toffee and caramel that are quite pronounced. Develops into a rich vanilla flavor at times too. Finishes with a surprising light citrus hops that meshed well with the sweetness. Outstanding stuff, never had a Brown with close to this complexity, but it's still a light tasting beer.

M - Smooth...velvet smooth. Awesome coating feel, some chewiness. Nailed it.

O - Killer brew, so much going on in what is commonly a simple style, but doesn't ever go overboard. Mouthfeel is way up the ranks as well. Wish I had more!

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Photo of CuriousMonk
3.6/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to funkyaudio for the extra! Poured from can into tulip glass. Pours muddy brown with a rocky, fluffy, tan head that sticks around leaving excellent poofy lace along the sides of the glass. Aroma is fresh, floral, light peppermint, mint chocolate chip. Taste is cola, sweet, roasty, bitter chocolate. Soft, bubbly palate. Really just a solid session beer. A good brown ale is a difficult thing to find.

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Photo of deebo
3.62/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-Tan head that quickly dissipate, very dark brown color.

S-Dominated by nutty malt

T-Smooth, heavy toasted malts. Some residual lingering hop aftertaste

M-Simply smooth and easy to drink.

D-Easy to drink, very nice

O-Good flavor-toasted malt is the dominant flavor, very drinkable.

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Photo of claspada
3.42/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Aromas of dark sweet caramel and oatmeal maltiness with s substantial earthy hop character.
The tastes begin with light bitter cocoa and coffee. Some sweet caramel maltiness mixed in with an earthy almost metallic bitterness. Am I making this up because it came in a can, not totally sure to be honest, probably is my guess. A little too bitter for my liking.
Good carbonation, semi dry finish and slightly light to medium bodied. Overall this is an average brown ale; I've had much better and I've had much worse. Too hoppy and over-hyped in my opinion. Cigar City Maduro Brown is heads and tails better in every aspect and considering I can get that locally I will not be revisiting this beer.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.42/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 16 oz. can into pint glass.

Appearance: Dark brown with reddish color coming through when light shines through. Kind of looks like cola. Small white and tan head that lingers with decent lacing.

Smell: A blend of Coffee, chocolate, toffee , oatmeal , and caramel with a hint of vanilla and spice. Also a somewhat grassy scent in the background.

Taste: Sweet caramel malts with chocolate, oatmeal, and toffee. Hop bitterness comes through in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with medium carbonation.

Overall: A tasty brown ale that is very smooth with a nice kick of bitterness in the end.

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Photo of PhineasGage
3.93/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Once again, Thank You BeeZee

A - Deep Ruby, Brown. Off-white fluffy head, mellows to a fairly thin layer. Clings to glass well.

S - Sweet, Caramel malts. lots of malt.

T - Light bitter chocolate and coffee.

M - smooth, highly carbonated.

O - I like the coffee bender better. Still another good beer from Surly.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.07 out of 5 with 1,972 ratings
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