Bender | Surly Brewing Company

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1,984 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: 1,984 |  Reviews: 765
Photo of GossageBrewery
3.16/5  rDev -22.4%
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 UCLABrewN84
3.73/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to UMNbeerhunter for sending me this one!

Pours a clear dark brown color with a 2 inch beige head that fades to a thin film. Nice rings and patches of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted oats, brown bread, and citrus zest notes. Taste is of oats, bread, nuts, and a citrus zest taste on the finish. Mild bitterness on the palate fades after each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation that makes for a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good brown ale and I am glad I got to try this one.

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Photo of argock
3.91/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 16oz can into a clear glass mug. Canned on 5/18/11 on bottom of can. Provided courtesy of bro Greg.

A: Light chestnut hue with huge 2-finger, light beige head with very good retention and plenty of lacing.

S: Underwhelming to some extent although dark malts with some woodiness, cocoa, and coffee aromas come through

T: Very smooth with a good dose of dark maltiness with rounded nutty, raisiny quality, coffee, and light chocolate.

M: Even carbonation with medium-body and mild dryness in the finish.

O: A nice beer but not really anything over the top awesome. Would make for a really nice session beer.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.23/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16oz can poured into a pint glass.

A - Dark brown with red edges with a 1 finger tan to medium tan head. Good retention and lacing.

S - Barley, wheat, nuts.

T - Similar to the smell with some spiciness.

D - Creamy and very smooth.

O - Very nice brown.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass.

A - Pours a murky deep strong brown with some awesome red hues. There is a nice 0.5 inch cream colored head that is real frothy and creamy.

S - Deliciou oat notes in the nose. Nice fresh baked whole grain bread notes. Nice chocolaty malt notes mixed in with some slight carmel and some nice grain notes. Roasty and delicious aroma.

T & M - Flavor starts off with some nice bready grainy malt backbone. There is some nice oat notes and some powdery chocolate as sweetness as well. The middle portion starts off with some nice burnt malt notes that compliment the powdery sweetness of the start. There is some caramel and some nice bready finishes. The finish is bitter and dry with a great slightly roasted encore. Lighter bodied beer but very flavorful. Quite a great example of the style.

O - Delicious brew with some great crafted individual flavors that work very well together. I pray for the day Surly comes down to MO. I love all their offerings so far.

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Photo of pmarlowe
4.28/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Canned on 11/21/10. Kuhnhenn tulip glass. Thanks to Scoot1969 for the beer (and the glass)!

Pours an impenetrable brown, two fingers of off white fluffy foam which mostly dissipates within a few minutes. Not much lacing to speak of. Smell is subdued, at times primarily honey, at times vanilla, sweetness, with a solid backbone of roasted and caramel malt and touch of oatmeal. Wow, really nice complexity... a lot going on here. Taste is roasted malt, a little honey and smoke; doesn't quite have the same complexity as the aroma, but on par with the style. No hops in either the smell or taste, but there is an ever so slight tinge of bitterness on the finish. Carbonation is good, medium-light body. overall, this is very sessionable with an incredible aroma, and which pairs well with food.

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Photo of TCgoalie
4.24/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a standard brown ale brown with a small white crown. No lacing.

Cocoa, coffee, and Scottish smelling malts meld very nicely with a pine like hop aroma. A touch of vanilla and belgian funk add some more interest.

Quite a bit is going on with the taste. The malt profile is very interesting creating a coffee, oatmeal, cocoa like base. The hops are subtle and really help to balance the sweetness. There is an element of Belgian-ness in this as well.

Medium in the mouth with a nice smoothness.

I am happy to try yet another Surly brew. This is a very nice brown ale and I'm hoping to try the coffee version soon.

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Photo of aapp
3.49/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Dark brown nice two inch tan head that fades off kinda fast

S-Toasted malt not much more

T-Malty nutty nice and bitter

M-Very smooth easy to drink

O-good brown ale Could drink a lot of these at once but have had better would not go out of my way to get another

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

A: pours dark brown, barely any light gets through. Initial head is two fingers thick a brown in color, which settles slowly to a thin layer with good lacing.
S: toasted malt, bready/biscuity, and nutty.
T: wonderfully bready and nutty, a hint of coffee along with a light hop bitterness in the aftertaste. Just a light hint of grain. Nutty flavor sticks around for a while after each sip.
M: smooth, a little bit creamy with a light carbonation bite.
O: great brown ale, smooth all the right flavors, dare I say better than my local favorite.

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

My first experience with Surly - can given to me by a local BA buddy.

Canned 4/27/11

Poured into a large tulip. A single finger of light tan heads fades fairly fast to a thin surface layer, and some light lacing during consumption. Very dark brown body with some mahogany hues when the light hits right, a nice looking Brown Ale.

Very fragrant, more than I usually get from this style. Lots of caramel malts, toffee, molasses, toasted nuts, and even some darker chocolate. The taste follows right in line - the roasted malt is bold and upfront, with some sweeter toffee / chocolate balancing the flavor profile out nicely. Medium bodied with an average dose of carbonation for this style.

I really enjoyed this offering from Surly - I've got a can of Coffee Bender to drink at some point and can only imagine it is as good (if not better) ... looking forward to it!

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Photo of LaCoursiere
3.91/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured into an imperial pint glass. It poured dark red-brown with a fluffy two finger khaki head. When held up to the light the clarity is evident. A little bit of lacing clings to the glass. The head dissipated over ten minutes into a nice collar.

S - The nose is pretty mild. Nice toasted malt aroma is the primary and the combination of the hops and yeast produce some earthy notes that are tough to describe. I caught a slight whiff of vanilla as well.

T - Whole grain toast in front giving way to molasses and slight vanilla sweetness in the middle with roasted malts and polite hop bitterness in the finish.

M - Medium-light bodied with light carbonation that is quite active on the tongue with a slightly chalky finish. No alcohol presence

O/D - I always used to dismiss Bender and go with a Coffee Bender or Furious, but after having several cans recently I have really begun to enjoy this beer. It is an excellent showcase of roasted malt flavor without being very heavy. The subtle sweetness and hop bitterness in the finish complement the roasted character very well. Do yourself a favor and try one.

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Photo of Nugganooch
3.81/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasting my first Bender courtesy of Mid - thanks for the MN connect bro!

A: Pours a dark dark brown. A definite rich mahogany! Garnet hues for sure. Its got that ruby redness around the edges. The head is a succulant burnt khaki 1.5 finger froth that just coats the glass with curtains of lace.

S: Smells of nutty roasty malts with a slight pine and spice hopiness. Toasted oats and nutty breads.

T: Rich nutty roast character out the gates. Toffee and toasty sweet breads. Nice even level of bitterness. A light tart acridness akin to dark chocolate on the finish. Very light and refreshing yet full of complex malt flavors.

M: Mouthfeel is a great light to medium body brew with a smooth creamy texture that just coats the mouth and throat.

D: This brew is a borderline Stout with that great lower ABV sessionability. I can easily see knocking a few Benders back. Maybe that is how the name came to be! Lots of flavor packed into this can.

Really love the concept and execution here for an Oatmeal Brown Ale. Bender because it bends the style guidelines for sure. Quite tasty and I would definitely try again.

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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 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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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.07 out of 5 with 1,984 ratings