Bender | Surly Brewing Company

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754 Reviews

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

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: 754 | Ratings: 1,926
Photo of BeerTruth
4.17/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to umustdrink for this treat!

16 oz. can poured into a nonic.

Pours a dark-dark brown with a semi-opaque hue and a small one finger khakit colored head that dies down quickly to a thin layer which stays throughout. Stickiness is pretty good, not the best for a brown ale though. Very nice on the nose with a sweet malty mix of chocolate, oatmeal, and caramel. Simple but good, me likey. Taste starts off with a quick subtle hop bite but is then taken over by a smooth flakey oatmeal goodness. Flavor ends with a sweet coffee/cream like taste that lasts forever on the tongue. Mouthfeel is fairly full bodied with a good amount of carbonation, very smooth going down. Drinkability is great, could easily be a session beer. More breweries need to make quality brown ales like this. Good work Surly.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

16oz can received via I Want That BIF from flexabull. Thanks for the opportunity.

Upon opening, can foamed over, then poured into an imperial pint glass, forming a 2" brown head over the slightly cloudy chestnut brown brew. Head lasts amazingly, with hearty frothy lacing. Aroma is hearty grains, with a touch of fruitiness and alcohol. Taste is follows along, thick maltiness with a twinge of fruit. Mouthfeel is creamy smooth, and drinkability is very easy as well. Made my first Surly worth the wait.

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Photo of Grundle20
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The perfect pour. Brown with good sticky off white head.

Not feeling it. There's some undesirable medicinal notes here, borderline band-aid scent. Underlying cocoa powder notes are the only redeeming quality here. Overall though these scents are weak and uninspiring.

Taste and Mouthfeel:
All malts here, which is to be expected. There's basically a strong Ovaltine presence paired with a minor note of dark chocolate and candied cherries. The beer drinks smooth with even carbonation back to front. The finish is crisp but it leaves a strong cocoa presence long in to the aftertaste.

On a cold day maybe I would be feeling this a little more but right now this is very non refreshing and the smell quite frankly is a little bit of a put off.

Bottom Line:
Well I was expecting a bit more after having the Cynic Ale but this beer is still pretty solid. A brown ale it is, maybe not the best ever but still rather respectable especially considering many folks avoid this style like the plague for some reason. The smell is really the only thing rubbing me the wrong way here but that's a big part of tasting unfortunately. Hopefully the Furious won't let me down.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz. tall can into a standard pint glass. Thanks to JeffKrenner for sending this one several months back. No freshness date...

A: Dark brown, with a mahogany/maroon tint when held to light. Lightly clouded with sediment and little rising carbonation. Only about 1/2-finger of fizzy/creamy tan head, reducing to a thin film with a denser, thicker ring. Lace sticks in little blotches...

S: Excellent, hearty aroma rising from this - sweet and malty oatmeal, sweet/sour ripe cherries, toffee and vanilla, cocoa, baked bread. A little sourness, too.

T: Rich, chewy malt - sweet chocolate and caramel, creamy oats, roasted nuts, a little sour cherry. Acrid coffee bitterness in the finish and a puff of smoke. Vanilla and a slightly sweeter milk chocolate/cocoa are the lingering flavors. Lovely, ever-evolving flavors with each new sip...

M: Light-medium body. Creamy, fuller mouthfeel with a bite of sharp (citric) bitterness grabbing the back of the tongue and finishing chalky dry. A subtle warmth on the cheeks, lasting many minutes after the last sip.

D: An easy-drinking, nicely complex brown ale, sessionable at 5.1% ABV; maybe a little bitter/hoppy at 45 IBU for my taste, at least style-wise. Regardless, a very good one that's worth seeking out. Cheers to Surly Brewing for crafting another fine beer.

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

Many thanks to Jeff Krenner for bringing me a couple four packs of this fine brew on his recent visit to Madison.

One pint can poured into my Great Dane Imperial Pint Glass a deep brown body with an uber thick khaki head. Retention is solid for a few minutes but eventually settles to steady skim.Nice lacing. Visible carbonation streams when tilted and held to the light.

Interestingly, I find vanilla in the nose, followed by cherry. It's light but present. An oatmeal stout like chocolate oat aroma follows. Then more nuts and toast.

Palate hits with a sweet blast of caramel covered wild strawberry topped with nuts. Chocolate and toffee follow suit. Droplets of coffee and more nuts finish off.

Sweet and often twangy front with a exceptionally dry finish. Light bodied. Superbly drinkable. Slightly warming.

As I finish the beer I close my eyes and take a few sips. I could swear I was drinking an oatmeal stout. Coffee, chocolate, and cherry intermingled with that wonderful oat bite. Cool beer.

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Photo of boochmonkee
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The Mad Capper in Stillwater Minnesota has this in a can. They pour it into a tulip glass for you. It's presented well, and has become a hit among domestic macro drinkers.The brown/porter/stout is great combination giving it a lively dark color with a hint of sweetness, and modest alcohol content.

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Photo of drseamus
3.88/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Bender has a nice deep brown color with some ruby notes that glow when held to the light. Even though I poured from a height at the end and got a one finger head, it didn't last long.

S: Aromas are nutty, biscuity, malty, and caramel with a yeasty almost skunky note in the background.

T: Biscuity malty flavors are trying to push through hop bitterness, and are doing a decent job. The hops take over at the back of the palate and provide a nice bitterness and some grassy flavor. There are hints of chocolate and caramel just poking their heads up.

M: This beer has a medium body and very low carbonation.

D: There is a bit too much yeast in the flavor and certainly in the aroma. Other than that, it is a solid beer.

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Photo of barefootbrewer
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in my official Surly glass given to me in a trade – this beer is definitely brown. It has a high foamy head that seems like stick around. The aroma is faint but just slightly sour. The taste is malty and hoppy. The mouthfeel is medium to full. This beer really comes to life in your mouth – I’m impressed.

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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 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 Dansting
4.4/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Can. Poured a clear purplish-brown color with a thin light-brown head. Chocolate, nutty, and malty aroma. Awesome full mouthfeel. Flavor is a nice brown sugar and malty combo. Sweet, yet a nice bitter, hoppy finish. So far, I'm digging the Surly brews.

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Photo of Imstillthegman
4.33/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Faro for this can as part of The Great BIF Race 2007.

"Beer for a glass, from a can"....I couldn't agree more. Bender pours a semi-opaque brown with lighter, cola-like hues on the edges. Edges are clearer as well. Nice, big tan head fades down to a thin bubbly cap. This is one brown brown ale.

The aroma is malty, with some nuttiness, bread, and a sweet fruit way in the back. The smell makes me want to take a bite out of it.

Flavor is earthy...bit of tobacco, maybe? Dark roasted malts, nuts, a touch of yeast, and a subtle sweetness at the end blended with just a hint of bitterness. Me likey.

Creamy medium body. Smooth and easy drinking. Why, oh why, don't you Surly guys come out east?

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Photo of flexabull
4.45/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Notes from when I sampled this a few days ago.

Big thanks to LeonTrotsky and todd1 for sending me a few of these.

Pours from a very cool looking tall can. Looks like cola when poured. It's a bright brown color, clear, and with a nice white head.

Aromas are big. Nutty, bread like, and yeasty.

Upon the first sip, I notice the excellent mouthfeel. Big, smooth, creamy and full. Beer tastes a bit crisp, earthy, coffee like, nutty, and with some sweetness from the roasted malts. Finish has a kiss of bitterness from the hops.

Drinkability is top notch. All day.. every day... a perfect example of an American Brown, and would be an ideal session beer.

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Photo of hero27
4.38/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can..and a very cool looking one at that.
5.1% abv.
45 IBUs

Thanks go out to RobertDwight for hooking me up with a 4-pack of this.

Pours a very dark, reddish-brown with a sizeable tan head.
Aroma is of chocolate, nuts, & burnt malts.
Earthy malt flavors really take the reigns here..with plenty of complexity to keep you interested in a style that often gets overlooked.
Creamy mouthfeel helps blend in all the soft flavors very well..slightly dry in the finish. Very tasty, now I see what all the fuss is about...these folks at Surly seem to know what they're doing.

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Photo of demcorhip
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Great stuff, its nice to see the hype is well deserved. Thanks to nonBA Boob for bringing this north.

A dark ale, almost black with garnet highlights. Nice 3 finger tan coloured head formed on the pour into my Samuel Smith pint glass. Mildly carbonated and decently laced with intricate, almost clingy, lacings.

A very nice smelling brew. Creamy treacle and nut covered oatmeal. Hints of vanilla, cocoa powder, and anise also present. A decent amount of citrusy hops in the back end with the character of ruby red grapefruit.

Pretty similar to the nose. A slight roasted character appears before hops do. Slight surprise as the hops have a nice citrus character, but more like white grapefruit and orange peal versus the ruby red appreciated by my nose.

Creamy and smooth mildly carbonated almost medium bodied brew. Despite treacle character toasted nutty malts manage a somewhat dry finish, and are aided in doing so by the nicely balanced hop bitterness and wisp of roasted character.

Very drinkable brew. Would make a great segue into porters and stouts for novices to those styles due to its very mild roastiness. A great and easily drinkable brown ale in its own right and well deserving of the hype. I will be looking for this surprisingly complex brown ale again, and would enjoy seeing how it stacks up against other similar brews i enjoy.

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Photo of auxiliary
4.33/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

appearance - Deep brown color, nice head and left some nice lace on the glass.

smell - Smell of toasted malts and nuts

taste - Toasted malts and a nutty tang to it. Real nice flavor from a can?

mouthfeel - Medium body, low carbonation.

drinkability - I like brown ales, and this is one of the best I have tried in awhile.

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Photo of kenito799
3.95/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16oz can poured into a chalice.

Very happy to try Surly products on this visit to the Twin Cities. I was also pleased to see a craft brewer turning to the can for prservation of freshness and protection from light. I hope to see this trend spread.

This excellent brown ale poured a dark coca-cola brown with a small foamy head that receded to a ring. Roasted aroma was released more as the beer warmed, definite coffee notes, as well as distinct hoppy pine.

Mouthfeel is a bit light, not much body, on the crisp side, which isn't really in keeping with the style, but doesn't detract too much. Taste is very good, an interesting interplay between roasted coffee and chocolate and crisp hoppy bitterness. With a bit more body this would be even better (would love to try this from a cask) but this is an excellent effort. Some of these will find their way into my luggage for the trip home.

Edit: I brought some home and it has been in the fridge since laet May (4+ months). My review and impressions stand...the can preserved this low ABV beer perfectly. It is a bit more bitter and a bit more creamy in the mouth than I remember...therefore I will increase the "mouthfeel" score from 3 to 3.5.

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Photo of Graham21
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Surly made its way to Iowa (shout out to mom). Pours a dark reddish brown color, like dark cherries. Nice 4 finger head that left frothy lacings on the side of the glass. Smell of malts, fruits, yeast, vanilla, dark chocolate. Ths taste is def. not what i expected. It almost hits you like a stout. Dark roasted malts, hops, chocolate, coffee, nuts, smoky meat. Amazing! medium bodied, nice carbonation. A trreat to my taste buds.

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Photo of ArrogantB
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bender is a very, very dark brown beer. The head is a coffee-stain color and bumpy around the edges. It smells like chocolate milk as well as oats, mmm. The taste is really, really good but I can’t liken it to another flavor. The mouthfeel is very smooth. I don’t usually like brown ales but this one is a standout beer. I also really like the 16 ounce cans Surly uses, nice.

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

thanks to wankerweasel for this...
ironically enough, i had a craving for a coke and didn't have any. so i had this instead. going into the nonic it looked like a coke in terms of color, just not quite as black. tilting the glass shows this beer's clarity. light brown head. sweet chocolate aromas along with coffee beans, brown sugar, dark dried fruit and toffee with some dark bread notes thrown in. moderately sweet going down with some light underlying hop bitterness and carbonation preventing it from becoming cloying. this drinks more like a doppelbock than an ale to me. medium mouthfeel. some roasty and nutty notes on the back end. really good stuff at this abv and plenty going on to keep your interest.

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Photo of Viggo
4.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Beer for a glass, from a can! Thanks to bax72 for sending me this for BC2. I had a small sample of the Coffee Bender at DLD courtesy of JeffKrenner, too bad not enough for a review!

Pours a clear reddish brown, nice thick tan head forms, settles down to a decent layer, some spiral lacing on the glass. Looks like a brown ale. Smell is sweet and malty, toffee, earth, floral, some citrus, bread, nice light roast, smells pretty great. Taste is nice malty caramel up front, citrus, grass and bread, roast, iron, fruits in the finish, nice bitterness, lots of flavour. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, low carbonation, very smooth, pint is going quick. Nice example of an underappreciated style! Thanks Chris!

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz. can. 5.1% ABV, 45 IBU. Mahogany in color, but still fairly clear. Nice rocky tan head, that holds together very well. Great patches of lace left on the glass at the end.

Cocoa, caramel, and some light floral hop notes.

Coffee and cream flavor, toffee and vanilla as well. Lightly hopped, just to balance perfectly. Crisp. Lingering coffee flavor.

A bit of silky mouthfeel. Medium body, lower carbonation. Lots of flavors going on here. Complex, especially for a 5% Brown Ale. Fantastic.

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Photo of mnstorm99
4.53/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My wife's favorite beer. Brown Ale is the closest thing to call this beer although it is much deeper than any othe Brown I have had yet. Beautiful dark brown pour, with a disappering tan head. Nice lace that clings well to the glass. Smell is somewhat malty with a nutty tinge to it. flavor a touch of nutty hops and big malty finish with touches of carmel and coffee like flavors. This is not my favorite style of beer, but they packed alot of flavor into this one. If there are other Browns out there like this I might have to start drinking more.

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Photo of jwc215
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours deep brown with ruby highlights. A thick, off-white head descends to a thin cover, leaving plenty of lacing on the glass.

The smell is of a berry fruitiness with dark malt and caramel. Hints of coffee.

The taste is of coffee with cream, caramel and cocoa. Sweet, but controlled by a berry-like fruitiness and a bitter earthiness. Cherries, cocoa and vanilla intermingle in the long, tasty finish.

Velvety smooth, it is full-bodied and creamy. Flavors hang on.

Wow! This is delicious stuff! Unique too! The layers of flavor, inclusion of oats and general complexity while still remaining so smooth make this stand way out. Yum..wish it were available in my area.

Thanks to WankerWeasel for this work of art!

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Photo of oakbluff
3.8/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Can obtained from DBL in Minneapolis- poured into a Russian River tulip glass. Pours out a cola/rootbeer colour. Not much head to speak of. Smells nutty and some hops. Mouthfeel is very smooth (from the oats) with moderate carbonation. Very tasty brown ale, the hops add nice flavour without too much bitterness. Typical brown ale malt- nutty, roasty without heavy body. The oatmeal adds texture and an added taste dimension. This is a good session brew- not up to the level of Furious, but a great effort.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 754 ratings.
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