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 brewcrew76
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - A brilliant deep brown/mahogany with a thick creamy khaki head. Plenty of lacing left behind.

S - Toasted nuts, baked bread, slight hint of chocolate and a touch of smokiness.

T - Bready with chocolate and caramel followed by roasted nuts and a touch of smokiness.

M - Medium body and creamy (almost nitro like).

D - A solid brown. All 3 Surly beers I have tried now have bold dominant flavors that are enjoyable (truly fitting the name Surly).

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

Received from JeffKrenner as part of BC2. Thanks!
Clear and dark brown with ruby highlights and a short, dense tan head off a vigorous pour. Plenty of fine lacing. Aromas of pine, caramel, toffee, and lightly roasted malts dominate. Some fruit character, a bit figgy. Maltiness was reminiscent of old ales. Stiff bitterness throughout, quite strong in the finish. Toffee and caramel sweetness provide some balance and light pine/floral hops round things out. Medium body and carbonation, some creaminess and a little dry. This beer definitely shows some aggression, but it's really quite nice. I'd love to try this on tap. Recommended!

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.23/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first taste of a Surly Brewing Company brew. Turns out, it was worth the patience and the hype. The sound of the beer hitting the bottom of the glass promises malty richness. The appearance is a meduim viscous, dark brown with ruby highlights. A 1" head never fell. Aromas of solid barley malts, semi-sweet cocoa, and bold coffee notes blended well with complementary caramel, toffee, and a touch of fermented roasted malts. The flavors closely resemble the terrificly balanced aromas but show impressive intensity, strenth, roundness, and without compromising the balance. The cocoa flavors portray mild bitterness and solid richness. The coffee is very Columbian, and the hop bitterness balances the bitterness found in the cocoa and coffee. A mild lacto-sweetness rounds out the coffee acidity well. As the beer falls into the finish a firm nutty (pecan) flavor intensifies and carrys the beer into the finish. Very clean and bitter-balanced in the finish, allowing a soft, coffee / chocolate lingering. Not sure if this is the best Brown that I have ever has, but I am certain that I have had none better. Thanks Nathan15.

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Photo of Damian
4.43/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Drank from 1 pint/16 fl. oz. can
Acquired in a trade with mnfinnkidd

Poured a dull, dark, orangey-brown with ruby highlights when held to the light. There was absolutely no head on the beer (it appeared to be completely flat, although this was not the case).

The aroma was incredibly malty rich and sweet. Notes of rummy alcohol, dark and dried fruits and a distinct yeastiness were noticeable. At one point, some flowery, fresh nuances (most likely from the hops) came out as well.

The taste was quite similar to the aroma. A mix of super sweet caramel and toasted malts ran the full length of my palate. Sugary toffee was noticeable as well, along with burnt currants, raisins and plums mid-palate. (At times, I felt like I was drinking a Belgian strong dark ale.) As the liquid warmed, the beer really came alive and the sweet caramel flavors further intensified. Dark, roasted coffee and some alcohol warmth became noticeable on the back end and carried into the finish. The finish was dry, crisp (most likely from the oats) and a touch hoppy with lots of residual sweetness in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel was creamy, frothy, pillowy and full-bodied for the style, with a rich, velvety texture that allowed the liquid to glide along my tongue.

As for drinkability, this beer was smooth enough to be sessionable, yet flavorful enough to stand on its own.

All in all, this was a very unique and intense brown ale. Few others in its category even come close to displaying the complexities found in this brew. I only wish it were available in my part of the country.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.48/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Can courtesy of Stine: Poured a cloudy dark brown color ale with a nice foamy head with better then average retention. Aroma of caramel malt with light bitter hops. Taste is also dominated by caramel with some light bitter hops. Body is quite full with some great carbonation. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this one considering the brilliance of the two other offerings I had from this fine brewer.

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