Bender | Surly Brewing Company

758 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: 758 | Ratings: 1,945
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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Photo of icemonkey908
4.85/5  rDev +18%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this one on tap a while ago. Presented a wonderful dark brown in the pint glass. I remember being surprised by the flavor of this one. It is not like other brown ales I have had but it is definitely a wonderful beer with very complex flavor. The flavor is nutty, with hints of chocolate and a lot of malt with just the right amount of hops to bring it all together. Delicious.

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

A damn fine looking brown ale and the best looking beer by far I've seen from can. Deep russet with reddish orange highlights gleaming depending on light enfraction. Tan head fades quickly and leaves no lace.

Very nutty burnt toffee aromas with a piney hop feel. Milk chocolate and prune with other dried fruits partering to make this a brown ale to be reckoned with. Bits of maple and brown sugar as well.

An absolutely delicious beer. Good hop character leaning toward pine, bittering and a bit flora. Brown sugar and milk chocolate with dried fruit and nuts. Carbonation is a bit prickly and couldn't be any better for this beer. This is an absolute gem and maybe the best session beer I've ever tried.

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Photo of skillerified
4.77/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This one's a beauty. Dark pour, maybe a little dark for a Brown Ale, but the style seems highly interpretive anyway. Mostly dark mahogany colors, red around the edges. Fluffy light tan head on top that peaks at about two fingers, then fades to a nice cap that's seeming to stick around. Maybe a little light on the lace though.

The Belgian influence seems strongest to me. Notes of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices. Bready and yeasty with some hints at sweet fruit, slightly vinous. Makes me think of the kind of cooking people do around Christmas time. Also reminiscent of a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout. Maybe a touch of a citric orange rind. Slightly alcoholic, but with a fruit touch to that too, sort of like a fruit based cordial. Deep and complex.

Again, the Belgian influence is strong on the palate. Light caramelized coffee with touches of a creamy coffee based liquor. A touch smokey. Soft dark bread with a vinous character baked in. A definite alcohol note is present, but not so strong as to be unpleasant.

This brew has a strange warm and inviting texture to it. The moment it hits the lips and finds it's way inside, you feel like you're coming home on a cold winter night with a nice fire already blazing in the fireplace. Strange way to describe mouthfeel, but that's what it reminds me of. It's extremely smooth and well balanced. Seems to get a little sticky at the back of the throat as it goes, but that's not necessarily all bad.

I think I'm ready for another one already. Damn fine brew. Definitely lives up to the hype.

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Photo of blitz134
4.16/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brown ales aren't my favorite style by any means, usually a bit too light for me. But I've heard good things about this one. Lets see...

Clear, crimson body. Quite dark, but light showed through when held up. Poured with about 2" of tan head that receeded slowly in a lumpy mass and stuck all over the glass. Seriously impressive for a brown ale, the best looking brown I've seen to date.

Aroma is quite upfront compared to its competitors. Lots of toasted malts with its share of chocolate and a hint of nuttiness. Has some creamy nuances as well. Nice.

Taste is loaded with flavor. Toasted malts as expected, more cocoa and that typical brown ale twang with its slight acrid bite which I also find typical of oatmeal brews. A bit of earthy, herbal hops in the finish. Quite good.

Nice medium full body. Quite the change from the watery browns I'm used to. Lower carbonation levels allow the flavors to come through but add just a bit of crispness.

The oatmeal does wonders for this beer. It really brings out the mouthfeel and head retention and works well with the typical brown ale flavor profiles. This one goes down easy, but I couldn't put back as many as I could of a normal brown due to how heavy this one sits on the stomach. This is a must try though, no doubt...the best brown I've had, period.

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Photo of umustdrink
4.29/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Deep amber color. Head is a light brown and settles to a film. Lacing is average.

S - Smell is a sweet dark caramel malt, slightly toasty and with a faint nutty character.

T - Slightly bitter to start with a sugary sweetness, leads into an oily nuttiness and finishes with a bitter caramel.

M - Consistency is medium. Carbonation level is just about right, providing a short bite.

D - Overall, a very solid beer, in the can or on-tap.

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

Bender pours dark red-brown - so dark that it looks black until held to the light. It has a two-finger tan head that sticks well and laces very nicely.

The smell is roasty. More like a stout or porter than a brown ale. There is a bit of citrus and mustiness there as well.

The taste has roastiness and a bit of oatmeal. Oh my God - Roasted Oatmeal! There is a coffee-like note in there too.

Mouthfeel is great. Nice and full at the center of the tongue with hoppy crispness around the edges.

Drinkability is stellar. Low enough alcohol to session, but intensely interesting in flavor and mouthfeel that one is completely satisfying as well. Strongly recommended.

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Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.95/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16 oz can. Sea salt and orange zest aroma. Wispy. Moist and fresh. Oat dust and lemon juice. Restrained. Pours a touching florid mahogany, with blood red fringe and a soapy tan head, creamy. Nice lacing. On the tongue, a robust kick of malty sugars and roasted malt. Begins with a salty sea oat sweep and then slides into a coarse and grainy tooth of grain, orange peel, toasted almond and sweet honey. The oat brings in great character to this brown. Not overly hoppy, in my opinion, a nice balance with some floral and resin bitterness in the back end. A rather quaffable and delicious brew. Nicely constructed.

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Photo of cbl2
4.15/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my friend Anna, a Minnesota native for grabbing this while visiting home. No best by date.


Pours a dark mahogany brown topped by a thin film of tan head.


Sweet roasted dark malts dominate the nose. Notes of peanut, coffee and a faint herbal aura imparted by the hops, which lend this brew their 45 IBU's.


Slickly smooth mouthfeel kicks off this bitter/nutty brown. Dark roasted malts impart a pleasant hazelnut coffee feel to this. Malts are nicely complimented by a grassy bitterness that is imparted by the hops.

This is the first sessionable beer I've had in a while. Low alcohol combined with big flavor is something I usually don't encounter. Surly has brewed up a nice concoction here.

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Photo of WeisGuy
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to JeffKrenner for the Surly hook-up.

a - pours a deep dark brown, nearly black, two-finger tan head with good retention and great lacing

s - great mix of bright hops and roasted malt and caramel, hints of vanilla and coffee as well

t - semi-sweet roasted malt up front with a nice mild hoppy bitterness in the body with some nuttiness as well, finish is vanilla and coffee mixed with some bitterness, very very nice

m - great fuller-bodied mouthfeel, probably a product of the oats, moderate carbonation, finish is only slightly dry

d - very drinkable, a great sessionable brown if I've ever had one

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

Poured from a 16oz "tall boy" can into two 20oz imperial pints. Thanks to Killer for the assist. Extra special thanks to JeffKrenner for the MN hookup. I owe you brother!

A: Grade B maple syrup brown with russet highlights. Small khaki head. Some yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.

S: Sweet malt and something creamy like oats dominate the aromas here. Mild hoppy aroma as well.

T: Excellent toasted malt, caramel, and chocolate flavors are in the forefront. Bringing up the rear is a lightly tart fruit and hop 1-2 punch.

M: Sort of thin and quite prickly at first but it comes alive and gains thickness as it come up to temp.

D: Superlative drinkability. This is a fantastic sessionable brown ale that only loses points for being a little on the thin side at first pour.

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

Poured from a big can to a tall glass mug. The liquid is a nice Brown, deep and clear with good carbonation. The head is tan 2++ fingers and leaves nice lace.

The smell is sweet, nutty malt and a slight hopyness.

The taste pushes on over and above. The malt is an eye opener. Nutty with abundant chocolate notes. Yeah this beer from a can matches the best DFH Indian brown I have had. The is a superior tasting brew and really sits aloft in the style. A nice hopy finish but the malt stays for a very nice balenced beer.

The mouth feet is also superior, Very smooth and creamy, thck not sticky, great carbonation. Real nice.

The drinkability is great I will try for more in a trade.

I can not thank NFLMVP enought for enlisting objectivemonkey to sent me a taste of this great brew. you two are awesome, Thank you so much.

Prosit und Zum Wohl, MK

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Photo of bjohnson
4.62/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to skinnyelvis for hooking me up with this offering from Surly. Quite excited about this.

A: Pours a deep brown with a thin caramel colored head that has slight retention. Excellent tight lacing.
S: Yum! Deep cocoa aromas penetrate the nose. Nutty almond notes give off a sweet twang. Earthy, but very refreshing smelling. Barley notes if you swirl the glass enough.
T/M: Very smooth right from the start. Big malty notes. Robust and bold. Subtle nestle cocoa flavors mix well with sweet caramel notes. Long finish with a good level of bitterness that hangs into the aftertaste. Well balanced with actually a pretty full body--mostly from the robustness. Slight creaminess, but theres almost a crispness.
D: A fine brown ale from Surly. Excellent balance and amazing mouthfeel leaves the palate wanting more.

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Photo of kirok1999
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

What the hell is this beer doing in a can? Oh well, pop it open and keep an open mind.
First impressed by the color, very dark brown with a nice light brown head.
Smells of malt, nuts, slight chocolate, hops.
Taste is the same but more. Slightly thin mouthfeel but made up for with the very nice taste. And at 5.1% ABV a very nice session beer.

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

Pours a coffee brown with a decent sized medium tan head that slowly fades. Aroma is rich and malty, some cola-y sweetness with some fruitiness. Rich and malty in the taste as well, some chocolate, big dose of caramel malt and finishing with a nice hoppy dryness. Fairly smooth with a tingle of spicy hops on the tongue. An easy to drink and solid brown.

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Photo of sloejams
4.32/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to beckje01 for including this in trade.

This pours a dark deep brown from the pint can leaving a 2 finger robust cappucino head. Aromas of coffee, roasted malts and even some hops breathe through. The malts dominate the taste too with a strong crisp hop bite finish. Almost seems to taste like a cross between a dunkel and a brown ale smothered in hops. Admittedly, American Browns are not my favorite. This is easily the best of the style that I've encountered.

Between this and Furious it's easy to see how Surly is becoming a force to reckon with in the Midwest. I find myself coming around to the cans too. Go on Surly!

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Photo of budgood1
4.63/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

pours out of the growler a deep dark brown colour, very dark, with ruby edges. frothy but fine head sticks around while i sip the whole glass leaving nice rings of lace. later pours produce even livlier head and lace. citrusy hoppy aroma with milk chocolate and dark roasted malts. hints of phenol. the taste is amazing for a brown ale, but obviously this beer defies that strict style. it's porter character sticks out most, and the hopping is evident in every sip like a juicy pale ale. sweet malts, bitter roasted malts, some belgian notes, yeasty and doughy. as it warms, it becomes fruitier both from the malt and the juicy hops. it's complex and seemingly layered to no end. damn tasty. bitter in the end...long and lingering. stocky body and big and rich mouthfeel make it hard to believe that this is only 5.1%. the flavour profile makes it hard not to want keep sipping this brew. i'm sure i'll polish off this growler no problem. would hold up well to any assortment of food. this is just delicious.

my first surly brew and i'm impressed.

thanks to my sis for hooking this up for x-mas!

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Photo of Chaz
3.9/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours cola-brown to the eye, and a deep dark amber when held to the light. Good clarity and carbonation looks about right -- a can-conditioned beer? Sure, that's a step in the right direction. Uniform tan head settles after a good couple of minutes after a medium pour from the bottom-open can (I collect these things, folks!) Good lacing. Very good aromatics on the nose, merging 1 part of the straight-up malt sweetness I'd expect from a brown with 2 parts hop (bitter, aromatic) and 2 parts very good dark malt qualities: I'm catching notes of ripe red apple under some cherry tartness, as well as toffee and light cocoa. Poured this cold, but let it warm a spell. Light on the tongue upon the first sip, with big toffee and cocoa notes. Great aromatics, a definite marriage of porter and brown ale. Slightly tangy, with the cherry tartness from the nose coming through, and supple hop bitterness helping to balance this. Not as sweet as a lot of the brown ales, but on-par with most of the better ones for drinkability. Fairly roasty malt qualities here ala a porter, but with more dryness than many porters . . . an accomplished blend of the Brown and Porter styles. Alcohol comes through at times, but fairly unobtrusively. I can't really find the APA-derived stylistic tendency in here apart from the hopping, and again I find this more in line with a West-coast American Porter - tomato - tomahto, eh? Excellent drinkability, but I'm personally torn: as I drink it I look fo the malty sweetness (and yes, even some of the diacetyl) of a couple of my favorite American Brown Ales, but halfway through I get the drying hop bite and a rather quick finish. Mouthfeel and body are a wee bit on the thin side, but in fact this does nothing but improve drinkability - no disrespect intended, but I see this as a great "style cheater" to a nitro stout ala Guinness Draught. I have enjoyed Bender served fresh from the tap on several occasions and it's been very good each time, and this can follows suit, in fact it may even be better than the taps! Great consistency, great local availability, and great packaging too. So when is Surly gonna bring these great canned ales to the rest of the (non-beergeek) world outside of Minnesota? That's the $10,000 question. I'll bet the craft beer-drinking Midwest is waiting for Surly with open arms. . . . Bring On The Cans!

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

Dark, molasses brown body with a dense finger of light tan head. Laces up the glass nicely. Brown sugar oatmeal malt, nutty toasted aroma, and milk chocolate, set against herbal hops. Toasted, dark chocolate bitterness soon gives way to chewy, sugary oatmeal and chocolate. Damn fine. Light herbal bitterness takes it away, with leftover chocolate and light coffee in the finish. Medium-full body with a creamy, coating feel. Well made and unique.

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Photo of Sammy
4.03/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Fresh and tasty pint can, thanks to Tempest. Large brown head on dark brown, much like a coffee. Moderate pleasant mocha chocolate coffee aroma, and the taste does deliver. Modest roast, malty without sweet. Secondary a bit dry and bitter. Very drinkable. A few minutes later, it is all gone.

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Photo of bennetj17
3.93/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one has a real coffee/amber color, very dark, with a slim tan head that lasts for a couple minutes. Tangy raisin with a hint of charred ash in the aroma. Somewhat dobblebock like. The taste has a good complexity of flavors: raisin, caramel, toasted nut, faint vanilla. It is tangy sweet, and after a few sips a good dose of bitterness shows up and lingers nicely. Thickness is moderate, it's not chewy at all, very smooth. Average carbonation.

Overall I thought this beer had some good depth. It was very drinkable, but I would have scored it higher if some of those individual flavors opened up more. Thanks to SkinnyElvis for this one, my first from Surly, and hopefully not my last...

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Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.02/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to MeLikeBeer for this one.

This beer, poured out of the colorful 16 oz. can, looked dark brown at first but glowed like grape juice when held to the light. The head was but a little collar of white.

Smells like there’s a base of a sticky sweet barley wine here with some aromatic barley that brings traces of vanilla and caramel, but this is then subsumed by some sour and woody porter-like dry-sourness and a touch of coffee. Reminds me a bit of Perkuno’s hammer, God rest it‘s soul…

The flavor comes across surprisingly dry with little hints of coffee but most consists of a dry nutty roasted caramel. This finishes ever so slightly smoky with a touch of birch bark. At the end a little lime rind creeps in and my mouth is left with a residual coffee.

The mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with a fine, well paired carbonation. This tended, though, to dry my mouth out a bit.

Not bad at all. I must say I liked it better on tap, but I’d be happy to have another any day.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,945 ratings.
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