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Bender | Surly Brewing Company

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756 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: 756 | Ratings: 1,937
Photo of falloutsnow
3.99/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From: France44 dot com
Date: Bottled 12/2/12
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Surly's Bender takes a varied and diverse approach towards the brown ale style, bringing in noticeable cocoa alongside bread-toffee sweetness, vanilla, and the occasional flash of something coffee-esque and reminiscent of wood-like, herbal hops. Yet, for its interesting aromas and flavors, the beer also seems a bit muddied and indistinct, with a slightly harsh vanilla (or something) presence in the aroma and a bit too much astringency in the taste. A beer I would enjoy occasionally due to its easy sessionability and generally good flavor/aroma.

Pours a dark beige head of about 2cm, made up of small bubbles, which has average retention length of about a minute. In its decline, the foam leaves significant lacing along the sides of the glass, from waves in retreat to thick lines and splotches. The body is a dark brown to nearly black color, with light revealing a secret, transparent ruby color. Carbonation is visible only at the top of the glass, the body being opaque enough to render it mostly invisible. What is visible indicates a fairly lively beer, due to the many small bubbles seen edging their way to the top.

Aroma is of toffee, chocolate malts, vanilla, with biscuit-like accents, along with woodsy hops (probably Willamette or something similar). The vanilla aspect seems particularly pronounced for some reason, occasionally being more noticeable than the toffee, which I find somewhat unappealing. Otherwise, this smells fairly compelling.

Overall, the beer has fairly strong toffee-bread flavors that are balanced by cocoa, vanilla, and mild hop bitterness; a bit astringent, though, and also somewhat muddied in the mix of flavors, if one wants to be critical. Front of palate finds cocoa, vanilla, and hints of rich toffee sweetness. This leads to a mid-palate of toffee sweetness and rich brown bread tempered by cocoa, vanilla, faint coffee and mild bitterness with light wood-like hops that also have a touch of citrus. Back of palate finds toffee and bready sweetness overpowering cocoa, faint coffee, and vanilla. Fairly pleasant aftertaste, though somewhat astringent, of moderate bitterness that blends well with the chocolate, toasted nut, and coffee flavors of the beer that hang around.

Beer is medium to medium-heavy in body, thickness likely due to the addition of oats. Carbonation is of medium-low intensity, leading to a smooth, fairly substantial mouthfeel with light flecks of carbonation felt across the palate. Closes quite dry, almost astringent, with light stickiness lingering on the palate.

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Photo of Sarlacc83
3.94/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz can from kscaldef that he ordered online. Thanks!

A: Toasted brown coloration with a placid browned head. No legs to speak of, as you'd expect from a 5% beer.

N: Lots and lots of coffee and oats. Has that graininess to the nose of beers from days past. Leather and pine accent the very bitter baker's chocolate. Very bready and toasty with a slight pecan flavoring.

T: Lots of roasted coffee and some toasted staves. Hops are noticeable, adding an earthy floor to the proceedings with a touch of pine and some grapefruit. Burnt caramel and baker's chocolate. More of the oats.

M: Quite smooth and light, yet it some how feels full, like eating a piece of bread.

O: An accomplished brown ale that rolls around the tastebuds and is deserving of the high ranking it has accomplished.Seems to me to be the kind of thing you'd find yourself drinking in an English pub, albeit a quaff a bit hoppier and more forward than a bitter.

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Photo of sevenarts
3.83/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep, dark brown, with a reddish tinge when held up to light. Generous, fluffy tan head that fades quickly but leaves behind some nice lacing.

S: Some subdued malty aromas, brown sugar, hints of mild chocolate, a whiff of hoppiness. Nothing very strong.

T/M: A good malty treat, with caramel, sugar, chocolate and coffee, some mild but lingering hop bitterness on the back end. Tingly, carbonated mouthfeel.

O: A fine, tasty, mild brown ale with a good amount of subtle, gentle flavor to it. The Coffee Bender, with its massive infusion of big coffee flavor, is better, but this is a nice and easy-drinking base beer.

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Photo of emyers
3.58/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark ruby-brown with a big off-white head. Leaves a nice lacing.

Smell: Mild, but pleasant. Toffee, bread, yeast, just a hint of chocolate.

Taste: Toasted biscuits, more toffee, roast, nuts and caramel sweetness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: The oats really come through here. Very smooth. Light to medium carbonation. Goes down easy.

Overall: A solid representation of a brown ale. I really like the addition of the oats.

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Photo of joemcgrath27
4.55/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - dark but clear deep brown, thumb of head dissipated slowly leaving plenty of consistent lacing
S - plenty of nutty and cola aromas, mild molasses, touch of vanilla and coffee
T - sweet nutty malt with light fruity syrup, cola, espresso builds through the finish with the nutty flavour lasting from front to back, this is truly exceptional
M - creamy smooth, sweet and full, this would be such a great session beer
O - this beer really blew me away, it is so creamy smooth and big on flavour, I like brown ales but its not a go to style for me generally, but this beer has the best qualities of this style, BIG THANKS to andrenaline for introducing me to this brewer by including their beer in our recent trades

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Photo of metter98
4.11/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is very dark red in color (brown when viewed from afar) and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a two finger high tan head that died down ever so slowly and left a thin but dense head covering the surface.
S: There are light aromas of cocoa and caramel malts in the nose.
T: The taste has some similarities with the smell but is much more complex and has additional notes of chocolate and coffee.
M: It feels medium-bodied, smooth and a little creamy on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer has great complexity and interesting flavors. The oats lend lots of smoothness to the mouthfeel.

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Photo of kawilliams81
4.2/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz can into a Jester King pint.

A- pours dark amber, brown with a 2 finger tan head. Big walls of lacing coat the glass.

S- sweet toffee, toast, brown sugar, some roast.

T- toasted caramel malts, toffee, slight roast and bitterness.

M- medium body and carbonation. Refreshing and easy drinking.

O- very tasty brown ale. Nice sweet malts, roast, and bitterness to balance this beer.

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

A: Pours a clear very dark reddish brown in color with some garnet red highlights and light to moderate amounts of carbonation. The beer has a finger tall creamy dark beige that reduces to a few small patches of large bubbles, a very thin film covering the entire surface of the beer, and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: The overall aroma of this beer is malty and sweet with notes of caramel and roasted malts. There are lighter aromas of cocoa, coffee, and pecan nuttiness.

T: Moderate flavors of rich caramel malts with some lighter notes of roasted malts and hints of cocoa. There are also some light amount of coffee flavors, pecan nuttiness, and very subtle hints of vanilla. There is a light hoppiness near the finish that contributes some light bitterness.

M: Medium bodied with moderate to heavy amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: Extremely easy to drink and sessionable - really nice rich flavors and the added benefit of coming in a can which makes it a great choice for tailgating during football season.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.28/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured out as a deep reddish brown color with a very nice cream colored head on top. The retention and lacing are top notch on this very good looking beer. The smell of the beer has a very nice roasted aroma with a touch of sweetness on the nose too. The taste is sweet upfront, a little creamy, there is a roasted nut flavor, hints of chocolate and coffee too. The aftertaste is moderately bitter. The mouthfeel of the beer is smooth, lightly carbonated and highly drinkable. Overall this beer is really good. Very nice brew.

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

Poured from 16 oz can into Cheers drinking mug. Served chilled...

A) Deep dark brown. Nice 2 finger rocky head that was khaki in color. Ample lacing...

S) Nice darker malt, light roast, earthy and a bit nutty, some bready sweetness.

T) Near the nose, some coffee too, and a little caramel, but really what stood out for me, and the thing I enjoyed most was the hops presence in this brown ale. A real pleasant earthy/grassy hops to this. Excellent aftertaste...

M) Good medium body on this brew. This goes down super smooth, with moderate carbonation. Really good mouthfeel, high drinkability.

O) This is another really good offering from Surly. Really tasty + easy drinking. This brewery has really impressed me. I wish I had easier access to their beers. Glad to have tried it, and glad to recommend.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.25/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 16oz can into new belgium globe glass. Canned on 1/2/12. Not sure if a brown ale should be consumed as fresh as possible, but here goes anyway...
Pours a deep deep brown with nice tan head. Oily and great lacing. Really nice chocolate aromas, mixed with a bit of toffee and some slight hoppy aromas - even a bit of crisp-ness. Taste is very nice bitter roasted chocolate, deff bitter, almost like baking chocolate. Hints of caramel aftertaste. Again, its a little bitter, but its good and representative of the style. Great brown ale which shouldnt be passed up.

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Photo of micromaniac129
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A good looking beer this bender is with it's deep amber brown color, it's tall beige head and abundent carbonation. Plenty of lacing too, I might add leaving spotty lacing.

Desent aromatics, caramel, toffee and some chocolate malts. Hints of nuttiness also. Hops are light but thier in there.

A malty bomber here tasting like the nose one can taste caramel malts toffee and hints of chocolate.
There is also some roasted malts but light. Hops are there too but I don't really taste them that much. You sense it in the bitter finish (semi).

Drinks smooth on the palette but also there is a touch of abrisiveness in the finish.

There is depth in the flavor here and pleasing to look at. It's a good brown ale.
This will no doubt rank farily high on the brown list that includes Dogfish and Bell's.

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Photo of TheQuietMan22
3.97/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving type: 16-ounce can. The “CANNED ON” date is “08/02/12.”

Appearance: Poured into a nonick pint glass. The color is medium (though leaning dark) brown with copper and ruby tones. Two fingers of thick tanned head dissipated fairly slowly to leave a rocky lacing and ring of foam around the edge.

Smell: A blend of toasted and pale malts. Caramel, toffee, vanilla, dark cherries, brown sugar, and black and raspberry licorice. There is a little bit of chocolate, too, which makes it smell like chocolate-covered cherries. The oatmeal comes out as well, providing a smooth, richness to the aroma.

Taste: Surprisingly, the first sip offers roasted bitterness. On subsequent sips it fades into the background but is still present, tingling the cheeks. It has a nice, smooth body, but it is not exactly “velvety” (as the description on the can suggests). Toasted malts, caramel, toffee, vanilla, a hint of coffee (which offers the roasted bitterness), and brown sugar. As it warms it beings to exhibit a light, floral hoppiness. No dark fruits, though.

Drinkability: Solid. This is an excellent brew.

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

A - Nice dark brown with a ruby red hue, thumb of head, solid retention with sheeting lacing.

S - Nice caramel, hints of hops, musty cocoa and vanilla cola.

T - Same as the nose, loads of cocoa, intense caramel, fruity yeast in the finish with a nutty flavour that lingers.

M - Medium, smooth, and dry.

O - Incredibly tasty brown ale, loads of flavour, easy drinking and easily sessoinable. This is indeed a top notch brown ale.

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

Can from Minnesota. From notes.

A - Poured bright with a dark, dark red colour. Good visible carbonation, two fingers of beige head leaving good lace rings and a half finger of retention.

S - Coffee, a little floral. Simple but nice.

T - Coffee, nutty, noticable hops, floral, bready malts. Nice.

M - Good carbonation, medium body, mild bitterness with some coffee in there too.

O/D - A nice brown. Noticable but not overpowering hop contribution adds a nice element. A nice take on the brown style.

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Photo of IronLover
4.17/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to KO for bringing this one back from MN. Dark brown in color with amber hues and perfect clarity. Poured with a thick, dense foam that slowly reduced to a wispy cap that left wet lacings on the glass. Dark roasted malt, dark chocolate and floral hop aromas with a hint of coffee on the back end. Oily feel up front with assertive carbonation through the middle and a bit of a the thin, watery finish. Dark roasted and burnt malt flavors up front with chocolate flavors beneath. Floral hop bitterness through the middle that transition to toasted malt just before the finish. Finishes crisply with a lingering charred malt and hop bitterness.

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Photo of LXIXME
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A big tan to light brown head slowly settles down a top clear burnt amber colored beer.

Dark roasted malts, hardy vanilla bean, roasted chestnuts, and specialty coffee aroma.

Dark roasted sweet malts with a coffeeish and roasted nut tastes make this a pretty tasty affair.

A full bodied beer that has a dryish aftertaste that still brings the roasted malt tastes with it.

A very worthy beer, I enjoyed this on a warm summers day, I can only imagine how good this would be on a cool winters night.

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

Appearance: Lovely dark brown. Mostly opaque with maroon hues when light shines though it. Decent one finger soapy off-white head.

Aroma: Dark roasty malts. A little coffee and dark chocolate.

Taste: Fresh hop bitterness at the beginning then transforms into bitter chocolate. Definitely a hoppy brown ale. Really no sweetness in this one which is a little surprising but doesn't take away from enjoyment of the delicate balance of hop bitterness vs roasted malt bitterness.

Mouthfeel: A little drying on the palate. Very smooth otherwise. A little thinner than I expected but basically right on.

Final Thoughts: Surly has a great line-up of beers. As is usual with all the styles they make, Bender is not your typical Brown Ale. It's more hop-assertive and hits all the right malt notes. The price is a little steep, but definitely one to buy!

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Photo of NODAK
4.55/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Aroma is certainly pleasant, and mildly sweet with notes of caramel and cocoa showing themselves. Nice. Inviting.

Pours a dark brown in my glass with an ample, fluffy head with pretty good lacing. Impressive.

Taste is a damned impressive and tasty brown ale. Definite cocoa here as well as a hint of coffee and sweet caramel. The can advertises vanilla and cream being noticeable, and I was actually somewhat surprised that it was perceptible near the finish in this one, which adds a layer of complexity and drinkability to this beer that most in the style don't offer. Very tasty. Hops are slight, only offering a twinge of dryness on the finish.

One of the better brown ales I've had, to be honest. It's a style that seems to rarely "wow" at all, but this beer will go down as easily as any no matter what season it is.

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Photo of brydeen
3.68/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown, almost ruby body, with a thick, creamy khaki colored head. Good retention and lacing throughout.

S: Slightly roasty, with a slight nutiness. A little bit of bitter aroma too, but nothing coming through too clearly.

T: Starts sweet, but finishes a bit of hoppy bitterness. A little roasted malt, with chocolate and day old coffee.

M: Body is much thinner than it looks. A tad watery, with creamy smooth carbonation.

O: Solid, but something seems to be lacking. The taste is there, but has a bit of a stale finish. A little thicker body would do this beer well too.

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Photo of rlee1390
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A-Black in the glass but a deep ruby around the edges, two finger almost tan head with some lacing.

S-Roasted malt, caramel and toffee.

T-Nice blend of roasted malt and nuts, caramel, some earthy notes, bitterness is present. Some, not much, vanilla.

M-Medium bodied, some carbonation, very smooth but a tad watery.

O-A solid brown ale, having Coffee Bender soon which hopefully with the added coffee will be better.

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Photo of macrosmatic
3.96/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Cyclone8 for this one! Poured from can into pint glass.

A: Beautiful reddish brown, very translucent. Nice 1 1/2 finger head that is just off-white. Small amount visible carbonation.

S: Roasted sweet malts. Undertones of caramelized sugar. Oatmeal? Or maybe I'm imagining it.

T: Follows nose - the carmelly nutty sweet malts dominate. Hints of hop bitterness. Just hints of a nutmeg/allspice spicy undertones.

M: Medium mouthfeel, nice carbonation. No alcohol presence here at all.

O: This is a very solid example of a brown ale, truly an all-night session beer. Not my personal favorite style, but this is a textbook exemplar.

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Photo of Amalak
4.56/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A. Extremely dark brown. Only a slight hint of light comes through. Thick and sediment. Big foamy tan head with tons of lacing.

S. Very nice nut and malt scent.

T. A lovely nutty-malt brew. Some toffee undertones. A mild bitter bite.

M. Carbonated and tingly.

O. Very nicely balanced. Flavor and thick, this is a refreshing brown ale that gets it very right.

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Photo of ferrari29
4.3/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Beer poured from can into a Nonic shaped pint glass

A - Beer pours with a nice dark brown colored body; moderate level of visible carbonation; head is nice and thick, about 1.5 fingers in size and holds very well; good amount of sticky lacing forms around the edge of the glass; body has a nice slick motor oil look to it

S - Deep roasted malt nose; slightly nutty; touch of oatmeal, brown sugar, some nice vanilla and finishes off with coffee beans; gives this beer a hearty smell

T - Sip starts off with a traditional nutty roasted malt taste; immediately followed up with a creamy oatmeal taste; hint of vanilla graze your tongue and finishes off with a touch of cocoa; caramel malt and brown sugar

M - Very creamy; chewy; not too heavy on the hop side, and leaves behind a lingering chalky feel on the roof of your mouth and back of the tongue

D - Outstanding brown ale taste; probably one of the better ones I've had do to its easy taste and feel; flavors and scents are good, but not overwhelming and you can really taste all the ingredients that were put into this beer; fantastic

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Photo of ForWhatAlesYou
4.05/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap into a pint glass at Stout's Pub in Falcon Heights, MN.

A:Clear, deep ruby brown in color. Soft, short (due to pour) light tan head. Nice lace (thank you clean glass).

S: This is nice up front. Good round hoppiness with roasted malts. As it mellows and sits it develop caramel and toasty notes with a hint of spiced baked goods.

T: Well rounded biscuity notes with a nice floral balancing hop profile. Rich and toasty while the hops are citrusy enough to balance.

M: Just about perfect. Light oily chewiness is prevalent while a drying note finishes. Nice.

D: Very. If you've never had it....please do.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,937 ratings.
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