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Bender | Surly Brewing Company

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757 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: 757 | Ratings: 1,943
Photo of brentk56
4.7/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Pours a hazy mahogany color with garnet highlights and a creamy tan head that persists reasonably well and leaves shards of lace

Smell: Toasted brown bread, cocoa and hints of sweet orange

Taste: Starts out with a brown bread with chocolate and mild coffee flavors; hints of oat peek through by mid-palate; after the swallow, the beer shows that it is not just another brown ale by bumping up the bitterness with a nice citrus flavor

Mouthfeel: Creamy and full bodied with a prickly carbonation

Drinkability: Off the charts, this is one great brown that pushes the style in a direction any hophead would appreciate

Thanks, tempest, for the opportunity

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Photo of Arbitrator
4.69/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Chilled can into a glass. I received two recently, one from unclejedi and one from beerwolf77. I don't know which sent the fresher one, but that's what I'm reviewing here. Thanks, guys!

A: Pours a very dark, but not opaque, brown body that glows a faint garnet against the light. The head is kind of weak; it doesn't rise all that high at all, and the light beige bubbles fall over a minute or so into a thin cap on the brew.

S: Nuts. Wow, this is incredibly nutty. It also features a nice dose of chocolate and coffee. There's a spicy, caramelized dark fruit bent to it. It's quite exotic and entirely surprising for a ~5% brown ale. It reminds me of a nice bruin, actually.

T: Toasted nuts are strongest, cocoa second, and coffee bringing it up. I'm amazed to discover caramel and toffee on top of that. Underneath is a noticeable dose of bittering hops, with some flavoring hops manifesting as a light burst of orange and lemon peel. The finish is lightly spicy. Again, it reminds me of a bruin. It's actually quite an interesting flavor.

M: Medium-bodied... It's very creamy with just the right carbonation. It gives the illusion of being a much bigger, heavier beer. Fantastic!

D: Surly does truly excellent stuff. I'm told this is pretty affordable over in Minnesota, which makes me pretty darn jealous. I wish I could find a brown ale of this caliber out here.

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Photo of chinabeergeek
4.68/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

thanks to natasharai for this particular can.

500ml. no date. (some numbers next to the UPC, but i'm told these are of no significance here). tasted in late april/early may 2009.

silkiest pour EVER for a non-nitro beer! head almost acts like your typical nitro reverse-waterfall...

dark brownish ruby color. dark and translucent, with gemstone red quality under the light. huge 3-finger light tan head is creamy, foamy, and slowly recedes to a constant, thick layer of bumpy, rocky goodness. splotchy lace at first, then luscious rings and webs later on.

aroma: malty with light roast, and an earthy oat character, melding with gentle to moderate grassy hop note. hints of coffee, cocoa, and indeed some trace of vanilla, as the can description claims. more coffee hints in back.

taste: dark, semi-sweet malts and caramel. oats and roast coffee/cocoa, with mild to moderate hop bitterness. earthy. rich, creamy and robust. simple but lovely.

feel: almost viscous, but velvety. wow! touch of astringent character, but then melts back to smo0o0o0oth creaminess. moderate, tingly carbonation further helps for flavor lift and some additional body - not as if it needed any more!

holy crap!!

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Photo of explosivebeer
4.67/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a lovely dark brown and immediately had a hint of banana esters. It was lightly nutty with some chocolate and caramel notes. Overall it was an excellent beer and the best I've ever had out of a can. I only wish it had a more widespread distribution!

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Photo of GilGarp
4.67/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Awesome extra from my wants list given by the ever-generous BA, BuckeyeNation.

Served cold into my St. Bernardus Watou glass, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a Belgian strong dark ale. The color is dark redish brown with good clarity. The thick off-white head is somewhat short-lived but it leaves some lacing behind.

Aroma is classic brown ale with nice toast, caramel, and toffee. It's sweet and inviting - I can't wait to take a sip.

Flavor is exactly what it should be. The roasty malts give a subtle chocolate/caramel flavor while the hops impart just enough bitterness. There's a sweetened coffee taste with toasted marshmallows and toffee. Is there even a hint of graham cracker? Wouldn't this be amazing with a s'more?

The mouthfeel is devine as well. The oatmeal really helps it out here. It could stand to have a little more body but it's so creamy smooth, I think I can forgive it.

Overall it's a fantastic beer and a classic version of the style. I'm looking forward to my next visit to Minnesota.

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Photo of Tolann
4.67/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Initial review 11/24/2007:
A - Dark in color nearly opaque. Not cloudy. Lots of thick head and leaves a heavy lace like cement on your glass.

S - Sweet hops, with hints of caramel and more of a milk chocolate.

T - Some chocolate, some bitterness, sweet vanilla cream...a complex flavor. You can taste more of the coffee if you slurp the beer.

M - medium body and smooth feel. very pleasant to drink

D - I like this beer a lot and love Surly! I wish it were easier to get more!

review 2/28/2008:
Love Surly!

A- very dark in color. Not opaque and doesn't have a haze. Some creamy brownish head that appears very thick. Good for a 'milk mustache'. Leaves a lacing all over the glass that is pretty tight and will be a joy to clean...

S- Can smell this without sticking your head in the glass. Hops first as with many of Surly beers, but then caramel and malt. This is a brown ale, and shouldn't be as hoppy as the others. Then again, leave it to Surly to break all the rules. Little bit of vanilla cream. YUM

T- Some up front bitterness, but its so smooth it goes easy on your pallet. Some warm sweetness most likely from the caramel and malt. More hints of bitter chocolate and coffee.

M- smooth and not over carbonated. a medium body. some aftertaste sticks to the roof of my mouth in the back, but its not bitter hoppyness. no boozy feel.

D- heavier in the stomach that I wouldn't want to have several of these in 1 sitting. Smooth enough tho that I'm not going to share my pub can. Such a good beer again from Surly. Love this stuff and will have to get more to replenish our stash.

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Photo of hylton44
4.67/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow! This beer has manages to strike the near-perfect balance between originality & tastiness. Very dark color with a tan, pillowy head. Citrusy, toasty aroma. Taste is of toffee & coffee, toasty oats & much more, it seems. A lot going on in there. All the complexity of a porter with a hoppy character worthy of a pale ale. Very satisfying mouthfeel and definitely leaving me wanting another. Though after that 24 oz draw I was feeling it a bit & chose discretion...

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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 philbe311
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A big thanks to Buebie for sending this my way...

A - A very active pour... Dark mahogany color teetering on the edge of black... Two fingers of tightly compact frothy ecru colored head fade, but never fully disappears... Good stickiness on the glass...

S - A very malt forward nose... Roasted malt goodness... Cocoa... Caramel... Coffee... Vanilla... Cinnamon... Hints of some dark fruit... Terrific nose...

T - Delicious coffee and roasted malt... Bitter dark baker's chocolate... Nutmeg... Faint caramel... A little bit of a hop kick emerges at the end... Consistent taste through out...

M - Medium to full bodied... Ridiculously smooth... Rich and creamy with a slightly burnt texture... Subtle carbonation on the tongue... Coats mouth fully and evenly...

D - Wonderful all the way around... The taste and mouthfeel are exceptional... A wonderful introduction to Surly... The only problem with the beer is that it isn't regularly available in PA... World class...

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.65/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Surly Bender has a thick, beige, crackling, foam head, a clear, somewhat bubbly, brown appearance, and substantial lacing left on the glass. Aroma is of rich, sweet, malty, brown bread, and the flavor is of the same elements, with wonderful, non-fruity and non-piney, straightforward bitterness. The oats also shine through, as one sips it down. Mouthfeel is medium and a bit velvety. Surly Bender finishes semi-wet and easy drinking.


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

Ah, Surly cans. What's not to like? This is this first time I've had this one.

A hard beer to pour (for me). It foamed up in the glass, and I had to slow down the pour, which made it drip down the side of the can. Note to self: Surly cans are 16 oz, NOT 12.

Pours out cola colored with big stable foam. The cola color added to the malternative appeal from the can. A real beaut.

Interesting, I detect cola on the nose as well, perhaps black cherry flavored, along with some dusty wood and lots of big rich English floor malts. Smells top quality. It looks a bit undercarbonated (the way I like it) and I can't smell CO2 or feel it in my nose.

A great tasting beer. More of those English floor malts, and a good mix of them; some carmels, a touch of roasted barley, suggestions of rye, tastes like really delicious expensive malts all around (Maris Otter?). The faint bitterness is a perfect compliment. Noble hops are just barely there. Refreshing aftertaste implies a light touch chocolate and dark carmel malt.

In case you can't tell, I'm enjoying the shit out of this beer.

Mouthfeel is a highlight for me, as it is perfectly undercarbed and makes me feel like I'm drinking a cask ale. Light and refreshing mouthfeel; the flavors are subdued yet confidently state their case. Smooth like an oatmeal brewed ale.

Maybe the perfect Brown Ale. Very drinkable, sessionable, and absolutely delicious. SEEK AND CONSUME.


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

Poured into a pint glass only because the can told me to.

Appears clear dark brown with rich ruby red hues in the light. 1/2 inch of thick, lasting tan head covers the glass with great lacing. Smells of caramel, chocolate, roasted malt, and grassy hops. Taste is almost more of a porter than a brown ale with bitter cocoa and caramel beginnings, coffee, and a grassy hop finish. Medium in body and very smooth with low carbonation. My first Surly brew, but definitely not my last, one of the best canned beers I've ever had, surprisingly rich for a brown ale.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.64/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Dark crimson/auburn tone. Creamy nicotine stained tan head. It sticks around for a little while and leaves some sparse and spotty lace. Really great aroma for a brown. Great chocolate malt tones and I get some nice fresh baked bread yeastiness that adds a real nice touch to the aroma. And I notice some hops on the nose as well. The mouthfeel is lightly carbonated. No signs of EtOH. Pretty creamy and smooth overall. Medium-full body. Bready malt base on the buds is layered with a nice roasted malt quality and some citric hops as well. Nice roasted malt bitterness lingers on the aftertaste with a lilttle hop bitterness added to the picture as well. Great flavor. And damn fresh!! I could drink a lot of these in a sitting. And if it were available in bottles, it would be a staple in my fridge at home. Not only is it good by itself, but I would imagine this would pair nicely with a lot of the common foods I tend to eat at home with the family...burgers, steaks, roasts, chops, etc...

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

Poured a beautiful dark, dark brown with a nice 2 fingers of lovely tan head. I stared at the glass for a while...she almost looks black. Aroma of slight hot fudge and caramel. Little sweet on the nose, progressing into a nice balanced mouthfeel with a dry not-to-hoppy finish. Good lacing. This one is almost porter-like in taste.
Possibly the best "brown ale" I've tasted.

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

A- Perfect fluffy mountain of head with some nice lacing as it recedes into the dark ruby body with some light sediment.

S- Dark toasty chocolate, light coffee, cherries, nice hopiness as well.

T- Creamy dark chocolate with light coffee, with some light dryness in the finish due to the hops. Definite hop taste here.

M- Low carbonation and very creamy.

D- @5%, this is a great beer and very sessionable.

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

Bender pours a nice ruby-brown color with a creamy, moderate head. The aroma is sweet and caramel and chocolate come to mind. The flavor is full sweet with caramel and malt and subtle notes of chocolate and vanilla. The beer seems to jump back and forth between being a brown and a porter and since that was their intention, I'm cool with that. Mouthfeel is nice, balanced and silky. Very drinkable, if nothing for its complexity. A very nice and very welcomed beer in the Twin Cities. I want more.

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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 bangelos80
4.62/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Having my final can of Surly Bender...that I brought home from a road trip a few months back...so sad to see it go...but I will enjoy every last drop

A- Poured a nice brown nutty color with about fingers worth of head.

S- Beautiful smell of a signature nut brown along with the aromas of malt!

T- An exceptional balance of that nut taste along with that maltiness flavor. Tiny hint of chocolate at the end.

M- So smooth. Goes down sweet, medium bodied not heavy at all.

O- One of the better brown ales that I have tasted. One that I will repetedly ask for whenever I can get my hands on it. I am sad to see my last can go. Can't wait to get my hands on it again!!

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Photo of NJpadreFan
4.61/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Surly- Bender

Big thanks to Pimpp for this 1.

A- Hazy reddish brown with a moderate size sticky tan head.
S- Light/ faint bread crust, hazelnut, and molasses.
T- Molasses malt with a big dose of hazelnut coffee. 12 grain bread crust like flavors; oat, bran, sunflower seeds. A touch of vanilla extract comes through as well.
M- Very creamy very smooth. The flavors very stay with you.

Overall- I had this for breakfast, and sh!t it was good!! I can't believe I was in MN last year and didn't get any of this. 1 of the best canned beers I've had so far!

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Photo of wcudwight
4.61/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As dark as brown can get without turning black with some ruby hues when held up to the light. Large THICK mocha colored head that looks to stay for the long haul.
Sweet roasted malt aroma, some hints of vanilla with some hoppy spiciness thrown it for good measure. Man this beer is tempting, I wanna finish the whole glass right now.
The first thing I notice about Bender is how it doesn't taste like any brown I've had before while remarkably remaining very true to style. The second thing I notice is an incredible complexity yet still very sessionable. The hops are at the front of the beer with some piney and citrus flavor but this brown, while being pleasently hoppy is about so much more than just the hops. Deep rich roasted flavors. Hints of mocha or maybe more of a medium roasted coffee with steemed milk in it. The vanilla that was in the aroma is also in the flavor. Caramel.
The mouthfeel is silky smooth. And this beer is very drinkable. This would be a beer fridge staple if it were available in my area.

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Photo of far333
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Opaque chestnut colored with a light brown tightly bubbled head that starts out cratered and rocky, but then evens out to a firm flat top.

Aroma of cocoa and sweet dark malt, some grassy notes, and a hint of smoke and cherry.

Rich flavor that matches the aroma fairly closely, but kicks up the smokey nuance and the malt. Malt seems to morph in and out of many flavors - cocoa to molasses to brown sugar to espresso and then back to cocoa but then on to oak and then bitter chocolate. Grassy hop burps. This is really good. Richer than the typical brown ale, perhaps due to the oatmeal and not as sweet as some can be.

Full and creamy mouthfeel, a bit powdery and tannic, but satisfying. Way way way drinkable, one of the best brown ales I've had. Many many thanks to BuckeyeNation for sending this one my way.

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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 rsyberg01
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

S - 16 oz. can recieved in the group two powerball, awesome

A - Pours a deep red, cant see through it except at the edges, head is about a fingers worth and a creamy shade of brown. lacing is divine. beautiful

S - sweet roasted malt, nutty, slight fruit character, slightly tangy notes, fantastic.

T - nutty, tangy, bitter from the roast, slight hop edge in there, perfect balance of sweet to bitter, freakin awesome.

M - creamy, smooth, refreshing.

D - I want a neverending supply of this.

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

Into a tulip glass, pours a thick black with reddish tones. Held up to a light, you see a deep red through the blackness (not, darkness;) ). Massive, MASSIVE head, tan, frothy and long lasting, with lacing down the glass and a residual bubbly film left on top.

Aroma is a little weaker than I'd anticipated, and am thus slightly miffed. But, oh wait, its damn delicious. Coffee, sweet and slightly burnt malts, some toffee swirling around, and then there is this nutty earthy thing there, really makes it something special.

And then, the taste. This is an interesting beer. And by interesting I mean wicked awesome. The brewer describes it as an 'brown/porter/apa', a pretty apt description. It really does taste and feel like a brown, but its so much beyond that. Swirling around is caramel and burnt malts, coffee, chocolate, nutty, a tiny sugar sweetness that finishes dry and slightly bitter by means of a sly hopping, with the finish long and savory.

The body is just right, medium bodied and easy to drink but feeling full and just very well put together. This is a beer for beer drinkers, easy to drink if you just want a beer, comlex enough to make you ponder it should you want to. In addition to Furious, a very good beginning line-up to what I'm sure will be a very successful brewery.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,943 ratings.
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