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: 1,953
Photo of ncvbc
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Quite possibly my favorite offering from Surly. Pours a ruddy brown color with a tan head and leaves sticky lacing down the glass. Smell is very nice. Starts more sweet at first and as it warms other scents come through. Vanilla and caramel. Oatmeal, some light chocolate and coffee. Taste is comprised of everything I picked up along with a great citric hop twang. It adds a wonderful slight dryness in the finish at the end of the swallow and is also present right when it hits the tongue, though the vast array of other flavors soon enter. A smooth and almost creamy mouthfeel and again a slight dryness in the end. Light carbonation tickling the tongue. Overall an excellent brew and a superb brown ale.

Thanks so much tayner...they came and went quickly!

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

Pours from the sleek, steel-playing-card of a can into a Sam Smith pint glass, and rocks up a frothing toffee colored head almost is if straight from the draught. Color is rich and dark: deep walnut with crimson edging. This beer is smooth and light but dark and assertive.

Nutty, chocolatey with a subtle hop presence. Very nice. Toffee, vanilla and caramel. Slightly sweet with a mild bitterness and alcohol smell toward the end.

Fortunately the taste backs up what the appearance and smell suggest. This is light but incredibly well rounded for a big brown. Chocolate, caramel, roasted coffee, and dry hop-bite ending and aftertaste...that lingers. I like this beer better when it's cold. I'd normally think that flavors are fuller and more distinct in beers of this depth and seeming complexity, but as it grows warmer it's less refreshing, which is where the light hopping is really nice.

Light and crisp, fluid and refreshing. Light to medium body. Dry and clear.

Dare I ask, could this be a great sessions beer? Too bad I can't get it more often.

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Photo of younger35
4.6/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Received this in a trade with mnstorm99. He sent me 3 and I’ve already drank one, which was freaking fantastic! Drank from my Laughing Dog pint glass while watching game two of Colorado vs. Arizona.

Appearance- Pours a dark ruby brown with a nice one finger sand head that has a lush creaminess to it. Head last a long, long time leaving a perfect cap and collar along with enough lacing for two beers.
Smell- Big brown malt sweetness. Very warm and toasty with a bit of a hazelnut quality. Lot’s of fresh fruity hops reminiscent of chocolate covered cherries and strawberries. Gives a great preview of what’s to come.
Taste- Lot’s of roasted caramel malts with hints of chocolate and coffee. Deliciously nutty that somehow goes perfectly with the refreshing citrus hops. Fresh and zesty along with an earthy mildness makes this beer unlike anything I’ve tasted. Finishes with a lingering nutty aftertaste and the slightest of alcohol tinges. Unbelievable!
Mouthfeel- Rich, creamy and chewy with a nice full body. Light, bubbly carbonation.
Drinkablity- Off the charts! I could easily put down a six pack of these 16 ounce cans without thinking twice. This may have passed Old Chub as my favorite beer in a can. Hell this may have surpassed almost all dark beers I’ve had. So unique and absurdly balanced. Really sucks I only have one left. Thanks again to mnstorm99, spectacular beer!

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

Darkest hazelnut with generous ruby highlights that become cherry bomb explosions with backlighting. The two finger crown is a wonderful shade of golden beige that is a perfect color contrast to the beer beneath. It's firmly creamy and is leaving thick sheets of lace that look like they'll stick around until long after the final credits roll.

The nose is solid. It's nicely brown malty and features oven-toasted nuts above all else. I can also appreciate whiffs of cocoa, coffee and fruity hops. A little more power and a little more depth and it'd be fantastic. As it happens, warming brings about exactly that, along with a wonderful musky earthiness. I don't often assess the aroma when the beer is almost gone, but I'm glad I did so here.

Bender is as good as I remember. Whoever thinks that cans are a lesser container for beer has a screw loose. This stuff couldn't taste more fresh or more pure. Purely delicious that is. The thing that impresses me most about Bender (one of many) is that it doesn't taste like any other brown ale in existence; something that hit me like a ton of bricks with my first mouthful back in September.

It's beautifully malted and beautifully hopped, with both providing megatons of flavor. The contrast between the various members of the flavor profile and the amazing yin and yang of sweetness and bitterness is, I believe, the secret to its deliciousness (that and a fantastically talented brewer).

On the malt side of the ledger we have toasted brown bread, dark caramel/toffee, gentle chocolate and coffee notes, and sugar-crusted pecans. And on the hop side of the ledger we have surprisingly tart, citrus fruit peel with a hint of floral spiciness. Each mouthful is an absolute riot of flavors that manages to be perfectly balanced in the end. A brown ale that is as hoppy as it is malty. What a concept!

How can 16 ounces be almost gone already? Drinkability, needless to say, is completely off the charts. The mouthfeel, like everything else about this beer, is the very definition of quality. It's supremely smooth, lightly creamy and lightly silky. I can excuse a lack of heavily creamy lushness because the point wasn't to brew a big beer, but rather (I'm guessing) to brew an insanely drinkable, even sessionable one. Mission accomplished.

Surly Bender is fandamntastic beer. It instantly rockets to the top of my 'most favored brown ales' list along with the versions from Bell's and Dogfish Head. The fact that it's hoppier than both is further cause for celebration. I wonder if it's possible for SurlyMan to swing down to Des Moines in the midst of delivering his wonderful beer to the good folks of Minneapolis-St. Paul? Thanks feloniousmonk, but two cans isn't going to hold me for very long. I foresee a lot of road trips in a northerly direction.

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

On tap at the Map Room.

Pours very brown, like the hair of a very pretty girl in an old novel. Something you've never really seen before so much as you've pictured it.

Brown ales ain't usually my style. Even from good brewers, they always leave me wanting more. This smells kind of like a brown ale, kind of like a porter, and kind of like something else--something sweet but nutritious. Like carrot cake, I guess. Only not like carrot cake in the least.

Tastes like brown ale malt up front, giving way to the cakey middle of bittersweet malt that tastes good in weird way that makes you think it's healthy, and then ends with a surprisingly strong bitter hop node that just didn't come up in the smell.

Very nice, especially freshly poured.

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Photo of OStrungT
4.58/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer pours a dark mohogany color, with a thick and creamy tan head. The head fades very slowly, leaving a good lacing.

This beer smells of roasted malts. It has a pleasent caramel sweet aroma also. Some toffee notes are present. There is also a very subtle hint of milk chocolate.

This beer pretty much tastes like it smells. Roasted malts, caramel, toffee and milk chocolate.

This beer is medium bodied. It is slightly low in carbonation. It goes down smooth, leaving a caramel sweet aftertaste.

This beer would make a good session beer. It is low in alcohol, and the flavor is mild but good.

Overall: Thanks go out to OHLRangers for generously hooking me up with this beer. It is great. I love it.

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Photo of Welch
4.58/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great Ale! Pours a extra dark brown but not quite black. Light oatmeal colored head dissipates after a few minutes. Smells of caramel, oak, coffee beans, a hint off vanilla and a faint tinge of alcohol. Tastes of oatmeal, oak, dark chocolate at first but finishes very malty. It is lighter in taste than expected, which I like. The can states that it begins hoppy but I only detect a little hops. The mouthfeel is rich. It leaves a slight film on your tongue similar to a very dark chocolate. That quickly dissipates. Overall I am hugely impressed with this beer. This drinks just as well in winter as it does in the heat of summer. I will definitely have this again.

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Photo of happygnome
4.58/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

a: transparent dark brown color with strong notes of ruby, half inch of tannish colored head that lasted for the half an hour that i enjoyed this. Lots of sticky lacing all of the way up the side of the glass, very attractive looking beer in my opinion
s: caramely, chocolatly with strong notes of herbal hop aromas very inviting
t: defenatly an american style brew, much more hop flavor than malt however the malt flavor was very present towards the finish, well balanced beer that tastes amazing
m: medium bodied beer with clean texture a little less than average carbonation

overall, i really enjoyed this beer, and recommend it to anyone. I usually dont think of a brown ale with spicy food, but i think that this one would accompany spicy food nicely

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Photo of dgfair
4.58/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

16 oz. can poured into British imperial pint glass.

A - a beautiful deep brown with a slight hue of garnet as some light refracts slightly through the body. The head is very nicely chunky and thick leaving tons of lacing on the glass. This is how a brown ale should look.

S - light hints of earthy hops with a mineral aroma that balances nicely with some of the sweet, toasty, nutty notes. Smells like a sweet nut toffee with a little bit of cream. Fantastic smell.

T - Nutty and sweet...this follows right where the smell left off and even finishes with a very nice little hop bite. Not too much hop and not too little, it provides the perfect kick at the end. I get a slight bit of oat and maple that perfectly rounds out the flavor on this one.

M - Mouth is pretty good, but could probably be slightly less carbonated for my palate. Nonetheless, it finishes perfectly dry on the tongue leaving nice aftertaste of the beer.

D - drinkability is completely off the charts. I would rate this higher than 5 if I could. I can't remember enjoying such a dramatically drinkable brown ale. So smooth and delicious going down that this thing has disappeared quickly.

This is my first Surly Bender, and first impressions tell me that this is the best American Brown Ale that I have tasted. I wish I could get this regularly, because it would be a very solid go-to in almost all circumstances.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks again to Oneeye for the trade.

A. From a 16 oz. pounder into a pint glass. Pours dark brown with a large off white head. A wonderful lace show follows.

S. Sweet malts, molasses, brown sugar. Inviting.

T. A nutty roasted brown ale taste. Starts off a bit malty. Molasses in the finish. Some citrus hops are there to play along in the deep recesses of my mind. Some hershey syrup like chocolate taste as it warms.

M. Medium bodied bordering heavy. Smooth and refreshing.

D. I really do enjoy this. A great great session beer.

Notes: One of the best Browns I've had. Makes those NewCastle boys look like a bunch of chumps.

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Photo of nlmartin
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I received this beer thanks to bax72 as part of BC-2. This beer comes in a can but definately deserves a glass. The beer was served in a pub glass.

Appearance: The beer pours a very rich deep brown with ruby highlights. The head was a big fluffy tan coloration. The head had fantastic retention. The beer had very little lacing on the glass.

Smell: The beer has a very pleasing roasted and toasted maltyness. Coffee and light chocolatey goodness swirl around the nose. A nuttyness combines with a pleasing earthy undertone.

Taste: The beer delivers on the roasted and toasted choco/ caramel maltyness. The beer starts to go over to the sweet side but then gives it up to a tart citrus hoppyness.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: This beer is medium bodied and well carbonated. The beer has a very creamy mouthfeel. This beer is a dam tasty beer treat. I could session this beer all night long. The 16 ounce tall boy is a nice touch. I am going to have to get some more of this beer.

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Photo of wardough
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

God, do I love this beer. I would do alot to get another one of these.

A: Pours a beautiful light brown into the glass. Bubbles rise like it's a Guiness stout. Nice start to this experience. As I drink , there's just a light lacing.
S: This is my favorite part. Deep caramel, toasted malt comes to mind. Yummy.
T: Is equally as awesome. First, it's refreshing, dry, then sweet, then malty, and then a good dry finish. Love it.
M: Nice and slick on the tongue
D: I can drink the heck out of these things.

Search out this beer. Love it.

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Photo of ALESwhatCURESya
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A friend of mine hooked me up with a few cans of this. I have heard a lot of hype about this up-and-coming brewery so I couldn't wait to see if it was true.

The can graphics look a little more like an energy drink, but that has nothing to do with the contents inside. I do love the idea of a 16 oz can.

A-Deep chestnut body with tan, mocha head that formed slowly, but retained presence. A ruby glow reflected off the light nicely showing off its dark, but visible, clarity.

S-A nose full of bitter, roasted malts and dark fruit. A nice, prune-like and caramel smell was wonderful. Hints of cocoa round out this gem.

T/M-This was a big surprise and the hype was definitely valid. I never thought I would get excited about a brown ale in a can. The tastes were explosive and full of depth. The bittersweetness reminded me of a well-done baltic porter or RIS. A nutty profile is present, but doesn't overtake the other flavors. A slight cinnamon spice comes through as it warms. The flavors definately open up as it warms to cellar temp.

D-Again, I never would have believed that a brown ale in a can would be so wonderfully crafted. It is so easy to drink, I can see why Minnesota wants to hoard this stuff.

Truly great beer for a style that is often over-looked.

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Photo of bpgpitt10
4.57/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Awesome. I got this and had no idea what type of beer it was. It took me a while to place a brown ale because frankly, I've never had a brown ale with so much flavor.

A: Deeper brown than a standard brown ale with a more caramel colored head that was there then GONE. Lacing was basically non-existent and its very lightly carbonated.

S: Nose was amazing. Great mix of a light prune smell with caramel/chocolate. A hint of coffee in the nose, but very light. It has a bit of a hop freshness to it that keeps it from smelling like a porter.

T: Awesome. Starts out with a bit of sweetness that dissipates into a fairly clean finish. The burst of flavor at the front is the caramel that fades to a bit of a coffee/chocolate taste. The prune type smell is evident most in the finish as it leaves a nice dry, slightly fruity aftertaste. That's the bit of hops in there I'm not used to with brown ales.

M: Pure brown ale. This is the only thing about this beer that drops it a notch in my book. The mouthfeel isn't all that interesting.

D: ABV 5.1% so its not overwhelming at all. Not thick at all and lightly carbonated. I could easily have 3 of these without thinking about it.

Overall, this was by far the best brown ale I've ever had. Probably cracking my top 20 which is ridiculous considering it's a brown ale.

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

A: Poured into a Hofmühl mug. The beer has a deep dark brown color with a tan head. The beer kept its head throughout the entire drinking of the beer!!! Exceptional!!!

S: Roasted malts, sweet chocolate and some earthy hops are present in the nose. Perhaps a bit of nut of caramel as well.

T: Chocolate and roasted malts and maybe some nut up front, the beer is quite sweet at first then there is a great hop contrast at the end. The hops are very strong for the "Brown ale" style; but Surly is not really about making beers to style.

M/D: This beer is smooth as smooth can be. Silky medium body. The hops help this beer a lot, but in my opinion, the feel of the beer is what makes it so drinkable. It's like you are drinking velvet! Every sip is a good as the last. Wonderful job Surly! :D

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

Poured into a Sam Smith's Pint Glass, with a beautifully thick creamy head, delicate lacing as the foam subsides.

Amazing nose on this beer, cocoa, fresh baked biscuits and coffee with cream all come to mind.

The beer is smooth as can be, its got an amazing caramel flavor right from the start, light vanilla notes and just a very slight hop bitterness to round it out.

The mouthfeel is just perfect. The carbonation is constant and doesn't fade. It almost adds a peppery kind of feel to it.

I got this in a trade from DmanGTR and couldn't be happier. I've been trying to get my hands on this beer for a couple of years and it did not disappoint. Thanks Daren, Slainte.

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

Pours a nearly opaque brown color, appears somewhat ruby red in front of bright light. Minimal head, even with an aggressive pour. Caramel smell at the nose. Taste is full of flavor. Very nice to see something with so much flavor in the 5% ABV range. Very drinkable; wish I had a few more of these.

Thanks to Dave for this treat.

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

Surly's first offering, but by no means a "rookie beer" This brown has tons to offer. Have had this at several places, most recently at the Old Chicage in Blaine last night.

Nice deep brown color. Way darker than the New Castle the guy across the bar from me had. Minimal head, short retention, nice lacing down the inside of the glass. Somewhat of a sweet aroma.

Lots of taste here. Chocolate, sweet caramel. Lots of Malt with enough Hops to pull off a fantastic balance.

Slightly syrupy consistency. I am usually not a big fan of Brown's. This one is by far my favorite and I would even chose it over other beers I enjoy.

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Photo of doughanson78
4.55/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

16oz can poured into a pint glass. Thanks to storminspank for this.

A: Dark brown with red highlights. One and a half finger head, light tan. Awesome retention and great lacing.

S: Oatmeal. Cola. Light chocolate. Malty without being overly sweet.

T: Light sweetness upfront. Chocolate and oatmeal comes through nicely. Good light roasted coffee in the finish.

M: Light bodied but far from watery. Slick. The best brown ale mouth feel i've had.

O: The best brown ale I've had by far. Enough said.

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Photo of BeerGeek50
4.54/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours lightly hazy to a deep reddish brown hue. dark beige head with lots of lacing. caramel, brown sugar, nuts, chocolate, vanilla, ready aroma. super smooth. loved it.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.54/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a can into a goblet. Beer is dark brown, carbonation medium, head is brownish, falls away leaving a little lacing.

Sweet, caramel, slight roast are all present in the aroma.

Roasty flavor, smooth medium bodied beer. Some coffee on the back end (this isn't coffee bender). Nice mid palate connectivity. Overall an easy drinking great beer.

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

A: Persistent khaki head is big on the pour. Dark maple syrupy brown beer with just a touch of cloudiness.

S: Molasses and cotton candy with grapes and fruits.

T: Semi-sweet chocolate covered raisins, hints of oakiness and a thorough hop presence to balance these flavors out. Unexpectedly rich and rewarding.

M: Somewhat thick and viscous for a brown ale, oatmeal presence is evident but not overstated. Carbonation is spot on.

D: This is a brown ale, but oh so flavorful, thick, and balanced. A delicious beer and I am shocked this is only 5.10% ABV as it is so satisfying for this beer geek. The idea of sessioning this beer is appealing indeed. Whatever hype there is for this beer is definitely lived up to, and now I want to try some Coffee Bender.

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Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.11 out of 5 based on 1,953 ratings.
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