Bender | Surly Brewing Company

759 Reviews

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.10%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Here's what happens when substance meets smooth. This oatmeal brown ale defies traditional categories. Bender begins crisp and lightly hoppy, complemented by the velvety sleekness oats deliver. Belgian and British malts usher in cascades of cocoa, coffee, carmel and hints of vanilla and cream. An easy-drinking ale with many layers of satisfaction.

Added by tavernjef on 02-04-2006

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Reviews: 759 | Ratings: 1,951
Photo of LordofTime25
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours to a deep brown body with a thin white head resting on top.

Can smell cocoa and vanilla.

Can taste cocoa, coffee, vanilla, and some hops.

Silky, smooth, and creamy in the mouth! Nice!

Very good full flavored beer! Has a nice complex flavor. Recomened

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Photo of papat444
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to kjyost for this one.

Poured from a 16oz. can, canned on 05/21/13.

Appearance: Ecru-colored head atop a dark brown body, couple of good rings and slightly better retention than the Coffee Bender.

Smell: Hints of cocoa, dried fruit, all malt, assorted nuts.

Taste: Oatmeal, cocoa, nutty, good flavors.

Mouthfeel: Smooth & sleek yet robust enough with a bit of gritty bitterness.

Overall: A decent stab at the style but not my preferred interpretation.

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Photo of rhodeska
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The look was pretty good, only looked a little thin for a darker beer.

The smell was great, had some cocoa, coffee, caramel, vanilla. Pretty much exactly what the can said on the back.

The taste was a little thinner than I had expected already, a coffee taste up front, and not a good lingering mouthfeel. Dissapated pretty quickly.

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Photo of Oxymoron
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Im not going to start seeing robots from the future am I? Pours a mostly clean chestnut brown color with a light red hue throughout. A soft white tan that does last a while but eventually does dissipate over time. Limited lacing as well.

The nose has a light but nice malt backing. Some mix of chocolate, biscuit and victory giving it a slight nutty aroma. Some light sugary notes with a hint of brown sugar. There is some noticeable yeast character with some light phenolics, plums and some pineapple. A light spice as well, mostly nutmeg but some cloves as well.

The taste is limited, specifically the malt, compared to the nose. Some chocolate notes but there is more of a generic grain/husky flavor more than anything. The lighter body doesn't help this either. The yeast notes are a bit cleaner with some nice phenolics. A light clove flavor in the finish. Some minor citrus hop notes in the finish. A slight soapy taste in the finish as well. Very clean other than that.

The body is light to moderate. This is where the beer falls off for me. I would like more depth for a Brown. Overall I think the whole beer itself is good with clean flavors but give this is a skinny beer. Give me some body!

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Photo of Grundle20
3.72/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The perfect pour. Brown with good sticky off white head.

Not feeling it. There's some undesirable medicinal notes here, borderline band-aid scent. Underlying cocoa powder notes are the only redeeming quality here. Overall though these scents are weak and uninspiring.

Taste and Mouthfeel:
All malts here, which is to be expected. There's basically a strong Ovaltine presence paired with a minor note of dark chocolate and candied cherries. The beer drinks smooth with even carbonation back to front. The finish is crisp but it leaves a strong cocoa presence long in to the aftertaste.

On a cold day maybe I would be feeling this a little more but right now this is very non refreshing and the smell quite frankly is a little bit of a put off.

Bottom Line:
Well I was expecting a bit more after having the Cynic Ale but this beer is still pretty solid. A brown ale it is, maybe not the best ever but still rather respectable especially considering many folks avoid this style like the plague for some reason. The smell is really the only thing rubbing me the wrong way here but that's a big part of tasting unfortunately. Hopefully the Furious won't let me down.

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Photo of fastpass17
3.71/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

16 oz Can

A: Deep mahogany, nice one finger head, good carbonation.

S: Raisins, roasted malt mixed through caramel and a touch of hops.

T: This starts out with brown sugar, roasted malts, and finishes with a crisp pine hop bite.

M,D: Clean, enjoyable and very session-able. I could drink this all night, also with hearty or game influenced meal.

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Photo of ChopperSmith
3.7/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I really enjoy the beers our new little local Minnesota brewery, Surly, is putting out. Brown Ale's aren't my favorite style, but I can appreciate that Surly has done something very unique and tasty with this beer.

I *love* the Surly Cynic Ale, I like their Furious Pale Ale and this one isn't too shabby either. Although it's my least favorite of the year round Surly varieties that are available.

Appearance: Pours dark brown with a small tan head that doesn't retain for long.

Smell: The nose immediately brings to mind coffee, burnt caramel, and malty goodness.

Taste: The flavors up front are burnt caramel, toffee and hints of coffee, followed by a malty and slightly bitter aftertaste. More flavorful than the typical Brown Ale.

Mouthfeel: A little thin and undercarbonated for my liking, but smooth and somewhat creamy.

Drinkability: Like I said earlier, not my favorite beer style, but this is one I would make an exception for. A tasty little brown ale with enough extra flavor to make it interesting.

Serving suggestion: Standard pint glass.

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Photo of OddNotion
3.7/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another act of generosity from bs870621345, aka Bobby. He gave me a can of this and the coffee version. He claims it was paying me back for the Furious I gave him a month or two back, but he has more than repaid me before these beers exchanged hands. Anywho on to the review.

Poured into my DFH Signature Glass.

Appearance: Pours a very deep brown bordering on black but no quite there. Ruby notes throughout when held to the light. Roughly a one finger tan head.

Smell: Very nice sweet aroma some roasty coffee notes on top of dark fruits. Smelling some bready/toffee notes from the english yeast.

Taste: Very smooth and balanced. Getting the sweetness and some breadiness. Bitterness is negligable. No single flavor really stands out. It is a solid beer but nothing that blows me away. The warmer it gets the better it gets, but still nothing overly impressive.

Mouthfeel: On the thicker side for the style, but the nice carbonation makes it feel lighter. I do like it.

Overall: Solid for the style but it is missing something. There is nothing bad or offensive about the beer by any means. I am hoping the coffee will tie it together.

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Photo of tone77
3.7/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Yep. You guessed it. This beer came courtesy of the amazing woodychandler. Poured from a 16 oz. can. Has a very dark brown color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of chocolate, nuts, coffee. Taste is much milder than the aroma would suggest. Chocolate, vanilla, touches of oats and coffee. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is an enjoyable beer.

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Photo of Overlord
3.7/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Faro for the trade.

Not a big fan of brown ales, per se, but this was quite good. Pours a dark, deep brown, with a minimal head that quickly dissipates. Smells earthy, with nuts and malt. Not much carbonation.

Surprsingly flavorful for a brown ale. Lots of almonds, malt, citrus(?) to spruce it up a bit. Fills the belly.

Not to sound snobby, but it's been month since I've had a beer from a can. Nice to see it can be done without compromising on flavor.

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Photo of Ratman197
3.69/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a reddish brown with a lingering ring of tan foam. Smells of cocoa, carmelk, light vanilla and light coffee. Tastes of carmel, cocoa, light coffee, light toffee and a hint of vanilla. Mouth feel was light to medium bodied with moderate carbonation and a smooth finish.

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

This offering picked up in MN by a fellow BA poured from a 16oz can a light brown deep ruby with overlaying colors leaving a thick tan head. The aroma is cocoa, vanilla, oats, sweet nose.

The taste starts tart, crisp, with dark chocolate, cocoa bitterness, hop profile is suttle semi-bitterness, strong burnt coffee. Roasted flavor profile dominates this beer. The flavor is nice, sweer oats, bitter, nice beer strong roasted flavors dominate this beer overall very nice offering.

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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 genog
3.68/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

got to sample bender for the first time on tap. Had two pints at hopleaf last weekend while we were in town for DLD.

Poured a very light brown color with minimal head. Smell was a little spicy, with some strong fruity, floral aromas and some limited chocolate sweetness in the back. Taste was slightly sour, and a little to the funky side, with some dominant grain but not as much as I remember. Mouth feel was a little creamy, but much more watery than other surly beers.

Bender in the can is one of my favorite beers of all time. On tap it was not as good. I am hoping it was just a bad keg, or line and this is not the way it usually is. But this is all I have to go on.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
3.68/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

props to mchlipala for going out of his way.

brown with a secret of maroon. an upstanding creamy head. smells a bit chocolatey, creamy and touch nutty. i wish i could pluck just which one. mild flavor, a nice taste, nothing very punchy, just a really drinkable beer with a bit of a roasty, creamy character and a widening body. a pleasant drink, i'd like to try the coffee bender, i think that intensity is what is missing in this one for me.

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

16oz can, about 10 oz into snifter, the rest I drink outta the can, my favourite. From notes

A - Dark brown with reddish edging. Nice off white head, clingy lacing.

S - Lots of caramel and toffee malts. Some pine bitterness and grain.

T - Nice balance of sweet malts, much like the nose. The pine bitterness is there but doesn't seem to be involved in the end. I pick up a pleasant hazelnut with a toffee aftertaste.

M - Good carbonation, slight biting on sides of tongue. Semi dry and medium

D - A good brown out of a can. I'd take another!

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

Pours a dark brown with good clarity and thin-light tan head that is partially well-retained. Fills the nose with powdered cocoa, caramel, and brewed coffee. Darker roasted malts. More cocoa coming through in the flavor backed up by some sweeter caramel-like notes. Moderately bittered bit an herbal hop presence. Medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

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

Can. Pours a clear brown with a thick light tan head. Aroma of sweet malt and some coffee grounds. Flavor of slightly roasted malt with a touch of creamy smoothness. Thankfully, this is a brown ale that's not dominated by super sweet malt. Pleasant and easy drinking, certainly one of the best brown ale's I've had.

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

Thanks to LaCoursiere for adding this in our recent trade.

A- Surly Bender pops open with some ivory foam already formed in the can. Once out, the liquid takes on a shoepolish brown look with some red poking in at the sides. Not much of a cap, no lacing.

Smell is fairly easy for a fairly simple beer, Bender does have pungent strength. This includes a boatload of English malt giving off nuts and slight toffee and grain.

Taste starts off malty and nutty and well, that's pretty much it. But wait, English malt is just large in this. A bit of chocolate malt in there as well, maybe a pich of cocco flavor/brown sugar. Bender is a str8 forward style with a str8 forward taste. No bells or whistles.

Feel is kinda tame and the carbonation is pretty dull. It just sort of goes down smooth like and there is no prick. For the style though, not everything needs to pop like that.

Bender is great beer and one I would take down with some BBQ, it seems like a great match. 5% leads to all day drinking.

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Photo of matttttYCE
3.65/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2 Finger, slightly off-white, creamy head. Head retention is pretty good. Lace not so much. Color of the beer is cola/deep burgundy.

Aroma is of cola, some roasted and lighter malts, caramel, plenty of nutty aromas, hints of coffee, cocoa, and vanilla. Hints of hops in there as well, but they're really drowned out by the cola aromas.

Very similar to the aroma. Cola, sweet caramel and roasty malts, nutty taste, lighter chocolate and coffee, a bit of bitterness from the hops, maybe some slight vanilla in the background there. Easy drinking for sure.

Consistency is crisp, carbonation is light as well, body is light, almost thin, and the finish fades quickly but not in an instant. Mouthfeel overall leaves a bit to be desired.

Overall - A decent beer overall. One worth trying in my book, but not anything that knocked my socks off. Just a good brown ale.

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

On-tap at Churchkey DC

Appearance: With a light behind it, pours a bright amber-orange-red. Nice crown and lacing.

Smell: Malty caramel, nuts, tea, coffee, cocoa, milk chocolate. Some light hops. A bit earthy.

Taste: Does not taste how I expect a brown ale to taste. I get malty caramel, toffee, tea bags, coffee, coca, chocolate, hops. Not crazy about the unsweet tea element.

Mouthfeel: Creamy on draft, the cans can be a bit flat

Drinkability: Not a fan of brown ales, and this is middle of the road for the style.

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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 Alieniloquium
3.64/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

16 oz. can poured into a pint glass.

Appearance - Brown body with flecks of red. Not a head on it to speak of, although I poured carefully. After a few minutes, there's no sign of life.

Smell - Light chocolate and a strong toffee aroma, followed by some earthy hops. Not a strong smell, but what's there is nice.

Taste - Follows the smell a lot. Toffee and chocolate from the malt, finishing with a hefty bitterness. The hops at the end are earthy and slightly grassy. Maybe it's even a little astringent in the finish.

Mouthfeel - The bitterness in the back are a bit off-putting. The astringency is too, but it's otherwise easy drinking. Medium-low carbonation.

Overall - Nothing that stands out, but what it's got is good.

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Photo of n2185
3.64/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown with only traces of red near the edges and a finger of tan head. The head recedes into a thin ring with little lacing.

S: Some roasted malts up front followed by sweet, nutty aromas. There is also a surprisingly strong citrusy hop aroma on the finish.

T: Roasted malts at first followed by a fairly subtle nutty flavor. The hops kick in, providing a piny bitterness to go along with the bitterness from the roasted malts. I also pick up some slight nutty flavors on the exhale.

M: Medium body and carbonation that goes well with the bitterness and leaves a clean finish.

O: A pretty decent beer. Nothing spectacular and very porter-like for a brown ale, but decent nonetheless. I wish the nutty flavors had come through a bit more instead of hiding behind the hops and roasted malts.

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Photo of Docer
3.63/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Acquired from Brentk56 in a trade.. cheers! Great stuff!

- Large off-white ring of lace-maker over a murky dark brown cola-colored or sun-tea colored brew. Dusting of foam.

- Light sweetness, brown sugar, grain, bready.. light bitter hopping. Grassy.

- Sharp clean water, sweet grain, oats, bread, dry bitter hop.. pine-like.

- Thin to medium bodied, creamy and slightly dry.

- Overall drinkable, flavorful, and light. Must say the coffee version is a bit better.

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