Cacao Bender
Surly Brewing Company

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Brown Ale - American
Ranked #4
Ranked #910
4.31 | pDev: 8.35%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Notes: Mahogany hued ale infused with coffee, vanilla beans and cacao nibs.

45 IBU
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Reviews: 43 | Ratings: 497 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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Victory_Sabre1973 from Minnesota

4.08/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black with minimal white head. The nose is a combination of coffee and chocolate. Just a touch of vanilla to it
Taste the coffer part hit hard up front. On the backside a mellow chocolate flavor hits, but the flavor is dominated by coffee.
A bit more water than I would like, but not too bad.
Delicious lunch beer.

Aug 09, 2018
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bbtkd from South Dakota

4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Surly Cacao Bender Nitro Brown Ale, 5.1% ABV, 45 IBU. Pours thin and dark brown with a half-finger tan head on a careful taproom pour. Head does not look like nitro, nor did it taste/feel like it. Nose is malt and cacao, taste follows. Doesn't seem like 45 iBU. Mouthfeel is decent, and overall excellent. Not a brown ale fan since they usually lack solid flavor, but the cacao int his hits in waves, and is right nice.

Feb 02, 2017
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Lucular from Maryland

4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I had this on nitro tap at the brewery restaurant. I haven't had Bender or Coffee Bender (yet - cans are sitting in my fridge) but this was a delicious brew with nice roasted chocolate character and most importantly, not too sweet.

Jan 19, 2017
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BlackBeerPirate from Illinois

4.46/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Taste: Smooth mocha coffee, Chocolate malts, cacao nibs, creamy mouthfeel to the finish. Big cacao bean and vanilla coffee aroma. Dark Brown and mostly clear with a tan refined head of good lace on glass. Medium body. easy to drink this slick coffee brown ale.

Jan 18, 2017
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Biggiekrock627 from Maryland

4.28/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Hap on nitro tap so gave it a velvety textured stout you rarely see if not on nitro. Better than regular bender with a fuller more complex set of flavors.

Jan 08, 2017
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Huhzubendah from District of Columbia

4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Draft at Churchkey in D.C. Mahogany body with a silky, viscous tan head. Grandiose aroma of roasted, freshly ground coffee beans. Additional notes of chocolate, toffee. Like an iced coffee beer. Bold coffee scent and flavor throughout. Nicely done.

Jun 23, 2016
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Barnoloid from Illinois

4.56/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a terrific beer. A creamy, almost milkshake like consistency gives body to a smooth brown ale with sweet, dessert notes. The vanilla is prominent, with the chocolate and coffee notes being balanced nicely with it. No bitterness present.

Jun 11, 2016
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maedhros09 from Minnesota

4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Look: Very dark brown, barely transparent (not unlike some lighter porters).
Smell: Dry roasty coffee aromas. Sweetens and opens up a bit as it warms
Taste: Dominated by coffee flavors and toasty malt. Moderate acidity and mild bitter finish. Fairly dry with a bit of sweetness that comes out as it warms. Didn't get much of the vanilla or cacao but I haven't had Coffee Bender for comparison.
Feel: Light to medium body, average carbonation

Overall: I expected to like this more than the regular Bender but somehow the extra acidity turned me off a bit. Also the coffee notes seem a bit thin like weak coffee - perhaps if it were a bit richer I would have liked it more. Still a great fall lunchtime beer.

Oct 04, 2015
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bsp77 from Minnesota

4.16/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Quick review after having it on tap.

Similar to Coffee Bender, but the addition of cocao nibs and vanilla beans elevates it. The coffee seems better integrated here vs. Coffee Bender which is a little one note for me. I still prefer my coffee beers to have a fuller body, but great stuff regardless.

Sep 25, 2015
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mwilbur from Minnesota

4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured on-tap in their beer hall into goblet.
A: Pours a very dark brown with 1/2 inch white head that fairly quickly recedes.
S: Absolute loads of cacao nibs and vanilla. Moderate caramel malt.
T: Follows aroma fairly closely with tons of cacao nibs and vanilla (dare I say nearly too much?!). Moderate caramel malt and a hint of cola and coffee.
M: Light-medium body. Roasted sweetness. Mildly dry and bitter.
D: Packs a good punch of cacao nibs and vanilla. Drinks bigger than ABV would suggest. Nice for style.

Aug 18, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4.5/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. L: It pours opaque black and arrives with a thin wisp of a head. S: Has a cacao nose. T: Big cacao and vanilla flavors meld nicely with the Bender’s chocolate and light coffee flavors. F: Medium body and carbonation. O: An interesting and drinkable beer.

Aug 12, 2015
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4DAloveofSTOUT from Illinois

4/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like coffee bender better than Cacao bender. The adjuncts in Cacao bender just are not all that apparent. Coffee bender just works better. The coffee is so strong that it over powers cacao and vanilla.

Aug 10, 2015
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Sammy from Canada

3.64/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Brown colour. A bit of head. Light mouthfeel. Smooth but not so drinkable. At the brewery. Some like this one better than others. Surly makes a wide variety.

Aug 09, 2015
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ParnellJoseph1138 from Minnesota

4.15/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The malt body has so much character and so many dark, malt notes. It also delivers interesting coffee and chocolate flavors and the vanilla is subtle. An amazing brown ale that tastes like a porter but isn't quite as heavy.

Jul 21, 2015
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DabblinWiscCraft from Wisconsin

4.55/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had the pleasure of trying this one at the Surly Brew Hall this Memorial Weekend. Handed off in a 10 oz chalice.

L: Coffee black with about a half-inch khaki head that stuck around for a good long while and left some lacing on the glass.

S: Huge coffee aroma on this one. Others have described it like walking into a Starbucks, and it really is close. This is definitely the most coffee-like bouquet I've ever smelled in a beer. There's also some roasty malts and dark chocolate mingling in there, but it's really coffee all the way.

T: I had been expecting more of a chocolate presence in this one (I've never tried their Coffee or standard Bender), but the flavor profile is really dominated by the coffee, at least up front. You could swear that you were actually sipping a coffee for that first impression. The roasted malts do have a say, more so as the taste progresses. In the middle and back, you do get that deep, rich dark chocolate--quite bitter, so it's difficult to distinguish from the coffee. There's also some vanilla in the mix, adding a bit of sweetness. The close has a touch of hop bitterness, but coffee rides the flavor right through.

F: Lighter-bodied than what I expected: most of the beers I drink with chocolate and coffee notes are stouts, so this one went down quite easily. It never feels watery for all of that. Creamy, smooth, and bitter in turns. Nice feel.

O: My wife had ordered this one, and I liked it so much I had to have more for myself. I was already a fan of coffee and chocolate stouts--I can safely say that this one brings more coffee flavor than any beer I've a very good way. I would definitely recommend seeking this one out.

May 26, 2015
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kkleu357 from Wisconsin

4.28/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On draft during Madison Craft Beer Week. Huge coffee aroma. Like being in a Starbucks. Awesome coffee taste. Love the vanilla and cacao nibs. Turned it into an awesome mocha style beer.

May 11, 2015
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BillRoth from Maryland

4.33/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On Beer safari in M/SP. Had on tap at new Surly Beer Hall. Great spin on a very good brown ale base. Dark chocolate and accents from vanilla and coffee made for a real treat during visit.

Apr 12, 2015
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IowaBiertrinker from Iowa

4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Flavorful for sure, but too much going on all at once...never resolves. Better the second time I tried. Coffee nose. Taste is initially coffee, then vanilla, then chocolate on the finish. Tends to blur a bit though.

Mar 15, 2015
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SeanBond from Illinois

4.29/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm not a big coffee guy, so I typically don't like coffee beers too much. This however, was pretty pleasant.

Not too bitter, with a nice but not overwhelming coffee taste, the cacao mellows out the coffee so it's not quite as astringent as it could be. Since this is a brown ale, the mouthfeel is a little thinner than I'm used to (drinking mostly coffee stouts or BA coffee stouts), but in some ways that actually seems to help.

Didn't get to spend as much time drinking this as I'd have liked to as I had to leave (on tap at LP Binny's), but this was quite a pleasant surprise, and definitely something worth seeking out if you're a coffee drinker. Surly continues to impress!

Feb 19, 2015
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TheBrewo from New York

4.12/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This brew was served on tap from the upstairs walk-up bar, at the new Surly taproom in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It arrived in a stout tulip glass, showing the darkest brown coloring that let up the faintest ruby highlights when held to direct light. A one and a half finger tall head of off-white foam sat atop the liquid, retaining decently before dissolving into ringed islands of lacing. No haze or sediment was noted, and carbonation appeared to approach visual nonexistence. The aroma was bold and wonderful, sitting high with massive, authentic black coffee whiffs, black and chocolate malty roast, charred coffee malt burn, hot tar, dark chocolate syrups, molten cacao, aluminum metallics, smoked toffees, vanilla cake and buttercream icing sugars, sticky Tootsie Roll candies, ale yeastiness, and attic dust. The taste was just as fulfilling, with so, so much raw café au lait coffee swirling around the mouth. This was punctuated by charred black, brown, and chocolate malts, dark chocolate fudge brownie batter, coiny metallics, raw cacao nibs, cocoa powder, whole milk fattiness, orange Tootsie Pops, skunked corny adjuncts, soured mineral, cardboard, rose petals, and the lightest soapy hops. The body was medium, and the carbonation was medium. The slurp, smack, cream, and froth were all rather standard because all you’re left thinking about is how damn fiery and drying it was. Intense chalky and tannic dryness was felt all around the mouth. The abv was appropriate, and the beer drank easily.

Overall, initially it was hard to find exactly how to differentiate Cacao Bender from Coffee Bender. From the aroma alone it smells like walking to a Starbucks. Straight up. To say otherwise would be a stretch of the truth. With warmth, the bittered cacao does begin to seep through the cracks of that coffee wall. The taste, on the other hand, is much more amped up. You get so much of that coffee, and it’s raw and black as ever, up front, but the kicker is that this is bolstered by equally as raw, dark, and bittering dark chocolate. With each sip it dries you out a touch more, and clamps down just a little bit harder with that chalky, bittering puck. Ultimately, the cacao doesn’t seem any more robust than the coffee, but together, and coming fresh off the tap, it is pure enjoyment.

Feb 10, 2015
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SD-Alefan from South Dakota

4.5/5  rDev +4.4%

Enjoyed on tap at a local pub, served in a pint glass.
Pours an opaque brown with a medium tan head.
The aroma is loaded with chocolate with some coffee and a slight vanilla note as well.
The taste is fabulous. Vanilla, coffee and chocolate hit my tongue in that order. It's a very nice blend. A little bit sweet and really easy going down.
It has a medium and creamy feel and the carbonation is spot on, not distracting at all.
Overall, a fabulous brew!

Nov 01, 2014
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

what a beautiful beer, less coffee intense than the coffee bender, but still plenty of it there both in nose and taste. also a whole lot of cocoa and vanilla, a cool mix, extremely aromatic in this brown ale that already exhibits properties of all three of these ingredients in its base form. short fizzy cream head here, medium brown full bodied beer. coffee first on the nose, but the aromatic vanilla is close in tow. the cacao is way more present in the taste, bitter, buttery, earthy, all in the finish over a nice dark chocolate malt base. its a fantastically well built beer, with great carbonation and a cleanness for how dark and flavorful it is. one of the best from surly, and probably honestly my favorite of the three versions i have had. coffee blends so well with the vanilla, where as in the coffee bender its almost too much, just iced coffee basically. this does a good job of being beer first. i love it, wish we got it all the time here!

Oct 07, 2014
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Beric from Massachusetts

4.33/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Serving: On tap, 4oz sampler
Served: 6 August 2014

Appearance: Pours a dark brown, almost stout-like, with a hint of a dirty head. Head did not stick around, though it's possible this resulted from the sampler glass.

Smell: Extremely complex smell of sweet malts, dark baker's chocolate, cocoa powder, and a touch of vanilla sweetness. The smells are all masterfully subtle and create a really great aromatic experience. One of the best smelling beers I think I've ever had.

Taste: Much like the smell- the taste is a subtle combination of baker's chocolate, cocoa powder, and vanilla on top of a sweet malt backbone with medium body. I really like the subtlety of flavor here- no one flavor is especially overpowering and it lacks a lot of the burnt/roasted qualities of many other dark beers using the same ingredients.

Mouthfeel: Somewhat thin- not great carbonation and the beer doesn't have a huge backbone to beef up its presence. I'd love to see this one on nitro though.

Overall: A magnificent beer. One of the best of 2014.

Aug 07, 2014
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garymuchow from Minnesota

4.2/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Served at the tap room.
Full coffee aroma with the cocao more background and blended in. Nice soft roasts.
Black with reddish highlights. Smaller head and okay persistence.
Flavor is again strong on coffee with the cocao more blended, but it is there and it is kinda' sneaky showing up here and there and really lingering long after the beer was finished I still had the cocao presence showing up. A touch of sweetness but never a sweet beer.
Fullness in body from carbonation but towards the end of the glass it started to feel slightly thin.
Overall a really nicely made beers with enjoyable and well combined flavors.

Aug 02, 2014
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MikeWard from Pennsylvania

4.4/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

warning - I like chocolate. A lot.

on tap at the beer place in Perham, Minnesota

Looking nice and dark with an off white head. Good lacing too

Smell is just amazing. Cocoa dominates, but there's vanilla in there too.

Taste is spectacular. Had to beat my daughter off with a stick to make sure I got most of it. Rich creamy cocoa chocolate, but still with that strong body of a nicely carbonated brown ale behind it.

Mouth was soothing, not quite full.

Sadly Surly does not distribute to my home state of Pennsylvania. Or i'd be all over this one every week. Come to think of it, maybe it's a good thing they don't. :)

May 22, 2014
Cacao Bender from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 497 ratings