Cacao Bender | Surly Brewing Company

40 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.10%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Mahogany hued ale infused with coffee, vanilla beans and cacao nibs.

45 IBU

Added by MasterSki on 07-20-2012

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Reviews: 40 | Ratings: 478
Photo of jsprain1
4.74/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is a terrific beer and exactly how breweries should use chocolate. This is a great balance of sweet and slightly bitter chocolate. Nice and deep dark brown with a thin, but long lasting cocoa colored head. The smell is slightly sweet at first, like a milk chocolate bar, but some dark cocoa and roasted malt notes come in stronger as it warms. Initially it tasted sweet, but in the back of the palate it becomes slightly bitter and roasty. It is silky smooth in body with moderately low carbonation. Really a top quality beer. Definitely worth seeking out.

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Photo of reebtaerG
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had on draft at churchkey poured into snifter

A-Pours a dark brownish color with light tan head.

S-Aromas of coffee and grounds, roast.

T-Tasting notes of coffee and grounds, roast, light vanilla and chocolate, toast.

M-Mouthfeel has a medium body with a dry finish. Soft carbonation.

O-Overall great beer, had to order another.

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Photo of PHBoiler
4.63/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Like a Mocha Bender. Coffee is still the star. This pours like a mocha latte. Deep dark body with an off white head. The vanilla really pops on that roasty coffee body. The cacao just blends into the richness of the coffee. The most flavorful beer I've had at this ABV level. One of the true modern marvels of brewing. So well integrated.

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Photo of Barnoloid
4.56/5  rDev +6%
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.

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Photo of NWer
4.55/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Surlyfest mug at Surlyfest '12.
This was my first taste - not really a 'taste' at all but a full 16 oz pour - at Surlyfest and the best.
Full bodied dark chocolate in appearance. One finger head that retained well.
Chocolate, cocoa beans, coffee.
At 5.10% very sessionable. Not big on the alcohol which allows me to enjoy the festival and not get wasted.
Smooth aftertaste. No cloy whatsoever.
It sure would be nice to see them can this one not that it would do me any good. I don't get to Minnesota very often.

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Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
4.55/5  rDev +5.8%
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.

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Photo of MCImes
4.53/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Coffee bender with vanilla beans and cacao nibs? Yes. Its awesome. I remember Moe's Bender which is this same beer aged on Oak, and this reincarnation nails it. It was slightly better oaked, but this beer still rocks my world. Its tied for my favorite surly beer (its tied with Wet and Pentagram followed closely by Abrasive)

Anyways, go to the taproom whenever this is on. If you like bender or coffee bender, this takes it to the next level.

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Photo of NODAK
4.52/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap at a bar in uptown, Chino Latino.

Poured black as night with a fair head that lasted a while.

Had an awesome, sweet chocolate aroma to it...the girl I was with told me she could smell it from a few feet away where she was sitting. That really was the dominant note on the of the more chocolate smelling beers I've had.

Taste really followed the smell quite well. Such a sweet, but not overly sweet, chocolate tasting beer. Many chocolate beers have a bitterness to them, or a roasted quality, but I didn't get that here. A very pleasing, easy drinking, moderately sweet chocolate ale. Their regular Bender is such an excellent beer by itself, but I must say that I do prefer what I'm tasting here with the addition of cacao.

All in all, so impressed. The girl I was with was impressed enough to order her own, despite the fact this beer was the only beer not on happy hour special.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.5/5  rDev +4.7%

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!

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Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

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Photo of deebo
4.48/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

First time trying this one. On tap at the brewery. Had Moe's many times and all except the last time in which it was syrupy and cloying it was a superb beer that managed to be so flavorful at such a low ABV. Anyway this similar version to Moe (without the wood aging) is also a fantastic beer. Tons of flavor yet not filling and easy to drink multiples of. Rich cocoa powder flavor on top of the already solid coffee taste and the rich roasted malt backbone of Bender with a fair amount of vanilla to top it off...this is so tasty. The mouthfeel on this version is lighter than Moe's but still has a rich, silky mouthfeel upfront that quickly dissipates inviting that next drink. Similar to Moe's I would love to see Surly make more of either one of these beers. Just takes Coffee Bender to the next level. What a beer that is so flavorful yet very drinkable!

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Photo of BlackBeerPirate
4.46/5  rDev +3.7%
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.

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Photo of Dad_of_Rad
4.46/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at a Surly taproom

A: Dark brown/black. Thin, tan head.

S: Coffee, roasted almond, cocoa. Not a sweet chocolate smell. Very AM wake-up.

T: Much like the aroma, but cocoa finish is fantastic. Flavors are prevalent, no subtlety here. More bitter chocolate than sweet, which I prefer in this style.

M: Interesting that feel is medium to thin. Still creamy, but not cloying. Very good for the style.

O: A fantastic beer. Roast flavors are mellowed (e.g. not burnt) and blend well with the cocoa. Wished it was always available and I lived in Minneapolis.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.42/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul, MN. Served in a 10 oz. tulip glass.

Appearance: Color is a very deep and dark brown that is somewhat hazy. Lots of bubbles and a solid three fingers of light tan head with good retention. Has some pretty good lacing on the glass.

Smell: Big aroma of sweet chocolate dominates. Smells a lot like chocolate milk. Dark roasted malts with big hints of cocoa chocolate and coffee. Also some hints of vanilla, nuts, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, and syrup. Some earthy hops linger around in the background. A very good aroma here. Sweet but not overly cloying.

Taste: Like the smell previews, a big taste of sweet milk chocolate. Dark roasted malts with a big taste of the cocoa, chocolate, lactose, coffee beans, and vanilla. Also notes of nuts, burnt caramel, and toffee. A sizable amount of brown sugar and syrup is tasted. Behind the dark sweetness is a nice presence of earthy hops that provide some bitterness towards the finish. Really solid taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Very creamy, smooth, and somewhat syrupy. Starts out pretty sweet but has a drying finish.

Overall: A pretty good chocolate beer. Has the big cocoa taste you would get from a big chocolate stout with a smaller body and lower abv. A good session chocolate brew.

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Photo of MikeWard
4.4/5  rDev +2.3%
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 chocoalte, 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. :)

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Photo of Tucquan
4.34/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2013-07-19 in Minneapolis, MN at the brewery.

A - Opaque dark brown with a 2-finger tan head and great lacing.

S - Big chocolate nibs and vanilla. Medium roasted malt. Smells sweet and rich.

T - Medium roasted grain, CHOCOLATE, some coffee, big kick of roasted and hop bitterness. So very rich for a lowish ABV brew.

M - Medium body and light-medium carbonation. Not as thick as it tastes.

O - Delicious and better than their normal Bender.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.33/5  rDev +0.7%
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.

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Photo of Beric
4.33/5  rDev +0.7%
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.

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Photo of yamar68
4.32/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the brewery - review from notes:

Dark chocolate brown body with a healthy dose of creamy khaki head.

Powdery cocoa, roast, fresh vanilla, cold coffee, bittersweet brown ale goodness.

Smooth... bitter chocolate flavors with dessert sugars, smooth caramel, nutty malt flavors, definite vanilla presence.

What a great twist on Bender! Ended up ordering a second. Really tasty stuff.

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Photo of lurpy1
4.32/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bender's never been my favorite of the Surly beers, so what Surly has done with this take on it is remarkable. Chocolate takes the lead, in fact this has more of a chocolate presence than most chocolate forward beers. A woody, grainy sensation follows. But it wasn't aged on wood? Well, it's in there anyway. More of a sipper than a slammer. Damn good brown ale.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.29/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

10oz poured into a Darkness goblet at Surly's tap room today, 11/29/2013.

Pours a very dark brown (clearly appears brown sitting next to a glass of Darkness) body with a nice 1cm white head with good retention and lacing.

Smells delicious- so much bitter black espresso along with lighter notes of dark chocolate. Comes along with a nice caramelly sweetness. Really strong nose and smells like morning coffee with chocolate syrup.

As in the nose, a lot of coffee along with bitter dark chocolate complemented by a nice caramel, toffee malt backbone.. with a nice vanilla flavour on the backend that I could not get in the nose. Quite delicious, but there is a bit too much coffee bitterness there.

Lighter bodied, especially next to Darkness, with less than ideal carbonation. Actually seems to be a little flat, would have liked it to be a bit more creamy and carbonated. Otherwise its rather drinkable and flavourful without too much of anything off-putting.

Very interesting take on Coffee Bender; I think if they decreased the coffee contribution and let the other adjuncts shine even more, they would have an even bigger hit on their hands.

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Photo of SeanBond
4.29/5  rDev -0.2%
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!

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Photo of kkleu357
4.28/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

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Photo of Biggiekrock627
4.28/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

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Photo of Lucular
4.25/5  rDev -1.2%
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.

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Cacao Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.3 out of 5 based on 478 ratings.
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