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: 479
Photo of tewaris
3.5/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled at ABR after waiting in a moderately long queue.

Looks like your typical porter/brown ale, not that I expected it to look any different. Now I really liked the aroma on this beer, insanely chocolate milkshake like; but the taste was a relative let down. Also, having had Bender way too many times, I can tell that there is some added astringency to this version which in my opinion is a downgrade from the regular Bender.


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Photo of Sammy
3.64/5  rDev -15.3%
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.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4/5  rDev -7%
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.

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Photo of gatornation
4.07/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on tap @red cow
A-pours a dark brown color with a tan head that dissapears quickly nothing special here
S-Chocolate nibs with vanilla roasted malts slight coffee
T- this is where this brew shines what a great use of cocoa in an already great brown ale mixed with vanilla and malt the cocoa is so smooth
M-sweet creamy chocolate velvet
O- a great addition to a great brown ale

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Photo of mwilbur
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of bbtkd
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of IowaBiertrinker
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of maedhros09
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.12/5  rDev -4.2%
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.

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Photo of ParnellJoseph1138
4.15/5  rDev -3.5%
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.

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Photo of Florida9
4.15/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ever so slightly hazy chestnut brown. Served with a moderate sized light tan head. Copious lacing. Aroma is predominantly lightly roasted coffee with notes of toasty cocoa, chocolate and roasted peanuts. There is a hint of vanilla as well. Flavor is a bit thinner than the aroma. Dry cocoa, peanuts, slightly bitter coffee and a tiny bit of sourness. Medium mouthfeel, a bit thin for the style. Moderate bitterness.

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Photo of bsp77
4.16/5  rDev -3.3%
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.

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Photo of garymuchow
4.2/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

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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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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.25/5  rDev -1.2%
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.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.25/5  rDev -1.2%
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!

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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 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 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 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 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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Cacao Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.3 out of 5 based on 479 ratings.
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