Cacao Bender | Surly Brewing Company

39 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: 39 | Ratings: 473
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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Cacao Bender from Surly Brewing Company
4.3 out of 5 based on 473 ratings.
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