Beer Review 0351: Surly Coffee Bender Brown Ale


Surly Brewing Company are located in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (essentially Minneapolis) and are a relatively new brewery, only having started up in 2005. And when it did, it became Minnesota’s first new brewery west of the Mississippi River since 1987.

Founded by Omar Ansari, Surly was more than ten years in the making. It all began when Mr. Ansari received a home brewing kit in 1994. His friends loved the beer he made, whether or not that was influenced by the fact it was free — and after the birth of his and wife Becca’s first child in 2002, things began to get serious.

Ansari moved into all-grain brewing, which led him to enroll at the American Brewer’s Guild, through which he took apprenticeship at New Holland Brewing and took a journey to nearby Rock Bottom Brewery, where he would meet Surly’s future head brewer, Todd Haug. After some equipment wrangling from the Dominican Republic, Surly were in business.

Surly’s Coffee Bender, which comes in a 16 oz. can, is a coffee flavored Brown Ale offered year-round. Brewed with a new cold extraction process that helps to better get the coffee flavors and aromas into the beer, it comes in at 5.1 ABV (alcohol by volume) and 45 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The coffee used in the beer is Guatemalan Finca Vista Hermosa Full City Roast by Coffee and Tea Ltd., in case you’d like a bag. Thanks to Dave (Untappd user OnWisconsin) for sending me this brew in a trade.


As soon as I popped the top on this beer, the coffee aroma hit my nose. The pour produced a large, creamy head that lasted. Color of the beer was brown out of bright light, but more of a ruby red in the light, and the body was clear, free of particles or sediment. Lacing was outstanding, leaving behind a light brown wispy film.

The nose isn’t quite one-note, but almost. Coffee. Tons of it, fresh roasted, black, and slightly acidic. I did notice that Coffee Bender was strangely more aromatic out of the can rather than my glass. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find some biscuit and grain malt, with just a hint of hops. This is a beer, you know. That said, the aroma is pretty amazing considering this is a beer — you’d never guess beer when you take a whiff.


And our running theme, once more: COFFEE. This beer tastes just like a cup of fresh roasted black coffee, only it’s iced. And yep, it says right on the can, “refreshes like an iced coffee.” No frills here, just coffee; the flavor does start off a little tame and mild at first, but give it a swirl around your tongue and you’ll awaken the java goodness. The finish is fairly bitter and long lasting, with just an edge of creamer. Full-bodied, the beer did have a very thin mouthfeel like a soda.

If you placed a cup of coffee and this beer side-by-side, I don’t think most people would tell a difference by the smell. And if you iced the real coffee down, well, I think you’d get the same result in flavor, too. This is an incredible feat for a beer and the one flavor you pull out is exceptional. However, in my opinion, drinkability suffers because of the lack of complexity, and I would have a hard time drinking more than one of these. Remember, I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t drink coffee on a regular basis, but I do like the flavors of coffee. If you can’t stand coffee or even the smell turns you off, do yourself a favor and avoid Coffee Bender.

The question that lingers in my mind after finishing the can: what’s the caffeine content? After all, it is brewed with real coffee…

Surly Coffee Bender Brown Ale, 93 points. Price: $2.19 US for one 16 oz. can.



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2 responses to “Beer Review 0351: Surly Coffee Bender Brown Ale”

  1. onwisconsin21 says :

    It really taste exactly like an iced coffee! Hmmm, might be perfect for a Saturday morning in July!

    • allthesamebeer says :

      I love coffee flavors in beer but this one is so coffee-forward that I’d probably only drink it every once in a while for a nice change of pace. Very impressive how much coffee is in this beer.

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