I’ve had plenty of coffee stouts before, but never a coffee-infused
brown ale. Would that even work? In the case of Surly Coffee Bender it
definitely does. It’s not as rich and intense as a coffee stout, but is
just as robust, yet it has the smaller, more sessionable body of a brown
ale. Impressive indeed.
I received a 16oz can from a fan in Minnesota (thanks, James!). I poured it into a mug.
Appearance: Opaque dark chestnut brown body. Forms a fairly large, beige, foamy head which lingers and laces very well.
Smell: Strong coffee aroma as soon as the can is opened. Up close it’s
like sticking your nose in a pot that’s been sitting on a burner for way
too long. Not much genuine beer scents, though.
Taste: I’ve often described coffee beers as tasting like iced coffee
with plenty of cream and sugar, but in the case of Surly Coffee Bender
it’s more like deeply roasted, unflavored and slightly burnt coffee. In
other words, it’s a pretty darn bitter brew. Right from the get-go this
beer is bitter with a dry, slightly spicy hop character. Though
technically a brown ale, there isn’t much in the way of traditional
brown ale sweetness aside from a quick confectionery taste through the
middle. The back end and aftertaste is all unflavored coffee. It imparts
a dry bitterness and a taste akin to burnt popcorn.
But despite that description, the fact remains I actually really like
the taste here. As a coffee drinker, but not a connoisseur, I do enjoy
the robust, authentic coffee flavor. I also appreciate the originality
of the recipe since it doesn’t taste like mocha or iced coffee. And
though it’s bitter it’s nothing unbearable. I would like to see more
genuine malty sweetness to balance it out, but as it stands it’s more
than a solid beer.
Drinkability: Surly Coffee Bender may not taste like a brown ale, but it
definitely drinks like one. The mouthfeel is smooth, soft and low on
the carbonation. It doesn’t feel thick or heavy. There’s a mild coffee
aftertaste, but it’s not only tolerable but pleasant. I am absolutely
amazed that this beer is only 5.1% ABV considering how flavorful it is.
It’s something you can drink multiple servings of without being
overwhelmed or suffering palate fatigue.