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Santa's Little Helper - Port Brewing

Not Rated.
Santa's Little HelperSanta's Little Helper

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

556 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 556
Hads: 1,375
Avg: 3.99
pDev: 16.54%
Wants: 85
Gots: 237 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Port Brewing visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Boilermaker88 on 12-11-2003

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 556 | Hads: 1,375
Photo of gratefulbeerhead
4.04/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle of '09, cellared since one of my first trades in the same year. Very pleased with how well it held up in the cellar. Still had good carbonation and lots of great bitter chocolate, coffee, and vanilla flavors.

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Photo of BeerT3ch
4.11/5  rDev +3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Great beer but way too pricey for results. Nice stout but no character flavors. Looking for separation of holiday accents being that it's name "Santas... " Fall/Christmas. Couldn't find it. No different from any other decent imperial stout. Expected more from Lost Abbey

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Photo of OGShotzy
4.07/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Christmas in July event at...my house. 22oz bomber poured into a Spiegelau stout glass.

A lot of carbonation for a 10.5% imperial stout. Don't get much smell-wise. The taste, however, has a nice graham crackery, gingerbready sweetness.

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Photo of CHickman
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2014 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a huge foamy 2-3 finger tan/brown head that had a ton of tiny bubbles in it and faded very slowly, leaving caverns as it dissipated and great foamy lacing with thick rings as it went down. The head never fully goes away with a 1/4 inch foamy layer lingering the whole time – second pour looked just as good, a damn fine looking RIS.

Smells of chocolate, burnt grains, coffee grinds, faint vanilla, light bourbon, molasses, charred wood, smoked malts, licorice, piney hops and herbs that keep the sweetness in check with the fine roasted notes. Bakers chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee come through the strongest and seem to come on more as the beer warms up.

Tastes like it smells with chocolate, smoked malts, vanilla, coffee beans, burnt grains, cocoa powder, caramel, light bourbon, molasses and charred wood. After the initial swallow the bakers chocolate/dark chocolate (think Hersey’s Dark), licorice, burnt brownies, piney hops, some dark fruit, citrus hops like grapefruit as well as herbs which like the nose keep the sweetness in check with the fine roasted notes and slight hoppy bitterness. This has milk stout qualities and some of the high ABV comes through, but the complex roasted malts and chocolate just dominate the palate and let all of the complexities deliver a really finely crafted stout. The hops jump out at times, but then get washed away by either chocolate, light booze or smoky malts. I can overlook the hop bitterness being out of whack for the RIS style because the flavor is so damn good.

Mouthfeel is very thick, chewy and viscous with a slick milk stout feel across the tongue somehow as this juxtaposition of feel doesn’t make sense but indeed does come from the same brew. Heavy body with a slightly bitter chocolate, coffee finish that has a hop nip and some mild roasted sweetness that trails off like a Starbucks bold coffee. Really fine stout, represents San Diego area well and one I highly recommend and will seek out again. I like this on the fresher side as the hops played a nice part in the dynamics of the flavor profile.

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Photo of thedoubler55
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Opaque black in color with a nice one finger of tan head at the top, left some nice lacing around the glass as you drank it.

S: Some chocolate and citrus hops, good nose on this brew, some alcohol coming through on the nose as well.

T: Same as the nose with a lot more roasted characters, coffee prominent and chocolate as well, some citrus in there as well.

M:Medium/heavy bodied, little carbonation, smokeyness.

O: Overall a great beer to have during the holiday and the winter months, well balanced and flavorful, thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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Photo of mxchap
3.58/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper (Bottled 8.3.13 enjoyed on 1.27.15)

Appearance: Dark brown to black with a ring of tight, dense bubbles around the edge. Minimal to no head and retention. [3.75]

Aroma: Chocolate, plum, cherries, soy sauce. [3.75]

Flavor: Follows the nose closely. Mild bitterness and fairly sweet. Slight roasted malt flavor. A small amount of tartness as well (and some umami). Definitely get some raisins too. A little bit of alcohol heat on the end. [3.5]

Feel: Rather carbonated for a stout, although it does help cut through some of the sweetness. Fairly thick feel from the sweetness, but it doesn't linger as much as expected. A little disjointed (sweet + high carbonation) but it kinda works. [3.5]

Overall: A passable imperial stout at a good price. Definitely prefer the "fresher" version though. Cellaring this for ~1yr didn't improve it. [3.5]

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.27/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Distribution to my state just started this year so I didn't expect to actually find a bottle. Paid 8.50 for it at Gateway Grill in Monroeville.

A - Looks awesome in the glass two fingers of rockin Deep mocha head that takes a while to dissipate. Beer is the deepest of blackest nights which I come to love in these extreme malty imperial stouts.
S - Surprisingly sweet slight residual sugars and dark chocolate cocoa nibs meet mild roasts and some underlining citrus hops zest.
T - A pretty well made stout not as sweet more traditional with some cocoa nibs, mild coffee roasts the good kind not Folgers and a good hop balanced that easily hides the ABV.
M - Again the ABV is unbelievable the 10.5% is smooth I wouldn't believe it would be over 9%. Hops and malts in harmony.

Overall well worth the 8-9 dollars a bottle and should have picked up a second. Ow well their is always next year!

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Photo of pat61
4.53/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours brilliant dark brown with an exuberant 3” tan head that persists and leaves heavy lace. The nose is prune to plum with coffee and a hint of chocolate in the background. The beer is clean and the bubbles are so fine that they suggest a nitro beer. A very effervescent, creamy palate starts malty with a dark, nutty biscuit background coupled with big grain flavors seasoned with chocolate and coffee finishing with a dry bitter chocolate astringency joined with grain on the finish. Big body with very fine, soft carbonation.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours near black with cola brown edging where light can penetrate. Rocky 2-finger head that's the color of cocoa powder. Excellent retention, but finally gives way to a fine, ever-present layer of surface suds. Lace is thick and generously dispersed around the glass, displaying excellent stick.

Smell - More sweet than roasty, with prominent notes of chocolate, light smokiness and molasses.

Taste - Follows the nose. Sweet malt and chocolatey flavors upfront. Hints of herbal character and a faint trace of mint leaf. Lesser notes of smoke and a light roastiness creep in mid-taste and slide into the finish, giving the brew a nice, even balance.

Mouthfeel - Full in body with low carbonation. Velvety texture; stupid smooth for a 10.5% stout.

Overall - A fine brew, though personally I prefer a bit more roast and depth in my impy stouts. That said, this thing is as smooth as Sammy Jackson and should not be overlooked as one of the many other gimmicky holiday brews with catchy names and labels; this one's the real deal!

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Photo of far333
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown and opaque with a two-finger head of rocky foam that lingers long. Aroma of dark malt, caramel, cocoa and coffee. Deep, rich flavors of darkly kilned malt, not to roasty or bitter, but very flavorful, with notes of dark chocolate, espresso, licorice, root beer, and charred bark. Subtle hop flavors and bitterness balance it well. Full mouthfeel, a bit tingly. Nice beer.

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Photo of ANIMOUL
4.04/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

While not a particularly enthusiastic fan of the style, drinking this has turned into an annual tradition each Xmas Eve. Slightly sweet but not overpowering... alcohol is also manageable. Not bad.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.4/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, 22oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours pitch black in color with a small creamy and foamy khaki colored head that reduces to leave only a ring around the edge, no lace left behind

S- smoky roasted dark chocolate malt aroma with a hint of smoked wood and cocoa, underlying notes of dark cherry and fig give a sherry-like aroma, a hint of coffee closes it out

T- deep chocolate malt hits the palate up front with notes of melted dark chocolate and cocoa that lasts all the way into the mid-palate. Notes of dark cherry and fig begin to kick in with a kick of espresso, more smoky malt on the finish with lingers of smoked cherry-wood

M- medium-heavy body with low carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel and a chewy, velvety finish

O- two years of age has mellowed this beer out amazingly, with big dark chocolate and cherry flavors, very good RIS!

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Photo of jellikit
4.14/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: pitch black. Thick, foamy, brown head (Looks like a root beer float.)
Smell: Fig. Chocolate.
Taste: light roastiness. Chocolate, coffee, raisin.
Mouthfeel: medium carbonation. Big body. Dry.
Overall: yum. Balanced well. Great beer.

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Photo of KTCamm
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12/15...from the bomber. Pours dark black with high tan foam, thick and creamy, loads of lacing. Rich roasted nose, vanilla notes. Hearty thick dark malt taste, heavy bitter. Thick mouthfeel, real filling, like a milkshake. Smooth and bitter. 10.5 packs a wallop.

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Photo of Roguer
4.35/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Just quick notes: really complex brew. Thick, chocolate milk flavor, with an enormous amount of oak flavor.

Mouthfeel is perfectly balanced and smooth, hiding the 10.5% exceptionally well.

An excellent big stout, perfect for the Winter months.

(If I understand this series correctly, there's the oak aged version, and the whiskey/bourbon barrel aged version; I believe I have now had both, and this is the former. There is possibly an un-aged version, as well.)

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Photo of john0721
4.64/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. color: black, head: well formed, light tan, nice lacing.

I look forward to this one every year. This year's did not disappoint.

An excellent version of a non barrel aged imperial stout.

Also looking forward to trying this year's barrel aged version.

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Photo of Stevedore
3.93/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at Lost Abbey in San Marcos, CA.

A- Dark brown body. Cola coloured body, half finger mocha head with fair retention time. However, the lacing is something else. It coats the glass with a full layer of tan lacing all the way through the glass. I haven't seen a beer do something like this in a while. So, props to the bartender and his pouring skills.

S- Dark chocolate, cocoa. These are really the main aromas that pop out. It's not particularly roasty, but it becomes sweeter as it warms up. More of a milk chocolate like aroma. Not complicated at all, but delivers on the aspects of American Imperial Stouts that I expect.

F- Rich cocoa, a bit of espresso, milk chocolate, a decent bit of roasted malts. As in the nose, it seems to get sweeter as it gets warmer. Nothing particularly bitter or sweet, it all comes together reasonably well. There seems to be a richness that is most apparent just before it hits room temperature, at which case it seems to start falling off a bit. It's a solid flavour profile for an Imperial Stout, but it lacks the dark fruits of the Russian Imperial Stout or the hoppiness of an American style stout. It seems to rely more on the milk chocolate and roasted malts here, and that is not a bad thing.

M- Medium bodied, not particularly thick or viscous, but certainly enough carbonation to give it a slick, smooth mouthfeel on the palate. The finish is more of a mildly bitter dark chocolate flavour. A bit of booze is apparent, but it doesn't increase as it warms up.

O- Fairly good Imperial Stout that delivers what I expect of Imperial Stouts, but not a whole lot more than that. Decent complexity of the expected flavours, but I think it could use a bit more of an earthiness on the finish.

Final score: 3.94

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Photo of TruePerception
3.89/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Port Brewing's Santa's Little Helper, imperial stout. 10.5% ABV.

A: Pours a very dark brown. Almost three fingers of fluffy, chocolate milk brown head. Slow dissolve... Light, yet multi-layered lacing. Very light sheeting.

S: Powdered cocoa, malt, and caramel before the head dissolves. Light roasted coffee aroma starts to come through once most of the head is gone.

T/MF: Quite smooth (though, not as smooth as Pecan Pie Porter). Grassy roasted coffee flavor dominates, with a touch of char and graphite on the end. A spike of sweetness going into the finish. Slight dry cocoa note on the frontside of the finish. Cocoa, char, and graphite hold at a medium intensity for a good while. Not bad. I look forward to the barrel-aged version. This beer seems like a good foundation for it.

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Photo of Qbdoo
3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful black beer that smells of roasted malt, licorice and hints of chocolate. Taste is similar but there's are much bolder hop presence than you expect with a Russian Imperial Stout. Somewhat medium-bodied for an RIS and more carbonated as well. A different take on the style. Might work for some but not really my kind of stout.

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Photo of scotorum
4.26/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Cellared this for a year, perhaps a mistake since it's an Imperial, but perhaps the base flavor will be improved at the expense of the loss of any hop flavor.

Cute label graphic of either a silhouetted Santa (?) and Rudolph hoisting brews at a bar tended by an elf holding a candy cane aloft.

Poured from the 22 oz. bomber into a Samuel Smith English tulip.

a: Opaque black with slight ruby highlights when seen through light. Enormous three inch tall tan head dissipated slowly to rocky surface foam and patchy lacing. First pour only filled 40% of the pint glass, the rest was head.

s: Mild dark malt.

t: Smooth dark roasty malt with considerable balancing hop bite. Bitterness lingers at the sides of the tongue, lessens gradually. Bitter finish which mellows out later.

m; Medium to full, silky smooth body, lots of carbonation tingle.

o; Cellaring does not seem to have hurt this powerful brew. Bitterness builds somewhat and the high ABV becomes more evident early on. But it's a helluva holiday beverage which packs a big flavor, hop and alcohol wallop.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.66/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle poured into a tumbler. Bottled 9/12/2012. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Black with a nice mocha head and a thick layer of foam that remains.

Smell - Roasty chocolate malt. Very roasty. Simple, but good.

Taste - Lots of roasted malt. Bitter chocolate and coffee. Intensely roasty and bitter finish.

Mouthfeel - A little boozy and the finish is a little harsh from the intensity of the roast.

Overall - It pushes the line of too one-dimensional on the roasted malt flavor, but it still works.

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Photo of tmzl
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Taste-off: Santa's Little Helper (S) vs. Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged (SBBA)

S: Pours with a huge, thick, creamy, billowy mocha head, has a good slow, equal retention (breakdown of medium sized bubbles). A very thick, medium-sized, creamy layer stays on top. Dark brown, heavy pour, fair amount of lacing.
SBBA: The head is a lot smaller, higher degree of medium/big bubbles, mocha head a bit lighter. Has a faster retention, mostly diminishing. Looks a bit more transparent and watery.

S: Cherry, dark fruit on opening, dominating roast, coffee and milk chocolate, stuffy, mostly dark malt driven. Light sourness, bit salty, soy sauce and some cookie dough.
SBBA: More dark fruit esters on opening, then goes to rum-kokos Casali chocolates with a lot of oak, vanilla. Roast, milk chocolate more on the side here. Alcohol with booze feeling, oak the most dominant aroma here.

S: Light acidity and molasses, burned sugar start with fruity forest esters. A bit rum-like transition into milky, dark malt medium sweetness that ends with medium dark coffee bitterness, it's well developed. Small boozy spike towards the end.
SBBA: Bourbon oak dominates this one. Medium molasses, burned sugar sweet start with acidity turned down, the middle, which is overrun with oak dominance, a bit of milky backbone felt, but a lot more subtle. Ends with strong bourbon oak spike that dominates the after with turned down roast, coffee bitterness and alcohol.

S: Full, light heavy body, soft carbonation lingers on the tongue, quite pleasant.
SBBA: A bit lighter on the body (higher alcohol), light warmth, no carbonation to detect.

The non-barrel aged version is a lot smoother and very drinkable. Solid, not too demanding take on imperial stouts. The bourbon one is a lot sluttier, the oak is (too) heavy and goes down a lot slower. The age in barrels didn't make it better IMO.

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Photo of ONUMello
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle dated 8/20/13 poured into a pint glass
A: Pitch black with a 2+ finger mocha-colored head
S: Roasted coffee, roasted malt, cocoa, though a touch muted
T: Largely matches the nose, a noticeable bitterness from the coffee & cocoa comes through as well. Perhaps a touch one-dimensional but tasty
M: Full bodied/dry/bitter
O: Worth a try and a decent beer. Of the RIS I've had some have been better, this is right in the middle of the pack

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Photo of metter98
3.72/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A:The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a finger high tan colored head that died down but consistently left a short head covering the surface, a collar around the edge, and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of chocolate and roasted malts are present in the nose; the taste becomes stronger as the beer warms up.
T: The taste mostly follows the smell and also has hints of burnt malts. A little acidity and licorice are noticeable towards the finish, which also has a light amount of bitterness.
M: It feels medium bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O:it seems that you really need to let this beer warm up as the complexion in the beer become stronger.

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Photo of blindtiger24
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

A: Not quite obsidian with a slight brown hue. Mocha head with stripping on the side of the pint glass. Active carbonation flowing from the bottom of the glass and collecting in the head.

S: Coffee, vanilla, boozy bourbon, coca nibs, rum soaked rasins, fruit cake, roasted malts.

T: Semi-sweet and bitter chocolate, cereal grains, toasted malts, vanilla and slight caramel flavors. A bit of hoppy bitterness as well at the end. There's a noticeable and almost overwhelming saltiness as well.

M: Creamy and a little syrupy. A little drying on the finish and boozy on the back of the throat.

O: A pleasant but flawed imperial stout that has complex aromas and taste. The saltiness was too much in my opinion and took away from my overall enjoyment.

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Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 556 ratings.