Santa's Little Helper - Port Brewing

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Santa's Little HelperSanta's Little Helper

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BA SCORE
89
very good

554 Reviews
THE BROS
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Reviews: 554
Hads: 1,349
rAvg: 3.98
pDev: 6.28%
Wants: 77
Gots: 221 | FT: 6
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

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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 554 | Hads: 1,349
Photo of jsh420
4.85/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2009 edition 10%abv

pours as close as you cn get to jet black - with a 1+ finger tan head that leaves rings of lacing down the glass

smell is big with roasted and chocolate malts

taste is amazing - it is very sweet - but rich roasteed malts milk chocolate and some coffee - some dark fruits come in on the end

mouthfeel is perfect - when i drink a RIS i want a heavy body with a smooth creamy feel to it and this beer delivers

drinkability is crazy - i think i could have drank another bomber but then i would not have been able to function (545 characters)

Photo of DogFood11
4.84/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber poured into a chalice. Takes alot of effort to achieve much of a head. I wasn't expecting a ton of froth but pizza port lost abbey is famous in this household for being "head impared" so it was not a shocker and for the style is acceptable. Dark body.

First drink had me thinking "what are the IBU's on this puppy" as they stood out over an incredibly thick and rich toasted malt body. Even besides the hop presence this draws a rather large bitterness aspect from the charred malts. Combine the two and you've got a Large and IN CHARGE brew. Warms you up real quick like a hot coffee and whiskey on a cold morning this will do the trick in spades. This is a beautiful thing. Spices are mild, but again, anything getting through this body has to be bold as hell and they come through with a nice addition to the warming finish.

Notes: Imperial stouts are grand in their very nature so its a tough style for me to judge. This is Very good and enters the elite in my opinion. Whats lacking in appearance it makes up for bigtime in the 2 other big categories. (1,069 characters)

Photo of scottoale
4.73/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First released in 1997, this is the latest version of Port Brewing's holiday cheer...fresh from the source 2006. From a 22 fl.oz. brown bomber with PP silver cap and a new label with an elf pouring pints for Santa and Rudolf...it pours a beautiful opaque black with a muddy brown head of 1" thick. Good carbonation for this imperial stout, as the foam settles down you get a bit of lace and a ring. This stuff look's great.

The smell is of sweet dark ripened fruit, toffee chewy malt and a strong hop presence, followed by a belgian strain of yeast.
As it warms a bit, the hop notes fade and some potency from the alcohol is released...it really smells like a STRONG, tasty brew.

Wow...the taste is superb! Big body with some big, bold flavor ...sweet dark fruity and roasty with fig, currants, toffee, licorice, dark chocolate and a spicy hop of a finish...complex brew going on here indeed. Plenty of warmth from the alcohol in this drop as well, I think this years brew will age like a gem.

Excellent beer for the holidays and the cold Winters months...this is a top-notch brew that I know will turn some heads. Fricken cheers and happy holiday's to all ! (1,168 characters)

Photo of Evil_Pidde
4.68/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: The color of the head is brown, on the darker side, and that is what fills the glass to the brim at first, a lovely compact beautiful head. Then the head starts to settle while the liquid "rises", pitch black. The only, not great thing about the apperance is the dissapointingly decent lacings.

S: Roasted, but not over-roasted malt, semi-sweet. Strong black coffee along side with dark chocolate. Some milk chocolate together with vanilla notes and licorice adds to the complexity. Dark dried fruits, with a mild cherry kernel bitterness. Well balanced.

T: Follows the nose but with even more complexity, since the sweetness is stronger as well as the dark dried fruits. Me like!

M: Body is full, and almost syrupy sticky - nice. The carboation is well fought back! Aftertaste is long and both sweet and bitter. The high ABV is well hidden.

O: This one I really love; complex and full in smell, taste as well as body. Extra plus for the fact that the alchol isn't an issue. (981 characters)

Photo of yesyouam
4.68/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper is a pitch black ale with a thick, lumpy, waxy light brown head that has eternal retention. The aroma is very roasty and perhaps ashy. There is a note of licorice and something fruity-- maybe cherry. More smells come out as it sits, like mint and vanilla. It's quite full bodied, very soft and smooth. The finish is clean and delicate. Wow, this is a really smooth flavor. There's no sweetness in play here. It's roasty but without any coffee flavor. There's a touch of licorice and caramel. The aftertaste is kind of like toffee... but without the sweetness. The flavors are really melded to make a single, simple taste. It's moderately bitter and the bitterness hangs around for a while after the swallow. This is along the lines of a Pennsylvania style imperial stout. It's very full flavored, but it can be just guzzled at room temperature. Thanks to Josh and Lisa (and ask4jenny) for this one. (933 characters)

Photo of B33R501
4.68/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Wow. Somehow I missed this beer the last 4 years; I won't miss it again. This beer is superb. Bigger version of Founders Breakfast Stout. This site never ceases to amaze me, that beer, which I enjoy for breakfast but is a little thin (for me, anything under 10% is a little thin) is rated one of the best beers in the world, yet this is just good ? Ridiculous, this is incredibly good, yes great.

We all know the bottling issues, but they nailed this one. And when they do, Port simply brews the prettiest beers in the world. This is midnight, with one of the best chocolate milkshake mocha caps I've seen. Wow, again.

Aroma of bakers chocolate powder and bitter dark roast coffee nice and rich. Very familiar, smells like a Port beer. Taste is a simple straightforward mix of dark bittersweet chocolate, the expensive box kind. Huge dark bittersweet coffee, more coffee, and by the way, the finish is dry, dark, bitter coffee that lingers all day. Creamy mouthfeel, pretty damn thick.

Really, this is not "good", it is great. One of the best stouts I've had, simple yet suburb, does what it wants to do. More beers should take this as an example, Port killing it, as always. (1,179 characters)

Photo of clickpush
4.67/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage
Pour: 22oz bottle to tulip glass. Hefty pour yields viscous black liquid capped by dark brown head. Thin head with an ever present halo. Completely opaque body.
Nose: Chocolate, rum, maple syrup.
Mouth: Super viscous, roasty, dark chocolate. Nicely carbonated, smooth. Lingering coffee flavor. Velvety. Enjoyable. Mocha goodness. (342 characters)

Photo of drpimento
4.65/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is truly great beer. I let it warm a bit out of the fridge first. Then poured from the bottle an expansive, tan, foamy, frothy, fluffy, textured head with loads of gobby lace. Color is an absolutely pitch black. Aroma is roast, malt, caramel, toffe, cocoa, coffee, licorice. Flavor's very close to nose with the balanced, rich bittersweetness on top, followed by an expertly placed tang, then the other stuff. Finish is pretty long, a bit boozy, and yet easy to swig some more. (482 characters)

Photo of john0721
4.64/5  rDev +16.6%
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. (289 characters)

Photo of RoyalT
4.62/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance - This is a very dark brown in color with a small but retentive brownish-white head.

Smell - The malts here are roasty with a boozy bite. They are very rich and complimented with some fine coffee bean and mild raw sugar. This is a high-quality nose that portends good things to come.

Taste - The roasted malts are spot on here. They are powerful and rich with just enough raw sugars to smooth out the flavor. The hearty coffee aroma is a bit more like a dark espresso bean, and I can even pick up some dark baker's chocolate to boot. This is a real powerhouse.

Mouthfeel - This is a tad bigger than medium-bodied but not full. There's some fine carbonation; not a lot but just enough to keep the mouthfeel lively. The dark ingredients provide some decent bitterness. This RIS is smooth smooth smooth and a blessing to hold in between the cheeks.

Drinkability - I caught a bit of alcohol at the nose but that disappeared once this RIS hit the tongue. This is an exceptional brew and a represents a major accomplishment from Port Brewing. (1,051 characters)

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.6/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

December 2004
Bottle #225

Presentation: 750ml green glass bottle, sealed with a small crown cap. Single wrap around white label with a picture of Santa’s sleigh sat atop the Pizza Port location. Listed as ‘Brewed and Bottled by Pizza Port Solana Beach, CA’ and listed as ‘Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout’. Lots of bumpf on the back of the label. This is hand numbered bottle #225 with a quoted strength of 9.75%. Not the San Marcos produced stuff from Port Brewing/Lost Abbey but I can't add anything under that location anymore, so it's getting listed here.

Appearance: Shockingly dark, pitch black like my shite after 18 Pints of Guinness. The body has little to offer, capturing and holding any bit of light that happens to fall upon it and holding it prisoner with little to no chance to escape. Rising brown cocoa head, infinitely small bubbles form a rich deeply textured covering that starts at a healthy ½” thick but quickly fizzles slowly like a dissolving tablet. The powder puffy dark tanned head slowly disperses to a thinner covering given time. The carbonation is finely dissolved, gentle Brandy like swirls in my Stone RIS glass. Firm looks and a great appearance.

Nose: Punching roasted malts and a lot of roasted coffee with a background anise and liquorice aroma. Complexity builds as dark fruits enter the fray, but they are low key in strength. The aromas are enticing, complex and yet subliminal at times.

Taste: The sweetness is roasted; chocolate malts pulsate with some nutty roasted horse chestnuts and a soothing warming Port like alcohol which relaxes. The alcohol is not raw here; moreover, it is mature, nicely dissolved into all of the components. Flashing cameos from burnt toast, black leather straps, dark bitter cooking chocolate and a rich exotic finish which is irresistible in the way it caresses the back of the throat whilst punching the cheeks. Lingering finish is lengthy, liquorice and a Pontefract Cake driven finale. Bitterness actually rises as you work through this one; I almost forgot to mention that, such is the lovely deeply entrenched smooth cultured roasted belly of this brew.

Mouthfeel: Smooth as a silky chocolate milk shake. Roasted malts stiffen up the backbone; the scaffolding is root liquorice with an impish finish. The roasted input is mature, well balanced and neatly dissolved into the DNA of this Imperial Stout.

Drinkability: I started sipping this, but after writing a few lines I soon found myself racing through this one. The lingering aftertaste is such a treat. Like a drunken Glaswegian on Boxing Day, this is very dangerous, try not to make direct eye contact and you may be alright, otherwise you'll be gettin' a Scotch Kiss.

Overall: Superb stuff. I always find it hard to open a bottle that I’ve aged for a bit, as was the case here, and to a certain extent I wished I had shared this, but what the heck, this was a present to myself today! Cracking stuff, it will be interesting to see if the new San Marcos produced SLHIS holds up to this previous batch from Solana Beach.

It's aging nicely and its not done yet I feel. A great brew that turns your teeth brown.

Happy F’in Christmas. Bah Humbug! (3,221 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
4.6/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I picked this up at The Foodery, shared with tenderbranson69. Poured chilled into a tulip glass allowed to gradually warm to cellar temp

A - An almost opaque deep mahogany w/ quick settling medium tan head. The retention is decent and the bead is pin sized - the head is shiny like baked sugar and the body has a slight burgundy accent

S - Dessert-like dark chocolate cake. Dark plum and coffee and sweet wood notes like incense w/ a milk chocolate and vanilla odor w/ candied nuts

M - Rich yet layered feel w/ sweetness that is not cloying. Moderate carbonation but high enough to give a bouyancy and roasted notes align w/ spice and alcohol following up the full bodied texture w/ a nice complimentary amount of bitterness

T - A dark cocoa flavor w/ vanilla bean, fudge and caramel w/ a gentle creamy dutch cocoa taste w/ mild spice w/ dark brown sugar and tinges of deep earthy tobacco w/ coffee /vanilla bean tastes. The malt has plenty of sweetness and crystal malt accents w/ strong roasted and bean flavor and mild smoke char taste at the finish.

D - One of the best Imperial Stouts I have had, it encompasses all that I enjoy about them w/out pushing too hard on the hops for flavor, it lets the malt do the majority of the work w/out an overly alcoholic taste a very well crafted Stout I wish it were more available. (1,331 characters)

Photo of rye726
4.6/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A great stout from Pizza Port that should age very well. Pours a dark brown with a nice tan head. The nose has sweet malts, piney hops, fruit, molasses, chocolate, coffee and anise. The taste has a nice bitter hop and molasses presence to balance out the big chocolate malts. Full, thick body drinks well. Good stuff. (317 characters)

Photo of joedon
4.6/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this at Collins Pub in Seattle.

Pitch black with thin head. Expected that for an Imp Stout.

This beer overwhelms. Big malt and alcohol nose. Lots of dark fruits, roast malts, chocolate, coffee and sherry. Very complex taste and lingering after-taste.

Mouth feel is just perfect. Kind of sticks to the tongue and nose until the next sip.

Could drink a lot of this; don't really feel the 10% until you are halfway through a pint.

Wish I could find this in the tundra (Minnesota). (489 characters)

Photo of pkalix
4.59/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

beautiful super dark brown color with ultra creamy chocolate-milk head. Guinness-like coating on the glass and a wonderful barrel-type of aroma mixed with some fairly typical coffee and chocolate nibs... smells a tad like a bourbon barrel-aged brew, but it says 'oak' on the label....
very good so far... except for the Total Wine store OVERCHARGING me on this.... so let's see what it tastes like...
thick(er), bitter (a little), alcohol presence, and the typical stout flavor. the 'barrel' part of the flavor is fairly pronounced but does not detract from the overall flavors. typical espresso, dark bitter chocolate, maybe some licorice... vanilla.... get some 'bourbon' from it although there is no claim to the bourbon barrel... some distinct alcohol heat but it IS 10%, and not all of them can disguise it so well....
I've seen this on the shelves before but never tied it. probably due to the 'cartoon-like' label.... hard to take them all so seriously, ya know. this is a good one; better than average, but not quite outstanding, if ya know what I mean... I have my standards for 'outstanding' these days.... unfortunately it costs a proportional amount of money for them....
this is a beautiful-looking brew when poured; can I find it on draught, I wonder? (1,265 characters)

Photo of Altrurian
4.58/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Delivered in all its burnt umber opacity in a conical pint glass from the tap at Monk's Cafe. A thin, tight, dark tan head caps it, leaving a fetching, persistent coating on the glass as it recedes in succeeding circles with each sip. The taste is surprisingly free of cloying sweetness: full-bodied, but almost sprightly compared with what I was expecting. Further analysis reveals a backbone of bitter baking chocolate, moderated by dark bread notes. A mature, subtly bitter aftertaste rounds it out. Pillowy mouthfeel. A delight. (532 characters)

Photo of czechsaaz
4.57/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle of 2006 that is now from Port's new production brewery. Now a winter seasonal. I did have this once on tap at Port Carlsbad but my first review.

Huge roasty malt nose with a whole lot of fruity fermentation. I get coffee and burnt toast and black treacle from the malt and black cherries, overripe plums and red grapes from the fermentation. Little bit of spicy hops in the background too.

Deep black colored with a very small tan head. It's strong enough that it actually has "legs."

Huge flavor, black licorice, more black cherries, chocolate, and a little red-wine vinuous fermentation effect. Then there's coffee and big roast malt in the aftertaste. Pretty hop bitter, but there's so much malt behind it that it's just there for ballance. Overall, great impy stout flavor.

Big bodied but the carbonation level is a little light. Not quite flat but not really lively.

Definitely a solid sipping beer. But it's very well balanced so it's approachable on it's own but also a great match for spicy food or a big thick steak. Very nice. (1,058 characters)

Photo of sulldaddy
4.55/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought a bottle of this in MA and shared the beer with my friend Pete.
I am pouring at cellar temp into a tulip glass. the beer pours a dark chocolate brown color with fluffy tan head of 2.5 cm.
The head leaves large craters as it fades.
Aroma is dark fruit and raisins with some dark chocolate too. First sip reveals a thick and chewy body with limited but fizzy carbonation.
Flavor is deep chocolate some rum and bitter coffee bean and molasses. Very complex and a little hot. A definite sipping beer that is great hanging with some friends in a cabin with a fire. Hops dont make much of an appearance at all. This is great for winter. Give it a shot. (655 characters)

Photo of trbergman
4.55/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into a tulip.

A - Pours an inky dark brown with a thin tan head.

S - Roasted grain, molasses, cocoa, a hint of coffee.

T - Chocolate, caramel, molasses, some hints of coffee in the background. Dried fruits - raisins, plums - enter in the middle. Reminiscent of a port. Decent levels of hop bitterness prevent the sweetness from becoming cloying. Long, balanced finish.

M - Smooth, creamy, and full-bodied.

D - Excellent beer for slow sipping. A little alcoholic heat, but otherwise very smooth. (512 characters)

Photo of 100floods
4.55/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at City Beer the second I got word of it... I love me some winter/holiday beers, even though we don't really get seasons in SF, and we're in the midst of an extended indian summer. Maybe drinkin this beer on a hot day isn't a good idea, but who cares, right?

This was poured int a half pint glass. It poured a dark chocolate black with pretty much no foam and an almost hair thin lacing. Upon pouring you can see the full body before you even try it. It just looks like a good beer to warm you up. The aromas in this beer are heavy roasted malt and some chocolate in the background. The malts don't have an aggressive presents and mixes well with the sweeter aspects. This isn't very sugary in feel, and doesn't have an oily residue like I was expecting. The brew goes down smooth without much bite. This almost tastes a wee bit like an oatmeal stout or a chocolate stout, but does stand up to the IS standard. With a beer like this, the holidays are gonna be good. I purchased a second one to see how it holds up until next year. (1,041 characters)

Photo of popery
4.55/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 - 1 year old. Very good imperial stout, big, relatively dry, roasty. This beer pours black, opaque with very little head. This beer has a bit of wet cardboard in the aroma, so I really wouldn't age it much longer. However, the aroma is otherwise great. Raisins, roast, brown sugar, whisky. The flavors come out even more in the flavor. The beer is relatively dry for an impy stout and has aged quite well. The mouthfeel improves as the beer warms. Very good. (463 characters)

Photo of Thickfreakness
4.54/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours squid ink black with a hint over a finger of mocha colored head. Decent lacing on the first pour, and really nice, oily legs after the swirl. I'm impressed!

S- A cross between bittersweet cocoa nibs and sweet milk chocolate right up front, that mingle with licorice whips, toffee, marshmallow, and seriously fresh roasted coffee. Some lovely notes of dried cherries, fresh mission figs, dried dates, cranberries, hints of citrus and some charred, dark roasted malts and nuts. Amazing depth and balance.

T- I feel like I should just say: See Above!!! A huge push of bitter and milk chocolate, coffee, licorice, dried fruit and charred malt with just a sprinkle of citrusy hops.

M- Not as thick and oily as I was hoping for, but it's above medium which suits me just fine. Really coats you tongue nicely and leaves a nice sweet, but bitter cocoa feel. This really hits all aspects of RIS flavors! This is the beer eqivalent of Al, John, and Paco "Friday Night in San Francisco"! Not one overwhelms the others, and each leaves more room for the other to breath and shine!

O- This is constructed so beautifully! Hints and sprinkles of everything that a well balanced RIS should bring to the table. Not too much coffee, not too much chocolate, nor dried fruit. Not to thick or thin. This would be my everyday day stout if... well, ya know... it was available to me everyday! (1,385 characters)

Photo of pat61
4.53/5  rDev +13.8%
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. (532 characters)

Photo of OStrungT
4.53/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I have been sitting on this bottle since Christmas, and I just couldnt wait any longer. Luckily, I still have a bottle left. This beer pours jet black with a dark brown head. When held to the light, no light shines through the thick tar like liquid. The head is very thick. It fades very slowly leaving very thick laces. This beer smells very strongly of coffee. Also, I detect a very strong chocolate aroma. The alcohol is also very present in the aroma. It smells slightly of caramel. It smells sweet. That beer tastes very strongly of coffee. The alcohol warms my throat as it goes down. It has a chocolate flavor. Also, is tastes slightly of caramel. The malty sweetness is also present. I dont detect much in the way of hops, but that is probably because the strong malty flavors are so present. This beer is still carbonated well despite the 10 months of ageing. It goes down smooth leaving a warm, coffee flavor on my palate. I dont think this beer would make a very good session beer because it is very aggressive, and the alcohol content is high. But this beer is wonderful. It is great in small doses. This is one of the best Imperial Stouts I have ever had. (1,168 characters)

Photo of yemenmocha
4.53/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours deep black, opaque perhaps, with tan/brown head.

Nose has a musty chocolate character.

Palate is dark chocolate, alcohol, cocoa butter, and some spice 'n hops in there to somewhat balance. On the whole, the profile is towards the roasted malt & chocolate sweetness.

Finish is long with cocoa powdery chocolate flavors. I'm falling for this beer. (354 characters)

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Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 554 ratings.