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Santa's Little Helper - Port Brewing

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

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1,302 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,302
Reviews: 558
rAvg: 4.01
pDev: 10.72%
Wants: 77
Gots: 214 | 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: scottoale on 12-09-2006

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,302 | Reviews: 558 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of cbutova
3.55/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed last night, from notes. Pours pitch black with a one finger dark tan coffee colored head. No real retention at all on the head. Clouds of dark tan stay around to coat the beer. No lacing but the suds drop very slowly on the side of the glass. Smell is hugely sweet roasty malts, cocoa and a bit of coffee. Very roasty and imperial stout-like but nothing special sticks out to me. Some earthy hops come into play under the roast. The taste is hugely roasty and cocoa once again. Some coffee notes in there but the sweetness is way too high on this. It distracts me and makes me grimace sometimes upon sipping. The nice imperial stout flavors are there but the sweets are masking it. Some earthy hoppiness and towards the end I get a licorice, molasses flavor. Mouthfeel is good. Thick and creamy body with medium carbonation and a huge coat of roasty malts. Tiny alcohol warmth. Drinkability is decent. The price and flavor are alright but I probably wont have this again. There are other imperial stouts that I enjoy much more than this one.

Photo of atremains
3.88/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer pours opaque with a light tan head that reduces to a ring around the brew. No lacing. Smell is roasted malts chocolate slight alcohol and coffee bean. Taste is all of the above with some molasses, licorice, and more cocoa-esque flavors. The mouthfeel is pretty creamy and warming.

Photo of Goliath
4.02/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black, like motor oil. There was no head produced on the initial pour.

The aroma is quite nice. There's some nice chocolate tones with a touch of coffee as well.

The taste is also quite nice. There's a nice dose of chocolate and a touch of coffee as well. There's a touch of molasses and a slight bitterness.

Mouthfeel is full bodied and syrupy with a light dose of carbonation.

Drinkability is high. The flavor profile is quite pleasing and really brings me back for another sip. The ABV is well incorporated as well which is always nice to see. All in all it's a really solid RIS.

Photo of snpub540
3.98/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a deep black that only gives a hint of brown when help wery close to a light source. Tiny ring of tan bubles, but what do you expect from a beer with a high alcohol content. No lacing.

Smell was very much coffee. Also roasted malts and a slight licorice hint in the mix.

Taste was very dominated by coffee and there was some bitter chocolate in there as well. Pine and toasted malts were also present. Warming alcohol in the finish made this a nice winter brew.

Mouthfeel felt slightly thin, but the drinkability was good. Became a little more aggressive as it warmed, but definately a delicious beer.

Photo of gfreed
4.13/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dense and dark; very little light gets in around the edges. The coffee aroma is very strong, but gets decent competition from licorice, charred grain, vanilla and some nutmeg and cinnamon. Very powerful taste, yet no flavors are overpowering-- an impressive feat given the complexity of this beer. Would happily drink another. Drink it slowly as the ABV will sneak up.

Photo of drumrboy22
4.32/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 bottle. Poured from 22oz. bottle into a Unibroue chalice. Beer was pitch black, with a thick, two-finger head. Light carbonation and moderate lacing.

Aroma was roasted grains, malt, vanilla, licorice, espresso and chocolate. Awesome!

Taste was sweet up front, with notes of dark fruits (cherries, raisins, prunes), vanilla, chocolate, espresso and oak. Followed up by a long, moderately bitter finish.

Fantastic Imperial Stout. It's excellent fresh, but I'd be curious to see how this might change and develop over time.

Photo of Soonami
3.56/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a small 12 oz. goblet at cellar temperature at SPTR

A- opaque black--with a rocky mocha colored head, great lacing and cling

S-Burnt toast and chocolate

T-roasted coffee, bitter chocolate with a nice sweet finish

M- sticky, astrigent, and a little thin

D- good, not great. I had one 12oz. glass and I think that was just enough and I wouldn't want more

Photo of aerozeppl
4.13/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to drseamus for this one.

A: Black with almost no light getting through.Minimum coffe colored head.

S: Little chocolate and a little roast. Almost had a little bit of bourbon in the nose. No wonder the Bourbon version is rated so low.

T: Good stout. Chocolate. A little bit of oak as well.

M: Creamy mouthfeel. Full bodied.

D: Really good. Easy drinking for a big beer. Nice for a cold day.

Photo of biegaman
4.42/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

For a Yuletide present this beer certainly looks like a lump of coal: it's flat, sooty, charcoal black and entirely nubilous. And it also looks big. It's a dozen different tones of black and sheds no colour what so ever even when held directly into bright light. Is this Santa's Little Helper or Satan's? Never have I seen such a daunting Christmas-themed beer.

Chocolate fest, party of one, now being seated. Holy explicit deleted (I better watch the language, it being Christmas time and Santa watching and all). The brewery was dead-on in talking of freshly pulled espresso, dark bittersweet chocolate and the ash of a smoldering fire. I'd also add to that list tiramisu, brown sugar, brownies and a splash of balsamic.

Part of me may have at one point found this beer overwhelming and intense - but I don't know him any more. Granted, this is rich and decadent - like few others - but I love and embrace every sip of it. The roasty black coffee, the bitter black cocoa beans, the sweet black malts, the blackberries - hey, this is turning into a Rolling Stones song.

But the beer is hardly monotone. It has earthy, bitter hops as well as sweet, sugary malts. It drinks with dynamism and intensity but, despite its brawn, never really slips up even an ounce of alcohol. It's like Port Brewing took all my favourite desserts and melted them down into one rich, indulgent beverage (and then sprinkled it with hops).

Warming serves only to unbutton even more chocolaty notes, to unstick the cinnamon and holidays spices, to unloosen the zestful hops and unclasp even more of those decadent, rich, dessert-like flavours. This is as good (or better) than any of the top Imperial Stouts that come to mind. This 2008 version seems to be holding up fantastically a full year later.

Leave it up to a brewery in southern California to design the ultimate cold-weather winter beer. Its richness (both in terms of calories and flavour) and warming nature is ideal for the long, frigid winter slumber. The Christmas holidays are indeed a time to indulge and I can think of nothing that's been more indulgent this holidays than Port's Santa's Little Helper.

Photo of ThatWineGuy
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the 2008 edition, thanks to biegaman for sharing yet another nice brew. There is very little, almost no head, a sparse tan ring surrounds the glass holding a black opaque beer. Smell on opening was almost non-descript and with warming remained a weak point featuring cold coffee and perhaps a bit of chocolate liquer or dark chocolate pastry aromas.

On tasting, the very smooth and almost creamy mouthfeel demanded attention as did the very tasty, very drinkable qualities of this RIS. There were chocolate and coffee notes, tree bark and hickory in a rich and sweet but never cloying brew. I found it hard to characterize what I put down to chocolate flavours but it might well have been a superb blend of hops and toasted malts that did the trick. Alcohol well disguised. Whatever it was, I have to admit I was at a loss for words, it was delicious and presented with substantial body and superbly done.

From a taste perspective, this is among the finer RIS I've sampled, stay off the naughty list and try one of these sometime, you'll be glad you did.

Photo of Beerenauslese
4.25/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at City Beer Store, San Francisco (although one pour there cost more than a whole bottle at Bevmo). Nevertheless, the tap version is superior to the bottled version (much more fruity and spicy).

Pours dark, with not a trace of light, and a moderate head that leaves a bit of lacing on the glass.

Russian imperial stout smells, though lighter than the more (in favor) syrupy versions of RIS. Malts, wet straw, cherries, coffee.

Tastes of baked fruits, Christmas pudding, raisins, chocolate.

Mouthfeel is moderately light, not too sweet, flavor/viscosity ratio is high and in its favor.

A nice ale, but does not deliver much over and above traditional RIS, except lighter and dryer. I liked the tap version over the bottle. Tap version has more fresh fruit notes that seem missing in the bottled version.

Photo of bbkd3b
3.92/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass on Christmas Day

A: Pours super-dark brown, no light getting through this sucker. 1-finger head that doesn't retain and the lacing is slight at the very best.

S: Pleasant mix of roasted malts and dark chocolate. The alcohol was also there, but very slight.

T: Dark chocolate, mocha, and a small amount of alcohol, but not overpowering. Pretty good, really.

M: Heavy body and with good carbonation. The alcohol warms up the gut. Really damn good, all in all.

D: It's heaviness makes multiple beers a little trying, but I still wanted another one when I finished this up. None too bad.

Overall/notes: This is my first experiences with an Imperial Stout, and I must say, it was quite tasty. Maybe not my favorite style, but certainly enjoyable enough. As a Christmas brew, this is all there. Decent job overall.

Photo of Casey10
4.23/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a review for the 2008 version that I got about 4 months ago at a shop that still had these. I was gald to let them age this for me.

A - Nice Creamy head bubbles (yea !!) Dark thick pour no light is getting in or out.

S - Exspresso or mocha chocolate very much in the fore front .

T - More of the chocolate coffe flavor, creamy, smooth.

M - Great feel leaves a bit of afterfeel, some bitterness but better than other stouts I a have had.

D - Beacause of Availabilty it would be hard to have this in a regular line up. That being said if it were easily attainable would want another.

Photo of Chico1985
3.85/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours as black as the coal I got in my stocking when I was 11. A nice thick tan head sits on top, after some drinkage it thins down but leaves some good lacing. Smell is pretty strong of roastiness, coffee, alcohol, a hint of sugar. The tastes are the same as the smell, although it is a little average for a RIS, the alcohol is a little overpowering, a bomber of this is more than enough for me. The mouthfeel is pretty creamy and thick but the taste overall is a bit average for the style. I was hoping a beer called 'Santa's Little Helper' would have more of a Christmas feel to it. Good overall though.

Photo of Minotaur
4.15/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet from a tap at Spinnerstown Hotel.

It is very dark - nearly opaque brown-black. About a quarter finger head that leaves an attractive white lacing.

The smell of roast malt and coffee predominates. There is also the smell of candi sugar and just a hint of wheat.

These aromas come through in the taste. The overall flavor is deep, rich and complex. There is sweet chocolate, deep cocoa, and also a bit of vanilla. It is bitter and chewy but also very smooth and sweet. A good amount of hops is present but that is counter-balanced by the heavy and complex malt character. There is a definite bit of alcohol in the taste and inhale.

Despite the heaviness it is very drinkable and smooth going down. The mouth feel is thick and rich and the residual tastes to cling to the palate.

Photo of steve8robin
4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Found this one at a local beer store. '08 Vintage...

A: Intensely black. No light shining through at all. Little white head that goes away quickly.

S: I could smell this as soon as I poured it without putting the glass up to my face. Very strong chocolate / cocao scent. Smells very good.

T: Pretty good. Has a very hoppy taste up front and then good chocolate tastes on the backend. You can taste the alcohol in this brew. Strong.

M: Very good balance of carbonation and stickiness. Perfect!

D: Goes down easy once you get through the hoppiness up front. Only takes a few sips before you get past the heavy hoppy / alcohol flavor.

All in all, this reminds me of a less intense Papier mixed with a FBS. Very good brew, but not much makes me think it should be called a Christmas brew. This is a good one to have on a cold wintery night to warm you up. If you like hoppiness and a good amount of alcohol that still retains some good flavors, then this one is for you.

Photo of beertunes
3/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I found this beer to be exactly average for it's style across the board. It was black, had the expected roast and coffee aromas and flavors, the body and drinkability were exactly what you expect from this style. The only thing that stood out was that the beer poured with little to no head and had no retention or lacing. The beer was very enjoyable otherwise, so I chose not to dock them any points for this. A good, enjoyable beer, worth trying if you see it, but nothing sets it apart from it's stylistic peers.

Photo of CrellMoset
4.25/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle courtesy of vurt, 2008 vintage. Many thanks to a great trader. Poured in to a 22 oz. brandy snifter.

Appearance: Pours a thick but not too thick near-black, opaque to light, and capped by a slow-rising moderately tanned head, about one-finger tall. The retention is a little less than what I would expect or hope, sticking around for a little while before fading in to a nice erratic surface dusting and a thin, dense collar. About on par with the head retention is the lacing on this - it's largely nonexistent, but where it does stick, it sticks in compact, Pollack-esque blobs.

Aroma: Gobs of bittersweet chocolate, though not as much in the taste, coupled with enormous waves of estery dark fruits, raisins, dates, much more than in the taste. Toast, earth, slight coffee, and - as it warms - faint coffee liqueur (from the warmth) round this one up.

Taste: A remarkably tasty brew. Huge but smooth bittersweet baker's chocolate is the dominant note, equal parts sweet (not a lactic sweetness) and equal parts bitter, slightly chalky, almost powdered Dutch process-esque in places. Other toasty backing malts hint at dark toffee, toast, faint char, and earth, and definite raisin and slight cherry notes emerge upon agitation and help cover up a mild but noticeable amount of hop bitterness. A slight minerally quality and a faint alcohol burn keeps it from scoring higher, the latter noticeable only in the finish of this one, though it does plenty to burn up the pipes on the way down.

Mouthfeel: Remarkably light for a beer of this style and abv%. The carbonation on this one's near perfect - a pleasant surprise from Lost Abbey/Port, which is something I feel bad say knowing that this is a 2008 beer and that they hadn't really had these problems before this year - resulting in an even, smooth, fluffy, creamy brew. It's near 5.0 territory, really, given how amazingly creamy it is.

Drinkability: It's been so long since I've had a non-barrel aged RIS, so it's hard for me to determine if the reason I enjoyed this one so much was because it was a bit of a pleasant shock to my system or if it really is just a damn good beer. Perhaps a little of both. This is a classy brew, well-made, tasty, creamy, aromatic, and - when carbonated - a delicious, tasty brew. At 9.5% or therebouts, this one's gettin' up there, but isn't unbelievable for the style. Either way, it's highly recommended, and I truly hope that my bourbon-barrel version of this is carbonated (though I know it won't be ...).

Photo of OatmattStout
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

had last night but remember big tan head and a pillow thick head after an aggressive pour.

great sticky lacing

what a great roasty, chocolaty and a bit spicy from hops beer. it was big and well rounded and really appealed to my tastes.

will grab this one at next opportunity

Photo of Vonerichs
3.5/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark brown, borderline black body with a nice foamy cinnamon head.

The smell is roasted malt and bitter chocolate, like baker's chocolate. There's a good whiff of alcohol, too.

I'm not a huge fan of the taste on this one. It's decent, but very two dimentional- bitter chocolate and roasted malts. The malts are too roasted and borderline burnt.

For the most part this had a good mouthfeel, but on the second pour from the bottle I got a huge floater that was the consistancy of toothpaste, but chocolate flavored. It was actually very disgusting but I'm going to give this the benefit of the doubt and assume this isn't the norm, however I do downgrade it because there's no reason for me to believe this was a bad bottle and thus must be a consistancy issue.

Drinkability is also just ok. For an RIS, it's pretty boring. It's also a hot boozy mess. I love a good RIS and understand that most come along with a nice bite, but this one did not even try to mask any of it.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed. It's an ok beer and I would definitely try it again, but only on tap.

Photo of homebrew311
4.18/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: pours a deep and viscous black with a dark brown head that stick around and leaves some lacing

S: all dark chocolate on the nose followed by roastiness and a hint of booziness

T: just like the nose but a little more complex, chocolate and coffee dominate with a slow warming finish from the alcohol

MF: chewy body, creamy texture, low carb, on par for the style

D: this is a great imperial stout with bold flavors and good drinkability, it has nice balance

Photo of zeff80
4.29/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a one-finger, thick, tan head of foam. It left thin rings of lace.

S - It smelled of bittersweet chocolate. Some floral notes were detected. It really smelled great!

T - It tasted like chocolate milk with a bitter hop kick. A subtle boozy, alcohol presence emerges as it warms up.

M - It was soft, smooth and creamy. A medium bodied beer that is surprisingly easy drinking despite the ABV.

D - This is a really interesting Imperial Stout. Strong chocolate flavor without an overpowering sweetness.

Photo of drtth
4.01/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Maredsous goblet. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: As served the beer is clear but so dark as to be black and not allowing any light through. The head is 1/8" or less with lots of fine bubbles and quickly is gone to leave being a ring of foam and a thick patch of foam on the liquid. Sipping leaves a ring around the glass and some thin leggy and speckled lacing that soon slides back into the liquid.

Smell: There is not much to smell here except dark chocolate and a hint of alcohol. There do seem to be some hops but they are well concealed by the dark chocolate.

Taste: The taste is predominantly that of dark bittersweet chocolate with the alcohol present in an after taste, but other than that barely detectable. Hard to isolate out any trace of hops. The bitterness could be all from dark roasted malts. So actually the flavor lacks a certain complexity in that after the bittersweet dark chocolate there isn't much else that I'm able to pick out. The sweetness and bitterness are well balanced so that neither dominates--the sweetness does not cloy and the bitterness does not overwhelm.

Mouthfeel: The mouth feel is medium bodied with a soft smooth feel from the very light carbonation. The finish begins as the sweetness fades allowing the alcohol to pop out briefly and then fade again, leaving behind the bitterness of the dark chocolate which tapers off into a persistent dryness.

Drinkability: The drinkability on this one is high in that each sip is a new beginning and a taste that renews the dark chocolate bitterness only to have it fade away. Although the ABV is high I'm ready to have another (but I won't). I certainly won't hesitate to have this one again given the opportunity

Photo of NittanyBeerFan
3.99/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: silky dark brown body. Throws me off as it is different than any RIS I've ever seen. Creamy dark half finger head. Lacy and medium thickness rings cling to the glass.

S: espresso and dark bitter chocolate are dominant. A touch of pine that gets pushed out by coffee flavors.

T: despite the color, this is all RIS. Tons of cocoa and coffee, as well as an ample contribution from some piney hops. Lots of espresso in the finish.

M/D: smooth and silky initially changing to a dry character like cocoa powder was poured into the beer. Heavyish texture and low carbonation, a great sipper or after dinner beer.

Photo of popery
4.55/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
90 out of 100 based on 1,302 ratings.