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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.

1,322 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,322
Reviews: 558
rAvg: 4.01
pDev: 10.47%
Wants: 75
Gots: 217 | 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: 1,322 | Reviews: 558 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

Photo of DavoleBomb
3.43/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass. 2009 edition.

4.0 A: Dark black color. One finger of thick creamy light brown head. Head retention is pretty good and the last 1/4 inch sticks around a long time. Minimal lacing.

3.5 S: Lots of roasted barley. Toasty burnt aroma with chocolaty sweetness to balance it.

3.0 T: Roasted malts up front again. Black currants and sweet chocolate next. Somewhat subtle hints of alcohol. Good, but seems like a weaker version of EE Toaster.

4.5 M: Medium body. Very creamy and good carbonation. No complaints here.

3.5 D: Not bad, but there are similar stouts out there that are better.

Photo of rfgetz
3.76/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a rich dark, near black. Minimal head. Smell is very unplesant, almost pure rubbing alcohol. Taste is thankfully a nice blend of rich bitter dark chocolate and dark roasted espresso beans. Lacks charachter - needs fruit flavors to be a true RIS in my book. Body is full but very smooth and clean. Good beer, but the unrefined scent and lack of charachter hurts.

Photo of Dankuel
3.91/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured the beer into a snifter glass, has a nice a nice dark color to it with a decent peach head. It smells like a typical Imperial, dark, rich roasted character with chocolate and coffee tones.

The taste is interesting, it is definitely that of a imperial stout with a nice dark chocolate resounding, there is something else, almost like a bit of hoppiness, its hard to put my finger on. The alcohol is noticeable after a bit of time on palate, but not bad for a 9.5%.

The mouth feel is very thick and slightly bubbly, it goes down warm and has a kick, this is a decent beer for a long winters night.

Photo of LibraryTom
2.76/5  rDev -31.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

2009 Bottle

I have to say I was disappointed with this beer this year.

I poured this into a 6 oz taster glass, and a small tumble produced a gorgeous cascade of CO2 bubbles rising up to form a full-bodied head, that left good lacing.

The nose leads you in, barely hinting at the alcohol within, consisting mostly of coffee and nuts.

But right out of the gate this beer blasts you with the alcohol after the first sip, and then lingers on, far after the taste of the beer has left. There is some beautiful malt characteristic behind it somewhere, but once must search, rather then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Next year...

Photo of Eldalonde
4.45/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(2008) Pours a solid black. No head formation at all, looks rather thick. Smells of sweet roasted malts, chocolate, and a hint of licorice. Some hoppy aromas are intermingled as well. Very thick mouthfeel. Very rich roasted maltiness coupled with sweet and bitter chocolate; licorice is also noticeable. There is some warming from the alcohol. The finish is bitter and hoppy. Very good stout! Love it!

(2009) Pours a very dark and deep black lettting no light escape. A full thick brown head formed and remained throughout most of the beer. Not very much lacing left behind though, this beer looks fantastic in the glass! Smells of deep roasted coffee, booze, and some sugar as well. The taste is fairly intense, full and deep. The dark roasted coffee is the most dominate flavor, but there is some bitter chocolate, licorice, and perhpas some anise in there as well. The finsh is very long, but wonderful. Absolutely lovely beer!

Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
90 out of 100 based on 1,322 ratings.