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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: 1,374
Avg: 3.99
pDev: 16.54%
Wants: 85
Gots: 236 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 556 | Hads: 1,374
Photo of shleepy
3.71/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into a trappist-style ("chalice") glass. My bottle said 12% ABV, so it seems like the recipe has changed since the beer was created.

A: Black, with very dark head.

S: Chocolate milk, faint vanilla.

T: More "spicy" than I'd like, with noticeable hot alcohol. Other than that, it's got chocolate and coffee notes.

M: Fairly creamy and smooth.

O: For such a strong beer, does not seem to be complex enough, and the hot alcohol is off-putting. Maybe I'm just not feeling it tonight, but I am not finding it pleasant at the moment.

 550 characters

Photo of pants678
3.06/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Bottle of 2012.

Black with a big, dense frothy head. Belgian-y.

Coffee. There's the slightest buried sweet chocolate. I think I never smelled chocolate before beer.

Coffee. Lot of coffee. Too much coffee. Hard to call this rich but it's rough and so hot. This is a lot to handle and there's nothing else going on here. Iced coffee is easier. If you let it sit there's just a tinge of caramel. There are some beers you feel challenged by but, for whatever reason, this isn't it.

Creamy but has a hot back end.

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Photo of dgilks
4.17/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pitch black with a big, creamy tan head. Great head retention and nice lacing. Pretty.

A big stout. Nice bitter cacao notes with some light coffee and roast. Not acrid at all just a wonderfully rounded stout.

Nice. This has sat around since 2011 and the flavours have integrated and rounded out nicely. Big bitter chocolate and espresso notes. No acrid roast. Nice sweet malt backbone. Solid bitterness. Great.

Medium-full body with moderate carbonation. Solid mouthfeel which accentuates the flavours. Good.

A big American Imperial Stout. Nice balance and it has aged well. Really, really good.

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Photo of superspak
4.16/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 8/27/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 2 finger dense and fluffy tan head with fantastic retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lasts. Nice dense foamy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, caramel, toast, brown sugar, char, candi sugar, raisin, light coffee, and earthy hop spiciness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark malt notes with moderate hop balance. Taste of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, pine, char, caramel, toast, brown sugar, coffee, and roasted earthiness. Fair amount of roasted pine bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, roasted malt, caramel, char, toast, brown sugar, coffee, pine, and earthy spiciness on the finish for a while. Very nice balance and complexity of roasted flavors, dark malt sweetness, and piney/spicy hops; with no cloying flavors after the finish. Medium-high carbonation and full bodied; with a creamy, slick, and lightly prickly mouthfeel that is very nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a very excellent Russian imperial stout. All around nice complexity and balance of roasted/dark malt flavors with moderate piney/spicy hop balance; and very smooth to sip on. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.96/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Killer looking stout. Towering khaki head with thick clouds of lace. Near-solid black with just the lightest rim of cola highlights.

S - At first whiff it feels relatively simple, but a second look shows some remarkable complexity. Light white booze and burnt caramel. Nutmeg, edge of cinnamon, andes mint chocolate, candy cane, and allspice.

T - Spicy for a stout. Dusty mint, burnt chocolate, charred coffee beans. Allspice, booze, gingerbread, and raw licorice root.

M - Medium frame.

O - Great appearance and nice complexity in the nose. Nice spice notes in the flavor profile, but I'm ambivalent about the mint flavors I'm picking up in the beer.

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Photo of deadonhisfeet
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage acquired via trade. Poured from a bottle into a DFH snifter. Pours out dark brown, not quite black, with some light getting through. It's almost like an extremely dark Scotch Ale. On the nose I get some dark fruit, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Sadly, I don't get much in the way of roasty notes. Still nice.

The beer is full-bodied and has intense flavors. I don't get roasty flavors out of this one. No noteworthy coffee or chocolate notes. None of the flavors one expects from an imperial stout. There's plenty of toffee, plums, figs, and of course, bourbon. There's lots of nice bourbon flavor to be found here. It's not hot, but it is definitely warming. The feel is good, though a bit thinner than I like in this style, which seems to contribute to the booziness.

This beer drinks more like an American (very) Strong Ale or barleywine. It's good, but I swear if it didn't say ``Imperial Stout'' right on the label, I wouldn't have been able to identify the style. I'm sure the age has something to do with it, but I wouldn't think that roastiness would vanish and bourbon flavors would intensify and the color would fade. At any rate, a very enjoyable beer, but not one I would trade for again. Cheers!

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Photo of kels
3.92/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Cheers to Carly for this unexpected gift! Don't get to see much lovely Port brew out here in Virginia.

Pours a lovely super dark chocolate brown, completely opaque with an assumed heaviness from the way it holds the rich skim of cocoa-powder brown foam. The head hangs around throughout the drink, little chocolate-milky bubbles studding the surface and stringy rings of lace hang about the walls of the glass.

Smell is powdery - a little Nestle Quik going on with a medium-bodied coffee roast. A hit of something vegetal sneaks in there and messes with my senses.

Holy mouthful of roast! Excellent boldness of the roast with a smooth and dry finish. Hit of chicory-like flavor. No hint of any cocoa in the taste. Hops are surprisingly notable in a dank way that seems to contribute a little to the veg in the nose. Carbonation higher than expected for the style. Helps lighten it up but interferes with the ability to get the full effect of the taste.

Overall pretty enjoyable beer. Definitely something worth sharing.

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Photo of Seanniek91
3.84/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Served from a bomber into a Grey Sail pint. Got as an extra back in November.

Appearance- Black with 2 finger mocha head that left nice lacing.

Smell- Slight coffee, chocolate malts, light hop presence, mild caramel, booze. Nothing thrilling.

Taste- Booze up front, coffee, malty sweetness, finishes semi-bitter cocoa. Taste doesn't really linger around.

Mouthfeel- Very light and carbonated. Why, I have no idea. Finishes clean with mild heat.

Overall- Not bad by any means, but not great.

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Photo of endovelico
4.17/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours an opaque black brew with decent-sized mocha head that shows little retention but good lacing. No apparent effervescence.

Smell: Medium intensity. Notes of chocolate, coffee, ash, some dried fruits and some faint alcohol aswell.

Taste: Chocolate, coffee and ash dominates but dried fruits, dried leaves and grapefruit can also be picked up on.

Palate: Medium full to full bodied. Low carbonation. Medium high bitterness. Medium to medium high astringency. Alcohol masterfully well hidden. Finishes smooth. Short lingering bitter chocolate flavor.

Overall: A good Imperial Russian Stout, no doubt! But one that lacks complexity and oompth to make me want to call it world class. Still probably one of the most pleasurable mouthfeels i had the pleasure of experiencing on an Imperial Russian Stout.

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Photo of Evil_Pidde
4.68/5  rDev +17.3%
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.

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Photo of Oakenator
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a khaki colored head. Good head at pour disappates to a thin layer on top but remains. Nice lacing. Smells of dark malts, chocolate, anise, and coffee. Taste is good but somewhat disappointing compared to the nose - chocolate at the very front but quickly followed by anise and that lingers through the end and overtaking the other flavors. Gives presence to the alcohol.

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Photo of Thickfreakness
4.54/5  rDev +13.8%
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!

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Photo of Ego
3.51/5  rDev -12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

at first glance this deceived, it seemed that there would be no head and then POW solid 2 fingers of cocoa goodness plumped up, nearly black with carbonation slowly meandering there and about trying to attain freedom at the top o the glass, the legs and lacing move as one, the glass leaves a cartographers mark so might remember where I have been upon finishing this 'little' helper, nearly picturesque looking brew.

deep dark and roasty, nice chocolate notes, leathery sugar, alcohol dancing whimsically on the edges, pretty nice

taste etc...
starts off a bit thinner than I anticipated, HEAVY burnt flavor on the back end is dominating this first sample, the carbonation is more prickly than smooth which is a detriment imo, before the burnt takes over there is a good amount of hop bitterness and then once you get used to the burnt tones you pick up some chocolate notes as well, something seems just off the mark here

a good beer, if it were creamier and thicker I think it would handle the flavors much better. there are big flavors here but they seem out of place, not totally, but just enough compared to other RISs I dig.

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Photo of Rutager
3.53/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled 8/25/2011

Appearance. Purs black with 3+ fingers of tan head.

Smell. Black licorice, charred wood with a bit of coffee and chocolate.

Taste. Again, black licorice and charred wood with just a bit of bakers chocolate and black coffee.

Mouthfeel. Medium-full to full body with medium-low carbonation.

Overall. Too much charred and bitter flavours in this one for me. Not my kind of big stout, but not bad.

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Photo of jujigatame
3.7/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper

Bomber into glass.

Bottled 9/1/11

Pours very black with ¼” of bubbly tan head that dissipates pretty quickly. A small ring remains around the edge.

Smell is sweet dark chocolate and not too much else off the bat.

Chocolate and roast malt are the prominent taste. A bit of smoke and burnt sugar too. Maybe a little molasses? The hopes come out more as the beer warms up and give some bitterness to balance out the sweet. There is some bread and grain flavor in the aftertaste. I had some dark chocolate (82%) with the second half of the bottle and got some enhancement on the flavor of each item. The beer got a bit sharper and the chocolate got slightly more bitter. A good combination.

Mouthfeel is pretty smooth overall but not especially thick for an imperial stout to me. It was a little astringent on the back end to start. Perhaps it was the alcohol just waving hello.

This is the first beer I’ve had from Port and I think it was pretty good beer overall and I had no problem finishing the bomber. It’s not one of the best imperial stouts I’ve had but I’d be happy to drink it again sometime.

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Photo of Gavage
3.88/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a dark brown color with a 1" head. Nice lace develops.

Smell: roasted malt and chocolate are up front, and some coffee tones are a bit softer.

Taste: roasted malt, dark chocolate, some coffee, prunes, mild bitterness, and a hint of alcohol create a well balanced beer.

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy in body. Light crispness to start, smoother and a bit dry at the finish. Aftertaste is long lasting as the roasted malt and chocolates linger on the tongue.

Overall: this is a nice imperial stout that is a slow sipper and very tasty.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.08/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 22oz bottle into wine glass. Pous a oil-like black with creamy tan head. Look is fantastic and creamy. Aromas of subtle roasted malts, cofee, and chocolate; very mild. Taste is awesome roasted creamy chocolate with nice coffee bitter finish. Its just a nice stout...high abv is not noticeable at all. All around great brew...and just super creamy.

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

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter. Vintage 2012 I guess since it was bottled this year.

A very aggressive head develops off the pour, out of the bottle it almost pours like motor oil. Head builds, giant and thick, like a whipped up topping of milk chocolate cocoa. Lots of retention and staying power. Body color is classic dark walnut black. body, pretty hard to see through. Solid, head is very aggressive.

Really nice roasty aroma of grain. Light charring action. Not very diverse, rather simple but very nice.

Palate jumps out. Wonderful controlled charring action, with a silky finish. Hints of cream and bitter dark chocolate. Hop action bursts a bit with some citrus lime and juice on the end, kind of leafy and thick. Coating finish, with a good minty warmth aftertaste.

Overall, what a great imperial stout, and a great beer to have for the holidays. Too bad I can't get this often or regularly where I live.

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Photo of Nugganooch
3.96/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

BD: 09/10/12 – Sierra Nevada Luettich Balloon glass

A: A somewhat viscous jet black body with just the slightest coffee colored edge on it. Topped with a thick froth of stubborn tan leather cream. Quite bubbly for a stout with some real fatty lace sticking to the glass. Looks very nice and presentable to the style.

S: Pretty tame aromas comprised mostly of dark roasted malts. Takes a bit of effort to get a good draw. Sugary sweetness with some soft roasted grain character brings a mix of cocoa, coffee, dark berry, molasses, charcoal, and earthy hops. There is a bit of alcohol detected in the nose as well. Not bad just lacking that vibrant quality.

T: Tastes of dark fruits and raisins/currants layered with semi-sweet chocolate. On the sweet side with a dark berry tartness to it. Some burnt caramels with vanilla and an influx of bakers chocolate. Lesser amounts of toasted cereals and brewers licorice. Like toasted marshmallow. There is a rather high level of bitterness to the beer with no real distinguishable hop flavors coming through. Perhaps a touch of earthy minerals. A search for some rich coffee flavors comes up a bit short although delicately present. There is a dash of alcohol spice lurking in the background that never becomes harsh or offensive. Really nice roast flavors overall and a tremendous step up from the nose.

M: A great creamy texture gives the impression of a much lighter brew than this really is. Couple that with an upper moderate amount of spritzy carbonation and some prickly bitterness to the palate. There is a light warming alcohol and a crisp drying finish that carries well, keeping the beer from becoming heavy and overbearing. A nice lingering sleek feel after. Very smooth overall.

D: What this stout may lack in the aroma more than makes up for in flavor. Big dark fruit presence with some rich chocolate notes. I was not picking up much coffee roast here however flavors are still very nice. Great approachable balance. I am actually wondering if Port has modified this recipe as I distinctly remember previous years being pretty hot when fresh. However that was not the case here. Tasty brew.

Makes for a real nice Holiday night capper.

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Photo of micromaniac129
4.35/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my Delirium Noel sniffer... cause I could.
Inside the sniffer was a thick bubbling frothy head that lingers forever over a jet black body of beer.
Aroma was rich and roasty with malts and barley. I could also smell char.
Intermingling the malts was bittersweet chocolates and esspresso.
The taste was mostly of rich malts and burnt barley with a good dose of char and ash. Excellent. Thick and chewy, it almost bites back at ya. Smooth and creamy finish.
10%.... where?
Sip this baby next to a warm fire for best results and of course results will vary.

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Photo of mactrail
3.56/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big, dark, and rich pretty well says it all. Lovely persistent beige head on this flavorful brew. Not much aroma.

Flavors of bitter chocolate and a hint of coffee. Rather dry, even with all the malt. Deeply dark roasted malt with some burnt flavors. Quite hoppy. Less sweet than a lot of others in this style. Looks very nice with the foam renewing with every sip.

Not a standout, but an easy drinking, powerful brew. On tap at Local Habit in San Diego.

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Photo of AdamBear
3.89/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A-black with a nice dark tan head

S-smells like dark bitter grains, and bitter sweet chocolate. just a touch of booziness. definitely smells like an RIS as opposed to an AIS.

T-comes in with a strong bitter taste of dark roasted grains. just a small touch of coffee and chocolate. really tastes true to form, as if this is something i could see myself being served back in English village 100 years ago. that's how much it tastes like a classic RIS. this has quite an impressive bitterness to it. it's not hoppy at all, but it has a strong bite that sticks to the mouth like a hot spiciness.

M-medium creamy carbonation with a pretty dry finish. heavy body.

O-this is a good stout. nothing christmas to it (in case you were hoping for a novelty stout). more flavors come out as it warms up. nothing negative to it...just a tad boring really. might be a stout for the IPA fan, despite lacking a flavor of hops.

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Photo of ElSid
3.58/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The Beers of California


Bottled Date: 9/10/12

A: Classic stout jet black body with a decent of head of light brown foam which leaves a generous curtain of lace on the glass.

S: Moderate alcohol with mocha espresso with some brown sugar and raisin sweetness.

T: Bousy, but on the phenolic, cough syrup side, with mocha espresso, brown cane sugar, and raisins. A base of toasted, dark malt which does its best to hold this brew together. The espresso and chocolate take front stage with little help from the rest of the palate.

M: Good linger in the mouth and lace on the glass with a creamy smoothness which is the highlight of this brew. Ample mouthfeel and just the right amount of carbonation.

O: The Port Brewery's Christmas Imperial Stout offers an average, uninteresting palate dominated by medicinal alcohol notes with little nuances and subtleties which are needed to make a good a beer.

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Photo of B33R501
4.68/5  rDev +17.3%
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.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.03/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Originally had an '08 of this when I was first getting into the style many moons ago and scored it a 4.43. Doopie brought out a more recent vintage to pair with a bourbon barrel version, so I thought I'd see if my standards, or the beer, had changed.

From a bomber into a snifter.

APPEARANCE: A thinner, more transparent pour yields a 2+ finger, fizzy, looser looking, light tan head with decent retention. Black body, relatively clear, with higher levels of carbonation. A thin, splotchy wisp remains but leaves no real lacing down the glass. A little too thin and fizzy for the style.

SMELL: Roasted malts, some dark chocolate, licorice, and a light vegetable note in there. Not sure if something is going on, but there is definitely an off aroma here.

TASTE: Roasted and boozy, with notes of licorice up front, Roasted malts lead the way into a bolder and lingering finish of roasted and burnt notes, chocolate, burnt coffee beans and some light touches of alcohol. Luckily this is much better than the nose and there are no off flavors at all. Decent stuff.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. Creamy with enough weight on the palate, goes down smooth and finishes somewhat sticky. A bit of heat lingers. Good feel for the style.

OVERALL: This is alright, but not nearly as good as I remembered it. Either the beer has changed or I have, and the real answer is probably a bit of both. The flavor is alright and the mouthfeel above average, but the thin look and slightly odd nose didn't work. A decent beer that was worth revisiting, but not something I'd have to drink again. Thanks for saving this one Doops!

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