Santa's Little Helper | Port Brewing

very good
574 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Santa's Little HelperSanta's Little Helper

Brewed by:
Port Brewing
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Santa’s Little Helper, our Imperial Stout, starts with an emphasis on dark cocoa and roasted coffee aromatics. The finish lends hints of sweet crystal malt, warming tones of alcohol and a touch of hops, making a perfect accompaniment to leftover fruit cake and sugar cookies.

Added by Boilermaker88 on 12-11-2003

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 574 | Ratings: 1,472
Photo of rayjay
2.29/5  rDev -42.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

When I poured it, a sickening cake of yeast coated the neck of the bottled. Wierd. Strike one. This one has a very thin body that doesn't carry the flavors of this big beer. Strike two. It's got a hard water mouthfeel, and a big dark chocolate bite, but goes nowhere. Black pepper and licorice. Nothing like I was expecting, but certainly not good enough to be different. It struggles to make a one-dimentional stout. Strike three, you're out. This bottle got dumped.

Note: I lined this one up against 16 imperial stouts, and this was the only one we all hated. Sorry, such a great brewery, but no cigar here.

 612 characters

Photo of jsanford
2.41/5  rDev -39.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

22oz bottle poured into a Lost Abbey Tumbler. 2011 Vintage

A - Dark black with a dense, creamy espresso-colored head that settles to a thick cap, leaving lots of spotty lacing.
S - Mild aromas of dark roasted malt, ash, coffee beans, and a touch of soy sauce.
T - More bitter roasted (burnt) malt, espresso, and ash. Acrid and burnt, and it only gets worse as it warms.
M - Full, creamy mouthfeel with a pretty full body and low carbonation.
O - Way to bitter and acrid for my liking, this was a rare drainpour for me. I'd almost be willing to see in the Barrel-Aged version is better, but that's a risky $16 gamble that I probably won't take.

 644 characters

Photo of ggroller
2.53/5  rDev -36.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I gave a bottle of this beer to my brother for Christmas and we cracked it open a couple of days later.

Cool label.

I've enjoyed some great brews from Pizza Port in the past so I'm really anxious to try this one.

Black, almost opaque in the glass. Very little head, very little lacing.

Smells a bit burnt. Some caramel and raisin.

Tastes vert hot. Lots of prickly heat from the alchohol on my tongue.

Not very drinkable. I think it could be, though, with some age. I'm going to get another bottle and cellar it for awhile.

 529 characters

Photo of Satchboogie
2.54/5  rDev -36.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Reviewed from notes:
On tap at Armsby Abbey

A: Pitch black, just about 1/2 inch of mocha brown head that fairly quickly dissipated. Leaves a decent amount of ring lacing.

S: Extremely dark chocolate, darkest roasted coffee (burnt coffee), lots of booze.

T: Chocolate and coffee, but unfortunately the coffee is completely burnt and acrid, the chocolate seems like dark and dry, and the booze is strong and unpleasant. Acrid, boozy, and char. I really don't know what else to say. There's a good base of heavy roasted malts, but everything is way too dark and burnt. I could only get through a couple ounces before giving up.

M: Medium to full body, fairly light carbonation.

O: I really wanted to like this and there was a bit of depth and complexity (wood flavors, hop bite on the end), but I just couldn't get past the acrid, burnt coffee, dry chocolate, bit hop clashing, and heavy alcohol presence. I was actually pretty shocked that a 10% beer at 3 years of age still toasted so boozy.

 998 characters

Photo of mrasskicktastic
2.56/5  rDev -35.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

A - A very deep brown with almost no head and no lacing.

S - Coffee, chocolate and charred brown sugar.

T - Coffee immediately... yeah, coffee. A bit of a sweet tinge, but it devolves into a potent bitterness almost immediately. It has an extremely potent bitter aftertaste of mediocre coffee and aspirin. I normally don't complain about bitterness - I love bitter! - but this is bitterness without purpose. It is simply unpleasant in the aftertaste.

M - Moderately thick, smooth, and not very refreshing, but this is a consequence of the aspirin tainted bitterness.

D - Whoa. Been a while since a single bomber got me this buzzed... did I forget to eat? The bitterness really accumulates which makes the experience a bit unpleasant. Downing the whole thing is a labor worthy of Hercules - maybe after a hard day of labors.

 830 characters

Photo of samie85
2.61/5  rDev -34.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A- Pours a dark black color with two and a half fingers of brown sugar foam.

S-Plum with dark and milk chocolate with some raisin.

T-Very roasted notes with some really hot alcohol notes.

M-A little light-bodied with loads of carbonation and avery dry finish.

D-Not very drinkable at all; the roasted notes are over-whelming and the hot alcohol notes doesn't help the flavor here at all.

 391 characters

Photo of LibraryTom
2.76/5  rDev -30.8%
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...

 627 characters

Photo of charlzm
2.9/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

2007 bottle, consumed 12/19/07.

Pours a dark clear brown with small head that quickly disappears. Only a very thin ring of tan foam clings to the sides of the glass.

Aroma is subtle roasted malts with a hint of chocolate and a metallic undertone.

Mouthfeel is only a little thicker and smooother than water.

Not much flavor, oddly, perhaps due to the burning astringent sensation on the tongue. Hints of bitter chocolate, maybe. Finishes with an alcohol burn.

Not really a great imperial stout; disappointing from this brewery.

 536 characters

Photo of doucmehu
2.9/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

I had one goal in mind in selecting this bottle tonight - a CA beer while packing up a trade for a Cali BA. Received this as a gift from a generous local BA.

A: Pours a fully-sugared cola brown with an average dirty brown mocha head. Leave a solid foam ring and moderate lacing in my Boulevard tulip.

S: Smells very much of black-strap molasses and burnt sugar, followed by faint esters and licorice. There are some soft oak tannins and alcohol as well.

T: Alcohol hides a lot of the flavor here, but once you get past the ethanol there are notes of burnt malt, unsweetened bakers chocolate, mild toasted oak, and bitter but relatively flavorless hops.

M: Alcohol heat is excessive and overwhelming. A rather sharp and thin RIS with a very bitter finish.

O: I am a little shocked by the good reviews of this beer. It starts out strong, but I thought it was average at best for the style (once it hits the lips). The alcohol and bitterness were high, and detracted from what I expect in a good RIS. I drank the whole bomber, but it was not particularly enjoyable and I would not choose this again.

 1,101 characters

Photo of Higravity
2.95/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Well I thought this could have been something really special from the accailmed Pizza Port, but it was more of a flop.

Pour a nice dark body with a slight tan head, no real lacing noticed. Smells winey and alcoholic with some roasty bits of malt. Taste is very winey, more like a sweet barely wine laced with alcohol and a roastedness more like a regular stout than an Impy. The hops are really not there and I wish it was a bad bottle or something but it does not taste oxidized at all or anyhting else that would constitute a bad bottle. The body was thin and wel carbonated. A sipper for sure but not something worth seeking out.

 635 characters

Photo of champ103
2.98/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

On tap at the Blind Pig in Champaign IL

A: Pour nearly opaque black. A two finger tan head forms with good retention. Lots of sticky lace is left behind.
S: Soft roasted malt at first. Some acrid and bitter chocolate lingers. Like bakers chocolate. I don't really get anything else.
T: Roasted malt is much more prevalent. So is the acrid and astringent coffee. Some chocolate that is really bitter. Lingering in the finish is some bitter hops. The two bitter flavors are at odds with each other. Plenty of alcohol as well.
M/D: A medium body and carbonation. A bit thin for a big stout. The alcohol and two different types of bitterness makes this hard to drink.

I am not impressed with this. There are two different bitterness flavors going on, and it does not mess well. Not something I would recommend.

 809 characters

Photo of 4000qtrap
2.98/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Source/Serving: 22oz. Bottle (2010, not aged)

Smell: Smooth rich roastiness without too much coffee or chocolate flavor remaining. Nice caramelized sweetness. Intense but not too interesting.

Taste: Slightly sweet up front with a dry finish. Solid, balanced roast character overall, but standard RIS characteristics that don't stand out. However, the finish has a nice licorice note that lingers well alongside coffee. Notably full mouthfeel as well, but overall pretty bog standard RIS offering.

 498 characters

Photo of beertunes
3/5  rDev -24.8%
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.

 515 characters

Photo of Beaver13
3.03/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle, 2008 version. Pours a dark brown with an extremely thin brown head that quickly goes to a very thin collar.

The aroma is very subdued - sweet chocolate, grainy malts.

The flavor is lactic chocolate, slightly tart dark fruits, and molasses with a roasted bitter finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and watery with almost no carbonation.

Overall, I'm not too impressed. This is a pretty weak impy stout - it's light in color, subdued in the nose, and watery in the body. The flavors aren't bad though.

 520 characters

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!

 1,634 characters

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
3.04/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This one pours a dark black with a touch of raisin sneaking in along the edges. The head is a creamy tan collar that left a little lace behind.

Smells of prunes and cough syrup backed with a touch of coffee and baking cocoa. A dry campfire smoke rises from the distance.

Tastes too of the prunes and medicinal bleh and again some coffee comes through but much more prominently. This shifts things towards the dry end of the spectrum, but not quite enough.

Feels slick and dense with a tiny scrape of carbonation. Overall too syrupy.

Meh. Not one I'd care to try again.

 573 characters

Photo of largadeer
3.06/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pitch-black without much of a head, just a small ring of foam around the edges of the glass.

Smell: Pleasantly roasty with notes of milk chocolate and coffee.

Taste: Creamy and rich, sweet, a bit milky. Dark and roasted, but not at all over-the-top. This is a very mellow, drinkable imperial stout. The 9.5% alcohol is completely hidden; it drinks more like a 6% or 7% stout.

Mouthfeel: Fairly heavy and full-bodied, lightly carbonated - very gentle for the style.

Drinkability: One of the most drinkable RIS I've had, this stuff is deceptively strong.

3/15/2011: Revisited this beer, don't particularly care for it anymore. Found it ashy and acrid.

 666 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.

 513 characters

Photo of Blanco
3.08/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

looks like a stout. smell has a big chocolate backbone to it and a hint of booze. taste is bitter right off the top, followed by roasted malt and some chocolate on the way down. Booze is apparent as well and lingers as a burn well after you've stop taking sips. The mouthfeel is very lively, very slippery/oily and buttery. too carbonated, which is strange for a stout. drinkability is OK given the high ABV, but the bitterness, aftertaste and carbonation cancel that out somewhat. Not my favorite.

 498 characters

Photo of scottbrew4u
3.08/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: This beer poured a pitch black color with a bubbly tan head that fizzled out quickly. No light was coming through this beer.

S: Rich roasted, burnt barley, cocoa, cream, some light molasses and a strong alcohol vapor.

T: There was a malt explosion and rich coffee, cocoa, char and deep nuttiness. Some bitterness from hops and ample burnt barley. Alcohol presence comes through with too much of a bang.

M: Deep rich, full body with crisp carbonation, and
Alcohol burn.

D: Although this beer had some good aspects, overall it needs to either sit and age or just have less alcohol to mellow it out and make it easier to drink.

 632 characters

Photo of Glennlawless
3.11/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Poured into a pint glass

A- Poured a thick black with a 2 inch brown head. looks heavy as hell.

S- Getting hints of coffee, dark fruit and maybe some dark chocolate. Touch of booze as well.

T/M - getting all the same as the some bittering hops on the back end.

Overall.... I was expecting some Christmas fall spices to be happening all im really getting is darkfruit, bitterness, and a ton of alcohol heat. This beer kinda let me down. Also not to big into russian imperials, but if you are give it a try cause the people that are into these, really really dig this beer.

 590 characters

Photo of frazbri
3.12/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Port Brewing's Santa's Little Helper had a black body with cola brown edges. It had a thin head that was mocha in color. Aroma had a notes of chocolate, anise, coffee and fruit. I tasted espresso, semi-sweet chocolate, raisins and rum. Body was medium with low-medium carbonation levels. Sticky, but not full bodied.

SLH had a couple components that held it back. Bitterness levels were unchecked, and the body was thinner than I'd like in an imperial stout. The bitterness was very harsh in the finish, it covered some good flavors a bit too much.

 549 characters

Photo of dcook11
3.16/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A- pitch black beer with a thin caramel colored head and wispy sea foam lacing.

S- Little underwhelmed by the smell here. I was expecting coffee and dark roasted malt... Instead, all I can detect is a faint hint of maple syrup and a kiss of hops. Perplexing smell to say the least. To the beers credit, I don't get any of the abv in the nose. As the beer warms, it takes on a sickly medivinle note. Not sure what the beers vintage is, but this might have some age on it.

T- Wow. Taste is nothing like the smell, and this is definitely a fresh bottle. Prominent hop character with a touch of coffee at the finish. Alcohol also not well hidden at all.

M- Heavy.

O- Worth a try, but I definitely won't be buying this again.

 725 characters

Photo of GoldenJet
3.18/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2009 bottle from a trade with beersis81.

After pouring this into my glass, I was really stoked to drink it. Unfortunately, the look is about the best thing going for it - typical RIS, that lives up to the verbage on the bottle, "Black as Christmas Eve." Tons of beading on the glass as I swirl it around.

The nose is all booze, which is strange because it's 'only' 10%; I say that because I've had 12 - 15% RIS that mask the alcohol much more. I pick up a little chocolate and malt notes, but really the alcohol takes over.

The same goes for the taste. Lots and lots of heat, with that chocolate on the finish, but I'm getting tons of bourbon notes. Not a lot of depth, and not really that thick either. I do get a little coffee every once and a while, but it just doesn't seem that balanced.

Overall, this beer is fine, but there's so many Russian Imperial Stouts out there right now that are worlds above this one. A good beer, but not a great one.

 954 characters

Photo of biglite351
3.18/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2009 bottle drank 2/14/12

A - dark as night with a creamy dark tan head

S - Dark dried fruit; prune juice, crushed raisins, malt, yeast and bitter cocoa.

T - Burnt dried fruit, baking chocolate, malts. Possibly just a bit past it's prime.

M - Thick coating with a tingle on both sides of tongue.

O - Probably would have been better 6 months ago. Not a favorite at this stage.

 380 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
3.99 out of 5 based on 1,472 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.