Santa's Little Helper | Port Brewing

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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

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Reviews: 574 | Ratings: 1,472
Photo of Sammy
3.85/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very thick IS. Pours black with white head. Roasty aroma, instense, with coffee and chocolate. Bold taste has East Kent Goldings, Mt. Hood, Liberty, and Challenger hops. On the sweet side, with brown sugar. Drinkable though alcohol is powerful stuff.

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Photo of GRG1313
3.55/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with a firm thick tan head and really nice thick lacing.

Nose is huge cooked fruit and sweet black chocolate and chocolate espresso beans. Very inviting.

Mouthfeel is rich and creamy; bold.

Flavors are difficult on this year's Little Helper since from the first taste the alcohol is very strong and assertive. You first have to get through a strong alcohol presence before getting to rich coffee and bitter dark chocolate.

Strong alcohol finish, as well. And, alcohol doesn't "burn off" or get better with age....alcohol is alcohol.

My initial notes for the 2008 show that I loved that year and commented that it could be an every day drink it was so appealing. The 2009 is simply not as integrated, balanced or drinkable. The huge presence of alcohol really hurts this one.

Re-tasting several times shows complexities and consistency. Still a bit alcoholic but I've adjusted my scores based on recent tastings in 2013.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 vintage.

Pours a thick pitch black with a tiny 1/2 inch chocolate milk colored head. Smells of roasted coffee/espresso beans, bittersweet chocolate, molasses. Very rich and delicious smells. Taste is of roasted coffee, cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate. Pronounced bitterness on the tongue after each sip. I was not expecting this level of bitterness from a RIS. Light to medium level of carbonation allows for the beer's smoothness to come out. Somewhat of a medium body on this beer. Drinkability is good on this Christmas seasonal. Something I will buy every year from now on.

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: two finger tan frothy head with nice lacing on a near jet black body with little light getting through.

S: very sweet with lots of vanilla, dark fruits mostly raisins and plum, light bourbon notes as well. roasted malts are mild.

T: nice roasted and coffee flavor throughout and late into the aftertaste. Nice bourbon, dark chocolate, vanilla and toffee flavors mostly up front and in the middle.

M: medium body and moderate carbonation. fairly dry finish.

Overall: well balanced beer and hides the alcohol well. Drinkability may be hurt for some by the coffee and bourbon but for me its excellent.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.91/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

enjoyed 2011 and 2013 vintages side by side. this drinks better fresh than aged, with the older one losing a lot of its body and pop. deep dense brown color, not as viscous as some big stouts, but not by any means thin. it doesn't hold on to its inch of mocha foam very long either, but it looks tasty enough. nose of burnt barley, milk chocolate, and English style hops. not as dark as some, but the booze is well disguised, at least in the nose, and a residual sweetness abounds. the flavor starts with the heavy roasted barley and moves into a coffee and hop bitterness complex, before finally being rounded out by a little candy sweetness as it finishes. I like this, but ill bet the bourbon barrel addition has a few more layers that make it amazing. as this one stands, it could use a little more body, maybe some oatmeal or something. also, nothing about it really says Christmas to me, no spice or anything, so its hard to judge it in that context. heck of a buzz on it too, better to share this than drink it solo.

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Photo of metter98
3.72/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A:The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a finger high tan colored head that died down but consistently left a short head covering the surface, a collar around the edge, and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of chocolate and roasted malts are present in the nose; the taste becomes stronger as the beer warms up.
T: The taste mostly follows the smell and also has hints of burnt malts. A little acidity and licorice are noticeable towards the finish, which also has a light amount of bitterness.
M: It feels medium bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O:it seems that you really need to let this beer warm up as the complexion in the beer become stronger.

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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.

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Photo of brentk56
4.34/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 bottling; consumed 3/21/10

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with auburn highlights but only a wisp of a head that quickly fritters away

Smell: Dark chocolate and dark fruit; still boozy with a hint of minty hops

Taste: Dark chocolate and fruit, up front, with the boozy alcohol making its presence felt by mid-palate, along with a bit of residual hop bitterness, even after all this time; after the swallow, tobacco and chocolate notes dominate the finish

Mouthfeel: Thick bodied with low carbonation

Drinkability: This is one fine RIS; just wish it had a bit more carbonation but it still tantalizes the tastebuds

Thanks, mreusch (from the other site), for the opportunity

N.B. Re-visited the 2015 version - the carbonation issued have been addressed and the beer provides all the stout theatrics - rating changed accordingly

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.52/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a light foamy head with good retention and some very good lacing. Aroma of black chocolate is quite intense with some light roasted malt notes also discernable. Taste is somewhat vinous with some great black chocolate notes, light dry roasted malt notes. Full body with some good carbonation and no discernable alcohol. Creamy texture is really enjoyable. Very complex but still very enjoyable and easily drinkable.

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Photo of zeff80
4.29/5  rDev +7.5%
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.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.3/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to checkii for sending this out as an extra. It was enjoyed in early Autumn around a campfire with some good friends. Poured into a snifter.

I really enjoyed the barrel-aged version of this, so I had some high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite my favorite. Color was essentially black with a half-finger mocha head that quickly faded. The nose brought some strongly-roasted malt as well as a bit of black licorice, chocolate, and some really light smoke.

The taste brought a good dose of booze as well as some roast and chocolate. Additionally, I also got some slight dark fruit and the smoke coming back again. Body was nice and full with a bit of smoke and then there was a light amount of carbonation. Drank fairly well, but not up to the caliber that I expect from Port.

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Photo of nickfl
3.95/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - The beer forms a huge, three finger head of tan foam on top of an opaque, black body. The head settles slowly and leaves very thick lace on the glass.

S - Dark, roasty malt with notes of chocolate, nutty caramel, and light yeasty fruit notes of plum and red apple.

T - Dark, smoky malt with some hop bitterness up front. Notes of dark chocolate come out in the middle and fade to smoky coffee in the finish.

M - Medium-thick body, moderate carbonation, and a slightly dry finish.

D - Surprisingly dark and dry, I expected something in the big, sweet complex stout range but this is dry and subtle. The aroma lets lots of interesting grace notes flow through the roast character, but this is never quite achieved in the flavor profile because of a much stronger carbonized flavor that blocks out much of the potential subtlety. Nonetheless, a nice imperial stout and I'm really interested to see what the barrel aged version will be like.

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

Poured jet black with only faint ruby hue when held up to the light,a large mocha colored head atop.Dark fruit stands out most in the nose along with bitter chocolate and dark roast,the fruitiness is the main component going on here.A little more sharp than I like in the feel but it's not overly annoying.Dark fruit and black licorice flavors at the start with some earthy tones and unsweetened chocolate as well,a nice complex palate.A good close to great RIS,tweek the mothfeel and it is great,I enjoyed it.

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

22 oz bottle served in a goblet in July 2016.

Black, opaque body with a thick, durable tan head.

Appealing aroma of toffee and dark malts with hints of vanilla, dark chocolate and brown sugar. A bit mild, especially in comparison to the flavor.

The flavor largely follows. Excellent balance. Plenty of dark roasted grain without significant smoke, char or other burnt qualities.

Excellent mouthfeel from the full bodied, well (medium) carbonated liquid, although there is some mild alcohol heat.

Overall: no need to restrict this beer to winter, it's more than good enough to enjoy year around. Rich and robust enough to serve as a meal (which it may if my wife doesn't wake up for dinner).

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Photo of Kegatron
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 release.

22oz bottle into a goblet.

Pours a pitch black with a good sized beautiful looking tan head that settles down into a smooth creamy covering that left great lacing. Aroma is burnt coffee, cocoa sweetness, dark fruits, and a little twinge of alcohol in the back.

The taste is more of the same. A nice balance of roasted coffee bitterness, chocolate sweetness, and some cherry tartness as it really starts to warm up. Finishes with a mix of bitterness and a strong sting of heat. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and creamy but then gets way too hot for a 9.5% Stout.

This is a nice Imperial Stout, and a good representation of the style, from Port Brewing. Ultimately though, the amount of heat this guy finishes with hurts the drinkibility for me somewhat and keeps it from being great. It's still a good drinker though, especially if your going to use it to warm up on those cold winter nights.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into an imperial pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep dark brown color, with a short, dense, light brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of dark fruit, roasted malts, chocolate, coffee and a touch of hops.

T: The taste is nicely balanced for a big stout, with flavors of dark chocolate, dark fruits and roasted coffee. The malt character is what you would expect from this type of beer, hearty but not quite as thick as most. There’s a good hops presence for the style along with a slight alcohol sting. The after-taste is slightly sweet with some residual hops bitterness.

M: Smooth and crisp, medium-to-heavy and viscous body, light-to-medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, slightly filling, strong kick, very good representation of style even if it wouldn’t my first choice for an RIS. Overall, however, this is a nice beer to chill out with late on a cold night as you unwind in front of the TV.

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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 ChainGangGuy
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 ounce bottle - $6.99 at Olde Crabapple Bottle Shoppe in Alpharetta, Georgia. Bottled 8/25/11.

Appearance: Pours a silken black body with a rather tall, long-lasting, dark tan head.

Smell: Highly roasted coffee beans with a pinch of unsweetened chocolate, a drizzle of alcohol, some scorched sugars, a bit of slow-pouring molasses, and some leafy, almost mint-like hops tucked in back.

Taste: A deep sip of cold Dutch cocoa with a growing taste of Italian roast coffee beans followed by sweet additions of chewy molasses cookies and caramel. Modest fruitiness in the background. That hard roastiness carries onward. Leafy hops, moderately bitter joining in with the continued roasted quality of the grains. Alcohol is certainly noted but it's still fairly well-integrated. Roasty, malty

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Lightly carbonated. Smooth mouthfeel.

Overall: It's well-rounded in that you've got your boldness, bitterness, and more than enough booze in this one. I'll (pass out) like a baby tonight!

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.33/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Chimney soot black with the slimmest sliver of dark mahogany along the bottom edge of the glass. The densely bubbled crown is the exact color of golden brown sugar, an ingredient used during brewing if my source is correct. As the foam slooowly melts, a solid sheet of lace is beginning to be laid down. This is what an RIS ought to look like.

The nose reflects the murderer's row of malts used. Obviously, the lighter members of the malt bill are completely obliterated by chocolate, black and roasted. The brown sugar is hard to isolate. It's more of a melted bittersweet chocolate and molasses cocktail of an aroma. Oh yeah, with a bunch of citric and piney hops for good measure.

If you like your Russian Imperial stouts to be hopped to the gills, then sign up to be Santa's Little Helper. I might have classified it as an American double stout for that very reason, but RIS works as well... unless you're a real stickler when it comes to style assignment. Since these guys brew in hop-crazed Southern California, the big hops aren't a big surprise.

To be world-class, this seasonal needs a few more shovelfuls of malt. It seems a fraction light (for the style), but is beginning to prove that initial observation wrong as it warms a few degrees. There's a fair amount of sweetness that is in no danger of becoming cloying due to the rampaging little green cones. It's obvious that this batch is on the fresh side.

The flavor profile follows the nose directly. Charred malts give a pleasing, sooty smokiness and a caramelized sugar character to the brew that makes me think that it spent some time in bourbon barrels, although I don't believe it did. Blackstrap molasses is still at full boil and anise filters in at the edges.

SLH is one of the hoppiest Imperial stouts that I've had in quite some time. That could be because I rarely review them fresh. The end result is that every malty jab is met with equal force by a resinous hoppy uppercut. The Scotch pine-like flavor of the hops gives the beer a certain Christmas tree flair. Maybe that was intended.

The body/mouthfeel has improved noticeably from a starting temperature of 50 degrees to a current estimated temperature of 60 degrees. It still isn't massive enough for the big numbers to be granted, but I'm enjoying its impeccable smoothness and its lightly sticky finish.

Screw the milk and cookies. Santa needs to take a load off his feet and polish off a bomber of this wonderful stout before going back out into the winter wonderland to pass out more gifts. Thanks to Port Brewing for giving me my Christmas present a few days early.

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

I finally get a chance to try this one this year. I had somehow not run across one previously and was not about to make that same mistake this year. I let this one warm up to around 50 degrees and then proceeded to pour it into an oversized wine glass. Consumed on 10/28/2008.

The pour was very nice. A very rich, and very deep, dark black color came gurgling out of the bottle, splashing down into the glass and rising up a tremendous head. Three solid inches of chocolate colored foam then spread throughout the glass, clinging to everything that it came across, all the while slowly settling down into the abyss below it.

The aroma was very big, very full. Lots of cocoa, dark chocolate like notes, hints of light coffee and a touch of licorice all mixed in very subtly. An almost smoky, peat like touch added in as well, as there was no mistaking that this was not going to be one to fool with this time around. The flavor was almost as rich and full. Nice notes of chocolate, bitter touches mixed in throughout providing a decent amount of depth to it. An interesting mix of cookie dough and what seemed like licorice mid palate, which suddenly dove into a burnt malt like flavor. Smooth and creamy, with a subtle carbonation profile, that did not let it come off as too terribly big. I was able to struggle through the bottle, not due to the flavor, but it was strong, this beer was not messing around.

Overall I have to say I really thought it was excellent. For a nice seasonal release, this was pretty damn good. Solidly positioned in the second tier of the big RIS's, I would not want to miss this one.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.6/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of russpowell
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up one of the last 2 bottles at Spring Liqour outlet today, was really tempted to snag them both... This one is 10% abv

Pours like 5,000 mile motor oil, but with effervescence! and with a sliver of caramel/butterscotch colored head.Above average lacing, sort of looks like two people holding hands, wacky & average head retention

S: Cocoa powder& a bit of licorice

T: Cocoa powder, roasted grain, licorice & a touch of chicory up front. Dark chocolate with some leafy hops show up as this warms, plus a bit of booze warmth & a kiss of vanilla oakyness. Finishes a bit dry, with much cocoa, a bit of figs & nice mocha flavor

MF: Chewy, oily, with low, but noticeable carbonation

Drinks pretty easy, but the abv & thickness show up to the party early enough, to give pause. Not a perfect IMP stout, but damn good, bet you this gets better with some age on it

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Photo of womencantsail
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from the 2009 release.

A: The pour is almost black with a thin mocha colored head.

S: There's a big dark fruit aroma right off the bat. Lots of plums, prunes, cherries, and figs. Lots of roasted malts, a bit of burnt sugar, approaching ash, but works quite well. Some licorice and a bit of alcohol, too.

T: Tons and tons of roast, lots of burnt sugar, licorice, and molasses. There's a slight bitterness to it, likely from the roasted malts. The fruit character is not as pronounced as on the nose, but still there.

M: The body is medium with a low to moderate level of carbonation and a bit of warming alcohol.

D: For a big beer like this, it's pretty easy to drink and quite enjoyable (probably the best of the Santa's vintages I've tried).

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

Pleasant two-finger beige head, very good lace. Black in color with absolutely no light passing through

Mocha aromas with a generous amount of cream...relatively mild, lots of cream smells.

A combination of chocolate and coffee. For a stout the body is spot on. There is a wonderful hop bitterness in the swallow and the aftertaste. The only negative might be that this beer doesn't have the typical oiliness of an Imperial Stout.

This is a thouroughly enjoyable stout. The flavor is very good but not as one would expect from an Imperial Stout. As a regular stout, this would be an excellent session beer.

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Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
3.99 out of 5 based on 1,472 ratings.
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