Santa's Little Helper | Port Brewing

Santa's Little HelperSanta's Little Helper
Liked This Beer
4.01 w/ 1,482 ratings
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

User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 1,482 |  Reviews: 579
Photo of rtaps
4.45/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

In a tulip glass it pours a super dark brown (seeming black) with a giant tan head with good retention. leaving lacing around the glass as it subsides

SMOKEY, nutty, coffee, a nuts hit the nose and smells very good together. makes me really want to dive right into the taste

The taste doesn't disappoint, nice full bodied. coffee(mocha), SMOKEY, and hints of nuttyness.

Mouth feel if good not a smooth as i expected. This might be the only down fall of this beer for me.

Overall this is a great seasonal Imperial Stout. Won't miss out on this one next year!

 563 characters

Photo of drpimento
4.65/5  rDev +16%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is truly great beer. I let it warm a bit out of the fridge first. Then poured from the bottle an expansive, tan, foamy, frothy, fluffy, textured head with loads of gobby lace. Color is an absolutely pitch black. Aroma is roast, malt, caramel, toffe, cocoa, coffee, licorice. Flavor's very close to nose with the balanced, rich bittersweetness on top, followed by an expertly placed tang, then the other stuff. Finish is pretty long, a bit boozy, and yet easy to swig some more.

 482 characters

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.13/5  rDev +3%
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!

 1,010 characters

Photo of mikereaser
4.27/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2007 vintage
A - Pours a pitch black with very little foam at all, just a ring of tan bubbles around the glass
S - Deep roasted malts with some nice chocolate notes coming through. very little alcohol is left.
T - Big chocolate malts with a little bit of warming alcohol left. Nice espresso flavor still shines through.
M - smooth and creamy with just a bit of carbonation making this one very easy to drink
D - I could drink alot of this. Age has done this one well.

 467 characters

Photo of cindyjeffsmith
3.53/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

appearance: Heavy dark brown. Mocha thick head with heavy lacing.
smell: A little light (ok it's an imp stout so only speaking relative to other imp stouts). Pleasant and complex though subdued (for an imp stout).
taste: Same as nose.
overall: smooth mellow. Good not great (well even a good imp stout is great imo but....relatively speaking).

 343 characters

Photo of inlimbo77
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a Deschutes snifter. 2010 vintage with the blacked out Santa sitting at the bar on the label.

A: Pours a deep black color. Some reddish hues towards the corners on the glass. Faint half finger head. Some lacing on glass. Alcohol feet for sure.

S: Smells really smokey (?). Deep roasted malts. Some dark chocolate notes as well as the campfire smells that I get.

T: Lots of smokey tastes first and then the traditional RIS stuff: dark chocolate, espresso, etc. I got a little dark fruits, surprisingly as well. Really nice beer.

M: Full bodied stout.

O: A- on this one. After trying Parabola, this one doesn't stand at that level....but still very very good RIS. I was happy with this purchase for sure.

 732 characters

Photo of ActonBrewer
3.78/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Dark Brown, almost black. Beautiful dark brown head. This is what I want my Imperial stouts to look like.

S - Strong chocolate and roasted malts. Slight toffee and coffee notes.

T - This is where the beer went south on us. Slightly funky flavors going on. Seemed to have a stale or old taste to it that you wouldn't expect from an RIS. Coffee and bitter chocolate throughout. The alcohol was well masked by the chocolate.

M - A little thinner than what I expected. Light carbonation

O - Not what I was expecting. Not sure if the beer was off peak. I will seek this out again as I have loved all of their beers in the past.

2010 vintage poured into a standard pint glass.

 680 characters

Photo of bennetj17
4.08/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage. Dark black with a decent head. Silky tan foam holds well, which is good because many of this style tend to be undercarbonated. Smell is a nice boozy mix of dark chocolate and dark fruit character.

A bit one dimensional in flavor, this brew probably would have benefitted from further aging to develop more complexity, which is obvious as it's a little bit hot also. Semi-sweet chocolate is predominant, with slight roastiness at the back that is unfortunately overshadowed by alcohols and a bit of astringence. The mouthfeel rates nicely, with a chewy thickness that maintains solid foamy carboation.

Overall a solid attempt for the style. I think it could be optimal at about 2 years out so it has a way to go.

 729 characters

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Lost Abbet/Port tasting room on 7/3/11

A - Poured a dark brown/black colour with a small amountt of espresso coloured head.

S - Molasses, chocolate, some coffee. A good nose but it left me wanting a little more.

T - Very sweet overall with notes of molasses and dark caramel. Some coffee and roasted malts flavours are present as well along with some noticeable alcohol.

M - Thick, chewy. Light carbonation.

O - An excellent RIS.

 452 characters

Photo of alexhahn82
3.6/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A -- Blacky McBlackerson. Super brown head that escalates to the rim of the glass! Dissipates at a medium pace, major lacing, looks like something a scoop of ice cream should be dropped into!

S - Slight dark malt smell a definite smell of booze, should be good!

T/M - Fantastic brew, rich and chocolaty with an almost pepper bite for a finish. Decent carbonation. Definitely something you want to go back for more and more for the taste.

O - This is a phenomenal beer, it almost angers me that there isn't a bourbon barrel version (as far as I know) because this strikes me as the absolute perfect beer for a bourbony flavor. Seek and destroy this is a fabulous beer!

PP (Price Point) -- On clearance at the local Nugget gourmet grocery store. $5.99 for a 22oz bomber, looks like I will be heading back for another 3 or 4 to add to the cellar!! Buy it while you can!

 870 characters

Photo of claspada
4.01/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Bottle cellared/offered by my friend HimerMan. X-Mas beer in the heat of July... why not!
Pours a deep dark brown; almost black with a small toffee brown 1/2 a finger head; hope this is still drinkable. Aromas of deep dark bready malts, dark caramels, nuttiness, graham cracker and bitter cocoa. As it warms a little you get some dark fruit (cherries and dates). Wow really deep...
The tastes begin with dark espresso coffee and dark bitter cocoa. Next you get more dark cherries; that awesome cherry cordial characteristic which darker roasted malty heavy beers get with age. Bitter baker's cocoa and milk chocolate flavors emerge on the palate next. All the while your palate is balanced by an slight (really really slight earthy bitterness). No hop flavors what so ever are still apparent after 4+ years, which has greatly helped this beer because I've read it is very "green" fresh which I do no enjoy. Coffee/dark baker's cocoa stand tall throughout and leave a nice bitter and dry flavor on the palate. Would like a touch more carbonation, for my personal taste, but after 4+ years I won't be too nit-picky here. Flavors become a bit more acrid and bitter as this warms, a plus for some, not for me.
Overall I really enjoyed this beer and I am super psyched I did not have to cellar it for this long to enjoy. If you have the patience, definitely but and cellar for at least 2 years to let the bitter hoppiness subside, otherwise I have read this drinks like a black IPA (which I think is a miserable style/fad, please go away). Most normal Imp Stouts cannot stand the test of time that this one has but thanks to the ample IBU's this one is stellar after 4+ years.

 1,676 characters

Photo of Duff27
4.05/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 or 2009 bottle. No label, good job TATURBO.

Pours thick black. Small mid-tan head. Above average lacing and head retention.

Smells chocolaety sweet. Like really sweet.

Boozy and dark malt as F. Decent punch with the hops though. Well balanced sweet and bitter, although booze is king here.

Holy thick. Creamy. Daddy like.

Overall a bit much. Chocolate syrup fans will enjoy. Please enjoy with 2 to 3 peoples!! Yumyum.

 428 characters

Photo of Spider889
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to MbpBugeye for sharing this at the last Central Ohio Tasting.

Newer bottle (2010 I think?) that has the silhouette of Santa on the label.

Pours with a short but sweet dark mocha head with almost greenish fingers of color to it. Thick and black but a little grainy looking.

Smells very hoppy and a little hot. I tend to dislike these super hopped stouts. Smooth black malt and some ashiness help to balance the hops though.

Tastes very roasty. Blackened toast, and bitter char meet green hops. A bit boozy but well done.

Robust and dry, overall this is a good stout, one which I feel a little age would do some good.

 629 characters

Photo of samie85
2.61/5  rDev -34.9%
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 woodychandler
3.84/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

More undated notes, but from the same snowy visit to Local 44.

I had a bottle of this a year or so ago that I utterly squandered. I was gilding the lily by opening while already half in the bag and my tasting notes were utterly incomprehensible as a result. Not on this occasion, however!

It was set down before me with 1.5 fingers of thick, dark-brown head with marvelous retention. It later resulted in phenomenal lacing. It was thick and chunky in the glass, like My-T-Fine Instant Chocolate Pudding. Nose was rich with fudgy chocolate, smoke and charcoal. Mouthfeel was surprisingly thin, given its appearance in the glass. The taste was like biting into a really rich brownie. Intensely chocolaty on the tongue. My asthma began to give 'way to diabetic shock. The finish was an ashy, dusty, burnt charcoal flavor. Just not my bag.

 837 characters

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

Got this one in my poker winnings from jkane101. Thanks a lot!

Poured a dark black with a nice about of tan head on it.

Smell was roasted malts, chocolate and coffee with some alcohol coming in at the end.

Taste was also roasted malts with the coffee flavor coming though. Bit of alcohol in the finish.

Mouthfeel was medium-full. Definitely a beer to be enjoyed.

Overall a great tasting beer. I don't drink a lot of stouts but I did enjoy this one and would drink it again.

 478 characters

Photo of IdrinkGas
3.78/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Gently poured from a bomber into a snifter. About 2 fingers of a dirty looking tightly compacted brownish head. Picking up candied sugar and a little cocoa in the nose. Also detecting a fair amount of booze. First sip I get muted vanilla flavor mixed with lots of sweet and chocolate malt flavors. Alcohol is apparent in the finish. Tastes every bit like a 10% Abv beer.
I've had a few bottles from 2009 and can say its definitely better with with some age. I've really liked everything I've had from Port Brewing. The prices are a refreshing reminder that good beer from California doesn't have to double in price when it crosses the Mississippi. Sometimes its even cheaper than equivalent local brews.

 704 characters

Photo of Arenbeer
3.48/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22oz bottle into a snifter glass

2010 Vintage

A- Pours jet black with a fluffy 2 finger head that sticks around. Decent head retention and alcohol legs on the side of the glass.

S- Dark roasted malts, sweet chocolate, and bitter coffee. Definitely a god amount of alcohol present in the aroma.

T- Strong roasted malts with some slightly sweet bitter dark chocolate and finish's with burnt coffee. Strong booze finish that really ruins the overall flavor due to not blending well IMO.

M- Medium to fuller body with moderate carbonation and a nice bitter finish.


 574 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured a dark black with a foamy, creamy, tan colored head.

S: Loads of roasted malts, dark chocolates, a little bit of bread, a light scent of dark fruits, and sweetened coffee.

T: Booze and bitter cocoa, lends a note of milk chocolate, a little bit of light licorice, some molasses.

M: Big body, well carbonated and boozy

O: Overall its pretty good

 357 characters

Photo of hopluva1
3.85/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 vintage into a snifter @ 50*

Pours black with a 1 finger light brown head that fades rather quickly.
Aroma is pretty basic, roasted barley with just a touch of smoke(i might be reaching)
Flavor is roasty first then comes the sweet coffee, there is a bitterness and a smoke flavor in the finish. It is like drinking sweet coffee by the fire.
I think it is an appropriate winter warmer (definite alcohol).

It seems like it will improve with age.

It gets a little to harsh as it warms, don't let it get to 55*

 514 characters

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

Poured into a snifter. 2010 version. Very black color. Thin tan head and decent lacing.

Aroma is nice and roasty with a bit of caramel and bitter chocolate.

Taste is lackin a bit in sweetness in the form of caramel. Very roasty and bitter chocolate. Pretty tasty still though.

Mouthfeel is a bit heavy but not bad. Nice carb for once.

Overall a tasty brew. Would get it again for sure.

 389 characters

Photo of Satchboogie
2.54/5  rDev -36.7%
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 nickhiller
3.58/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: thick and black as fresh crude, no head, it looks like slow burbling tar pit.

S: you can smell that alcohol, it smells more like Kahlua than beer.

T: stale cigarettes, luke warm iced coffee, bitter chocolate, Kahlua, medicine.

M: full bodied and carbonation-less, sort of like drinking cough syrup--which I guess is a good thing as this is a winter seasonal.

O: ok, nothing special or abhorrent.

 402 characters

Photo of evanlarkin
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown/black. No light gets through this one. 2 1/2 fingers of tan/brown head when poured into a tulip. Not the flower, the glass. Some nice lacing gets left behind once the foam goes south... for the winter?

Mostly chocolate, on first inspection. On second whiff, we get some coffee too, as well as a boozy sweetness. Oh, and some foam stuck to my nose. Oops! 3rd try once the foam is gone gets a bit of dark fruit going in my scent-buds.

Despite the images of sugarplums dancing in my head, this beer is only semi-sweet. Coffee flavors dominate, with some chocolate and delectable dark fruits in the background. It does in fact give off a christmas feel. I kind of wish I had a sweater, and some smoked oysters. That would be amazing.

Not quite as thick as other RIS beers, but holy father christmas, this does have some body to go along with it. Maybe not as much as the round red man himself, but definitely more than my last batch of christmas presents. Does that make any sense?
...Low carbonation.

I like this quite a bit. It's not on the top of my christmas list, but it's definitely a welcome gift, and a much better treat than those weird sprinkled spearmint gum drop things. And it's miles ahead of coal.

 1,269 characters

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

Poured from 22 oz. bomber into a New Belgium globe glass.

A: Black color with a nice thick creamy tan head that dissipates ever so slowly.
S: Sweet malts, caramel, alcohol, slight coffee.
T: Roasted malts, coffee, alcohol.
M: Heavy bodied, sticky, medium carbonation.
D: The alcohol can be smelled and tasted, but not like you'd imagine a 10% ABV beer to be. Well balanced all around. A VERY good imperial stout that I will look for in the stores. Give it a try!

 463 characters

Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
Beer rating: 83.2% out of 100 with 1,482 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.