Santa's Little Helper | Port Brewing

BA SCORE
89
very good
575 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
Santa's Little HelperSanta's Little Helper
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Port Brewing
California, United States
portbrewing.com

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
575
Ratings:
1,474
Avg:
3.99
pDev:
10.28%
 
 
Wants:
87
Gots:
265
For Trade:
4
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 575 | Ratings: 1,474
Photo of DrDemento456
4.27/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Distribution to my state just started this year so I didn't expect to actually find a bottle. Paid 8.50 for it at Gateway Grill in Monroeville.

A - Looks awesome in the glass two fingers of rockin Deep mocha head that takes a while to dissipate. Beer is the deepest of blackest nights which I come to love in these extreme malty imperial stouts.
S - Surprisingly sweet slight residual sugars and dark chocolate cocoa nibs meet mild roasts and some underlining citrus hops zest.
T - A pretty well made stout not as sweet more traditional with some cocoa nibs, mild coffee roasts the good kind not Folgers and a good hop balanced that easily hides the ABV.
M - Again the ABV is unbelievable the 10.5% is smooth I wouldn't believe it would be over 9%. Hops and malts in harmony.

Overall well worth the 8-9 dollars a bottle and should have picked up a second. Ow well their is always next year!

 892 characters

Photo of pat61
4.53/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours brilliant dark brown with an exuberant 3” tan head that persists and leaves heavy lace. The nose is prune to plum with coffee and a hint of chocolate in the background. The beer is clean and the bubbles are so fine that they suggest a nitro beer. A very effervescent, creamy palate starts malty with a dark, nutty biscuit background coupled with big grain flavors seasoned with chocolate and coffee finishing with a dry bitter chocolate astringency joined with grain on the finish. Big body with very fine, soft carbonation.

 532 characters

Photo of TheSixthRing
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours near black with cola brown edging where light can penetrate. Rocky 2-finger head that's the color of cocoa powder. Excellent retention, but finally gives way to a fine, ever-present layer of surface suds. Lace is thick and generously dispersed around the glass, displaying excellent stick.

Smell - More sweet than roasty, with prominent notes of chocolate, light smokiness and molasses.

Taste - Follows the nose. Sweet malt and chocolatey flavors upfront. Hints of herbal character and a faint trace of mint leaf. Lesser notes of smoke and a light roastiness creep in mid-taste and slide into the finish, giving the brew a nice, even balance.

Mouthfeel - Full in body with low carbonation. Velvety texture; stupid smooth for a 10.5% stout.

Overall - A fine brew, though personally I prefer a bit more roast and depth in my impy stouts. That said, this thing is as smooth as Sammy Jackson and should not be overlooked as one of the many other gimmicky holiday brews with catchy names and labels; this one's the real deal!

 1,045 characters

Photo of far333
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown and opaque with a two-finger head of rocky foam that lingers long. Aroma of dark malt, caramel, cocoa and coffee. Deep, rich flavors of darkly kilned malt, not to roasty or bitter, but very flavorful, with notes of dark chocolate, espresso, licorice, root beer, and charred bark. Subtle hop flavors and bitterness balance it well. Full mouthfeel, a bit tingly. Nice beer.

 384 characters

Photo of ANIMOUL
4.04/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

While not a particularly enthusiastic fan of the style, drinking this has turned into an annual tradition each Xmas Eve. Slightly sweet but not overpowering... alcohol is also manageable. Not bad.

 198 characters

Photo of Treyliff
4.4/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, 22oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours pitch black in color with a small creamy and foamy khaki colored head that reduces to leave only a ring around the edge, no lace left behind

S- smoky roasted dark chocolate malt aroma with a hint of smoked wood and cocoa, underlying notes of dark cherry and fig give a sherry-like aroma, a hint of coffee closes it out

T- deep chocolate malt hits the palate up front with notes of melted dark chocolate and cocoa that lasts all the way into the mid-palate. Notes of dark cherry and fig begin to kick in with a kick of espresso, more smoky malt on the finish with lingers of smoked cherry-wood

M- medium-heavy body with low carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel and a chewy, velvety finish

O- two years of age has mellowed this beer out amazingly, with big dark chocolate and cherry flavors, very good RIS!

 870 characters

Photo of jellikit
4.14/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle.
A: pitch black. Thick, foamy, brown head (Looks like a root beer float.)
Smell: Fig. Chocolate.
Taste: light roastiness. Chocolate, coffee, raisin.
Mouthfeel: medium carbonation. Big body. Dry.
Overall: yum. Balanced well. Great beer.

 254 characters

Photo of KTCamm
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12/15...from the bomber. Pours dark black with high tan foam, thick and creamy, loads of lacing. Rich roasted nose, vanilla notes. Hearty thick dark malt taste, heavy bitter. Thick mouthfeel, real filling, like a milkshake. Smooth and bitter. 10.5 packs a wallop.

 263 characters

Photo of Roguer
4.35/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Just quick notes: really complex brew. Thick, chocolate milk flavor, with an enormous amount of oak flavor.

Mouthfeel is perfectly balanced and smooth, hiding the 10.5% exceptionally well.

An excellent big stout, perfect for the Winter months.

(If I understand this series correctly, there's the oak aged version, and the whiskey/bourbon barrel aged version; I believe I have now had both, and this is the former. There is possibly an un-aged version, as well.)

 465 characters

Photo of john0721
4.64/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. color: black, head: well formed, light tan, nice lacing.

I look forward to this one every year. This year's did not disappoint.

An excellent version of a non barrel aged imperial stout.

Also looking forward to trying this year's barrel aged version.

 289 characters

Photo of Stevedore
3.93/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at Lost Abbey in San Marcos, CA.

A- Dark brown body. Cola coloured body, half finger mocha head with fair retention time. However, the lacing is something else. It coats the glass with a full layer of tan lacing all the way through the glass. I haven't seen a beer do something like this in a while. So, props to the bartender and his pouring skills.

S- Dark chocolate, cocoa. These are really the main aromas that pop out. It's not particularly roasty, but it becomes sweeter as it warms up. More of a milk chocolate like aroma. Not complicated at all, but delivers on the aspects of American Imperial Stouts that I expect.

F- Rich cocoa, a bit of espresso, milk chocolate, a decent bit of roasted malts. As in the nose, it seems to get sweeter as it gets warmer. Nothing particularly bitter or sweet, it all comes together reasonably well. There seems to be a richness that is most apparent just before it hits room temperature, at which case it seems to start falling off a bit. It's a solid flavour profile for an Imperial Stout, but it lacks the dark fruits of the Russian Imperial Stout or the hoppiness of an American style stout. It seems to rely more on the milk chocolate and roasted malts here, and that is not a bad thing.

M- Medium bodied, not particularly thick or viscous, but certainly enough carbonation to give it a slick, smooth mouthfeel on the palate. The finish is more of a mildly bitter dark chocolate flavour. A bit of booze is apparent, but it doesn't increase as it warms up.

O- Fairly good Imperial Stout that delivers what I expect of Imperial Stouts, but not a whole lot more than that. Decent complexity of the expected flavours, but I think it could use a bit more of an earthiness on the finish.

Final score: 3.94

 1,759 characters

Photo of TruePerception
3.89/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Port Brewing's Santa's Little Helper, imperial stout. 10.5% ABV.

A: Pours a very dark brown. Almost three fingers of fluffy, chocolate milk brown head. Slow dissolve... Light, yet multi-layered lacing. Very light sheeting.

S: Powdered cocoa, malt, and caramel before the head dissolves. Light roasted coffee aroma starts to come through once most of the head is gone.

T/MF: Quite smooth (though, not as smooth as Pecan Pie Porter). Grassy roasted coffee flavor dominates, with a touch of char and graphite on the end. A spike of sweetness going into the finish. Slight dry cocoa note on the frontside of the finish. Cocoa, char, and graphite hold at a medium intensity for a good while. Not bad. I look forward to the barrel-aged version. This beer seems like a good foundation for it.

 788 characters

Photo of Qbdoo
3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful black beer that smells of roasted malt, licorice and hints of chocolate. Taste is similar but there's are much bolder hop presence than you expect with a Russian Imperial Stout. Somewhat medium-bodied for an RIS and more carbonated as well. A different take on the style. Might work for some but not really my kind of stout.

 336 characters

Photo of scotorum
4.26/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Cellared this for a year, perhaps a mistake since it's an Imperial, but perhaps the base flavor will be improved at the expense of the loss of any hop flavor.

Cute label graphic of either a silhouetted Santa (?) and Rudolph hoisting brews at a bar tended by an elf holding a candy cane aloft.

Poured from the 22 oz. bomber into a Samuel Smith English tulip.

a: Opaque black with slight ruby highlights when seen through light. Enormous three inch tall tan head dissipated slowly to rocky surface foam and patchy lacing. First pour only filled 40% of the pint glass, the rest was head.

s: Mild dark malt.

t: Smooth dark roasty malt with considerable balancing hop bite. Bitterness lingers at the sides of the tongue, lessens gradually. Bitter finish which mellows out later.

m; Medium to full, silky smooth body, lots of carbonation tingle.

o; Cellaring does not seem to have hurt this powerful brew. Bitterness builds somewhat and the high ABV becomes more evident early on. But it's a helluva holiday beverage which packs a big flavor, hop and alcohol wallop.

 1,077 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.66/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle poured into a tumbler. Bottled 9/12/2012. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Black with a nice mocha head and a thick layer of foam that remains.

Smell - Roasty chocolate malt. Very roasty. Simple, but good.

Taste - Lots of roasted malt. Bitter chocolate and coffee. Intensely roasty and bitter finish.

Mouthfeel - A little boozy and the finish is a little harsh from the intensity of the roast.

Overall - It pushes the line of too one-dimensional on the roasted malt flavor, but it still works.

 514 characters

Photo of tmzl
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Taste-off: Santa's Little Helper (S) vs. Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged (SBBA)

Look:
S: Pours with a huge, thick, creamy, billowy mocha head, has a good slow, equal retention (breakdown of medium sized bubbles). A very thick, medium-sized, creamy layer stays on top. Dark brown, heavy pour, fair amount of lacing.
SBBA: The head is a lot smaller, higher degree of medium/big bubbles, mocha head a bit lighter. Has a faster retention, mostly diminishing. Looks a bit more transparent and watery.

Smell:
S: Cherry, dark fruit on opening, dominating roast, coffee and milk chocolate, stuffy, mostly dark malt driven. Light sourness, bit salty, soy sauce and some cookie dough.
SBBA: More dark fruit esters on opening, then goes to rum-kokos Casali chocolates with a lot of oak, vanilla. Roast, milk chocolate more on the side here. Alcohol with booze feeling, oak the most dominant aroma here.

Taste:
S: Light acidity and molasses, burned sugar start with fruity forest esters. A bit rum-like transition into milky, dark malt medium sweetness that ends with medium dark coffee bitterness, it's well developed. Small boozy spike towards the end.
SBBA: Bourbon oak dominates this one. Medium molasses, burned sugar sweet start with acidity turned down, the middle, which is overrun with oak dominance, a bit of milky backbone felt, but a lot more subtle. Ends with strong bourbon oak spike that dominates the after with turned down roast, coffee bitterness and alcohol.

Mouthfeel:
S: Full, light heavy body, soft carbonation lingers on the tongue, quite pleasant.
SBBA: A bit lighter on the body (higher alcohol), light warmth, no carbonation to detect.

Overall:
The non-barrel aged version is a lot smoother and very drinkable. Solid, not too demanding take on imperial stouts. The bourbon one is a lot sluttier, the oak is (too) heavy and goes down a lot slower. The age in barrels didn't make it better IMO.

 1,930 characters

Photo of ONUMello
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle dated 8/20/13 poured into a pint glass
A: Pitch black with a 2+ finger mocha-colored head
S: Roasted coffee, roasted malt, cocoa, though a touch muted
T: Largely matches the nose, a noticeable bitterness from the coffee & cocoa comes through as well. Perhaps a touch one-dimensional but tasty
M: Full bodied/dry/bitter
O: Worth a try and a decent beer. Of the RIS I've had some have been better, this is right in the middle of the pack

 447 characters

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.

 718 characters

Photo of blindtiger24
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

A: Not quite obsidian with a slight brown hue. Mocha head with stripping on the side of the pint glass. Active carbonation flowing from the bottom of the glass and collecting in the head.

S: Coffee, vanilla, boozy bourbon, coca nibs, rum soaked rasins, fruit cake, roasted malts.

T: Semi-sweet and bitter chocolate, cereal grains, toasted malts, vanilla and slight caramel flavors. A bit of hoppy bitterness as well at the end. There's a noticeable and almost overwhelming saltiness as well.

M: Creamy and a little syrupy. A little drying on the finish and boozy on the back of the throat.

O: A pleasant but flawed imperial stout that has complex aromas and taste. The saltiness was too much in my opinion and took away from my overall enjoyment.

 794 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
3.49/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

split a bottle of this with my bro - poured into British pints

A: jet black liquid, exceptionally voluminous foam (wondering if the bottle was infected), some messy swirls of foam that linger, very little lace

S: kind of a mess of aromas, all somewhat muted, seemingly cancelling each other out.... soft scent of roasted barley atop sweetish, cookie-esque malts, Munich in there perhaps.... the roasted and dark malts are mellow while a subtle, somewhat vinous, somewhat medicinal booze creeps up from the back

T: super-dense malts, only marginal roast character.... bit of that odd vinous alcohol squashed in below... not much of a funky or infected quality, as I feared.... overall, the taste is fine, just kind of pedestrian and boring, dull even... bit of a mineral tinge in the finish.... my bro didn't even want to finish his....

M: sense of great fullness though it lacked viscosity, finishing heavy and fairly dry

O: I'd previously tried the bourbon-barrel aged version of this twice - which I thought wasn't too shabby - but having tried this, I can see that the base beer itself seems to lack refinement and/or distinction

 1,137 characters

Photo of ONovoMexicano
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a Belgian tulip.

A- Dark khaki-colored head forms three to four fingers thick... Huge carbonation bottles amid the head... Very frothy and chewy... Dark, espresso-like liquid... Very nice to look at.

S- Dark roasted malt, sweet malts and cream, hints of chocolate and coffee.

T- Much more happening on the flavor as opposed to the nose. Baker's chocolate is prominent and lingers on the finish and this is something I can rarely resist. Some booze can be tasted on the tongue as well. The middle is sweet and creamy, very reminiscent of a milk stout, but boozier. As a matter of fact, I do even get oak and bourbon notes. Also, as the beer warms, vanilla and toffee notes emerge as well.

M- The beer is slightly astringent due to prominent booze, so this is a bit of negative. However, the sweetness and creamy, thick mouthfeel are a plus. The beer gets much creamier as it warms as well.

Overall a good beer, but one enjoyed much more as it warms. The booziness resides and the beer becomes more expressive.

 1,045 characters

Photo of IPAdams
3.99/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance- Pours pitch black with a thick and creamy tan head that lingers through the entire time.

Smell-Roasted malts, a bit of chocolate and herbal hops. Not a very strong smell.

Taste- Starts off with a taste of root beer and chocolate. As It warms I get some bittersweet chocolate, black coffee and herbal/pepper hops. Very balanced.

Mouthfeel- Full bodied and creamy with good carbonation for the style.

Overall- Very good beer. The flavors really come out as the beer warms, very drinkable despite the high abv.

 523 characters

Photo of travolta
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Massive head on this imperial stout. Tons of rocky volume. Leopard spotted lacing. Great head retention. Beautiful head.

Nose: Chalky, malty, chocolate, with some slight bourbon vanilla at the end. Some tiny oak charcoal at the end as well.

Taste: Great mouthfeel. It is bitter, but balanced in malty sweetness. Unsweetened cocoa, some alcohol heat in the middle which carries through. It has some alcohol hotness and ether. A tiny bot of raisin in the middle and end.

Notes: What an imperial stout should be; a slap in the face.

 546 characters

Photo of Altrurian
4.58/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Delivered in all its burnt umber opacity in a conical pint glass from the tap at Monk's Cafe. A thin, tight, dark tan head caps it, leaving a fetching, persistent coating on the glass as it recedes in succeeding circles with each sip. The taste is surprisingly free of cloying sweetness: full-bodied, but almost sprightly compared with what I was expecting. Further analysis reveals a backbone of bitter baking chocolate, moderated by dark bread notes. A mature, subtly bitter aftertaste rounds it out. Pillowy mouthfeel. A delight.

 532 characters

Photo of mjmadden
4.3/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a jet black with a slight oil and dank characteristic with a slight tan head out of a 22oz bottle. Smells of malts, coffee, dark chocolate, toffee, and a hint of dark fruit. Taste is chewy (in a good way) with flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, toffee, and toffee. This is a full bodied beer with a lot of dankness to the mouthfeel. This was a really enjoyable brew almost a slight twist of older viscosity (a personal favorite), am definitly going to try to grab another bottle before I head back east.

 512 characters

Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
3.99 out of 5 based on 1,474 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

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

    Subscribe