Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Santa's Little Helper | Port Brewing

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
very good
570 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:
No notes at this time.

Added by Boilermaker88 on 12-11-2003

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 570 | Ratings: 1,452
Photo of meatyard
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The appearance is a very dark brown that allows light only through the edges. The head head is short and drops to a thin cover quickly.
The smell is of chocolate, coffee & dark dried fruit.
The taste is not overpowering. There are a number of more suble flavors up front like chocolate & dried fruits and there is a bit of burnt bitterness in the end though less so as it warmed.
Mouthfeel is medium and the beer holds onto just enough carbonation throughout to notice,
Drinkability is very good. I could drink two drafts but 1 22 oz. bottle is enough.

I like this well enough but not as much as several other RISs. Definitely worth a try from a premier brewer.

 662 characters

Photo of fartingdog
4.32/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 bottle, opened 11-19-07

A- Pitch black, tan head is almost non-existant.

S- Caramel, roasty, sweet.

T- Rich. Cocoa, coffee, roasted malts, hints of bourbon, boozy.

M- Full bodied, malty, smooth. Warming on the finish.

D- Very nice. One of the better RIS I've had, perfect to ward off the winter chill. I love the boozy character it has to it.

 352 characters

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

Found this little gem in a liquor store where I don't usually go to find little gems. It surprised me. I had never even heard of this brewery, so I grabbed it.

Appearance is dark, and lace is a bit slighter than in most Imperials.

Taste is rich and hoppy. Sweet choclately malts blend with spicy hops. Fairly well balanced.

Sticks in the mouth a bit, but it's a good stick, at least to me. [That's what she said].

Pleasant to drink.

 437 characters

Photo of Halcyondays
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber,

A: Pours a dark brown, with a small tan head, leaving fair lacing.

S: Smells of milk chocolate, coffee, and a bit of molasses.

T: Tastes very sweet, at first the impression was like that of a chocolate milkshake. After the initial chocolate bombardment, a nice mocha flavour comes in, finishing with some French roast coffee.

M: Lighter than other RIS's, but still carrying a nice robust character and smoothness, almost velvety.

D: A good Imperial Stout from Port overall. A little weaker than what I usually look for in this style, but still very enjoyable and drinkable.

 593 characters

Photo of Overlord
3.46/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I'm not overly enamored with this beer (my expectations might be a tad bit raised at the moment, considering that last night I sampled the sublime Angel's Share and a Stone RIS), although it's certainly solid.

Appearance is phenomenal. Deep black, leather tan head that keeps a bit of carbonation and a few millimeters of froth for the entire drinking session.

Taste has some chocolate, esspresso coffee and bitterness .. maybe some dark fruit (raisins...currants) I think there's some hops in here, too. It just doesn't have enough of a coffee/chocolate background, though typically I get annoyed when that's all a RIS offers. There is a really unpleasant charcoal after-taste. It seemed to become more noticeable as I finished the bottle. Ugh.


 758 characters

Photo of eatdrinknbmerry
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 bottle from San Marcos Port Brewing.

Appearance, dark as a stout usually is. Holding up to the light, I could see a slight caramel color.

Smell. Great! A slight caramel/cherry/brown sugar aroma.

Taste. The head was average and like the smell, it has a very sweet aroma. Really reminds me of brown sugar/cherry.

Mouthfeel. It's not as thick as it looks. Goes down real smooth.

Drinkability. I think I can have about 2 glasses before it feels a little too sweet in the stomach, which results in you know what.

Good beer overall, i'd definitely buy another bottle.

 574 characters

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle# 427. 750ml bottle brewed in Solana Beach, therefore entered my review here since the master Pizza Port listing will be going away. Cracked this one on my b-day. Pours as dark as night black with a wonderful two inch tan head on top. No light shall escape. Aromas of dark roasty malt with a big chocolate and caramel toffee aroma. Light anise and some burnt coffee in there as well. Slightly nutty with a mild hop background. Quite nice.

First sip brings a lightly roasted dark malt with cocoa, caramel and toffee. Some anise and a bit of spiciness in there as well. A touch nutty as it flows down with a nice bitterness. A faint coffee flavor on the back end. Overall, a tasty, smooth imperial stout. A bit of yeast on the finish and a mild hoppiness. Tasty brew.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, on the lighter side for an imperial stout, but still nice and that makes it more drinkable. Good carbonation. A tasty, relatively easy drinking brew for almost 10%. I will have to get another bottle again sometime!

 1,020 characters

Photo of BeerTruth
4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to sirhc for this one.

Pours a 22 oz. bottle poured into a nonic.

Pours an absolute onyx black with an unimpressive one finger brown head after an aggressive pour. Stickiness is very good, almost a complete blanket on the sides. Smell is of licorice and fresh french roast coffee. Big caramel malt and molasses apprears in the nose as well. Taste is pretty damn smokey but not all that strong. Santa must like his brew with a good charcoal burn to it. Starts off with a charred wood flavor and a nice espresso-like sting. A toast flavor then emerges with some caramel malt on the tongue as well. Pretty slick across the tongue with a lighter than expected mouthfeel, but I really like it. Very solid brew in a tough style of beers. Definitely a must try.

 763 characters

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

Obtained fresh from Pizza Port Carlsbad back in March, I cellared it until yesterday.
Appears a very dark brown, almost black color, no light shining through at all. Pours with very little head and a ring of tiny bubbly tan foam with little lacing. Smells very sweet and somewhat charred, with hints of cherries, molasses, dark chocolate, and coffee. Taste is very bitter from the start, but with enough sweetness from cherries and the molasses flavors to give it a nice balance. Very thick in body and hides the alcohol content wonderfully. A beer I will definitely be seeking out again when it's released later this year. Not the greatest RIS out there, with some imbalances, but extremely tastey and very flavorful.

 719 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 blitheringidiot
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cracked open a 22 oz'er of Santa's Little Helper with the label that has Santa & Rudolpg drinking together.

Pours a solid India Ink midnight buh-lack hue topped with a settled scant khaki collar.

Nose is a molasses and roasted espresso coffee bean with grain waffle sweetness. Perhaps a tad burnt and charred but not to a fault with a cigar ash.

First swigs: Roasted malts abound. Italian espresso coffee flavor. Burnt and toasted. Hints of banana with the bready thick dough. This is a Russian Imperial that you need a fork to devour.

Feel is thick full bodied with a tongue lashing that is on the level of a nun's ruler.

Last swigs: Tad messy with a scattered gunshot all over the place but a tough rough and ready RIS nonetheless. Kind of lke a hand grenade RIS. Thick, wild, scattered, big, ballsy, bold and brassy. Problemo is that it's a hot stout with RIS qualities. Look out.

Beer is good and big. Happy RIS beering.

 945 characters

Photo of John_M
4.09/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at the Brickskeller the other night.

The beer pours a dark black color, but with minimal head retention and fairly decent lacing. The nose is quite complex, consisting of licorise, expresso and roasty malts. On the palate one gets a strong coffee/expresso flavor, with some licorise and vanilla. The beer is on the sweet side, but is not cloying or tiring to drink. This stout is quite smooth and very light on it's feet for such a big beer. It is entirely too easy to drink as the abv. is very well disguised.

While not the best RIS I've ever had, this is still a very good stout.

 592 characters

Photo of neonbrown82
4.52/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is an excellent stout. Thanks to Crosling for providing it as part of a recent trade.

The beer pours to a very dark brown color, not quite as inky jet black as other Imperial Stouts I've had, but still incredibly dark and opaque. Has a big mocha colored head with a weak retention but good lacing. Looks nice.

The smell is very good. Very robust roasted barley aroma with plenty of sweets to back it up, including molasses, chocolate malt, and even a little bit of brewers licorice and/or anise.

The taste is wonderful as well. Sweet up front with a very in-your-face roast. Plenty of vanilla and caramel with a boat load of chocolate and coffee. Plenty of molasses. Very subtle black licorice flavor. Decent amount of hops, though it is hard to say what kind they are with the very robust roastiness. A very delightful treat, all in all.

The body is quite thick. The carbonation is very smooth and creamy. Lots of residual sweetness, though it is very well balanced by the lingering roast and hops bitterness. Very little alcohol flavor for 10% and what little there is actually accompanies the other flavors very well. Very easy to drink considering strength and intensity of flavors. Very well done. I love Pizza Port.

 1,238 characters

Photo of bort11
4.3/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got this one from metallitone1 in the BA Anniversary Bomber BIF

Poured into an Imperial pint glass. A chocolate milk brown colored head that stands about a fingers width. Quickly recedes to a thin filmy cap. Very little lacing. Color is a rich dark black that doesn't let any light through.
Smell has a charred malt aroma mixed with a mild bitter chocolate. Taste continues with the charred flavor, though it is well balanced, not overwhelming. It is mildly bitter with an even sweetness. Alcohol is completely hidden.
Mouthfeel has a nice slick body to it. Very enjoyable

 577 characters

Photo of msubulldog25
4.08/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured this 22 oz bottle, the 2006 Winter Release, into a pint glass. Served at slightly cooler than cellar temperature.

A: Impenetrable blackness with a 1/2 finger of dense, creamy tan head, fading ever-so-slowly to a thin ring and an even thinner gauzy film. Very nice clinging bands of lace. One of the prettiest, richest-looking RIS's I've had.

S: Sweet maltiness & charred grain. A decent amount of raisins, gooey cherries, coffee grounds, vanilla and dark chocolate - all the usual suspects in a quality RIS. Nicely complementing one another, nothing outstanding...just a rich, savory smell.

T: Acerbic sourness and intense bitterness from the start with (fortunately) a sweeter molasses, cherry and raisin-y flavor to complement. Finishes with caramel and burnt malt, layering sweet on top of a pungent bitterness. Complex, yet wobbly - not quite imbalanced, not steady either.

M: Luscious at first sip, then a more sour/astringent bite, ending of coffee bean bitterness. Sticky on the lips and clingy on the tongue, this lingers for a very long time afterward. Full bodied. Alcohol is well-concealed.

D: A nice-for-sipping RIS, warm and agreeable. A little out of context on a warmer than average May evening in Oregon, but a pleasure still. This isn't the smoothest or richest RIS I've had, but it's still well-done and is one worth seeking. Thanks go out to metallitone1 for sending. Recommended.

 1,421 characters

Photo of tonistruth
4.38/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


A- pours black with a two finger tan head that has one hell of a hold to it, thick and clingy tan lacing

S- roasted and burnt malts, creamy sweetness

T- lots of burnt malt astringencies, roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, subtle hints of alcohol at finish, burnt bran cookie flavor throughout aftertaste, creamy sweetness throughout, nicely balanced

M- full body and creamy, some warmth and drying at finish

D- easy drinking and awesome flavor, well masked alcohol, complex as any imp stouts, highly recommend this brew

 543 characters

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 czechsaaz
4.57/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle of 2006 that is now from Port's new production brewery. Now a winter seasonal. I did have this once on tap at Port Carlsbad but my first review.

Huge roasty malt nose with a whole lot of fruity fermentation. I get coffee and burnt toast and black treacle from the malt and black cherries, overripe plums and red grapes from the fermentation. Little bit of spicy hops in the background too.

Deep black colored with a very small tan head. It's strong enough that it actually has "legs."

Huge flavor, black licorice, more black cherries, chocolate, and a little red-wine vinuous fermentation effect. Then there's coffee and big roast malt in the aftertaste. Pretty hop bitter, but there's so much malt behind it that it's just there for ballance. Overall, great impy stout flavor.

Big bodied but the carbonation level is a little light. Not quite flat but not really lively.

Definitely a solid sipping beer. But it's very well balanced so it's approachable on it's own but also a great match for spicy food or a big thick steak. Very nice.

 1,058 characters

Photo of Bighuge
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Inky black. Thin brown head. Lace is ample enough. Inviting Black Goodness.

Aroma: A little alcohol. A little fig. Some dark fruits. Anise oil.

Taste: Some nice deep roasted malt tones up front. Licorice. Black currants. Some definite char. Baker's chocolate. Pretty good blend of flavors. An oily bitterness lingers.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation: Medium bodied. Some alcohol is present, but it's not distracting.

Drinkability: There's a nice depth of flavors in this Impy, but it's not an over-the-top-in-your-face type of IS. It's quite drinkable actually.

 584 characters

Photo of SacoDeToro
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured deep black with a minimal brown head.

The aroma was of rich roasted malts, chocolate, some hops, and herbal notes.

The flavor of the beer was richly roasty and chocolately without being harsh or ashen. The malts cascaded through a variety of flavors. There were subtle notes of licorice. The hops were well balanced and weren't too powerful.

The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. The carbonation was spot on. The drinkability was good. This is on the lighter side for American brewed Russian imperial stouts and that helped make it very drinkable.

 562 characters

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

Pours black with a thin reddish tan head that quickly dissipates. Aroma is somewhat smoky, nutty roastiness and a nice dose of bourbon and whiskey. chocolatey and sugary up front in the taste, followed by a smokiness and roasted flavor and finishing with a nice acidic tang that gradually gets stronger mixing with some bitterness and a warmth of alcohol in the back of the throat. fairly good size body, smooth up front, a very small amount of dryness in the finish. Tasty stout, I am not blown away flavor or aroma wise, but extremely drinkable especially considering the alcohol content.

 590 characters

Photo of Westsidethreat
4.42/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Deep ebony color, completely opaque. Head started nice but fell quick, leaving a truffle colored film behind.

S: Oily chocolate, almond butter, vanilla extract, coffee mascarpone, licorice and candied prunes.

T: Begins very chocolaty leaning towards the mousse end of things. Nice dark berry sweet and sourness toys along, waiting for the coffee to emerge. Coffee does sometimes have berry aspects to it, so this is quite a natural transition for the flavors. Vanilla, some black pepper and buttery roasted grains move in next allowing the beer to crescendo into a bitter peak. Some piney hops can be found lurking about but are overwhelmed by the robust flavors. Finishes slick and oily, like if bitter chocolate separated and the oil was poured straight into this beer.

M: Full body, nice mouthfeel with just a touch of fuzzy carbonation.

D: Very tasty beer. Good balance with flavors hitting all over the palate.. Unfortunately, there has been a monumental amount of good imperial stouts on the market recently and this one could get lost in the crowd. Ha, 4.35 and it could get lost in the crowd. I suppose I drank too much Abyss and Darkness ;)

 1,164 characters

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

thanks to intriqken for this via trade! I always enjoy an imperial stout so how interesting to find a holiday imp stout?

A - Nice midnight black, robust rich tan head. Some sediment in the bottle. Bottle conditioning - yeah!
S - Not sure what I was expecting. Modest classic imp stout aromas with an undertone of vanilla and cocoa. I say modest because the typical strong roast malt / sweet malt was not as strong as many I've had as of late.
T - similar to the smell but a nicely blended swirling of the aromas.
M - medium to full bodied. smooth across the tongue. Finishes clean.
D - Went down real easy. Not even a wiff of the 10% ABV in this one. One bomber was plenty for an evening. I would gladly drink this again. Luck west coasters!

 749 characters

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

Poured into an oversized wine glass.

Appearance: Pours with a, dare I say, cute coffee bean colored head, about a quarter's finger thick. Lacing is a bit above average, a lot of dots coat the ring of the glass after a good swirl. A dark crude body with no penetrable light. Hard to judge a stout by its body color, however, as most are, generally, pretty uniform. Just sort of the nature of the style, however.

Smell: Cream, a roasted nuttiness, Toblerone-like chocolate. Man that hoppiness is unexpected. It's almost a lemoney spritz or a chocolate covered citrus fruit aroma, lurking a few layers under the chocolate. Reminds me a bit of Big Bear Black Stout by Bear Republic in this sense. A general hop sting also hits your nose, unlike that beer, however, which suggests this is one of the hoppiest RIS's in existence. A definite alcohol under there, but it's about the level of a Double Stout, less "hot" smelling (and tasting) than some other RIS's I've tried, which sometimes is an RIS's downfall, in my opinion. Does get a little hotter as it warms up, however. Some coffee and caramel notes. A pretty damn interesting nose, with the aforementioned hop character taken into consideration.

Taste: Roasted malts, coffee, again with a slightly unidentifiable citric hop presence, which has the same chocolate-covered orange effect as the nose. It's a little less pronounced here, however. Light coconut milk - a flavor I've noticed in quite a few stouts lately. A general creaminess. Deeper bodied coffee. Less hot than the nose in terms of alcohol. A good taste, but I'm disappointed that I pick up less hoppiness in the taste than the aroma.

Mouthfeel: Considering Port's first bottlings have a reputation for carbonation problems/being flat, this seems relatively unscathed. Smooth, lightly carbonated, even downright creamy. Every so slightly astringent, but really nothing to raise an eyebrow to.

Drinkability: This is a very drinkable, excellent RIS that, like Big Bear Black Stout, would serve as a good stepping stone for Hopheads looking to get into stouts. Even on its own, however, it is a very interesting an excellent example of the style.

 2,173 characters

Photo of Zorro
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer pours a coal black liquid, but doesn't form a head.

Smell is sweet and candy like with a good scent of Kahlua at the start. Fruit aromas of figs and cherries mix well with a chocolate aroma. Sweet and mellow this something like spiced chocolate in scent.

Taste begins sweet chocolate with a spicing of carrot tasting hops. Good flavor of coffee and patent malt kicks in and joins the California signature of lots of hops. The one beer in the world like this is Gonzo Imperial Porter, another very hoppy strong dark beer.

Mouthfeel is milkshake.

A good beer this is nearly a clone of Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter.

 638 characters

Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing
3.99 out of 5 based on 1,452 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.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!