Port Santa’s Little Helper

Reviewed by on December 5, 2014 in Holiday Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Port Brewing

  • Origin: San Marcos, CA, US

  • Rated On: December 4, 2014

  • Best Before: N/A

  • ABV: 12.0%

  • Ideal Temperature: cool to cellar temperature

  • Style: Imperial Stout

  • Rating: GREAT !!

The Review

Port Brewing is an outfit from San Diego County, California, and Santa’s Little Helper is their offering to replace the milk and cookies that the big guy must be getting tired of by now, right?  Oh, and it’s a Bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout!

This 12.7oz, caged and corked bottle pours a solid, light-destroying black abyss, with the barest of cola-tinged basal edges, and two fingers of wanly puffy, tightly foamy, and somewhat bubbly tan head, which leaves a bit of awkwardly arched lace around the glass as it genially recedes.

It smells of big ‘n sweet Bourbon barrels – acridly boozy vanilla, caramel, wood, and spiced grain – bittersweet chocolate, gritty caramel malt, biscuity toffee, black licorice, dark muddled orchard fruit, milk-dosed coffee, Japanese stir-fry umami, and an earthy, weedy, and slightly leafy dryness. The taste is still big on the Kentucky barrel-aged spirit essence straight-off, with the same testy vanilla, caramel, rye spice, and besotted woodiness from the nose, alongside a heady toffee/caramel maltiness, dark cocoa pudding, melted licorice, cafe au lait, a waning Teriyaki weirdness, and overwhelmed earthy, musty hops. The bubbles are pretty understated in their frothy temerity, the body a hefty medium-full weight, and generally smooth, what with that 24-proof booze gnashing at the outer gates, and perhaps even a tad creamy. It finishes on the sweet side, the Bourbon, chocolatey caramel, and milky coffee kind of tightening the reins.

A pretty tasty and engaging imperial stout, the Bourbon barrel just upping the ante. The wood does some good, and some not so good, but in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives. And yeah, the 12% ABV is sublimated enough that I didn’t think to mention it outright until now, which I suppose is sayin’ something. Cheers, Santa – after that particularly long day of work, you do indeed deserve to drink this stuff the whole rest of the year!

Brady White

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