San Diego is a great beer town. With Stone, Green Flash, and Port Brewing—just to name a few favorites off the top of my head—all vying for attention, it would be easy to let the heavy-hitters outshine the smaller brewers. Ballast Point is no Johnny-come-lately, however, they’ve been at it for 15 years, after the brewery grew organically from the back of a home brewing supply store.
Ballast Point really has a knack for the dark beers, and this monster is no exception. With a name that’s as much of a mouthful as the brew itself, their Victory At Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter takes no prisoners and is an excellent closer to an evening of quality tippling.
Pouring as black as the bottom of the ocean, Victory at Sea develops a tight, mocha-colored head that’s so dense, it appears almost nitro-driven. A complex nose of vanilla, cocoa, coffee, and roasted malts draws you in to its rich depths. Upon first sip, you’re sunk.
The cereal bill alone is heavy enough to take you straight to the bottom—but the American Two-Row Malt, Victory Toasted, Crystal, and Chocolate Malts, and Rolled Oats combine to provide a sturdy keel and keep this brew upright.
For an Imperial Porter at a whopping 10%, the mouthfeel is as smooth as the ass of a wee bonny lass with a nice, velvety finish. For such a high-powered brew, they have balanced it out just right, and if it wasn’t so rich, you could quaff a few of these no problem-o.
The coffee taste is predominant and Ballast Point has partnered up with a San Diego roastery, Caffé CaLabria, to get it just right. Their website mentions a 24-hour cold extraction process that leaves a lot of the bitterness behind; whatever they are doing, the java really shines through.
A guest taster at Camp Larsen thought the vanilla was a bit over-stated, and personally, I don’t think they really need it. There is already a lot going on with this brew, and if anything, the extract lends a syrupy note to an otherwise beautiful finish. I would love to cellar one of these babies and see what it becomes in a year or so—but it’s so tasty now, I seriously don’t think that’s going to happen.