Although the winters in San Diego don’t get too brutal, the brewers at Ballast Point Brewing Company were in the mood for a bit of a warmer—a winter ale that brings comfort on those days when you can see your breath in Southern California.
“Victory at Sea”—a slang term used by surfers today to describe blown out and choppy conditions in the water—is an imperial coffee porter that clocks in at 10% ABV. Winter Ales are traditionally pretty spicy, but Victory at Sea employs vanilla sweetness to round out the beer’s big profile; the belly-warming spice comes from the beer’s boozy burn and the presence of roasted coffee, courtesy of Caffe Calabria.
I reviewed this beer earlier this year here at the Table and it instantly became my favorite coffee porter. In November, Ballast Point announced that they’d be bottling a Peppermint variant of the beer. It’s the same base beer with all the same components, with the addition of peppermint.
COLOMBIA VALLE DE CAUCA SUPREMO
The Cauca region, named for the Cauca River, is a region thick with diversity in terms of both ecological factors and the coffee growing population. Despite the various ethnicities and decendances, the growers of Cauca are consistent in their cultural practices as well as their coffee producing systems.Coffee grown in the Cauca region experiences heavy rainfall and rich volcanic soils. Daily temperature fluctuation combined with high altitudes slow the maturation of the coffee and allow the beans to develop more flavor characteristics before they are taken off to the mill to be processed.
COSTA RICA TARRAZU
This coffee is grown in the exclusive Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. The small, high mountainous Costa Rican Tarrazú region, south of San José, has the ideal conditions. It is hand-picked at optimum ripeness, sun dried and hand graded to ensure the highest quality 100% Tarrazú Estate Coffee. The conditions are perfect for producing gourmet coffee…rich volcanic soil, high elevation, seasonal rainfall, and a cloud cover in the afternoon to shade strong sun.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Peppermint Victory at Sea Imperial Porter—a collaboration between San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Company and Caffe Calabria. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Valle de Cauca, Colombia // Tarrazu. Costa Rica
elevation: 1600 – 1700 // 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Various // Bourbon, Caturra, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
style: Imperial Porter
alcohol by volume: 10%
international bitterness units: 60
ingredients: Coffee, Peppermint, Vanilla
Visually, Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a very deep, dark obsidian black and it’s topped by a thin, foamy, tan-colored head that has excellent retention. This beer also has incredible legs, with lacing that lingers up and down the globe of the snifter after every sip.
The aroma is intense and has a bit of a booziness to it, but it’s also sweet. Chocolate malts and roasted barley dominate the aroma, but the peppermint really cuts through it. The coffee element is also quite strong, and paired with the roastiness of the malts and barley, it really makes this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a Starbucks peppermint mocha.
My first few sips present my palate with a beer that a pretty full body and a slick, but smooth, mouthfeel; not as heavy or thick as its predecessor. Starts out tasting strongly of dark chocolate malts, with a distinct chest warming sensation—most likely due to the high ABV. Mildly sweet with a big chocolate flavor. Coffee is strong, just not as strong as the chocolate. The vanilla doesn’t really come through on its own, but it combines with the other ingredients to create something a dulce de leche flavor that rests subtly in the background of each sip. Peppermint is the third strongest flavor, but is a huge part of this beer’s aftertaste; each sip leaves a long, lingering York Peppermint Patty or Frango Mint flavor. There’s a booziness to this beer that is felt (particularly towards the back of the roof of my mouth and in my chest), but not necessarily tasted.
Full body; chewy mouthfeel; carbonic acidity; clean finish.
Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is, very likely, the best coffee-infused stout or porter on the market. It’s certainly the best this reviewer has tasted.
The Peppermint Victory at Sea variant is a fun, festive take on the original Imperial Porter, and is almost every bit as delicious as the base beer. The trio of flavors in this beer—vanilla, coffee, and peppermint—are all perfect complements of each other and play on the palate as a cohesive whole. The brew’s roasted coffee, malts, and barley provide a sturdy backbone for its sugary sweet chocolate, vanilla, and peppermint components and it all balances nicely with a cool, minty finish.
Even though this beer isn’t technically a “holiday beer” or even a seasonal release, necessarily, Ballast Point’s Peppermint Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a divine and festive addition to the holiday season.
Today, December 20, 2015, Ballast Point Brewing Company is celebrating the first Victory at Sea Day—a celebration of all things Victory at Sea! Today, at their brewery in San Diego, they’ll be tapping all of their Victory at Sea variants, including the original and the Peppermint Victory at Sea.
Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!