Beer Review: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea

Name: Victory at Sea
Brewing Company: Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Location: San Diego, California
Style: Imperial Porter with Coffee and Vanilla
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Web site:

A big porter crafted to weather any storm.

Our Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a bold, smooth brew with just the right amount of sweetness. We infused this robust porter with vanilla and San Diego’s own Caffe Calabria coffee beans. The subtle roasted notes and minimal acidity of the cold brewed coffee, balances perfectly with the sweet caramel undertones of the malt, creating a winning combination for your palate.

Ballast Point is one of the largest craft brewers in California, although no longer “independent” since the brewery was acquired by Constellation Brands (who also own Modela Negro, Corona, Funky Buddha in beer and Modavi wine and Svedka Vodka, among others) in 2015. Regardless of that, Ballast Point has been crafting popular and acclaimed beers since 1996. I’ve had a handful of their brews and liked about half of what I’ve had (especially their California Kölsch and Piper Down Scotch Ale) but of everything Ballast Point brews, this beer appeals to me the most.

Porters are one of my favorite styles and I’d wanted to give this well-regarded interpretation of the style a try for a while. I has a little hesitant to commit to full six pack at the price point, but fortunately, my favorite bottle shop (Gary’s in Hillsborough, NJ) sells some single bottles which is how I procured this one. Like most porters, this one pours a deep black and tops off with a slightly tan head. As a dark beer lover, it looks appealing and the aromas of coffee and vanilla are really inviting. The first taste gives off strong vanilla and coffee flavors with ample sweetness. The beer is relatively full bodied and definitely full of flavor. The flavor that lingers the most; however, is the vanilla. Even more than the coffee.

I’ve come to realize that vanilla, for all the suggestions and metaphors for vanilla being plain and boring, is a tough flavor component to pull off successfully. Especially in beer. I’ve had quite a few vanilla porters and stouts and more than one has given a really strong unpleasant aftertaste with few exhibiting a perfectly balanced vanilla component of the beer. Here with Victory at Sea, for my tastebuds, it is a nearly perfect execution of the vanilla. There’s only a slight lingering aftertaste from the vanilla, but the pleasant taste up front far outweighs the lingering at the end and kept my rating at a 4-bottle-cap review for untappd.

The ABV of 10% in this one isn’t too pronounced in the flavor profile. Then again, I took my time drinking the beer as a “dessert” so the alcohol didn’t affect me too much. However, that relatively high ABV should be taken into consideration if you’re having more than one or two of these dark, delicious beers.

At one point in Ballast Point’s brewing history, this beer was available only as a 22oz bomb and on draft, but a year or two ago, the beer became available in 6 packs.. It has since become an extremely popular seasonal favorite and I can see why. There are a few variants, including a barrel aged variant to help celebrate Victory at Sea Day making this an “Event Beer” for Ballast Point and folks who enjoy the beer around the country

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer

Heavy Weight (Level 49)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 245 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

Sky’s the Limit (Level 18)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch. That’s 90 different beers with an ABV of 10% and up.

Victory at Sea (Special/One Time Badge)

Prepare the ballast and hoist the sails. You’ve made a date with darkness, so you’re in for a decadent journey through notes of vanilla, roasted cold-brew coffee, and caramel. A bold and rewarding choice you’ve earned the “Victory at Sea Day” badge for your treasure chest!

Beer Review: Heavy Seas Blackbeard’s Breakfast

Name: Blackbeard’s Breakfast
Brewing Company: Heavy Seas Beer/Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Style: Porter / Imperial Coffee Porter
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Heavy Seas Brewing Company’s Web site:

Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a robust porter with a new world twist. Aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company’s Dark Sumatra coffee, this porter is flavorful and complex. Featuring unique English malts, this brew will have strong notes of caramel and a slight nut character. Paired with bourbon notes and the sumptuous Sumatran Coffee, Blackbeard’s breakfast will please coffee and beer connoisseurs alike.

Heavy Seas has been brewing beer out of Maryland for over two decades and their beers can be found on shelves up and down the East Coast. I’ve had a couple of their beers, found them tasty (especially The Greater Pumpkin) so when I saw this beer at my local bottle shop a few weeks ago, I knew I’d want to give it a try especially since Porters are one of my favorite styles of beer. There have been debates for years in the beer community about the differences between porters and stouts, I just know I like both.

I’ve had my fair share of “Breakfast Stouts” the best of which come from Founders. Not many Breakfast Porters, though. As the description above indicates, this one has the added complexity of having been aged in bourbon barrels.

The most noticeable element of this beer is how dark it is. The beer pours even more black than the Allagash Black I reviewed a couple of weeks ago although not quite as thick. The head on Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a tannish brown and makes for an appealing looking beer. The second most noticeable element is the aromas of coffee and bourbon.

The bourbon and coffee elements hit you straight away and are present throughout the beer. I’d say the two flavors blend together to the point that they are one flavor. Usually when beers are aged in liquor barrels, the liquor is a secondary presence. Not quite the case here, for me they came together as one flavor, or at least two halves of a whole flavor rather than a layered set of flavors, if that makes sense.

The 10%ABV for this beer isn’t immediately noticeable, although the bourbon presence lets you know this isn’t a beer to drink quickly especially given that it was in a 22oz. bottle. I find myself saying this often, but I took my time with this one, enjoying the beer over the course of well over an hour. The flavors came out only a little more as it warmed, which made for a really consistent flavor for all 22oz of the beer.

I appreciated that the aging in bourbon barrels really reduced the bitterness of that coffee can sometimes impart in a beer. If anything, the coffee-bourbon flavors overpower the flavor of the beer a little bit. Coffee and bourbon are flavors I happen to enjoy a great deal, so that was fine by me.

All told, Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a flavorful beer that should please beer drinkers who enjoy coffee-infused beers, porters, or beers aged in bourbon barrels. At the price point I purchased it (only $8.49 for the bottle) I would consider it a bargain. I know I’ll be grabbing a bottle next year should Heavy Seas brew it again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.