Ballast Point - Victory at Sea Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter

Ballast Point is a San Diego brewery (woot) that you may know from their Calico Amber Ale and Yellowtail Pale Ale beers, among others. They also have a seasonal beer out called the Victory at Sea Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter, which I picked up at local wine and beer shopWally's.

As you can see from the Beer Advocate overall A rating and the Rate Beer 99th percentile score, this is an extremely popular beer. I agree 100% with those reviews - the Victory at Sea is absolutely phenomenal.

It may be my favorite beer I've ever had. It's at least top 3. What struck me first was how much flavor is in the beer. There is vanilla and coffee, obviously, and a lot of chocolate and smokiness along with some dried fruit flavors. I was amazed by the transitions of the flavors... the chocolate and dried fruit was what I tasted right away, then a ton of coffee flavor, and then it all mellowed out into a really great vanilla finish and aftertaste.

The transition of flavors on the palate happened as in a good wine. That, combined with the full-bodied character of the beer, made it easily the most complex (in a good way) beer I've ever had. It simultaneously was delicious and made me think. It was like a Malcolm Gladwell essay - I really enjoyed it and felt like I was learning at the same time.

It comes in a 22oz bottle and it's 10% alcohol, so don't make the mistake of drinking it all too quickly like I did. I was hammered afterwards... that's almost equivalent to 4 beers. Victory at Sea was so good I drank it too quickly; it was a victim of its own success. I went straight back to Wally's the next week to buy 2 more for me and 2 for a friend. I recommend it highly to those who enjoy heavy and flavorful beers.


  1. Gotta love that bottle art too... the skeleton captain with his little skeleton parrot on the shoulder

    The one caveat with this beer is that you should know if it's your style before getting into it... if you don't dig porters, much less imperial porters, or you don't like thick coffee flavors in your beer, then this probably isn't your bag. For me it was fantastic though.

    Not sure if I explicitly mentioned this, but considering how strong the alcohol was and how much flavor there was, it was very smooth. Among the smoothest beers for this style I've had. For me, smoothness is one of my key factors in a beer.

  2. Wow. Sounds like there's going to be a wine tasting AND a beer tasting in the near future.

  3. Royce, I really do appreciate the warning. While it does sound like a high quality beer, I prefer IPAs and bitter hops in general. If a bar or restaurant doesn't have an IPA, I usually order a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Not an All-Star, but a good second banana teammate who can take over scoring duties if the alpha dog is in court and unable to play in the game.

  4. Ahahahaha Aaron that was a great application of a sports metaphor to a cultural situation, well done sir. And I do like Sierra Nevada, it's a delicious and ubiquitous beer.

    Sounds like we have very opposite tastes in beer, as we do in music as well.

    That being said, there are definitely great beers that transcend specific tastes. When I find a really delicious IPA or pale ale I get very excited. It's nice to find something good outside your comfort range occasionally.

  5. One other important piece of info I forgot - the beer costs $7.49 for a 22oz bottle. To me that is a good value. You could split this bottle three or four ways and no one would complain.

  6. I've gotten to the point, that I really don't care about the price of my beer. The Stone Ruination IPA will charge something similar for a 22...or $15-16 for a 6 pack of bottles.

  7. I know I'm late to the game on this one-- but this post makes me want to hike out to my favorite beer store, ASAP, and demand they special order me a case. Of course, they'll probably look at me and be all, "Uh, who are you?" but still, it's worth a try...

  8. Wow I just noticed this late Rebecca comment... sorry Beccasaurus!

    I have one in my fridge so I'll either save it for you or get you a new one for our inevitable meet up in like, 10 years or whenever we both have the time.

    Come back and comment soon!