About a year ago, before Ballast Point was purchased by Corona, I purchased a bottle of their Victory at Sea Imperial Porter and stashed it away in my beer cellar, waiting for the perfect day to open it. That day couldn’t be too far in the future: I didn’t want the coffee notes to mellow too much. But the day needed to be rainy and somewhat dreary and cool, perfectly evoking the experience of being on the high seas and needing a bracing, dark, strong drink to warm the heart and body.
I let it sit through the winter because I was annoyed about the Ballast Point sale, and began looking for a suitable day this spring. Unfortunately, sunny skies dominated most of the weekend afternoons on which my wife and I hoped to crack this bomber open to try it. That wouldn’t do. There were some evenings it rained or stormed, but this beer has copious amounts of coffee, and contrary to what you might hear, coffee beers do, in fact, contain caffeine. I have sleep problems. Evening coffee is a no-go. So we waited.
A drizzly Sunday afternoon in June provided the opportunity we were looking for. Our bottle was one year old, and this beer is 10% ABV with huge, roasty malts, so I was interested to see if one year would do much of anything to it, especially to the coffee and vanilla additions. We poured it into snifters and had a go.
Victory at Sea did show some light oxidation from its time in the cellar, though not much. The oxidation dovetailed well with the vanilla to create a gentle, sweet body and initial flavor. The vanilla is delicate but clear, and the coffee is restrained. Some molasses and mild gingerbread flavors come through, as do some bitter green hops. The roast is certainly present, but not overpowering. The bitterness from the hops and roast does mount during the swallow, but the bottle overall mellows out as it drains. This beer could have handled–and probably improved from–another year or two in the cellar. If I can get over my irritation that a major beer corporation now own Ballast Point, I might buy another bottle and stash it for longer next time.