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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged | Port Brewing

very good
189 Reviews
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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel AgedSanta's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged

Brewed by:
Port Brewing
California, United States | website

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by scottoale on 07-25-2009

User Reviews
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Reviews: 189 | Ratings: 607
Photo of rodbeermunch
3.98/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Black pour with very little head, 1/10" tan range.

Aroma was chocolate, bourbon, oak, heat, mild vanilla and char.

Taste hit with plenty of roast that wasn't evident in the nose. Mild carbonation allows for more of the char and vanilla which are very mild to intrude and play nicely.

Its a good beer, and an improvement on the base, but its a crowded field to stand apart in. Notch this one in the second tier imperial stout barrel aged genre.

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Photo of jcruelty
3.63/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Too boozy. The bourbon barrel aging thing has gotten out of hand IMO. Or at least, I haven't enjoyed the last few beers of that type that I've tried. Maybe it's just me. I didn't love this.

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Photo of KettleBellFreak
4.39/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Deep black color
Smoky coffee and booze smell
Spicy chocolate bourbon taste that just got richer and smoother as the beer warmed up.
Sharp mouth feel that didn't hide the booze but didn't let it take over the beer.

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Photo of EmperorBevis
4.38/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Black body and rim of tan bubbles
aroma of dark chocolate & whiskey
Like an Irished up mocha
Great MF, doesn't hide the strength doesn't make it heavy going
liquid perfection or near enough

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Photo of Jovial_Libations
4.31/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Purchased from the brewery in July. Smells of sweet chocolate and Bourbon. More if a barleywine flavor than a stout. Still very flavorful. If only it were Jess pricey and more widely available.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.08/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Slater's 50/50 Rancho Cucamonga on 12/18/15.

All the characteristics of a world class barrel aged stout but, somewhat subdued. A solid effort, for sure.

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Photo of EMV
4.14/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on-tap at the Pour House in Exton, PA. Poured into a snifter.

L: Jet black pour. Thin tannish head falls rapidly. Moderate lacing.

S: Roasted grains, heady bourbon dominates. Vanilla as well.

T/F: Taste follows the smell, with strong oak character.. booze and vanilla. Great roasted malts and mild chocolate. Caramel and burnt raisins. Better and more fullness as it comes to room temperature. Warming from the high ABV.

O: A pretty damned tasty bourbon stout. Lots going on, and a boozy sipper. Would definitely have again.

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Photo of Stevem68
3.89/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a nice chocolate color with almost no head. Aroma is roasted malts with some chocolate notes. You get the bourbon right a way with a sweet vanilla smell too. Flavor is bourbon up front. There are sweet notes of vanilla and chocolate. Leaves a warm mouthfeel front he bourbon. Overall this is a nice beer, but price is the biggest knock. I'd rather have 3 KBS for the same price.

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Photo of BWood
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

L: dark as night with tan head that dissipates

S:: roasted stout. Not much bourbon smell.

T: honestly just tastes like a normal stout. Would not buy this again. $17 for a 12oz bottle is not worth it. It as a good stout but older viscosity is much better.

F: just normal.

O: I would not buy again. Just average and over priced.

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Photo of leroybrown10
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black and thick. Almost no head, just a thin layer of khaki foam. No lacing.

Aroma is bourbon and dark chocolate. Roasted malt and vanilla. Nothing is very assertive. Doesn't seem to blend, either.

Taste is dark, bitter chocolate. Bourbon, vanilla, roasted malt, and dark molasses. Sweet cream. Caramel, plum, and licorice. A bit boozy.

Thick, sticky mouth feel. Moderate+ carbonation. Sweet and creamy, almost syrupy. Bourbon and chocolate linger. A bit of bitterness at the end. Some alcoholic heat as well.

Thick, sticky, sweet stout with good bourbon flavor. Aroma was very subdued compared to the taste. Not up to the standard of some of the classics of the style(BCS comes to mind being I'm reviewing this on Black Friday) but still enjoyable.

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Photo of vic21234
4.39/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

375ml bottle poured into a snifter. No bottled on date but this is the newest vintage.

A- Pours pitch black as expected, with some sediment that comes to rest at the bottom of the glass. A small amount of khaki head quickly fades.

S- Sweet aromas of chocolate along with some coffee. Oakey bourbon is noted on the back end.

T- Same as aroma initially, with chocolate and some coffee before the bourbon takes over. The bourbon and note are definitely apparent afterward.

M- Heavy, thick, and hot. Each sip leaves a nice warming feeling from the alcohol bite.

Some poor reviews are seen here, but I enjoyed this one. Too pricey though.

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Photo of crob3888
4.25/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep, dark brown, almost thick and oily. Small head that dissipates quickly. Smell is dominated by vanilla, bourbon, chocolate, and sweet brown sugar. Flavor is similar, but with a lot of boozy heat. Overall this beer could use a few years to age to mellow out that heat.

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Photo of SierraFlight
3.27/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

22oz bottle shared during #bottlecherwednesday at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach. Poured into tulip. Appearance is black with brown edges and a tan head rises a finger high before collapsing to a film. A little bit of patchy lace sticks to the glass. This beer is a barrel bomb! The aroma is all oak, bourbon, vanilla, and char. One of the other guys mentioned he was getting dog food, and he was right on it. Definitely an animal feed element. Not getting much of the base beer. Taste is a less satisfying version of the nose - lots of bourbon heat, vanilla, oak, and chocolate. Medium-heavy body, oily, creamy, thick texture, average to soft carbonation, hot boozy finish.

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Photo of john0721
4.46/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

375ml bottle

flavors started subtle as did the nose, but improved significantly as it warmed.

black, light brown head, nice lacing.

caramel, vanilla some bourbon in the nose and flavor initially.

As it warmed started to get raisin, raspberry, chocolate.

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Photo of HopBomb515
4.04/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Big pitch black vicious pour with a tan head and spotty lacing on the glass. Bourbon forward aromas, vanilla, oak, wood barrel, chocolate, mild coffee, hints of char and earthy notes. Taste is very bourbon forward. Bourbon, and oak. Mid palate some coffee and chocolate from the stout base comes through. Wood, mild char and alcohol heat on the finish. Body is full and there's some initial bite before it goes smooth and creamy. Alcohol sting on the swallow makes it rough. If you like bourbon, this stout is what your looking for. A little rough around the edges but the flavors are there.

I didn't adjust score but a bit of an add on review for the 2014 vintage, 12% abv, cellared one year. The heat is gone. Notes of oak, bourbon, vanilla, chocolate fudge, and light coffee. Fantastic with some time on it. Great smooth feel on a full body a bit drying and bitter at the end. Where fresh it was rough, cellared it's smooth. It's almost a different beer. This one would be world class if they released it cellared.

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Photo of Beersnake1
4/5  rDev +3.9%

Vintage 2013 bomber.

Poured from fridge temp into a snifter. Warmed over an hour.

Appearance is pitch black, with very little carbonation. Smell - toasted malts, chocolate, oak barrel comes through. Taste - some immediate bitterness, smoky, chocolate, and some barrel. Very nice, but a little harsh for me.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.03/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12.7oz, caged and corked bottle, 12% ABV, thanks be once again to the good doktorzee for procuring this for me from SoCal.

This beer pours a solid, light-destroying black abyss, with the barest of cola-tinged basal edges, and two fingers of wanly puffy, tightly foamy, and somewhat bubbly tan head, which leaves a bit of awkwardly arched lace around the glass as it genially recedes.

It smells of big 'n sweet Bourbon barrels - acridly boozy vanilla, caramel, wood, and spiced grain - bittersweet chocolate, gritty caramel malt, biscuity toffee, black licorice, dark muddled orchard fruit, milk-dosed coffee, Japanese stir-fry umami, and an earthy, weedy, and slightly leafy dryness. The taste is still big on the Kentucky barrel-aged spirit essence straight-off, with the same testy vanilla, caramel, rye spice, and besotted woodiness from the nose, alongside a heady toffee/caramel maltiness, dark cocoa pudding, melted licorice, cafe au lait, a waning Teriyaki weirdness, and overwhelmed earthy, musty hops.

The bubbles are pretty understated in their frothy temerity, the body a hefty medium-full weight, and generally smooth, what with that 24-proof booze gnashing at the outer gates, and perhaps even a tad creamy. It finishes on the sweet side, the Bourbon, chocolatey caramel, and milky coffee kind of tightening the reins.

A pretty tasty and engaging imperial stout, aged in Bourbon barrels, at that. The wood does some good, and some not so good, but in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives. And yeah, the 12% ABV is sublimated enough that I didn't think to mention it outright until now, which I suppose is sayin' something. Cheers, Santa - after that particularly long day of work, you do indeed deserve to drink this stuff for the rest of the year!

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Photo of Hooshpower
4.75/5  rDev +23.4%

Tastes vary when at different temperatures.

Right out of the fridge:Smooth. Chocolaty. Slight spice. Cloves.

About 40 degrees Fahrenheit: Start tasting that bourbon a lot more which also ups the spiciness of it. Pronounced chocolaty. The best way to describe it is a bourbon liquor chocolate.

About 50 degrees Fahrenheit: I can't remember ;) I think it was awesome!

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.41/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I like this almost as much as older viscosity I think. Just a huge stout with as much bourbon on it as any beer I've ever had. Hershey's syrup dark brown and sludgy with a flash of mocha fizz before it settles to nearly still. The nose is all bourbon, vanilla and raw molasses spice with heave dark barley and chocolate malt, charred oak, and marshmallow. The flavor is just like the nose, do much going on but do well integrated. It's almost too much, a sensory overload that is best in small to medium doses. Sweet from the vanilla but not too sweet, and really heavily oaked. Fully bodied and teeth coating, but more flavorful than others. It feels Christmasy and may have a touch of spice in the Finnish. As strong it seems as a shot if bourbon, I love it!

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Photo of StandupandStout
4/5  rDev +3.9%

I have to say I don't regularly drink bourbon stouts but when I do it damn well will be this one. Pours that of an extremely dark brown
with a light golden head. It possesses the scent similar to the taste which is of a bourbony chocolate. Definitely recommend for lovers of bourbon barrel stouts

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Photo of David121
4.75/5  rDev +23.4%

A great flavorful beer that is not for the inexperienced beer drinker. The last few drops taste like strait up bourbon. Great beer I will drink this beer where ever I find it.

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Photo of LaneMeyer
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%

Poured the bottle.

Pours murky black, nice amount of head.

Smells of raisin and bourbon right up front. As it warms I'm getting chocolate, toasted coconut, hint of fig.

Ethanol taste up front, chocolate covered raisin, taste is less dimensional than the smell.

Mouth feel is thick and carbonated. Goes down smooth. Very nice. Just how a stout should be.

Nice Bourbon Barrel Stout. Super pricey.

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Photo of Beerzebub
4.06/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2009 bottle, aged for 4 years and 10 months; temperatures 60s-70s for a year or so, and then 55. Slight hiss when the bottle opened, and indeed there is a bit of carbonation. What??!

Very dark red-brown color. Zero head/froth. Pretty red-gold meniscus.

Smells good. Cohesive pine, brown sugar, and mellow roasty notes.

Tastes delicious. The last time I tried this, a few years ago, it was completely flat and was simply a disappointment, despite some promising flavors. I was prepared to give this bottle a perfunctory tasting and then pour it down the drain. But there is a tiny bit of carbonation, and it makes a big difference. Tasty molasses and piney/herbaceous sorts of flavors, along with smooth, sweet, caramel and vanilla bourbon character, all very cohesive and tasty. Long bourbony finish.

Good silky texture; a little undercarbed, but very far from the expected flat mess.

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Photo of tmzl
3.77/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Taste-off: Santa's Little Helper (S) vs. Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged (SBBA)

S: Pours with a huge, thick, creamy, billowy mocha head, has a good slow, equal retention (breakdown of medium sized bubbles). A very thick, medium-sized, creamy layer stays on top. Dark brown, heavy pour, fair amount of lacing.
SBBA: The head is a lot smaller, higher degree of medium/big bubbles, mocha head a bit lighter. Has a faster retention, mostly diminishing. Looks a bit more transparent and watery.

S: Cherry, dark fruit on opening, dominating roast, coffee and milk chocolate, stuffy, mostly dark malt driven. Light sourness, bit salty, soy sauce and some cookie dough.
SBBA: More dark fruit esters on opening, then goes to rum-kokos Casali chocolates with a lot of oak, vanilla. Roast, milk chocolate more on the side here. Alcohol with booze feeling, oak the most dominant aroma here.

S: Light acidity and molasses, burned sugar start with fruity forest esters. A bit rum-like transition into milky, dark malt medium sweetness that ends with medium dark coffee bitterness, it's well developed. Small boozy spike towards the end.
SBBA: Bourbon oak dominates this one. Medium molasses, burned sugar sweet start with acidity turned down, the middle, which is overrun with oak dominance, a bit of milky backbone felt, but a lot more subtle. Ends with strong bourbon oak spike that dominates the after with turned down roast, coffee bitterness and alcohol.

S: Full, light heavy body, soft carbonation lingers on the tongue, quite pleasant.
SBBA: A bit lighter on the body (higher alcohol), light warmth, no carbonation to detect.

The non-barrel aged version is a lot smoother and very drinkable. Solid, not too demanding take on imperial stouts. The bourbon one is a lot sluttier, the oak is (too) heavy and goes down a lot slower. The age in barrels didn't make it better IMO.

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Photo of Joshpu
4.25/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the bottle to a snifter. 2013 release.

A: Poured black with a small tan head.

S: Huge barrel characteristics. Oak and bourbon.

T: More big barrel characteristics. Oak and bourbon. Dark chocolate and coffee. Maybe some dark fruit, cherry. Slight butterscotch sweetness as it warms.

M: Medium to full bodied. Nice and creamy smooth. Goes down nice.

Overall a great stout. I normally don't rate this high when compared to the average, but it just kept getting better as it warmed.

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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
86 out of 100 based on 189 ratings.