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

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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel AgedSanta's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged

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very good

178 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 178
Hads: 553
Avg: 3.83
pDev: 14.1%
Wants: 54
Gots: 183 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
Port Brewing visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: scottoale on 07-25-2009

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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 178 | Hads: 553
Photo of crob3888
4.25/5  rDev +11%
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 -14.6%
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 +16.4%
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 +5.5%
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.

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Photo of Beersnake1
4/5  rDev +4.4%

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 +5.2%
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 +24%

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 +15.1%
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 +4.4%

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 +24%

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 +1.8%

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 +6%
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 -1.6%
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 +11%
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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Photo of jzeilinger
3.47/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

In review is a 2011 vintage.

A - Pitch black with a thin toffee colored lacing ring.

S - Subtle blended dark chocolate, oak, bourbon, toffee, traces of dark fruit, and light char.

T - The bourbon is quite dominant with everything else falling in after the booziness: oak, some char, dark fruit, and chocolate molasses...with more bourbon.

M - Thick, full bodied, slick, sticky, and significant alcohol warming on the way down.

O - Not sure I'd let another bottle of this sit so long, the flavors faded leaving a more significant bourbon and oak presence. Want to try a '12 or '13 for comparison. I love bourbon but the balance is way out of whack with too much bourbon and oak.

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Photo of KFBR392
4.17/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Big vibrant head of a dark maroon, brownish color. Some of the most active carbonation on a BA stout I have ever seen. Poured with a thick body of blackness and sits in the glass as such.

Smell: Heavy roasted malt and a big boozy bourbon presence hit first. Some earthy grassy hop presence can also be picked up. Big body of vanilla, toffee, medium dark chocolate, caramel, brandy, and oak bring a ton of character to this brew. For me this is what a big BA stout should smell like.

Taste: The front is a chalky malt, smooth vanilla, and medium to heavy bourbon barrel character. Oak and roasted malt continue through toward the body of the brew. Barrel character lightens up a bit toward the back end but is still present. Sweet tones of molasses and caramel toward the front end. The finish is dry with some hop character, roasted malt, and bourbon.

Mouthfeel: Big heavy beer but does not completely suffocate the palate. Some of the bubbly carbonation comes through but rounds out well. Sweet and bold characteristics play along together well.

Overall: A very good brew. I loved the complex aroma but thought the taste came up just a bit short of amazing. Barrel character comes through very well and even drinking this relatively young it went down very well.

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Photo of cvm4
3.48/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2013 Vintage

A - Pours pitch black, doesn't seem like a thick beer, minimal espresso head that's under half a finger.

S - Dark chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar and some boozy notes. Not a robust smell at all.

T - A good amount of bourbon, oak, vanilla and dark chocolate. It pretty much follows the nose for me. Not hugely complex.

M - Thin bodied and low carbonation.

O - Really disappointing to me. It just fell below what I was expecting in each category.

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Photo of Eisen
3.65/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured a dark black with a cafe colored head that maintained itself with some sticky lacing. Smells mostly of chocolate and booze spice. Tastes of chocolate, coffee, bourbon/oak/booze, toasted malt. Alcohol is very present throughout. Drinkability is fairly good. A little watery in the mouth, which doesn't quite balance with the strength of the beverage. A little hop presence, which does not balance as good as it could. Overall, a great beverage despite the fact that most places ask more than it is worth.

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Photo of pfcorsar
3.63/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage poured in snifter.
Pours almost black, with light edges when held up to the light. Light bubbly tan head.

Gives off an aroma of chocolate, bourbon and a fair amount of booziness.

Intense bourbon flavor at the front, faint hits of chocolate with some sweetness, and finishes with some boozy heat.

Wonderful mouthfeel, slick and oily. Way better than it looked in the pour.

Pretty good stout. I’m curious as to what it wold have tasted like without being aged in the bourbon barrels, as it seems as though the bourbon overpowers a lot of the other flavors. Still quite delicious though.

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Photo of BastardKing24
4.87/5  rDev +27.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I have had this about 5 times over the years. Once it was flat, other times thin. This year very nice.

Pours a jet black with a finger of foam that dissipates to a thin layer with aggressive lacing. tan head with nice bubbles.

Smell is immediately bourbon and chocolate, molasses, roasted malt, coffee, toffee, raisin, plum, chewy leather, and wood.

Taste is the same as the smell with a big smack of bourbon soaked dark fruit and oak, some nuttiness, roasty malt, slight lingering bitterness from oak and dark malt, along with this very nice cookie dough flavor i have come to love from certain barrel aged imperial stouts. Very impressive by me as not a lot of these meet my standards and this is my favorite beer style.

Mouthfeel is a little light this year but still viscous enough to pack a wallop of a taste. Lingers on the palate for about 30 seconds. Good carb this year (its had issues with that) and i feel its hard to get it any better.

Over all i feel this beer is extremely underrated and it is quite a warmer to sip by a fire or share with friends. Highly recommended to anyone able to find it. Cheers!

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Photo of KYGunner
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black and viscous this poured with a thin trace of brown foam.

All that one expects in a barrel aged stout with vanilla, chocolate, and coconut.

This actually excels in taste as it has far more complexity than the aroma could muster. I feared that the bourbon would be lost but it hits right at center palate. The bourbon is tangy and woody and then is washed away in a thick creamy chocolate and caramel wave. Vanilla then holds out at the end.

The feel is smooth slightly less viscous than expected.

This goes in the barrel as a less appealing stout than most but it takes on the barrel characteristics extremely well and serves as a proud addition to the style.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.11/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Glass: Tulip
From: KnB Wine Cellars in Del Cerro (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $6.00 (Wednesday deal)
Purchased: Aug. 7, 2013
Consumed: Aug. 7, 2013
Misc.: N/A

Poured a dark brown, almost pitch black color with 1-to-2 fingers of tan head. Light lacing on the sides, minimal retention.

Smelled bourbon, vanilla, dark chocolate, dark blackberry, dark cherry, dark fruits and slight Dr. Pepper. Smelled smooth.

Tasted bourbon, vanilla, dark chocolate, dark fruits and so smooth.

Medium body. Creamy texture. Average carbonation. Long, smooth, warming finish.

Very, very good. So glad I got to try it for so cheap. I did drop my ratings a little bit from what I originally had because I shouldn’t have been rating after the three strong beers I had before this. This seems about right.

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Photo of SHODriver
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2011 bottle poured into a snifter

A: poured black with a small tan head that was quick to fade to a collar around the edge of the glass
S: smells of alcohol and the bourbon barrel, vanilla, caramel and chocolate
T: tastes of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, alcohol, oak, slight roast malt and a bit of coffee. swallow is a big smack of alcohol burn on the back of the throat with a huge bourbon hit on the palate along with some roast malt and chocolate notes toward the end.
M: feels slightly thinner than an imperial stout should be and the carbonation is soft and barely there. drying finish
O: lots of alcohol and bourbon flavor overshadows the beer instead of playing a supporting role. Could have been better. I had this on tap at the brewery the summer of 2011 and it was quite boozy and alcoholic. I was hoping some time would do it well. the booze has tamed itself a bit but the other flavors in the beer struggle to come forward.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.47/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 Vintage, straight from the brewery poured in to tulip.

A - Poured dark brown and settled black. A thin layer of light brown head formed and quickly disappeared.

S - A big oak aroma up front with char, bourbon, chocolate and some noticeable alcohol.

T - Sweet bourbon and oak dominate. Char, chocolate and a big warming alcohol presence. The oak dominates.

M - Medium body. Very light carbonation, which is too low and detracts from the beer. The body detracts from the beer.

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4.44/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1pt 6floz. Bottle. Oversized wine glass. Pours very dark brown in color. Dark beige froth builds close but thin & lasting crown. An aroma festival to the nose: prune & bigarreau cherry aromas, hints of chocolate, notes of marmalade, cane sugar & molasses, ginger & toasted malts. Smelling evokes rhum fragrances. Flavors are complex as expected from the aromas are involved by gentle warming sensation. Full body. Soft carbonation. Moderate oily texture. Subtle bitterness in the middle is covered by rhum & anise hues. Notes of chocolate & dried nuts on the aftertaste. Celebrate Xmas no matter what month is!!!

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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
86 out of 100 based on 178 ratings.