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

Not Rated.
Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel AgedSanta's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

484 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 484
Reviews: 173
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 13.99%
Wants: 48
Gots: 162 | FT: 9
Brewed by:
Port Brewing visit their website
California, United States

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

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: scottoale on 07-25-2009)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 484 | Reviews: 173 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by scottoale:
Photo of scottoale
4.47/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a new release for the Lost Abbey Sinners club this year... a promising brew for sure.

22oz. brown bomber with a label depicting Santa in Summer attire, hoisting a pint to Rudolf, being served by one naughty little Elf...get the picture?

Pop the cap, with very little pop at that and pour a very black liquid that is very low in carbonation, but not too worry, it's appropriate just the same.

The smell is mostly of toffee, with a bit of roast, some chocolate and a wee lump of coal...don't fret, you weren't that bad, were you? Some small bourbany notes in there as well...niiice!

Well the taste, no surprise...a toffee and malty brew with a bit of bourbon and a nice charcoal aspect...very much like coal, sort of. Me thinks this flavor will definitely grow bigger and bolder as time carries on. Very tasty now and will age gracefully as far as I can see. Nice balance and well carried for a brew over 10% ABV...no matter what!

Placid in the carbonation dept., this brew still carries itself well and into the larger scheme of big, barrel-aged beers...nothin wrong with that in my book, at all.

scottoale, Jul 25, 2009
More User Reviews:
Photo of jose_alehouseSD
5/5  rDev +27.2%

jose_alehouseSD, Sep 02, 2014
Photo of orbitalr0x
2.58/5  rDev -34.4%
look: 1.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

22oz bomber via Sinner's Club. Pours into my glass completely and utterly flat, looks basically like soy sauce. Not overly heavy, but ultimately lifeless. Disappointing. Aromas of smooth dark malts with a solid sweetness bathed in a woody, boozy bourbon. Vanilla and caramel accents with a touch of dark fruits. Touch of chocolate and coffee. Well, it smells pretty good at least.

First sip makes me feel more like I AM drinking bourbon as opposed to a beer. No carbonation at all as it rolls across the tongue. Bourbon and wood lead the way with vanilla and dark fruit flavors. A bit of caramel and chocolate meld in. Flows down with a fumy alcohol kick that works its way through the nostrils as well. Might be better off serving this one in shot glasses!

Mouthfeel is slick and boring, again it's more like a liquor than a beer. Not very refreshing and quite hard to drink. Overall, I don't know what I will do with my second bottle...cook with it maybe?? Milkshakes?? Either way, this shouldn't have been released like this and I'm a bit upset I spent my hard earned coin on it. Blech.

orbitalr0x, Sep 20, 2009
Photo of gregmoscetti
4.28/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

My personal favorite of the Christmas in July Party, this baby is thick, chocolatey and viscous. Definitely a dessert beer, I was blown away by its intensity and flavor. BASLA has a velvety sweet taste, similiar to BCS with a surprisingly low level of alcohol burn. I think if cellared a year or two this could be delicious. Only tick was that I drank too much of it. I would keep this one to a 4-6oz serving at a time

Granted I am drinking it from a tap, I was surprised by the complaints about it being flat. I am hoping the 2010 version is not as problematic as the 2009 considering we all seem to continue funneling money into Tomme Arthur's wallet for flat beer.

gregmoscetti, Sep 02, 2010
Photo of freshflesh
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%

freshflesh, Mar 16, 2014
Photo of Beaver13
3.05/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle - 2012 version 12% abv. Pours opaque black with a smallish brown head that quickly goes to a thin film that leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is sweet baker's chocolate, some roasted grainy malts and some light bourbon.

The flavor is sweet fudgy chocolate with a lot of roast and a big sharp alcohol in the finish. The mouthfeel is kind of light bodied for an impy stout.

Overall, it's a bit subdued other than hot alcohol.

Beaver13, Aug 15, 2012
Photo of megamass
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%

megamass, Jan 23, 2014
Photo of mctizzz
3.25/5  rDev -17.3%

mctizzz, Oct 23, 2013
Photo of Wespatrick
3.48/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Opened my bomber and got nary a peep of carbonation pop. I poured it into my Duvel snifter as briskly as possible. There were few bubbles, but in 10 seconds they were all gone and the beer was completely lifeless. What this beer lacks in carbonation it more than makes up for in the nose. Loads of bourbon! Molasses and vanilla are also present, but definetely in a supporting role. Flavor is pretty much identical to the nose. Alcohol heat comes up big in the finish. No hiding the 10 %ABV here. Mouthfeel is ok body wise, but the lack of carbonation is problematic. This beer could be phenomenal with even some carbonation. Truly a pity!

Wespatrick, Aug 15, 2009
Photo of Mora2000
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of mar.

Beer pours black with no head. This is one of the flat Port/Lost Abbey beers I have heard about. The aroma is alcohol, chocolate and the notes you expect in bourbon aged beers - oak, bourbon and vanilla. The flavor is similar with the alcohol being pretty hot, but the vanilla and bourbon being very present as well. The mouthfeel is medium but I think the beer would be better if it was properly carbonated.

Mora2000, Jan 01, 2010
Photo of olradetbalder
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

olradetbalder, Nov 21, 2014
Photo of GarrettB714
5/5  rDev +27.2%

GarrettB714, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of 1Adam12
3.53/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

08 bottle. Barely any hiss when I popped it. Pours black, but looks a bit thin. ZERO carbonation. Smells of heavy bourbon, a bit of bitter chocolate, and some coffee. Taste is a huge bourbon bomb, but as it warms the chocolate does come out. Almost no carbonation. Mouthfeel is a bit thin for a barrel aged stout. Overall, this made for a really good bottle to get as pretty much an extra in a trade, but I wouldn't seek it out again. Just too one dementional. The bourbon is just too much. I've had the regular version, and this should be a lot better than what it is.

1Adam12, Jun 23, 2012
Photo of ImFlyerThanYou
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%

ImFlyerThanYou, Nov 15, 2013
Photo of jondeelee
3.2/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The bourbon barrel aged version of Santa's Little Helper opens with a thick, mealy aroma, and the heady bourbon overtones make the beer's barrel aging immediately apparent. Typical stout aromas such as coffee, tobacco, chocolate and black malt are present, but cranked up a notch or two, catalyzed and heavily influenced by the bourbon barrel aging, which imparts heavily vanillas, oaks, and smoky charcoals. Touches of figs, caramel, and toffee bring slight Christmas aromas. Overall, the aromas are intense and mouthwatering, marking this as one of the better-smelling Imperial Stouts I've encountered.

On the tongue, the beer opens with an immediate bourbon whang, and in fact the beer initially far more resembles a straight shot of bourbon than it does a beer. This impression lasts throughout the entire mouthful, the stout flavors of coffee, ash, tobacco, and beer malts largely subsumed beneath a heavy bourbon cloak, so that the predominant flavors are vanilla, oak, charcoal, and a thick alcoholic vapor that coats the tongue and makes more subtle taste recognition difficult. Some fig and caramel notes make it through, as does a touch of pine sap from the malts, but for the most part this is bourbon, bourbon, bourbon. Even the aftertaste is largely alcoholic bourbon, lingering in a vodka-strong alcoholic cloud for a long time. Mouthfeel is a strangely watery medium-light to medium, and carbonation is medium-light.

Overall, while the aromas drifting from the bottle were incredible, the beer itself is far too alcoholic and bourbon-like on the tongue, almost as if a good measure of bourbon was left in the barrel before the beer was added. This bourbon-stout boilermaker combination can and does work well in moderation, but here the ratios are too far off, and after only a few sips I'm fairly sure I would spike a breathalyzer test. Perhaps bottle aging would help, but I also wish the beer hadn't been left to age in the bourbon barrel for quite so long.

jondeelee, Jan 12, 2012
Photo of Cynic-ale
4/5  rDev +1.8%

Cynic-ale, Sep 07, 2013
Photo of TKEbeerman
3.38/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured into my pint glass, this brew pour a super dark brown (not entirely black), with absolutely no head. Not impressive, I expected more, but the bourbon aging has really done a number on this appearance.

S: The aroma is strait bourbon mixed with dark chocolate and maybe a little anise. Not very complex, but if you're a bourbon lover, your mouth will water.

T: The flavor is pretty strait forward like the aroma. Mostly bourbon, sweet notes of anise and chocolate. Hints of the brew's roastiness begins to break free as the beer warms.

MF: This brew suffers from what many bourbon barrel aged beers suffer from...poor mouthfeel. The feel is thin, with minimal carbonation at best.

Overall: This beer is ok. I really enjoy bourbon, but when bourbon becomes the main flavor note and over powers everything else, you have a beer that is average at best.

TKEbeerman, Nov 03, 2011
Photo of KyleMA
4/5  rDev +1.8%

KyleMA, Jun 27, 2012
Photo of Beerandraiderfan
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Chewy black lookin, very nice, but carbonation was on the low side, leaving no head, no lace, nuthin. Aroma, standard stuff, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon warmth, alcohol warmth, barely a trace of wet wood.

Good roast flavor, chocolate in the nose isn't as apparent in the taste, but it didn't leave altogether. You kind of get to understand why the carbonation was on the soft side in the mouthfeel, it allows more nuances to hit you. Nothing over the top and dominating in the flavor profile, heat is less with every sip. Coffee is conspicuously absent in this one.

While there's plenty of just outstanding offerings in this department, this one is still a good offering.

2009 bottle drank at Surly Goat. Have a 2010 & 11 in the cellar, hopefully the carbonation is just a nudge upward, and this can break into the upper echelon of beers, that's really the major factor holding it back, but very good nonetheless.

Beerandraiderfan, Nov 24, 2011
Photo of glid02
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Yikes, quite the divisive beer here. Shared by kp - thanks!

Pours black with a few large light brown bubbles that quickly burst leaving a glassy top without even a thin ring around the glass.

Smells of bourbon and vanilla with good amounts of smooth roasted malts and hints of dark chocolate. Very mild spices waft out from time to time.

Tastes very good. Roasted malt flavors upfront are overtaken quickly by smooth bourbon and vanilla flavors. Midway through the sip the bourbon flavors mellow out a bit allowing the roasted malt back out along with hints of dark chocolate. The ending is mildly bitter and leaves bourbon flavors lingering on the palate.

Mouthfeel is alright. It's missing a lot of carbonation however I still feel as though there are a few bubbles fighting to get through and honestly the beer doesn't suffer horribly for lack of carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could have another.

Overall I thought this beer was unfairly panned simply for lack of carbonation. I think the beer could certainly be improved upon however as it is now it's one I would seek out in the future. Worth a shot as long as you know what you're getting into.

glid02, Dec 07, 2009
Photo of kevwcamp
4/5  rDev +1.8%

kevwcamp, Nov 17, 2011
Photo of Trashcat
3.25/5  rDev -17.3%

Trashcat, Today at 03:52 PM
Photo of ste5venla
4/5  rDev +1.8%

ste5venla, Sep 14, 2013
Photo of Reappropriated
4/5  rDev +1.8%

Reappropriated, Mar 12, 2014
Photo of RBassSFHOPit2ME
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 bottle - says Oak Barrels on label, not Bourbon as the photo suggests. Make no mistake, this was aged in Bourbon Oak Barrels.

I'll start by saying...I can see how this beer gets a overall B- if it were one of the flat bottles. This 2010 bottle is carbonated perfectly and hit me right in the nose the minute I popped the cap. I didn't have high expectations for this beer but this was the biggest Bal-aged surprise of the year for me especially because I'm not a big fan of the base beer. I was also skeptical of the more than reasonable price tag for a Bal-aged Imperial Stout. $10.99

Poured into a snifter:

Appearance - Solid. Opaque with a nice charcoal head that quickly dissapates. When held to the light a little brownish tint from the Barreling shows up at the edges or the ring of the top of the glass.

Smell - Chocolate and Molasses dominate equally so as the Bourbon. The balance between the 3 is simply fantastic. Like a Bourbon German chocolate cake with very slight hints of vanilla showing if I look for it.

Taste - See smell. Exactly follows. Reminds me a bit of a less intense Parabola minus the extremely silky mouthfeel and a bit more chocolate forward than Parabola.

Mouthfeel - Fantastic. It's a sipper and feels the 10% that the beer is. Not that it's hot, the booze in the Whiskey is slightly apparent and expected but it has good viscosity, giving you the 10% feel. Love it!

Drinkability - Very Good. One bomber is the perfect amount to one's self on a winter's night.

Final Thoughts - For the $10.99 price tag, this is a value if I've ever seen one. This beer I found fantastic. Enjoyed this one much more than Old Rasputin XII and at 1/2 the price. I also enjoyed this much more than Older Viscosity as there was so much more going on than just bourbon which I experienced with Older Viscosity. I didn't chill this beer at all, popped at very near cellar temp. A must try to all you other BAs.

RBassSFHOPit2ME, Dec 02, 2010
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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 484 ratings.