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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

481 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 481
Reviews: 173
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 13.99%
Wants: 48
Gots: 161 | 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: 481 | Reviews: 173 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at Tops Tasting Room in Tempe, with the staff. The most knowledgeable person promised it was the barrel aged version, arrived recently, and tasted bourbon in it. I found it just a very good imperial stout. Black appearance, though no noticeable head. Very drinkable and smooth, some wood but still boozy. Coffee, chocolate.

Sammy, Feb 07, 2010
Photo of t0rin0
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

t0rin0, Dec 12, 2012
Photo of spycow
4/5  rDev +1.8%

spycow, May 19, 2013
Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.63/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque black with a very small 1/2 inch dark khaki head that fades to a thin film. Random sheets and spots of lace cling to the glass on the drink down. Smells of bourbon, vanilla, wood, and some cocoa notes. Taste is very bourbon forward with lots of vanilla, wood, and alcohol flavors along with some dark roasted malt and bitter chocolate flavors on the finish. This beer has a low level of carbonation and seems a bit flat and thick in the mouth. There is an alcohol warmth in the back of the throat with each sip. Overall, this is a pretty good bourbon barrel aged stout with more of an emphasis on the bourbon than the stout.

UCLABrewN84, Jul 01, 2011
Photo of djrn2
4/5  rDev +1.8%

djrn2, Nov 18, 2011
Photo of Thorpe429
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a carbonated bottle. Didn't read too far down the reviews but I assume many of the lower scores and the overall rating from this have been affected by carbonation woes. I'll have to check.

Pours a dark brown with an off white head and spotty lacing. Nose is pretty intense with good amounts of bourbon, chocolate, oak, dark fruits, and a bit of roasted malt. Taste is pretty heavy on the bourbon with the other flavors playing nice complements. Feel is quite nice. Again, liking what the bourbon has done, especially as I am not a big fan of the regular version of this brew. Very drinkable and one of the better of its kind that I've had lately.

Thorpe429, Sep 28, 2010
Photo of nmann08
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%

nmann08, Nov 18, 2011
Photo of Texasfan549
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

Texasfan549, Apr 18, 2012
Photo of metter98
4.18/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is essentially jet black in color. It poured with a thin tan head that quickly faded away, leaving delicate lacing covering the surface.
S: There are strong aromas of bourbon in the nose.
T: Like the smell, flavors of bourbon really stand out in the overall taste and become even stronger as the beer warms up.
M: It feels a bit more than medium-bodied on the palate with a low to moderate amount of carbonation. There is lots of warming from the alcohol.
O: This beer packs in lots of bourbon aromas and flavors without making the taste too alcoholic. However, the bourbon seems to be too strong really masks any of the flavors of the underlying beer.

metter98, Sep 25, 2012
Photo of GRG1313
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle appears with red label and appears identical to Bourbon aged but indicates "Oak" in lieu of Bourbon. No date stated on label but believed to be a summer 2010 release.

Pours black with no head. Even a good swirl or a very slow pour will not yield a head of any kind. Edit: Bottle was open for 15 minutes and poured again and got a very short lived tan head.

Nose is semi sweet dark chocolate, sweet dark black coffee, whiskey and light vanilla (oak).

Mouthfeel is medium full to creamy and by second or third taste gives nice creamy "coated" feel. Light carbonation and would like to see more. Unfortunately, ability to age is lessened by diminishing carbonation - this one is already very lightly carbonated and it fades even more as it sits in the glass.

Flavors are intense semi sweet black chocolate, molasses, big semi sweet dark coffee, whiskey and light sweet soy. Flavors seem to improve and become more and more appealing with every sip.

Finish is a big chocolate, sweet coffee, light whiskey alcohol character. You get some of the alcohol (the sweet character of higher alcohol) in the flavors and especially in the finish. Long coffee bean/espresso finish.

This beer will likely age nicely for a year or two but is very nice to try now. Surprise choice for what I believe was a summer release. Nice effort.

GRG1313, Aug 20, 2010
Photo of kjkinsey
3.25/5  rDev -17.3%

kjkinsey, Apr 18, 2012
Photo of brentk56
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

After a disastrous experience with the 2009, time for another look at this. With a 2010 in hand, let's see if we can improve the score from a "D."

Appearance: Espresso brown with just a tinge of brown highlights on the edge; a thin layer of foam appears (a good sign) and some of it sticks to the glass

Smell: Bourbon filled chocolate, with more than a hint of blackstrap molasses

Taste: Dark chocolate, up front, with licorice and the Bourbon character taking over by mid-palate, bringing vanilla and oak; after the swallow, the booze impacts the profile just a bit too dramatically, although the chocolate, vanilla, licorice and molasses make a nice combination

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation; lots of warmth on the gullet

Drinkability: While there is more carbonation in the 2010 than the 2009, this shows that Tomme has a clear view about the carbonation levels he wants in his beers; while I would like a bit more, I don't mind the lower level on this one as much as I did on the 2009; overall, characterize me as impressed - a bit too boozy and a bit too flat, but still a nice brew

Thanks, mrmiles, for the chance to re-visit

brentk56, Jul 26, 2010
Photo of ygtbsm94
3.5/5  rDev -10.9%

ygtbsm94, Nov 15, 2011
Photo of mikesgroove
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

So I have had these bottles for like 2 years and I decided it was about time i just got it over with and opened one. What the hell right. Cracked it open after dessert of 5/31/2010.

The pour was alright. Deep, dark, and black as night with a light ring of tan that circled the glass for maybe a minute before fading out of site and leaving it completely bare. Not my idea of the greatest of looks but what can you do.

Aroma surprised me as it was done very, very well. A rich mix of dark chocolate, coffee, lots of bourbon and oak. Warming brought out vanilla and light touches of molasses. Very nicely done I have to admit and I was finding hop this would not be terrible at this point. But then I took a sip. Now, here is the odd part. the feel is horrible. Flat, dull and thin. Just a mess, I cannot see how they could have tore this one up that badly. On the other hand the flavor is rich, decadent, near perfectly aged, so there in lies the issue.

Overall this could have been a very, very good beer, but alas it was a mess because of the lack of carbonation. Fix the QC issues and it would be a winner.

mikesgroove, Jun 02, 2010
Photo of kylehay2004
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: very thin head on a very dark body with some light getting though. scattered lacing.

S: sweet whiskey/bourbon mostly which overall is excellent. some vanilla and oak notes.

T: alcohol is a little strong in this one. whiskey and bourbon up front. The roasted character is significantly diminished compared to the non barrel aged version. nice oak and vanilla finish.

M: semi dry finish but much less than the base beer. medium body and lighter side of moderate carbonation.

Overall: excellent whiskey/bourbon character, a little strong on the alcohol end for the flavor but still a very nice barrel aged stout.

kylehay2004, Jul 13, 2012
Photo of womencantsail
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Thick and black with a beautiful mocha colored foam that sticks around for quite awhile. Very little carbonation.

S: Wow! Bourbon, chocolate, coffee, and booze.

T: Just as decadent as the nose. I firstly noted the chocolate flavor and then the bourbon. The coffee flavors are not as present as I would have expected. The booze is very upfront in this one. I cannot wait to see how this tastes in another year.

M: Thick, creamy, and very smooth. Massive body on this beer.

D: The only reason I "marked it down" on this aspect is because the booze is still very pronounced.

womencantsail, Jul 26, 2009
Photo of Knapp85
3.25/5  rDev -17.3%

Knapp85, Dec 28, 2013
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours out a dark brown, near black body and, despite a heavy, energetic pour, no real head formation beyond a few stray bubbles.

Smell: Immediately, there's a strong, heavy-handed, foreboding bourbon presence. If you don't like'm bourbon-y, I guess you could get out now while the gettin' is good. Roasty notes of coffee, molasses, and chocolate sauce suitable for ice cream sundaes. Touch of ripened dark fruitiness also.

Taste: Dark roasted maltiness with a taste of gooey fudge-flavored brownie batter, cooled espresso, blackstrap molasses, and bittersweet chocolate. Some dark fruits mingled in. Then, it comes that strong bourbon taste with its vanilla, brown sugar, and lightly tannic oak wood. Drying, roasty finish with some alcoholic warmth contained within.

Mouthfeel: Fairly full-bodied and flat.

Drinkability: Well, I've had this a few times now and always feel that, while it does taste quite good, some (any) carbonation would've really made it SING. Maybe next batch.

ChainGangGuy, Feb 07, 2010
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%

westcoastbeerlvr, Jan 10, 2013
Photo of SocalKicks
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%

SocalKicks, Jul 13, 2013
Photo of largadeer
3.7/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Black and viscous in the pour, but with no carbonation to speak of, and obviously no head.

The aroma is thankfully more impressive, with plenty of bourbony goodness up front, contributing vanilla and caramel to counterpoint the chocolate and roastiness from the malt. As it warms, a fruity and vinous aroma comes out along with a backbone of molasses. Nicely balanced and not very hot at all for a big barrel-aged stout.

There's quite a bit more heat on the palate, but it's well-integrated and doesn't dominate the complex flavor. Vinous and chocolatey, boozy and fruity, there's a lot going on here, but it's marred by the lack of carbonation. A low-to-moderate level of carbonation would really benefit this beer and probably take away some of the heat. Mid-palate I get a lot of vanilla and caramel, which transitions into a roasty, bitter, lightly tannic and very boozy finish. Enjoyable but disappointing on the whole - this would be an excellent beer if it were properly carbonated.

largadeer, Aug 19, 2009
Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev +1.8%

JAHMUR, Jan 23, 2013
Photo of StonedTrippin
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
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!

StonedTrippin, Oct 17, 2014
Photo of nickfl
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours with a small head of light tan foam on top of an opaque, black body. The head settles quickly and leaves light traces of lace on the glass.

S - Dark sugar with notes of chocolate, smoky coffee, pepper, red apple, vanilla, and sweet whiskey.

T - Sweet oak and vanilla up front with dark caramel and a toffee. Some bakers chocolate and espresso in the middle with clove and spiced apple notes in the middle. Finishes with vanilla, bourbon, and spiced cake notes as well as lingering smoky coffee notes.

M - Medium-thick body, moderately low carbonation, and a slightly sweet finish.

D - Very different form the non ba version, though it still has the characteristic charred roast character that the base beer possessed. As I expected it took to barrel aging very well and the vanilla and whiskey notes add a perceived sweetness that helps to push back against the harsh bitterness and allows some of the base beer's complexity to shine though. A nicely done barrel aged stout.

nickfl, Jul 13, 2012
Photo of Kegatron
3.53/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On cask @ the Stone Brewing World Bistros & Gardens on 11/9/09 during the "Tomme Arthur Experience" event. Served in a snifter.

Pours jet black in the glass, with a ½ finger of burnt mocha colored froth. Big rich retention on this, which showers the sides of the snifter with of spotty lace and gooey brown oil. Cola-like Bourbon and tannic oak accents just dominate the nose. The Stout flavors are trying in vain to break through (I'm getting chocolate, roast, and just a bit of dark fruit that's trying to peak out) but it really does struggle against the barrel character.

Thankfully the Imperial Stout shows itself much more in the taste, being frontloaded with sticky notes of chocolate, toffee, dark roasted, coffee, and some fruit. But man, the Bourbon strikes back with a vengeance in the backend of this, with a boozy tasting bite that ends sticky at first and then rather drying in the finish. The mouthfeel is fuller bodied, with a mellow creaminess to it from the cask conditioning that helps sooth things out a bit. Much like the regular Santa's Little Helper, this could be called overly hot (and the Bourbon sure doesn't help), leaving a warm hazy feel on the breath. All in all though, the alcohol presence probably isn't as bad as it could have been.

Well after hearing the horror stories about this beer in the bottle, I have to say that having the opportunity to have this on cask was probably the best case scenario for it (hooray for carbonation!). At the end of the day though, this was still just too warm and boozy to call it anything better than good. I'm glad that I got to try this here, as that will allow me to sit on the bottle that I've got for a long...long time.

Kegatron, Dec 01, 2009
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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
88 out of 100 based on 481 ratings.