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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 Cyberkedi
4.83/5  rDev +25.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Comes out of the bottle a rich, warm sable just a whisker above jet with a fairly thick light tan head that leaves substantial lacing. Smoky aroma has an overtone of bourbon and notes of chocolate and molasses plus a hint of toffee. Splendiferous flavor fills the mouth with a symphony of tastes: bourbon, chocolate, molasses, burnt oak, toffee, caramel, coffee. Each sip seems a little different. Over all is a firm but not fierce alcohol bite. Full-bodied texture is smooth as fine silk and has a subtle but lasting fizz. This nice beer is well worth the "naughty" price!

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Photo of nickfl
4.07/5  rDev +5.7%
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.

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.12/5  rDev +7%
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.

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
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.

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Photo of BostonHops
4.04/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle served in a snifter.
2011 batch.

pours almost a chestnut colored brown but not the typical imperial stout (or regular santa's little helper for that matter) used motor oil black - a bit lighter. 1/2" head quickly dissipates; little in the way of lacing. nose jumps out of the glass with a wallop of bourbon. its a sweet aroma with notes of vanilla, butterscotch, and a hint of molasses, but the headliner here is bourbon. i'm not getting big doses of the traditional imperial stout stalwarts like roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee. love that bourbon though.

flavor follows the aroma pretty closely, again headlined by that big bourbon presence. some vanilla, butterscotch, a little chocolate. reminds me less of santa's little helper than something along the lines of, say, a founders backwoods bastard. very tasty though. viscous, medium-full mouthfeel.

overall i'm digging this beer a lot. maybe it's because i'm a sucker for a bourbon bomb but i'm finding it pretty damn tasty. on the pricey side at $16.00+ for the bomber.

(originally reviewed: 12-15-2011)

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.27/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark black with a touch of brown mixed in and a super thin ring of head. The head fades right away leaving behind no lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of strong Bourbon notes with lots of oak and vanilla with some roasted chocolate malts and some dark fruit, and some booze.

T - Starts off with a nice kick of Bourbon flavor with lots of vanilla and some sweet dark fruits and light chocolate. Through the middle, more oak comes through with some richer roasted chocolate malts and a bit of coffee. The finish is a mix of Bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate, dark fruit, and some booze.

M - Full bodied with very mild carbonation. Smooth with a thick warming and sweet feeling.

D - Very drinkable. A bit on the flat side, but the Bourbon really adds another dimension to the base beer which is really nice. Good Bourbon aged stout.

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Photo of DCon
4.54/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a 1 PINT 6 FL. OZ. bottle of this w/ STLWIll & Friends @ The Royale. Poured from the Red Labeled bottle w/ Santa and Rudolf at the bar & an Elf tapping beer that looks like an ice cream shop pour into a 12oz Shaker Glass. 2010 Bourbon Barrel Vintage but no bottled on date.

Aroma- There is a huge booze mixed with chocolate aroma from the start to finish. Very deep malts and hops with a rich background. Fantastic!

Appearance- Pours a .5 finger head that is dark brown but dies quickly. Has a very dark brown colored body that has almost no clarity. Leaves suds behind on the glass.

Flavor- Bourbon rich, Cocoa sweet, and roasted grains all come out at the beginning. VERY complexed and tough to search out all of the attributes. Can till this has been aged! Also has a light bitterness level at the finish.

Mouthfeel- Medium-Full Bodied, Light Carbonation, Smooth, and leaves tons of bourbon on the palate at the finish.

Overall Impression- This one was very well developed and time helped this out! Would definitely like to trade for a bottle of this soon and enjoy again in the future. Highly Recommend for a 2X Stout!

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Batch 1 Bottle; Sampled December 2011
A steady pour barely produces a few, large, brown tinged bubbles that settle around the rim of my Lost Abbey Teku glass. The beer is a deep, concentrated brown, almost perfectly black color. The aroma smells of spicy bourbon, caramelized & toasted coconut, lots of vanillin and woody oak. The nose is definitely a bit hot and easily dominates the base beer aromaitcs, which I am really not noticing much the first go around; if I relally dig, some roasted, toasted malt notes start to become noticeable, though not enough to balance the Bourbon Barrel notes in any way.

The beer is spicy and a touch hot up front, this continues as it flatly slides across the palate and the finish has a spicy Bourbon like note, an oak astringency and some warm / hot alcohol character to it. Some sweetness works in concert with and is accentuated by vanillin notes; though the sweetness is not enough, nor is it nearly rich and malty enough, to stand up to the Bourbon laden notes from this beer. More roasted character is in the flavor at least; it adds a burnt bitterness, perhaps a touch of sharp acrid roast character and a touch of rounded, dark maltiness that isn’t quite a richness. Dark chocolate notes and something a bit like a sweet, coffee liquor also plays a secondary role here.

I was hoping this would have picked up some carbonation over the two year rest it spent in my cellar, still this could have been good if the Barrel character had not so completely dominated the base beer; more malt richness would have gone a long way towards helping a balance here, but the malt richness just isn’t here. In the end I strongly prefer a beer that has subtle Bourbon barrel influences; if you like Bourbon heavy beers then I could see you enjoying this beer.

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Photo of n2185
3.65/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 1.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage

A: pours black with pretty much no carbonation so it looks flat.

S: roasted malts with lots of sweet cocoa, vanilla, molasses, oak, and some bourbon notes.

T: similar to the aroma with roasted malts at first followed by bitter chocolate. Vanilla, oak, molasses, and bourbon flavors follow with a light alcohol burn.

M: thick body with no carbonation, this beer is slightly watery because the lack of carbonation.

O: a pretty decent beer, though the lack of carbonation detracts from it. Still, it tastes and smells pretty good.

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Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.08/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to T0rin0 for the trade and angrybabboon for sharing the bottle.

Appearance: Black. Some dark brown/deep red at edges. No head. Nothing. Still and opaque. So very dark. Pours thick. No visible carbonation.

Smell: Very mellow bourbon. Vanilla and touches of oak. Roasted malts. Chocolate and cocoa. Milk chocolate and loads of vanilla. Aromas meld well. Lots of depth. Hints of tobacco and booze. Lots of goodness. Some sweetness. Touches of burnt malts.

Taste: Bourbon. Vanilla and oak. Slightly oxidized. Nice chocolate notes coupled with old, old coffee. Loads of bourbon. Hints of caramel and toffee. Nice roasted compliment. Slightly burnt. Very nice blend of bourbon and stout flavors. Minimal cocoa and chocolate. Slight burn from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied. Slightly creamy. Carbonation is non-existent. Borders on syrupy at times.

Overall: This aged well and blended nicely. Great depth of bourbon, but it's mellow enough that the malts can really shine through and show the true character of the base beer.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
3.69/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bomber into a snifter, the beer is an extremely dark, thin, opaque brown-black coloring with hazelnut highlights around the edges. No head on this brew, even with a rougher pour. The beer's nose is slightly sour, with oaky highlights and a dark, old world fruit sweetness of dates, raisins, and fig. Alcohol plays a part in the aromas, as well, with a rich molasses characteristic, too. Flavors are rich, with a kiss of dark chocolate on the forward tongue for just an instant, followed by a roasty and sweet profile, again fueled by the old world fruits. Bourbon and oaky characteristics bring a full feel to the palate, as well as a robustness to the beer's overall feel. Strong flavor profiles, and a roasty and boozey aftertaste is absolutely approrpriate. The beer's body is rich and full, with a slight creamy and velvety feel. The finish is slightly cloying, but not bad for the richness of the palate. Slick, the finish does not linger long at all.

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Photo of sweemzander
4.07/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 Vintage.

(A)- Pours a very dark brown almost black color. Some tan froth.

(S)- A sweet yet rich raisin and caramel profile. Bits of subtle cocoa and wood. Even subtle hints at brown sugar and spice.

(T)- Again, an underlying sweet profile overall. Caramelized raisin and oak wood. Subtle bits of cocoa.

(M)- A mellow carbonation level. A nice balance too. Though it is quite heavy on the sweetness in the mid palate, it does finish in a good dryness. Not as thick as I was expecting. Pretty good ABV integration.

(D)- Overall, a good stout. A bit sweet, but it does move from that into a dry finish. Time would only help this I think.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.62/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a 16 oz. snifter.

A- Pours a dark brown, 1 finger thin light tan head with nearly no lacing.

S- Bourbon dominates, with some vanilla and oak.

T- Again, Big bourbon taste with vanilla and oak in the background. Slight coffee and bitter chocolate near the end as well.

M- Medium body, a bit thin for the style. Bourbon is present with the alcohol to go with it.

O- Not a bad BA beer, but the bourbon just overpowers this beer. Also, being a bit thin isn't helping it. Would be interested to try this in a year but not at the $17 price tag.

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Photo of angrybabboon
4.09/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review adapted from notes taken 1/21/12

Note: I'm pretty certain this is a 2009 bottle

Appearance: Very black, virtually no carbonation, just a tiny, tan ring - very minimal lacing, too

Smell: This is about as good as bourbon barrel aging gets - wood, vanilla, and mild bourbon - burnt malts, roasted malts - some sweetness, some molasses - smells nicely balanced

Taste: Bourbon, wood, burnt and roasted malts, sweetness, and some oxidation - I guess this bottle is a bit old - still good though - tons of vanilla, some dark fruits, molasses and perhaps some brown sugar

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, smooth, needs more carbonation (but I can forgive this because it's a little old)

Overall: A great use of bourbon barrels

I just checked some other reviews, and apparently this beer lacks carbonation even when fresh. Interesting... The bourbon adds a lot to the base stout. This is not always the case.

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Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.71/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2011 bomber (12%ABV) poured into a Duvel Tulip Style Glass. Liquid comes out a dark brown color, stays about the same color the whole way through, but not as easy to see through. There are some slightly lighter highlights on the edges and where the liquid gets a little thinner, nothing tooo major though. Light tan colored head with various sized bubbles, nothing too crazy in the lacing department, but it gets the job done. The head itself comes out pretty big, but goes away fairly quickly.

The smell is really good, and a huge step up from the look of the beer. There's plenty over roasted and charred grain here, which eventually produces a nice both but more bitter than sweet chocolate aromas and maybe some slight hints of coffee as well. Easy to say theres plenty of woody hints of oak and vanilla as well. It's really good, straight to the point.

Taste is a slightly bigger step up from the smell. It's decadent without going over the top. Like I said before plenty of roasted grain but there's hints of earthy, rich chocolate, and bourbon characteristics of a fresh oak and outdoor vanilla flavors everything meshes together to a delicious blend. There's even a feint earthy hoppy taste at the end, but it's a back feature to everything else. Like everything on the flavor of this beer.

Mouthfeel is perfect, bar none. A nice full bodied beer (really regardless of style, it just works). Very smooth with a medium carbonation level, small bubbles each individually getting the job done. So smooth the whole way through with a nice earthy finish at the end Really nothing not to like about this beer. No hard bite from the alcohol, yet I must admit this is the perfect beer for a cold December night; really a warmer upper. This one really gets the job done and goes down much quicker than expected. Had it both fresh and with some age and each time it's satisfied. Get this beer and drink it up or sit on it, it'll do the job either time. A very underrated beer in my opinion.

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Photo of alexgash
3.78/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle. 2011 edition. 12% abv. Served at 60 F.

Pours a dark maple syrup brown with brandy brown edges. Tight-bunched, thick, creamy, beige head. Great lacing. Definite bourbon on the nose, with notes of vanilla, oak, and booze. There's also some roasted malts and maybe some dark chocolate/cocoa.

Sweet, dark fruit malts up front. Hints of roasted barley as well. Licorice, vanilla, and oak barrel flavors follow, crescendoing into a big, boozy, bourbon-y climax. Sweet, sugary, fruity malts stay throughout, though. Some herbal, slightly astringent bitterness in the finish mixes with the bourbon, booze, and vanilla-coconut. Very warming. The alcohol is definitely not hidden in this one! Medium-full body seems to be lacking some creaminess that might help tame this holiday beast. Not bad.

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Photo of jondeelee
3.31/5  rDev -14%
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.

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Photo of brotherloco
4.04/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber. 2011 vintage. Served in a tulip. ABV is 12% in this year's offering.

Pours very dark brown, almost black. Half a finger of beige foam forms and mostly dissipates to a thin ring and island of bubbles. No real bubbles.

Aroma of a woody barrelhouse. Vanilla from the oak blends with chocolate from the malt. Hints of bourbon. Dark fruits. Roasted and hop notes from the non-aged version are much more in the background. Finishes with spicy booze.

Initial flavor seems sweeter than the non-aged version. Middle gets interesting as (mild) roasty and hoppy bitterness emerge along with a tang of whiskey. Lingers on the tongue through the finish. Alcohol flavor is part of the finish, but I think it's better buried than the non-aged version, even at 2% higher.

Medium-full body with low carbonation. Feels pretty thin and very slick and oily.

Overall I wish this had a fuller body and more carbonation, but smells and tastes great.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From 12/24/11 notes. 2011 vintage, tried side by side with a 2010 bottle of the normal Santa's Little Helper, served in my new tasters from Sara.

a - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with one inch of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Less head than the year old bottle of the base beer. No real lacing or retention.

s - Smells of whiskey, roasted malts, dark fruits, chocolate, and light coffee. nose has less chocolate than normal version, even after a year on it.

t - Tastes of whiskey, oak, roasted malts, bakers chocolate, sweet chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and light fruit. Pretty nice.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation. Some light alcohol warmth; I think some time on it would help.

o - Overall I thought this was a good beer, and is better than the normal base beer when fresh, but I preferred a 1 year aged bottle of the normal base beer to this. Little bit of alcohol warmth; I think a year in the cellar would help it a bit. Would have it again.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.12/5  rDev -19%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Re review

A: Poured black with a nice tan cap, lacing and a good amount of bubbles.

S: Old bourbon, some oak and booze.

T: Taste is chcoloate, bourbon, booze and twangy oak that did not sit well with me. I also detected liquorice and a hint at vanilla and a coffee bean thrown in for good measure

M: Mouthfeel, off, no creaminess, no real flavor and flat overall.

O: Would not try another bottle but would def like to try draft. Sorry Port.

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Photo of xnicknj
3.62/5  rDev -6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into snifter

Pours a viscous blackness with a soft tanned head. Retains for a bit with some wispy film and spotty lacing on the glass.

Oaky and boozy in the nose with vanilla and a hint of spice. Light touches of dark fruit with anise. Bourbon and chocolate.

Roasty and warm up front with a nice amount of dark chocolate. Touches of licorice and dark fruit. Dark malts with light touches of spice. Oak and bourbon with a splash of vanilla. Finishes sweet and warm.

Fuller medium body, decent carbonation, chewy and soft on the tongue. This definitely adds another dimension to the base beer, although it's not towards the top end of barrel aged stouts for me.

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Photo of Marty30
4.2/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opened up xmas eve split 2 ways. Served at 55 into Founders snifters.

A. Staple Imperial Stout look, Dark as night body,small mocha head. Very little lacing.

S. Big bourbon notes followed by strong oak,with some vanilla and chocolate in the backend.

T. Follows the smell exactly! I read alot of people don't like this beer but I think it's pretty good! Maybe because its at least a year old,so it's had some time to mellow? I still get some alchohol burn when it goes down.

M. Medium feel for the style,body is not chewy as you would expect. Good carbonation.

Overall I was suprised by this,as I read it was not very good. Certainly not the best BA stout but not bad at all. I would get another bottle or 2.

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Photo of homebrew311
3.61/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

I feel like I have now experienced the true port/lost abbey experience, this is the first one I've had that is flat...

A: pours dark brown with caramel highlights, zero head even after stiff pour, some clarity

S: nose is predominantly oak and vanilla, some char quality in there, stout base takes a back seat

T: vanilla and bourbon again dominate, some ashy character in there along with light notes of leather and tobacco, a bit of of boozieness on the finish

Mf: low carbonation is an understatement, medium body

O: good flavors here, the lack of carbonation takes away from the quality a bIt, for the premium price tag, I would expect carbonation.

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Photo of chicano4craft
2.97/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into snifter. Color is a dark and cloudy brown. Really unusual. Almost no head and even less lacing. A little worried after the appearance.

Big alcohol in the nose. Also sweet with caramel, toffee, and a little vanilla. So far this seems like an Old Ale and not a Imperial Stout.

Taste is alcohol with a sweetness that finishes sort of dry. Vanilla rounds everything. This beer has the most barrel influence of any beer I can remember. The stout has lost all it's character. Mouthfeel is decent.

Overall this is a confusing beer. If I just consider the taste it's pretty solid. But it doesn't compare to other barrel aged Imperial stouts. Santa's Little Helper is one of my favorite Imperial Stout's but this lacks any of it's character. I'll age a bottle or two but really don't know what to expect. I guess that's the fun in aging some beers.

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

Bottle split with durwoodx. Thanks Darrell!

Served side by side with Santa's Little Helper.

A: Dark brown with very little carbonation. Very little head and no lacing.

S: Bourbon, alcohol, spices.

T: Decent tasting beer, with prominent bourbon and chocolate notes.

M: Really smooth feel with relatively low carbonation. There's a bit of an alcohol burn in the finish.

D: Good for sharing several ways. A lesser version of Angel's Share.

Overall, I was expecting a bit more, but I am glad I got to try it.

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