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

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

Brewed by:
Port Brewing
California, United States

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

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Reviews: 196 | Ratings: 631
Photo of Boccu
4.59/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours black nice brown head that fades quickly. Light lacing. Aroma of dark chocolate, molasses and plums. Taste dark passion fruits, molasses, brown sugar,vanilla and raisins. Nice light bourbon finish. Very tasty bourbon stout.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.26/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass.

Light to reddish mahogany brown body color off the pour, with virtually no head creation at all. Settles to a fine tan collar though, and leaves a pretty solid faint whispy top.

Real nice aroma. Fruity and spicy with dark chocolate notes and hints of spicy cherries. Slightly hints herbal as well with some nice milky chocolate tones, even minty. Definitely has a Christmas almost minty candy cane quality to it. Very very nice.

Pleasant first sip. Light bodied for barrel aging, but the barrel is imparting flavors and has a good solid roasty malt backbone. Minty mid palate and really nicely accented by hop and herbal mint like character. Roasty and chocolate milk hit the mid palate, and there's an almost mint and brandy warmth going on here.

Real nice beer for the December holiday season, fits the characters well and very memorable.

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Photo of KTCamm
4.1/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12/18...pours dark black, flecks of brown, some brownish foam rings but none on top. Strong bourbon based nose, more powerful than the combo from the stout. Milky stout flavor overwhelmed by a whisky snap. Packs a punch. Bourbon throughout. Really well blended. Solid.

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Photo of Brolo75
4.18/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

375 ml bottle poured into a snifter

A: Pours pitch black with a soapy tan colored film, no head retention, slight lacing, low carbonation, looks like motor oil.

A: Very hot, bourbon, toasted coconut, vanilla, oak, dark fruits, dark chocolate, alcohol comes through pretty strong.

T: Big bourbon barrel notes up front, oak, vanilla, aroma is much better than the taste, not a lot of complexity or depth to the taste, very hot, overwhelmingly hot and straightforward. Some chocolate notes come through as the beer warms.

M: Medium bodied with a thick oil like mouthfeel, semi-dry finish.

O: Great look and aroma, however, the taste doesn't live up, still very good but it lacks depth and complexity due to the alcohol coming through very strong on the taste. Some time in the cellar might help to balance the beer out, still very good and enjoyable, will cellar a bottle and check it in a year.

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Photo of billshmeinke
3.03/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.25

Corked and caged 350ml bottle, poured into a wine glass.

Look: Impenetrable blackness. Quarter inch of khaki head. Dies down to a ring of foam with little lace.

Smell: Soy sauce, butterscotch, alcohol, and bourbon. Pretty astringent smelling. Booze is super prevalent. There's maybe some dark chocolate there too.

Taste: Tastes a LOT better than it smells. Chocolate-y, buttery, vanilla, oak, char, some estery dark fruits, and bitterness round things out. Honestly I was a little scared when I smelled it. The soy sauce and alcohol where so harsh and prevalent, but not nearly so much on the palate. There's still a lot of butterscotch and salinity though. Still not that great.

Mouthfeel: Huge, sticky, light carbonation. Heat kicks you in the back of the throat.

Overall: It's alright, not worth the price. Lost Abbey/ Port are very hit or miss when it comes to barrel aged stouts.

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Photo of ccg
4.16/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Legs look a little thin and gritty, the barrel-aging has tamed the overly carbonated base beer. This barreled version pours with minimal head. There is only a thin ring of light-tan-colored bubbles around the edge to show the carbonation here.
The smell is huge bourbon, oak, vanilla, and some cocoa. It smells like a huge beer. Having just tasted the base beer immediately before this, it makes sense. The base has a mild, subtle smell, and in this version of it, the barrel aging has completely taken over. I love that bourbon/oak/vanilla smell, but the base beer is lost in the mix.
The taste is almost identical to the smell. Huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla. It's delicious, but at the same time, it's almost more like drinking an oaky bourbon/cocoa cocktail than a stout.
It has a slick, tongue-coating sort of feel to it. Oily. A little bit light for a BA stout.
Overall: If you're a fan of the style, it's delicious. It's boozy and very much bourbon-forward. Tons of oak and chocolate and vanilla as well. Not a lot of base-stout complexity made it past the barrel, though. The roasted grains and hops are in the mix, but the barrel is the star of this show.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.24/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Fremont small snifter. Pours pitch black, opaque in the glass with a half finger light brown head with great retention and lacing. Aroma of dark toasted malt and bourbon with light hints of coffee and chocolate; slightly boozy. Flavor is semi-sweet dark toasted malt with light char, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon. Finishes with nice chocolatey malt and bourbon with a light oak note. Great creamy body with a medium to heavy mouth feel. A very nicely made bourbon aged imperial stout. The base stout is great and is one of my favorite stouts, and the bourbon adds its usual magic. There is a bit more booziness to this, almost as if actual bourbon were added to it, but overall its very well balanced and full flavored. Fantastic mouth feel. Top notch barrel aged stout. This was bottle from the basement fridge and I don't remember when I bought it; it may have a few years on it. If so, it has aged superbly. Note to self: buy more.

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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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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
3.85 out of 5 based on 631 ratings.
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