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
Very Good
643 Ratings
Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel AgedSanta's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged

Brewed by:
Port Brewing
California, United States

Style: American 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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Ratings: 643 |  Reviews: 201
Photo of mmcnaughton
1/5  rDev -74.8%

Photo of brdc
1.44/5  rDev -63.7%
look: 1 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Large capped bottle received directly from the brewery through their Sinners membership.
Poured into a snifter.

This is very very hard to describe. Although you can find a few notes here and there that suggest something good took place here at individual parts in the brewing process, the overall result is a horrible mess that ended in a drainpour, as the two people present could not finish a first glass.
The disappointment starts opening, as it has as much pop as a whisky bottle. Going into the glass full speed, not a single bubble. Nothing.
Nearly pitch black, but it look quite ugly as there is no head, nu bubbles, and obviously no lacing. Diet coke looks better.
Aroma is boozy and malty, but also not much going on. I do not know if this is a result of my disappointment, or the lack of carbonation impairing the aroma form going up.
Mouthfeel is just absolutely horrible as well; I understand the argument for low carbonation, but here we have ZERO.
The taste suffers incredibly from that. Boozy and sweetish, with no zip to it.
I would not drink this again if it was free. Another spectacular disappointment from Lost Abbey/Port Brewing.

 1,156 characters

Photo of Arbitrator
1.67/5  rDev -57.9%
look: 1.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Chilled bottle into a glass. Generously shared by largadeer for Koopa's Birthday Blend, but we sampled it on its own ahead of time.

A: Pours a deep chestnut body -- it appears black at first, but you can see it lightens to brown in small quantities. No head, carbonation, or lacing. No legs. Basically a flat imperial stout. I don't expect a huge head on this style, but I expect some bubbles just to be "average" in this category. Sub-meh.

S: Bourbon-barrel aged Tootsie roll. Got lots and lots of bourbon and chocolate up front, some tannins and vanilla. Nothing else. Surprisingly pungent for a flat beer, but very one-dimensional just the same. Too much barrel, in my opinion.

T: Very promising. Again, lots of -bal aged Tootsie with caramel and vanilla, but as it warms, it takes on molasses and a hint of dark fruit character (dates, mostly) -- I could see it being really complex if it reduced the strong barrel character. Roasted malt makes an appearance near the end taste. Strongly tannic finish with a cheap, hot boozy burn that I overlooked at first, but which started to get tiresome toward the end of even my small sample pour.

M: Completely flat, and this really hurt the taste -- we actually force-carbonated a bottle and I sampled the flat-original side-by-side with the carbonated version. It was like night and day. The carbonation suppressed the booziness a bit (not enough for my tastes, but it is an improvement just the same). Closer to full-bodied than medium.

D: I honestly wouldn't drink this again. I know people are really excited about barrel-aged beers, and I am part of that crowd. But the popularity of bourbon-barrel RISes has made it apparent which ones are poorly done and which ones are excellent. If I made a list of all the BBRISes I have ever tried, this would rank near the bottom (if not dead last). As such, it really merits its score.

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Photo of thebouch01
2/5  rDev -49.6%

Photo of geoffsm12
2/5  rDev -49.6%

Photo of CheapBeerBuzz
2/5  rDev -49.6%

Photo of jdklks
2.22/5  rDev -44.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

though this beer is, or course, not carbonated, its appearance deserves at least some attention. While it lacks anything remotely resembling a head, its a very elegant looking deep black body with cherry hues and leaves a thin transparent film on the sides of the glass. if it was carbonated, it would have a 5 for appearance. the smell is of bourbon, vanilla, sweet dark fruits (especially cherries). very pleasant.

Imperial stouts need not be all that carbonated, but NO carbonation whatsoever cannot possibly do any beer justice, and this is no exception. the alcohol stands out more so than anything else, which clearly points to the lack of carbonation not being able to release much of the other flavors. there is a slight sweetness up front, but just alchol through the middle and finish, and this is topped off with an unpleasant roasted bitterness (unpleasant in its obscurity). a hint of chocolate noticeable on the palate deep into the after-taste saves the flavor from receiving the fateful "1". this is a drain pour less than a quarter of the way through.

mouthfeel is extraordinarily light and obviously uncarbonated. drinkability=4 sips, drain pour.

great job again port/lost abbey. you've managed to bottle yet ANOTHER beer with great potential and no carbonation.

 1,283 characters

Photo of Overlord
2.33/5  rDev -41.3%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Early in my reviewing career I vowed to give it to everyone straight. Well, here we go ...

Lost Abbey has been hit or miss with carbonation issues this year. D.D. Gooze seems perfect, Red Poppy and Cuvee de Tomme were appropriate for their respective styles, and the Bourbon Barrel Angel's Share release, while fairly flat, was actually excellent. The Brandy Barrel Angel's Share, on the other hand, not only was utterly flat, but it just didn't taste good (and not at all like my notes for prior releases indicated). Older V. was also flat and bad.

Now, I wasn't a huge of the base beer for this brew. I gave Santa's Little Helper a 3.65, which is one of the lowest scores for this style I'd ever given. I was wondering how a beer I found underwhelming would fare after being bourbon barrel aged. The answer: meh.

Pours black with brown edging. Zero pop when the cap came off. Zero. I'd put these at room temperature for a few months. Pours with no carbonation. Just the faintest bit of bubbling that died down immediately. Sloshing and aggressive pouring did not remedy the situation. Son of a b****.

Smells pretty good, actually. If you like bourbon. I'd say the aroma is the best thing about this beer. Bourbon, with a whiff of chocolate and coffee. Still, I can tell this is going to be a bourbon bomb.

The flavor might have been enhanced with. any. amount. of. carbonation. There's luscious bourbon swirling around with some dark chocolate, a bit of sweet ... brown sugar?/molasses/cocoa? And more bourbon. And yet more bourbon. The base beer just wasn't strong enough to hold up to the barrel aging that it was subjected to. Maybe when the heat dies down, but right now, it's too hot. There's a bit of espresso bitterness in there that as you make your way through the bottle seems more prominent. I'd say you need at least 12 oz. in your gullet before you get used to the bourbon and can pick out other nuances.

Mouthfeel is unacceptably thin and flat. If it's going to have no carbonation, it needs to be viscous and creamy.

So what's the upshot? Bourbon barrel fans will be loving it, those who were looking for a more nuanced approached to barrel aging will probably be left disappointed.

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Photo of waltonc
2.41/5  rDev -39.3%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

I've been looking forward to trying this beer since last year when I first heard Port put this into the barrels. But it came out flat.

Dark brown color, no head.

I wonder if Port intended the beer to be uncarbonated? If so, I have to reconsider whether I want to be a member of the Sinners Club next year, because I just don't share the same view that uncarbonated beer is good. If it was unintentional, I wonder why Port released it. Based on other reviewers' statements that the tap version has carbonation, it sounds like Port once again screwed up.

As a result of the absence of carbonation, the mouthfeel is medium bodied, and unpleasant, and with that high ABV, this just isn't drinkable. Between two people, we didn't even get through half the bottle.

Perhaps some will find the overall score I'm giving this beer harsh. But a 3.0 is average, and 2.0 = not impressed. I think it's fair to say this is not impressive. And disappointing that Lost Abbey has made it clear at this point that they do not intend to learn from past mistakes (a la releasing the brandy angels share before it had a chance to carbonate). I thought the new bottling line was supposed to solve these problems.

10/22/09 UPDATE: Still flat as water. I blended it with a highly carbonated porter to give it some carbonation.

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Photo of DrBier
2.5/5  rDev -37%

Photo of jophish17
2.5/5  rDev -37%

Photo of sidetracked
2.5/5  rDev -37%

Photo of amphion1065
2.5/5  rDev -37%
look: 1.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

Bomber into a Duvel tulip. Label says 12.0% ABV. Reviewed from notes.

Predominately black, tough there is some light ruby around the edges. Barely a wisp of a head: what is there is dark brown with very loose bubbles. Virtually nonexistent bubbles.

The smell is pleasing, if straightforward. A lot of oak, this is a very woody aroma. Some hints of vanilla, and an unmistakable smell of coconut. Dark fruits and coffee are present as well, but the barrel is the star.

Holy -bals, this is a very barrel-forward beer. Just tons of bourbon in the taste, with a hot alcoholic burn throughout. There's also an oppressive wood character - drinking this is almost like biting into a piece of bark. Smoky, charred malts impart an acrid taste. There are some cherries, too, but they don't really help much.

Admittedly, the mouthfeel is really nice. Thick with low to medium carbonation. This is the one area in which the beer excels.

This was tough to put down, but at least it was a bargain. By that, I mean I paid nearly $20 for this bomber and now feel very, very stupid.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
2.6/5  rDev -34.5%
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.

 1,091 characters

Photo of IKR
2.62/5  rDev -34%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Serving:Bottle into a tulip glass

A: Black with a hint of head that instantly vanished. Old Viscosity is a regular go to beer of mine which I've never had carbonation issues with. This one validates other BA's comments regarding some of Los Abbeys/Port Brewing carbonation issue.

S: Dominant bourbon aroma with a slight vanilla aroma with a tiny bit of roasted malt smell.

T: Dominant bourbon taste. Some dark fruits present with some oak elements and slight roast taste following. The lack of carbonation to my palate results in an overly sweet bourbon dominated beer. Tastes like my early underattenuated home brew efforts which again may be due to the complete absence of carbonation.

M: Medium body with no carbonation does not work for me.

D: I'm not sure if the abundant bourbon flavor and sweetness are the result of the lack of carbonation but it's not for me.

Old Viscosity is a standby beer for me and I like several of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey's offerings so I am not a Lost Abbey basher but the fact I could have gotten two Old Viscosity (which were right next to this one)for the price of this one is kicking me in the butt every time I think about it.

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Photo of corby112
2.68/5  rDev -32.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Got this bottle via trade from Javib458. Thanks man.

Pours pitch black with dark burgundy hues and slight chocolate brown edges. Completely flat without even a bubble of carbonation.

Bourbon dominates the aroma with some nice oak notes vanilla, port, dark fruit, chocolate malt. These other characteristics provide a nice complement to the bourbon.

Very thin with absolutely no carbonation. Not viscous at all and very hot from the huge bourbon presence. Very sweet and syrupy yet is still watered down.

Lots of hot bourbon flavor with nice oak notes, some vanilla, chocolate, toffee and alcohol heat. Everything is pretty much ruined, however, by the lack of carbonation. This is a complete letdown since I really love the base beer. I was really looking forward to this beer but was severely disappointed. Drain pour! Avoid at all costs until Port/ Lost Abbey figures out their carbonation problems.

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Photo of MA08
2.75/5  rDev -30.7%

Photo of atpca
2.75/5  rDev -30.7%

Photo of jwolfie70
2.76/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

You would think this brewery would figure out carbonation issues after the amount of flak it has taken. Popped the bottle to utter silence, which sent off alarm bells. Even with a vigorous pour was unable to get even a hint of carbonation. The beer poured a deep black. It smelled of bourbon, and molasses. Taste was not as off putting as the last batch of brandy barrel angel's share with the lack of carbonation, but the lack of carbonation really made the beer feel watery in the mouth (which is not good from a barrel aged stout). The beer was a little hot, and could use a little age (but I usually like that). I get the sense that this could be a decent beer if it had some carbonation.

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Photo of vacax
2.83/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Bomber from Christmas in July, where this was excellent on tap.

Pours black, slightly dark brown along the rim of the glass... where a ring of foam should currently be. No sound when the cap was popped and after pouring there is a complete absence of head. Some even legs show its potency.

Nose of marzipan, toffee, tobacco and an quite invitingly integrated classy bourbon. Best part of the beer, easily. Tastes of copious dark sugars, hot bourbon, somewhat herbal on the midpalate. Some roast in the finish, but the sweetness covers up most of it. Obviously this is flat and suffers for it, it is resultantly overly sweet which covers up the roastiness, and the lack of bubbles makes it hot and herbal on the midpalate. Finish is slightly earthy and herbal. Reminds me of pancakes... flat, syrupy sweet, and light.

This is drinkable, though something that should probably be avoided. I do not review bad bottles in general, but this is not a bad bottle--all the bottles are like this and no reports of Lost Abbey treating it as a problem.

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Photo of chicano4craft
2.97/5  rDev -25.2%
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.

 854 characters

Photo of JoeMayo
2.99/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

A- Pours thick, black and oily with absolutely no head, even after a very aggressive pour.

S- The smell is quite complex. Very rich aromas of cocoa, vanilla, and toffee with hints of rich, dark malt, malted milk balls, caramel, oak, and a touch of delicious bourbon-y goodness.

T- The taste isn't quite as pronounced as the smell. Many of the same characteristics come through, but are masked by a strong alcohol presence. I was hoping that any alcohol would have faded after almost 6 months, but no such luck.

M- This is truly the downfall of this beer. The mouthfeel is just wrong, wrong, wrong for this style. A little on the thin side, but oily thin, not watery thin. Zero carbonation. Not even a little tickle of the tongue. Completely flat and hot with alcohol.

D- I split the bottle three ways and found it difficult to finish my ~7 oz. pour. I might have had better luck if I lined up shotglasses for this one.

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Photo of Bitterbill
2.99/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A small hiss when I popped the cap, it pours a pitch black with no head of foam and the tiniest bit of lacing.

The smell is big bourbon, some dark fruitiness, and maybe a touch of chocolate? The bourbon pretty much overpowers everything else.

The taste is, again, big huge bourbon, vanilla, some dark fruits that give some slight tartness, cocoa, toffee, and lots of warming. Overall, I'd have preferred the bourbon was toned down big time but even then, despite the nice flavours I mention, they do not come together very well at all.

A solid medium mouthfeel with very little, ok, zero carbonation but I think this works by the skin of its teeth.

Drinkability? It tastes and feels stronger than what the abv says and the flavours do not come together very well. A very disappointing beer.

 794 characters

Photo of Photekut
3/5  rDev -24.4%

Photo of jmarsh123
3/5  rDev -24.4%

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Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
Beer rating: 3.97 out of 5 with 643 ratings