Welcome to BeerAdvocate!

Looking to talk, rate or trade beer? Join today by creating your free account.

Dismiss Notice
Curious about recent updates to the site and app? Check the Announcements forum for updates.
Dismiss Notice
Love Belgian Beer?

Join us Sep 17 in Portland, Maine for Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, featuring hundreds of authentic Belgian beers and Belgian-inspired offerings.

Tickets + more: beeradvocate.com/belgian

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

very good
190 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 190 | Ratings: 610
Photo of Joshpu
4.25/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the bottle to a snifter. 2013 release.

A: Poured black with a small tan head.

S: Huge barrel characteristics. Oak and bourbon.

T: More big barrel characteristics. Oak and bourbon. Dark chocolate and coffee. Maybe some dark fruit, cherry. Slight butterscotch sweetness as it warms.

M: Medium to full bodied. Nice and creamy smooth. Goes down nice.

Overall a great stout. I normally don't rate this high when compared to the average, but it just kept getting better as it warmed.

 494 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
3.47/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

In review is a 2011 vintage.

A - Pitch black with a thin toffee colored lacing ring.

S - Subtle blended dark chocolate, oak, bourbon, toffee, traces of dark fruit, and light char.

T - The bourbon is quite dominant with everything else falling in after the booziness: oak, some char, dark fruit, and chocolate molasses...with more bourbon.

M - Thick, full bodied, slick, sticky, and significant alcohol warming on the way down.

O - Not sure I'd let another bottle of this sit so long, the flavors faded leaving a more significant bourbon and oak presence. Want to try a '12 or '13 for comparison. I love bourbon but the balance is way out of whack with too much bourbon and oak.

 682 characters

Photo of KFBR392
4.17/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Big vibrant head of a dark maroon, brownish color. Some of the most active carbonation on a BA stout I have ever seen. Poured with a thick body of blackness and sits in the glass as such.

Smell: Heavy roasted malt and a big boozy bourbon presence hit first. Some earthy grassy hop presence can also be picked up. Big body of vanilla, toffee, medium dark chocolate, caramel, brandy, and oak bring a ton of character to this brew. For me this is what a big BA stout should smell like.

Taste: The front is a chalky malt, smooth vanilla, and medium to heavy bourbon barrel character. Oak and roasted malt continue through toward the body of the brew. Barrel character lightens up a bit toward the back end but is still present. Sweet tones of molasses and caramel toward the front end. The finish is dry with some hop character, roasted malt, and bourbon.

Mouthfeel: Big heavy beer but does not completely suffocate the palate. Some of the bubbly carbonation comes through but rounds out well. Sweet and bold characteristics play along together well.

Overall: A very good brew. I loved the complex aroma but thought the taste came up just a bit short of amazing. Barrel character comes through very well and even drinking this relatively young it went down very well.

 1,281 characters

Photo of cvm4
3.48/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2013 Vintage

A - Pours pitch black, doesn't seem like a thick beer, minimal espresso head that's under half a finger.

S - Dark chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar and some boozy notes. Not a robust smell at all.

T - A good amount of bourbon, oak, vanilla and dark chocolate. It pretty much follows the nose for me. Not hugely complex.

M - Thin bodied and low carbonation.

O - Really disappointing to me. It just fell below what I was expecting in each category.

 465 characters

Photo of Eisen
3.65/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured a dark black with a cafe colored head that maintained itself with some sticky lacing. Smells mostly of chocolate and booze spice. Tastes of chocolate, coffee, bourbon/oak/booze, toasted malt. Alcohol is very present throughout. Drinkability is fairly good. A little watery in the mouth, which doesn't quite balance with the strength of the beverage. A little hop presence, which does not balance as good as it could. Overall, a great beverage despite the fact that most places ask more than it is worth.

 510 characters

Photo of pfcorsar
3.63/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage poured in snifter.
Pours almost black, with light edges when held up to the light. Light bubbly tan head.

Gives off an aroma of chocolate, bourbon and a fair amount of booziness.

Intense bourbon flavor at the front, faint hits of chocolate with some sweetness, and finishes with some boozy heat.

Wonderful mouthfeel, slick and oily. Way better than it looked in the pour.

Pretty good stout. I’m curious as to what it wold have tasted like without being aged in the bourbon barrels, as it seems as though the bourbon overpowers a lot of the other flavors. Still quite delicious though.

 608 characters

Photo of BastardKing24
4.87/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I have had this about 5 times over the years. Once it was flat, other times thin. This year very nice.

Pours a jet black with a finger of foam that dissipates to a thin layer with aggressive lacing. tan head with nice bubbles.

Smell is immediately bourbon and chocolate, molasses, roasted malt, coffee, toffee, raisin, plum, chewy leather, and wood.

Taste is the same as the smell with a big smack of bourbon soaked dark fruit and oak, some nuttiness, roasty malt, slight lingering bitterness from oak and dark malt, along with this very nice cookie dough flavor i have come to love from certain barrel aged imperial stouts. Very impressive by me as not a lot of these meet my standards and this is my favorite beer style.

Mouthfeel is a little light this year but still viscous enough to pack a wallop of a taste. Lingers on the palate for about 30 seconds. Good carb this year (its had issues with that) and i feel its hard to get it any better.

Over all i feel this beer is extremely underrated and it is quite a warmer to sip by a fire or share with friends. Highly recommended to anyone able to find it. Cheers!

 1,121 characters

Photo of KYGunner
4.28/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black and viscous this poured with a thin trace of brown foam.

All that one expects in a barrel aged stout with vanilla, chocolate, and coconut.

This actually excels in taste as it has far more complexity than the aroma could muster. I feared that the bourbon would be lost but it hits right at center palate. The bourbon is tangy and woody and then is washed away in a thick creamy chocolate and caramel wave. Vanilla then holds out at the end.

The feel is smooth slightly less viscous than expected.

This goes in the barrel as a less appealing stout than most but it takes on the barrel characteristics extremely well and serves as a proud addition to the style.

 668 characters

Photo of BucannonXC5
4.11/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Glass: Tulip
From: KnB Wine Cellars in Del Cerro (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $6.00 (Wednesday deal)
Purchased: Aug. 7, 2013
Consumed: Aug. 7, 2013
Misc.: N/A

Poured a dark brown, almost pitch black color with 1-to-2 fingers of tan head. Light lacing on the sides, minimal retention.

Smelled bourbon, vanilla, dark chocolate, dark blackberry, dark cherry, dark fruits and slight Dr. Pepper. Smelled smooth.

Tasted bourbon, vanilla, dark chocolate, dark fruits and so smooth.

Medium body. Creamy texture. Average carbonation. Long, smooth, warming finish.

Very, very good. So glad I got to try it for so cheap. I did drop my ratings a little bit from what I originally had because I shouldn’t have been rating after the three strong beers I had before this. This seems about right.

 789 characters

Photo of SHODriver
3.75/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2011 bottle poured into a snifter

A: poured black with a small tan head that was quick to fade to a collar around the edge of the glass
S: smells of alcohol and the bourbon barrel, vanilla, caramel and chocolate
T: tastes of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, alcohol, oak, slight roast malt and a bit of coffee. swallow is a big smack of alcohol burn on the back of the throat with a huge bourbon hit on the palate along with some roast malt and chocolate notes toward the end.
M: feels slightly thinner than an imperial stout should be and the carbonation is soft and barely there. drying finish
O: lots of alcohol and bourbon flavor overshadows the beer instead of playing a supporting role. Could have been better. I had this on tap at the brewery the summer of 2011 and it was quite boozy and alcoholic. I was hoping some time would do it well. the booze has tamed itself a bit but the other flavors in the beer struggle to come forward.

 937 characters

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.47/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 Vintage, straight from the brewery poured in to tulip.

A - Poured dark brown and settled black. A thin layer of light brown head formed and quickly disappeared.

S - A big oak aroma up front with char, bourbon, chocolate and some noticeable alcohol.

T - Sweet bourbon and oak dominate. Char, chocolate and a big warming alcohol presence. The oak dominates.

M - Medium body. Very light carbonation, which is too low and detracts from the beer. The body detracts from the beer.

 484 characters

4.44/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1pt 6floz. Bottle. Oversized wine glass. Pours very dark brown in color. Dark beige froth builds close but thin & lasting crown. An aroma festival to the nose: prune & bigarreau cherry aromas, hints of chocolate, notes of marmalade, cane sugar & molasses, ginger & toasted malts. Smelling evokes rhum fragrances. Flavors are complex as expected from the aromas are involved by gentle warming sensation. Full body. Soft carbonation. Moderate oily texture. Subtle bitterness in the middle is covered by rhum & anise hues. Notes of chocolate & dried nuts on the aftertaste. Celebrate Xmas no matter what month is!!!

 612 characters

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

2012 bottling split into snifters with my brother.

A: Very dark pour yields an inky-black beverage in the glass; opaque, with a large but quickly receding darker khaki head.

S: Pretty substantial bourbon, vanilla and a good kick of oak. Hints of spice even? Roasted malt and dark chocolate underneath that, with pretty nice layers of caramel and darker sugary sweetness. A bit of booze here but pretty minimal.

T: Pretty close to the nose: darker caramel and toasted oak & some nuttiness...dare I suggest coconut? Its faint. Pretty moderate vanilla and bourbon. Roasted malt and dark chocolate/cocoa lays a nice foundation. There is a bit of spice here too, not sure if thats from the barrels or the base beer? This says oak barrels, and I don't remember spices from the base beer. There is a light, burning alcohol here but more than manageable in an espresso-like finish.

MF: Medium-to-full mouthfeel here, dry and bitter finish. Alcohol is a bit drying.

O: Surprised this doesn't score higher, I couldn't find much wrong with my bottle. This was an enjoyable bba stout with plenty of spirit notes and a good base beer.

 1,126 characters

Photo of Sarlacc83
3.2/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle, 2010 vintage. Consumed 1-26-13, reviewed from notes.

A: Bottle opens with a soft plip. Obsidian sludge, devoid of any head. Very sticky legs.

N: Heavy bourbon, prune and some soy to start. Lots of vanill and some raisins. Blackberry brandy and coffee overtones. 2 yeras has not decreased the alcohol. Chocolate and fudge, of course. Mint.

T: Blended bourbon and chocolate. Vanilla is the most dominant flavor with some tannins from the oak. Stale coffee grounds and prunes. Brandy, more so than bourbon after a few sips. Raisins and licorice. Honey.

M: Stick, viscous, very, very hot and practically flat.

O: Despite the low rating, I did enjoy this, but there are a lot of fatal flaws in a very competitive field. Age hasn't seemed to help this much, surprisingly. I will say that's it's apt they put Santa Claus on this, because there's a lot of raisin/prune which I'm sure is good for regularity.

 920 characters

Photo of dirtylou
3.64/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

22oz bottle, 2011 vintage

Served in an oversized snifter - muddy garnet body, bubbly head - low carbonation. Overwhelming aromas of bourbon and vanilla, caramel and chocolate. And then, unfortunately, you take a sip. Absolutely fierce - burnt rubber, charred malt, torched oak, abrasive bourbon, caramel and chocolate. Heavily bitter - gonna be a tough one to choke down

 371 characters

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

Appearance: pours a dark brown color with a 1/2" tan colored head.

Smell: vanilla, oak, and a bit of bourbon are easily picked up by the nose.

Taste: roasted malt, oak, bourbon, vanilla, prunes, mild alcohol, and a moderate bitterness.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Lightly crisp at the start, smoother at the finish. Long lasting aftertaste.

Overall: a very enjoyable but slow sipping beer. Great beer to sip in front of a fire place.

 438 characters

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

Originally had a flat bottle of the 2009 and scored it a 1.65 because it was a flat bourbon bomb. This bottle came over the pond from Vanlingleipa. Cheers for the brews man!

From a bomber into a snifter
Vintage: 2012
Note: Drunk right after the base beer.

APPEARANCE: Pours out thin and transparent, just like the base beer, yielding a one finger, medium looking, tan head with decent retention. Head fades to a thin wisp and sticks to the sides of the glass. Black, relatively clear body with medium carbonation evident. A slight wisp remains but leaves no lacing down the glass. Thin for the style, but the head is alright.

SMELL: Bolder nose of oak, vanilla and caramel for sure. Light roasted notes with milk chocolate as well, but mostly lots of oak, vanilla and some surprisingly restrained bourbon from the bourbon barrel.

TASTE: Oak and caramel/toffee sweetness up front, then licorice, roasted and slightly burnt malts and bourbon barrel at the swallow. Aftertaste is bold with bourbon, more oak and wood from the barrels, as well as dark chocolate and burnt malt notes from the base beer. Surprisingly well balanced and the base beer pushes through the bourbon barrel aging. Some alcohol lingers on the palate after the swallow. A well balanced brew and more interesting than the base beer alone.

PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. Creamy on the palate but not quite as weighty as the base beer, goes down fine with a bit of a burn after the swallow and finishes rather sticky. Needs a touch more weight and could be smoother for the style.

OVERALL: This is a solid barrel aged beer. The bourbon barrel adds a layer of complexity that complements the base beer, making this a more complex brew than the regular Santa's. This was way, way more balanced than the '09, and the carbonation helped make it far more enjoyable as well. Still not something I'd jump through hoops for, but certainly something I'd gladly drink again. Thanks again Vanlingleipa!

 1,991 characters

Photo of chugalug06
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

2011 into an Avery tulip

Very little white creamy head. No lacing. Thin (pitch) black brew.

Tons of oak-y vanilla. Smooth and milky. Great aroma.

Very smooth up front with nice smooth oakeyness. Milky, light, thin. As flavor fades horrible rubber bitterness shows up and becomes nearly undrinkable. I love the flavors, but can't stand the mouthfeel. High rubbing alcohol flavors.

By far nowhere near the best Imperial Stout on the market.. This brew doesn't even hit top 20, IMO. Port needs to bring this brew back to the drawing board. It's very uneven and unbalanced. Great aroma and flavors, but horrid appearance and aftertaste... Can't recommend @ $17/bottle

 667 characters

Photo of PeterIngemi
4.22/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz bottle 2011 vintage... Poured into a duvel glass

A: pours a very very dark cola brown, little to no head, no lacing either...

S: the aroma really starts to step this brew up, nice dark chocolate notes laced with great notes of toasted oak and burbon. The burbon gives great vanilla notes and coconut... Great aroma.

T: taste doesn't dissapoint either, overall id say the taste reminds me of a nutty dark chocolate burbon brownie.... Absolutely delicious. Very well rounded. The chocolate and the oak blend together so nicley with a rich of roasty malt flavor on the end, for a brief hint of coffee... Excellent.

M: medium body, with very little carbonation, I wish the brew had a bit more heft and a nice bit of creamy carbonation. A touch dry on the finish.

O: this is a great burbon barrel beer, incredible barrel flavor and balance, a must try for any fan if this style.

 898 characters

Photo of Jeb37
4.3/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I opened this bottle today which was a Stocking stuffer from my girlfriend last Christmas (2011). Poured into a 20oz pint glass

Beer pours a deep super dark brown that entices you. Very little carbonation, head disappears quickly and leaves slight amount of lacing on the glass.
This beer smells heavy with coffee, chocolate, and caramel.
Really tastes of chocolate and coffee, really surprisingly smooth and balanced for a beer that says its ABV is 12%, it doesn't have that warming alcohol sweetness.
This beer is very light for such a high ABV, very easy to drink.
I was very surprised that a Stout this high in ABV would be so delicious and well balanced. This was a beer I thought would be heavy on the alcohol warmth and sweetness seeing as it was aged in oak. I wonder how holding it for a year may have changed the balance of flavors and mouthfeel. I will definitely get 2 of them this year, one to have now, and one to hold till next year. I recommend this beer as a great stocking stuffer or just to enjoy with family of friends.

 1,081 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this from ChrisInIdaho a few weeks back in an IP trade... Thanks Buddy!! Shared tonight with Buckeyeboy... Pours impenetrable black... short lasting dark brown head...

Nose shows plenty of bourbon and fudgy coffee spiked brownie batter... never sweet smelling... just plenty of big aromas.

Flavor pretty much mirrors the nose... long and lingering on the palate.

Body is thicker than medium... carbonation is about right.

Fairly good... $17 good? Nope... but very tasty nonetheless.

All 4's.

 500 characters

Photo of metter98
4.17/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

 664 characters

Photo of dbrauneis
3.92/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage

A: Pours an opaque jet black in color with light hints of dark brown at the edges of the glass when held up to the light. The beer has a quarter finger tall mocha head that reduces to a very thin ring at the edges of the glass. Minimal amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Huge aromas of bourbon upfront with this beer - notes of bourbon sweetness, oak, and vanilla. That is followed by coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark fruit, and light notes of alcohol.

T: The flavors of this beer really follow the smell, there is a nice roasted malt flavor with some coffee notes and dark chocolate, molasses, and dark fruit sweetness. There is a significant amount of bourbon flavors including the oak, vanilla, and some light alcohol.

M: Just shy of full bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Light to moderate amounts of alcohol heat in the finish.

O: There is a nice complexity to the flavors of this beer and it smells exactly like it is advertised - bourbon barrel aged American Double/Imperial Stout. Really enjoyable but not the easiest beer to drink because it is really big - sip slowly and enjoy.

 1,132 characters

Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4.42/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Not seeing the date on the bottle but just came in so i'm assuming 2012. Shows 12%, not 10. Reads "Oak" not "Bourbon" barrel.
appearance: very dark though compared to older vis it's downright pale. Crimson highlights. almost no head other than some tan bubbles on the pour.
smell: Smooth bourbon, oak, coffee, vanilla and chocolate treat. Decadent and well...oh so good.
taste: More of the same. This is why I loves the new wave of beers over stuffy wines.
overall: I had thoughts of waiting till Christmas but screw it. August deserves a beer like this too.

 559 characters

Photo of Beaver13
3.08/5  rDev -20%
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.

 439 characters

Santa's Little Helper - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Port Brewing
86 out of 100 based on 190 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Return of the Belgian Beer Fest

    BeerAdvocate Brings its All-Belgian Fest to Portland, Maine on September 17, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

    Learn More
  • Get the Mag

    Become a BeerAdvocate magazine print subscriber today.