A Mini Vertical Tasting of Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout
Brewed by: Port Brewing Company
This stout flight included the following Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stouts:
- Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout (2014-2015)
- Bourbon Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout (2013-2015)
Santa’s Little Helper Images
Our Flight of Santa’s Little Helper
Last week we posted a family stout activity from over the holidays, and this week we have one more experience to share. We did a mini-vertical tasting of Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout, and its special bourbon barrel aged variation.
Each October Port brews up their winter seasonal (green label), for release in early November, just in time for the holidays. Port sets aside some of that batch to be aged in bourbon barrels (red label) from October until July, as their summer seasonal.
The best way to get started was with the regular winter release, but due to an unfortunate logistical cellaring error, we were missing the 2013 edition. So our flight of the regular version was a little smaller than we had hoped. After that we dove into the bourbon barrel aged variations.
The best vintages of both releases were the 2014’s, so aging either bottle until the following year’s holiday season seemed the way to go. Put the winter seasonal away for one year, and store the summer release for 1.5 years.
Here’s how the stouts aged, and their flavors developed over time:
- Santa’s Little Helper: 4.5/5
Year / Variation: 2015
The best kind of stouts are thick, rich, and chewy, which is why Santa’s Little Helper is a family favorite. Big malty bitterness up front, with Baker’s chocolate and tobacco notes. The finish gets sweet like brown sugar, with a hint of dark plum or fig. The malt seemed over-roasted this year, so we downgraded to 4.5.
- Santa’s Little Helper: 5/5
Year / Variation: 2014
A 5 plus. What a difference a year makes! We didn’t think it was possible for this full-bodied stout to get any creamier, but it did. Some of the bitterness and tobacco fell off, which was replaced by deeper, velvety chocolate.
- Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper: 4.5/5
Year / Variation: 2015, Bourbon Barrel Aged
Right off the bat, this 6 month old bottle seemed a bit more oaky in the finish than last year’s vintage we drank in December 2014. There was still a pleasing balance of bourbon and chocolate, but we could definitely see how this bottle could be too hot for some people.
- Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper: 5/5
Year / Variation: 2014, Bourbon Barrel Aged
Our favorite bottle of the flight — a 5 plus, plus. It was still plenty boozy, but some of the edge was taken off with 18 months of aging. What was once intense chocolate, took on more sweetness like caramel, along with a kick of bourbony heat.
- Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper: 3.5/5
Year / Variation: 2013, Bourbon Barrel Aged
The last vintage bottled in bombers. At 2.5 years old, it was a little disappointing to see how much the booziness had dropped off. Only a hint of oak was left, and bourbon was almost non-existent. The sweetness was still evident, but closer to maple syrup than chocolate or caramel in previous vintages.