Dirty Helen Brown Ale - Barley Island Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dirty Helen Brown AleDirty Helen Brown Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

160 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 160
Reviews: 81
rAvg: 3.63
pDev: 11.57%
Wants: 4
Gots: 7 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Barley Island Brewing Company visit their website
Indiana, United States

Style | ABV
English Brown Ale |  5.20% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: zerk on 03-28-2003

STYLE Brown Ale
MALT Pale, Crystal 60, Munich, Carahell, Chocolate
HOP Tettnang, Challenger, Cascade, Glacier
ABV 5.2
IBU 25
SRM 21
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 160 | Reviews: 81
Reviews by Viking:
Photo of Viking
3.88/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly hazy orange-copper. Not much visible CO2 in the body. Initially a solid cream-colored head, about two fingers thick. Head leaves thick covering of lace atop the beer, and some rather thick trails of lace on the glass. Malty aroma, sort of a biscuity caramel, with plenty of herbal/grassy hop notes. Flavor is fairly light. Malt flavor is initially rather subdued while a bigger-than-expected-hop-presence leaps forward on the palate and lingers in the aftertaste. Malt begins to come out as the beer warms. Bready initially, but more and more caramel became apparent during the beer's short stay in my glass. Light-bodied brew, but very smooth and oily. Very drinkable session beer.

More User Reviews:
Photo of Duster72
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

4 oz serving from draft at breewpub. Pours a reddish brown with lovely ruby accents in the glass. Aroma is breads, nuts, and carmel malts. Nice aroma. Taste is on the lighter side for a brown with the typical dark malts and some earthy nuttiness. Mouthfeel is on the watery side which is offputting in this flavor profile. Overall a highly drinkable brown ale.

Photo of Jason
3.71/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 12 oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

Appearance: Thin lacing with a troubled head retention, faint haze on the rusty brown brew.

Smell: Aleish fermentation is apparent with slight fruitiness and nutty yeast. A bit malty in the nose with faint chocolate and caramel notes.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Restrained crispness from a low carbonation and moderate body. Dry toasted malt character throughout, edging on chocolate here and there with a long lingering hop bitterness that sets the palate straight without pushing anything out of balance. A scratch of fruit and yeast in the back, finishes semi-sweet with a semi-rough toasted malt husk.

Notes: A tasty little brown ale, a tad rough around the edges and short on the carbonation. Any easy pick for a lunch time brew with a stacked pastrami on rye.

Photo of merlin48
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle pours a clear, mahogany brown body with a one finger beige head. Excellent retention and some lavish sheet lacing make for an impressive appearance. Aroma is milk chocolate and hazelnut, with a note of grassy hops. Mouthfeel is light medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Taste mirroes the aroma, with a nutty chocolate maltiness that is balanced well with grassy hops bitterness. Smooth and clean. Very easy to drink. A nice session brown ale.

Photo of Mora2000
3.06/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to Cavie for sharing this bottle.

The beer pours a reddish-amber color with a cream-colored head. The aroma is caramel and toffee malt, about what you would expect from a brown ale. The flavor is more of the same, with the addition of some grassy hops which add a slight bit of bitterness. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

Photo of glid02
3.83/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle via a trade with GCurlow – thanks!

Pours a clear amber-brown color with an off-white head leaving solid lacing.

Smells of equal parts caramel and toasted malts with very light hints of roastiness. Also present are mild light chocolate aromas.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Toasted malts up front are joined quickly by sweeter caramel malts. Midway through the flavor profile dries out with the addition of lightly roasted malts and leafy hops that carry through to a moderately bitter ending. Mouthfeel is OK, with heavy carbonation.

Overall this was a good beer for the style, and could be better with slightly more robust toasted malts and a smoother mouthfeel.

Photo of Brenden
3.57/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer is the standard medium brown, just barely opaque with plenty of light coming in at the outskirts. The light tan head doesn't last long and it leaves just enough bubbly foam on top of the beer to stick moderate spotting to the glass.
In the smell it's malty but with a hint of leaf, mostly nutty and somewhat toasty with a bit of dark fruits tanginess on the end.
Malt-forward but with hops to balance, it's toasty to the point of dryness with plenty of nut before the leaf comes in, maybe with just a little pith. Otherwise, it's got some sweetness from caramel malts, and those dark fruits are there in the finish. Cocoa comes out in the middle and moves into the finish with the dark fruits and stemmy bitterness.
The body is medium and has something to it, but the crisp bite is soft and falls off on the end. Smoothness is moderate, not quite enough to level it out, but keeping the feel from going bland.

Photo of SMark
3.62/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer was poured into a pint glass at 48° from a 12 ounce bottle with no date information. One finger of head was produced from the pour with very little lacing. The beer was reddish brown and bright when held up to the light.

There was a nice floral hop bouquet with the first scent. Good malt fragrances hinting at sweetness were later detected.

The beer was swallowed very smoothly and did not impart a lot of detectable flavors as it slid down too quickly. Follow up sips revealed the sweetness that was promised from the aroma. Mild hops balanced out the taste.

The combination of malts and hops started out well but then seemed to fade in a slightly watery aftertaste. There was not enough left in the mouth to consider it cider like but it did seem to come up a little shorter than expected.

This is another one of those beers you could sit and drink without a lot of work. 4.3% alcohol definitely invites you to enjoy at least one more. You could sit and enjoy several of these from the tap over a period of time also and not feel completely worn out. But you need to also remember to drink responsibly.

Photo of pmcadamis
4.17/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Nice chestnut brown hue that is hazier than a lot of other browns. A two finger head quickly recedes to a collar collar of fine bubbles and a haze. A swirl brings up a finger instantly. Some big arches of lace are left on the glass.

S - Burnt grains, smoke, bark, fire, earth, some really gritty hop notes, and motor oil. I'll be damned if this doesn't smell like a pitch black stout. The only thing "brown" about it is a nice peanut shell aroma...maybe burnt peanut shells? I don't think that I've ever smelled burnt peanut shells, but thats what I think they would smell like.

T - More of the same from the nose...smoke, earth, blackened grains, and a really autumnal and hoppy finish. Some sweetness pervades throughout and balances the bitter blackened roasty-ness. The hop profile especially reminds me of a stout in that it makes me think of fall leaves.

M - Low level of carbonation, medium light body, and a bitter but creamy finish. Feels good.

D - This one really surprised me! Excellent nose, great taste, superb mouthfeel...wow. I'm for sure going to pick up a sixer this fall (seems like leaf raking beer to me). This is a damn tasty and highly drinkable brew!

Photo of secondtooth
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Cloudy ruby, with a fine head of tan suds. Attractive double-finger of lace.

Nose is distinctly caramel with a nutty sweetness.

Taste is sweet and slightly roasty and caramel-nutty. I get a slight hop bite at the finish. A fine and well-balanced brown ale, and quite enjoyable.

Photo of WoodBrew
3.06/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Tried the Dirty Helen and a beer tasting party last night. The beer poured a nice dark amber/brown with decent white head that laced. The smell was ok, it had hints of burnt grains, and was deep and sweet. The taste was more bitter than expected....like sour dough bread. The beer also finished kinda acidic. There were hints of peat and bogg. The mouthfeel was lighter than expected with decent carbonation. Overall it was ok.

Photo of randyw41
4.1/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

In Indianapolis, one of the local liquor stores had a free tasting of this micro-breweries products. Out of the 8 or so bottles of different blends, I found this one to be my first choice. Very smooth, with an excellent flavor. Color reminded me of Guinness Draught, though the flavor wasn't as pronounced. We sampled these beers in plastic cups, but this one definitely produced a nice head. I'd like to try this on tap, and as the brewery is not too far from Indianapolis, I'll probably head over that way and try this one on tap. All in all, I enjoyed this beer, and would definitely purchase it again...

Photo of cclark2
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%

A little bitter for my tastes

Photo of PirateUlf73
3.87/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Hazy, ruby-brown color with a light tan head that simmers down to a quarter-finger layer.

S: Aromas remind me of toasted barley, soft hazelnuts and a pinch of caramel. There's also a pleasant aroma that I can't quite describe. Chocolate-covered fruit perhaps.

T: A semi-dry smack of semi-sweet chocolate and nutty flavors are the first to hit, followed by an earth, slightly spicy hop presence. Possesses a nice, warming, toasty character that rounds out the taste and ties it all together. Could possibly stand to be blended a little better, but quite tasty as is.

M: Lighter side of medium-bodied and lower-than-average, yet still persistent carbonation. Finish is a tad muddy and dry, and the aftertaste is nutty and sweet.

D: A solid, tavern-style brown that warrants sessioning on occasion.

Barley Island definitely has a winner with Dirty Helen. Certainly not the smoothest brown ale ever, but the flavors are delicious and interesting. I'd be quite happy to drink a sixer of this, whilst in the company of good friends, of course!

Photo of beveritt
3.3/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Arrived in a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Very little head on mine, less than 1/4 inch of ligth tan foam. Settled quickly into just a ring. Some lacing while drinking the glass. The beer itself is medium brown with a hint of red.

Smell: Light smell, semi-sweet malt with hints of caramel.

Taste: Semi-sweet malts, with earthy undertones. Medium hop bitterness in the finish. Slight roastiness.

Mouthfeel: Average carbonation level. Body is decent.

Drinkability: It is hard to go wrong with a craft beer on the deck when the weather starts to turn nice. Overall, a nice example of the style.

Photo of bluemoonswoon
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into pint glass, no freshness date.

A: Pours a cloudy dark reddish brown, with a bubbly tan head that cascades when first poured into a one inch head then bubbles down to a third inch cap. Light lacing.

S: Sweet and syurpy, sweet roasted malt character with a thick layer of bread crust, subtle and balanced like I would imagine.

T/MF: A bit of a faint apple flavor that moves quickly into a nutty toasted malt sweetness that is nicely balanced by a dry hop juicyness that finishes a bit prickly on the tongue.

D: A decent brown ale, but then again I think all brown ales are decent.

Photo of hotstuff
2.73/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This beer poured a large tan head with fine-small sized bubbles.The body of this beer was clear and the hue was red.The nose was malty and hoppy.This beer left an excellent lacing on the sides of my glass.The flavor was very bitter and it left an aftertaste that lingered for some time.The mouthfeel was smooth, but this beer reminded me of a Pale Ale as it was very hoppy.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.03/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle. Served in a pint glass, the beer pours a reddish/brown color with a big 2 inch frothy off-white head. Head retention and lacing are both very good. It smells like caramel malt, nuts, chocolate and brown sugar. The taste is pretty much the same as the aroma, they're both very malty. Mouthfeel/body is light/medium, it's coating and has good carbonation. Drinkability is good too, it's enjoyable to drink and with the low ABV it's a very good choice as a session beer. I think it's a good brew, but then I've liked everything I've tried from Barley Island so far. If you get a chance, you should pick this up.

Photo of diabecktic
3.81/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Head formation is quite slow, but you eventually get just under 2 fingers' worth. Retention isn't bad; it slowly fades to leave a bubbly tan ring. Lacing is also pretty good. The beer is a dark, cloudy brown with a distinct maroon hue (when viewed against a light).

The aroma is quite nutty with hints of caramel and chocolate. I would describe it as "pungently sweet." Hazelnut tones seem to blend nicely with hops and barley; it's quite strong and somewhat roasted. As the beer warms, there almost seems to be a very, very small hint of raspberry in the nose.

This brew has quite a bite to it. The nuttiness and chocolate tones accentuate the malt and hit you first, but the hoppiness eventually kicks in and tends to linger. As such, the aftertaste is quite bitter; as it warms, the aforementioned raspberry character mildly reveals itself. I think this is an interesting mix - interesting, but not bad.

I think that the nut character adds some body to this beer. It's fairly heavy in the mouth and it definately bites. I'd rate it as being relatively dense.

This would probably be a good session beer; it's full-bodied and definately sipable. If you're looking for a chuggable ale, then this is not it. Appreciate the interesting mix of flavors over time.

Overall, I'd rate this is quite unique. To me, the color, nose, and flavor are as interesting as the name. I like the balance between the hop and malt characters, but I think this beer is a little on the thick side for my taste. This might be subject to change upon further tastings, but I will leave this as my initial impression. Definately try this if you're in Indiana.

Photo of Beejay
3.15/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: reddish brown with a light tan foam...

S: Malty, sugary.. syrupy.. Kinda like breakfast.

T: Malty, and a little sweet.. Not a lot of bitter, just kinda.. meh.. Kinda tastes like "just add malt syrup, and you have beer!"

M: It's wet.

D: Not a new favorite unfortunately. It would do well enough in a pinch, but there are so many other beers with a broader range of flavor, complexity and balance..

Photo of mikesgroove
4.53/5  rDev +24.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle served right out of the fridge and poured into a pint glass

A - This one poured a very deep dark brown with lots of haze and cloudiness swirling about throughout the glass. A little bit of sediment as well heading down towards the bottom and settling down throughout the remainder of the session. A very large and very full looking head of tannish colored lace then crowned the top of the glass and really had incredible staying power, surprising me to be honest with how full it came across being. Once it finally decided to settle which was after a good few minutes it still never got much lower then two fingers high and was incredibly thick. Copious being an understatement to describe the amount of side glass lace that this one was putting off. Overall I really did not expect a brown ale to really be this full looking, it was really quite remarkable and deserves a perfect five in this category.

S - The aroma struck me as a bit odd from the first smell that I took in. First thing I noticed was that this one was coming across almost completely as a Scotch Ale. It was remarkably sweet smelling with a noticeable hint of caramel right up in the front. Lots of cereal and earthy type grains in there as well, really giving quite the full malty smell. There was a slight touch of hops present, giving it just the slightest bit of a fresh touch to it and lightening up what was otherwise a strikingly sweet malty aroma. Very full and to be honest much bigger then I thought it was going to be. There was also a touch of some bourbon like aroma coming off this as well, but it was well balanced and blended in and was not really hot in alcohol, just a touch adding a little more depth to it.

T - The flavor followed the aroma very nicely, and again going along with the theme of this one was much bigger and much fuller then I thought it was going to be, I really need to stop putting expectations whether they be high or low, that is part of the reason I do not read other reviews or look up a style before reviewing, it should be my opinion, un-influenced. Now then this started off sweet right out of the gate, giving me huge notes of caramel and grain, with even a slight bitterness to it. Lots of depth to the profile here as once the first sugary notes faded a somewhat earthy and grainy taste started to dominate until it too started to fade away. Then the finish kicked in with a very nice hop presence, though nothing over the top, more of a dry bitter taste then anything you could really nail down, but a definite earthy tone to it with a nice long lingering flavor.

M - A very nice medium bodied ale this one definitely came off much thicker then I thought it was going to. I had a feeling from the look and the smell this was going to be a nice one, but did not know how good it would be. Very rich and velvety in texture the carbonation profile was wonderful. A very well balanced smooth feel and great follow through really capped it off quite well.

D - Outstanding, this was a fantastic session ale all the way. I literally could have drink this one all night, there was just no hint of any kind of alcohol in it. The flavors were rich and sweet, but not over the top, and the carbonization was great and just overall a quality session ale.

Overall I was really impressed with this one. I had figured it would be good, as others I have had from the brewery were quite nice, but I had no idea how good it would be. This was just tremendous and really a very nice surprise. I would not only have this again, but would recommend that you try it if you happen to run across it, there is just no way you would be disappointed, this is a very fine quality ale.

Photo of Sdesenberg
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bought a sixer of Dirty Helen at a store in Indiana that prides themselves in offering a wide selection of craft brews in addition to the usual macros and pop they sell in volume. Cost was between 8 and 9 bones. Here's the thing. On the bottle, it says "unpasreurized-unfiltered-best if kept refrigerated". This beer is brewed in Indiana. They must be aware that by Indiana law, a store can't sell both cold beer and cold pop. It's almost guaranteed that your sixer WILL NOT BE KEPT REFRIGERATED! Moral of the story? Indiana has some dumb-ass laws.

Photo of baugherlager
4.19/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I just picked this up at a marsh supermarket in Noblesville.

It poured a dark brown color with some red. The head retention was okay in the first bottle but other bottles seemed different. I think that they didn't prime the bottles too consistantly. It left some lacing all the way down the glass.

The smell is definately very malty and smells as though it is a home brewed beer. Not very much hop in the nose but it is there. Fuggles maybe?

Its taste is of chocolate, very malty with a bitterness that follows the sweetness. Not too much on the nutty side but you can detect some if you let it warm in your mouth. This beer is very yeasty as well it had quite a bit of sediment which you would expect from a micro unfilter and unpasteurized beer. It had that homebrewed taste too.

Overall I liked this beer for the most part. I do think they could improve upon it a little though as it seems kind of ruff. The drinkability is amazing though I could drink alot of this stuff without getting sick of the taste, it went well with a meat and potatoes dinner, very refreshing.

Photo of Gusler
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

As it sets in the glass an unblurred mahogany color, the head is modest in size, frothy in its texture and a winsome light tan in color as it vanishes quite quickly a patchy sheet of rather thick lace remains to protect the glass. Sweet malt is dominate, crisp fresh and clean with a vanilla and nut like tones also present, begins malt sweet with the top light to medium in feel. Finish has a mild carbonation, hops unassuming in their spiciness, dry and lingering aftertaste, also noticed a bit of burnt grain in the aftertaste, a drinkable beer, and I’d like to thank “Qarre” and BIF 3.0 for this sample. Interesting name must look up and see what history lies behind that name, always a point of interest with me.

Photo of maxwelldeux
3.53/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle. Pours a very dark brown color with a moderate pillowy tan head on it. I find the nose to be pretty light, despite warming it up; I only get slight bits of toasting on it, and nothing else. Taste has some of the same toasting elements, but with the addition of some hoppy bitterness to it that was a little surprising. Not bad in the end.

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Dirty Helen Brown Ale from Barley Island Brewing Company
82 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.