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Dirty Helen Brown Ale - Barley Island Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dirty Helen Brown AleDirty Helen Brown Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
82
good

160 Ratings
THE BROS
84
good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 160
Reviews: 81
rAvg: 3.63
pDev: 11.57%
Wants: 4
Gots: 6 | 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 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of spycow
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%

Photo of Thorpe429
3/5  rDev -17.4%

Photo of brentk56
4.12/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear mahogany color with a rocky tan head that leaves some dots of lace

Smell: Caramel and nuts (walnuts/hazelnuts) with a hint of chocolate

Taste: Opens with a nutty caramel flavor that starts to taste of nut skins by mid-palate; after the swallow, the bitter flavor fades, leaving a nice mix of nuts, caramel and a hint of milk chocolate powder

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, almost creamy, with foamy carbonation

Drinkability: Many brown ales can get boring, but not this one; I enjoy the flavor profile, particularly the milk chocolate edge

Photo of BEERchitect
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Moderate across the board, Barley Island nails down this style very well. Though light to appease broad audiences, these Brown Ales allow for a lot of variation.

The beer pours... well, brown.... and with good clarity. A mostly froathy head forms on the beer and has good staying power as it reduces to a light blanket across the surface. Suble lacing is noticed if you use your imagination a little.

Mild toast, toffee, chocolate, and walnuts make their way into aroma and taste but in much more sublte nature than most Brown Ales. Malted milk and lightly charred barley husks follow up the finish along side of earthy hop bitterness.

Mild textures allow for ease of drinking but sacrifice any succulent textures that could marketedly improve the beer. Soft and creamy early but watering and light bite late.

This beer shares characteristics of Wychwood Hobgoblin and many of the more robust English Mild Ales. But because of the insinuation of flavor and aroma, it makes me think it should be a bigger beer than it actually is.

Photo of jaydoc
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%

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

Dark reddish bronze with scads of fine bubbles rushing up to a golden ecru head that is surprisingly small given the increasingly high-altitude pour. It lasts acceptably long though and is beginning to deposit a slurred collar of tissue paper thin lace.

The nose is better than average for the style. It's recognizably brown malty with a very mild earthiness and enough nuttiness for 'nut brown ale' to be an appropriate description (mine, not Barley Island's). It could stand to be more aromatic however.

I like the way Dirty Helen tastes, so it's a shame she isn't more flavorful. Maybe a few more degrees will help (note: not really). This is a mildly sweet, more so than bitter at least, brown ale that emphasizes chocolate malt and nuttiness above all else. Since that's my preferred blueprint for the style, I'm fine with it.

I can't believe that anyone who isn't a brown ale freak would find this beer to be overly impressive. Drinkability is probably its strongest suit, but there just isn't enough flavor to really make the drinker sit up and take notice. A 50% increase in the malt load would be a start and would probably cause a number of good things to follow.

The mouthfeel is a close call. Only my grudging aknowledgement that brown ales can be light and still be acceptable keeps me from granting the lower score, the one that I was initially poised to pick. I like the middle-of-the-road carbonation, so I guess that the above score is justifiable after all.

Dirty Helen was reportedly a brash, in your face kind of gal. Too bad the beer named in her honor doesn't share some of that spunkiness. Another decent Barley Island brew that carries with it some amount of wasted potential.

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 zeff80
4.14/5  rDev +14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a brown color with flecks of red. It had a small, caramel-colored head that left some soapy lace.

S - It smelled extremely nutty. Also, a good caramel malt aroma.

T - It tasted very nutty and had a smooth roasted malt taste.

M - It was very smooth and soft. A light-bodied beer.

D - This is a great tasting Brown ale. Great nut flavor.

Photo of TMoney2591
3.88/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

Interestingly, all of the "Dirty Helens" I know are blondes... This brunette, though, pours a clear sunset garnet topped by a half-finger of (appropriately) dirty ecru foam. The nose comprises chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon, light roasted malts, and some very light lemongrass in the back. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, cocoa powder, cinnamon, light maple syrup, and some decidedly sweet brown sugar near the end. The body is a light medium, with a light carbonation and a smooth feel. Overall, a nice little brown, one that I could see accompanying many of my future meals.

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 feloniousmonk
3.25/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Hazy crimson brown appearance...smallish beige head.

Sweet malty aroma, some cherries, dark fruits...

Light hops at top of taste, then malt slides in, some cocoa flavor, bit of nuts. Medium bodied, easy drinker.

Bit too average for me, neither is bad.

Photo of jwc215
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to jcwattsrugger for bringing this back from Indiana for me!

Pours medium-to-dark brown with a thin tan head that thins and stays, leaving trailing lace.

The smell is caramelish, nutty and earthy.

The taste is of sweet caramel with lightly roasted chestnut-type nuttiness. A slight bittering earthiness lends some balancing dryness to a semi-sweet finish.

Lighter side of medium-bodied with soft carbonation. It has an almost velvety smoothness.

Caramel-ish and nutty, a nice, mild, easy-drinking "English-style" 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 imperialking
4/5  rDev +10.2%

Photo of yourefragile
3.62/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle

Dark amberish brown liquid and a small, thin bubbly head from a vigorous pour that quickly dissipates and leaves adequate lacing. Nutty and fruity aroma, walnut, caramel sugars, all nicely balanced, but something seems off for a brown (a little too sweet). Body is smooth and medium thickness with a pleasant hop bite on the finish, however I would prefer much more carbonation in this beer. Mouthfeel issues aside, I like the flavor of this, strong malt body, mild sweetness (caramel, slightly fruity) balanced with walnut and hazlenut flavors. I like the flavors and aroma of this Brown, but the body is too off for me to enjoy this.

Photo of brandoman63
3/5  rDev -17.4%

Photo of ppoitras
3.36/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle obtained via Local BIF from alleykatking. Thanks for the opportunity. <Jeremy2002 = bad trader>

Poured into an imperial pint, formed a 3" tan head above the clear reddish brown brew. Head falls slowly, with prevalent hunks of lacing. Aroma is lightly sweet, with soapy hops aroma. Taste is moderately malty to start, balances with bitter in the middle, and closes with a slight fruitiness. Mouthfeel is a touch gassy, but soft over the tongue, and drinkability is okay. Not quite what I hoping for here.

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 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 aasher
3.47/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This one pours a cherry wood in color, light in bodied, with a light beige lacing around the glass. It smells of sweet malts, some cherries, and features a light hoppy bitterness before the head fades to leave behind a lot of sweet malt. The flavors are sweet and malty and it has slight bitter hop finish. It's light, malty, and sweet. The flavors are ok, and heavy on the sugar. Overall this one is ok, but a little too sweet for my liking.

Photo of Hopheadjeffery
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%

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 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 enelson
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%

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

From a sampler: This brew is a copper-brown color with a medium thin beige head. Malt and caramel in the nose. Medium bodied with a blend of malt, hops and caramel flavors. The finish is lightly bitter hops. This is an interesting take on a Brown Ale, as it isn't really even that brown. Cool name too.

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