Dirty Helen Brown Ale | Barley Island Brewing Company

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Dirty Helen Brown AleDirty Helen Brown Ale

Brewed by:
Barley Island Brewing Company
Indiana, United States

Style: English Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
STYLE Brown Ale
MALT Pale, Crystal 60, Munich, Carahell, Chocolate
HOP Tettnang, Challenger, Cascade, Glacier
ABV 5.2
IBU 25
SRM 21

Added by zerk on 03-28-2003

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Reviews: 80 | Ratings: 165
Photo of JamesS
4.82/5  rDev +32.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured a nice dark brown with great head and lacing. The scent was great, it had hints of burnt grains, and was deep and sweet. Excellent taste! It was deep and dark, with a great nuttiness and hints of stout/porter burnt grains. It was very smooth, as well. One of my favorite Barley Island brews.

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Photo of 908carson
4.6/5  rDev +26%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Mahogany with hint of red wine. Ooooh. One finger of khaki-tinted head. Very pretty, and very typical for the style. They hit the nail right, square on the head.

S: Smells like a cinnamon caramel apple. I wanna put a couple dabs behind my ears and wear it as cologne.

T: Just so darned tasty! Rich, toasty malt is the predominant flavor but it has been bittered enough to make it an easy drinker... Low abv and rich flavor makes this one the ultimate Winter session ale for me. I could drink this all day long. I would love to say more, but I think their GABF gold medal speaks volumes. Try it.

M: Maybe a little bit crisper than I'd like for this style, but the carbonation is about right. It's very approachable!

Overall: I am not much of a fan of most of Barley Island's stuff... but as a proud resident of Indiana, I must give credit to all Hoosier brewers. I think it is very admirable that they chose a brown ale as their flagship... You just don't see that! EVERYBODY does a pale ale around here! And that's not to say that BI doesn't do a decent pale or IPA, but Dirty Helen is what they do best and it's what deserves to be at the forefront of their catalog. Best of all, a pint of this at their brewpubs is around 3 bucks.... making it a great deal! If you live in the midwest and haven't had this yet, get to it!

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.53/5  rDev +24.1%
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.

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Photo of nouseforotacon
4.27/5  rDev +17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Much thanks to IndyBeer for this one, along with a whole bunch of other Barley Island brews.

Pours out a hazy-looking dark brown with shimmering hints of ruby red. Small tan head foam fades to lacing quickly, leaving a little film on top and a touch of foam around the edges.

Sweet, malty aroma that can probably be smelled from across the room. Hints of yeast, very powdery on the nose. Fragrant and pleasant. A touch fruity.

Strong nutty backbone in the flavor profile. Sourdough bread. Definite hazlenut. Subtle hints of malt sweetness, but by no means too much. A touch dry on the tongue, with a lingering hop bitterness and spiciness in the finish. Creamy mouthfeel with little carbonation and a medium body.

I've always enjoyed brown ales for sessions and casual drinking. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a sixer of this if it was available to me. Cheers!

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Photo of Vancer
4.27/5  rDev +17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

OH !!! Looked on the web and see this is only 4.2% !! Now, this is what you want for a session brew!

I found this to be just top-notch, mahogany pour with a thin but firm tan head that left nice ring laces.

Great aroma of roasted almonds, chocolate and coffee. They progressed to the quaff nicely, supported by a nice toffee undertow. Proper amount of carbonation and danced about and tingled the olÂ’ tastebuds.

I have found my summer casual drinking brew. Tad pricey at $9 a sixer, the only drawback.

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Photo of crazybrody06
4.2/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Never heard of this beer or brewery even though its about 45 mintues away from me. I asked the clerk at the liquor store if it he had tried it and he said he didnt drink imported beers, which I thought was kinda funny being that its made right here in Indiana. Note to self dont ask this clerk for any advice on beer.

Pours a dark brown with a red cast when held up to light. It had a decent head that was pretty quick to fade. Off white lace looked very nice. I wanted another one after the first and I would definatly buy again, and that seems the be the real test of any beer. Nice medium mouthfeel with not much of an aftertaste. I cant wait to share this beer with freinds.

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Photo of baugherlager
4.19/5  rDev +14.8%
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.

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Photo of pmcadamis
4.17/5  rDev +14.2%
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!

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Photo of zeff80
4.14/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of brentk56
4.12/5  rDev +12.9%
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

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Photo of randyw41
4.1/5  rDev +12.3%
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...

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Photo of RunForYourBeer
4.1/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Has a deep brown color with an off white head that quickly turns into a thin film.

S: Smells very nutty with some caramel malt.

T: Tastes much like the smell. Very nutty with some caramel malt and a bit of brown sugar sweetness to go with the slight toastiness. Ends with some hop bitterness.

M: Medium with medium carbonation.

D: High.

I think this is a great beer, especially for the fall. It is basically what I'd expect from a brown. I could see this being a session beer.

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Photo of cpolking
4.1/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This pours a very dark brown with a hint of ruby and a half inch head which does lace the glass. The aroma is more hoppy than I would expect from a brown ale but has a nice roasted malt in it as well. This has a nice roasted coffee malt flavor, with some floral, fruit hops, although less than I expected from the aroma. There is a hint of sweet and a hint of sour. The beer is unfiltered so some of the sour is from the yeast I believe. An interesting and very flavorful take on a brown ale.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.07/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a mug.

3.5 A: Nearly opaque light brown color. One finger of frothy beige head with poor retention and a small ring of lacing.

4.0 S: Loads of nut flavor, toasty, biscuity malts, and a touch of toffee. Hops add a small amount of earthy quality. Rather dry with a low fruitiness, but overall pretty nice.

4.0 T: Taste is much like the nose. Nutty, toasty, biscuity malts, and toffee are all there again. There's a barely detectable almost buttery flavor (though not exactly buttery) than complements the flavors well. A little sweeter than the nose suggests, but not much. Hops are mainly earthy with a touch of citrus.

4.0 M: Medium body. Good moderate spritzy carbonation. Somewhat slippery creaminess and quite smooth.

4.5 D: Based on the scores for this, this was a wonderful surprise. Overall a very solid brown ale that I wouldn't mind drinking from time to time. Doesn't look that great, but no problems anywhere else.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.03/5  rDev +10.4%
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.

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
4/5  rDev +9.6%
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.

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Photo of DoppleJock
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass.

A: Poured a semi-opaque reddish-brown with 2 inches of off-white, foamy head. Decent lacing down the glass.

S: Good balance of malt and hops. Earthy with some nuttiness.

T: Fairly malty with some earthiness.

M: Medium-bodied. Went down pretty smooth.

D: Glad I bought a sixer of this.

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Photo of RemyLeBeau
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have to say I support Indiana brews, and I like Barley Island. In my opinion Dirty Helen is one of their better ones.

I poured it out of the bottle into a pint glass. Head formation was quick for me, and head retention was good.

Overall this beer is good. I enjoy it especially during the spring and summer. It is very refreshing and you can drink quite a few of them.

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Photo of urwithdave
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks for sharing this one Brian! Poured into an over sized wine glass.

A- Pours a deep brown color with a huge 3 if not 4 fingers worth of head. Granted it was a semi aggressive pour, but I don't think it mattered a whole lot. The head quickly dissipates and leaves a fingers worth for the duration. There is some spotty lacing, but nothing to intense.

A- Big caramel is the first thing I really get. The malts are quite robust and there is distinct nutty profile coming through.

T- The nose is spot on. Only difference is that I also get a bit of toffee here. The malts are very nice. No hop influence detected. A very sweet brown.

M- Medium bodied with a sweet finish.

D- I liked it. A little on the sweeter side for me, but I wouldn't have a problem killing a 6er!

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours a semi-deep brown with amber hints. Small, one-finger, tan, foamy head. Floating particulates from being unfiltered and unpasteurized. Good lacing.

S- Very sweet and nutty. Somewhat faint, but all malt, nut, and a hint of caramel. Maybe a hint of floral hops right at the back end.

T- Caramel tones right off the bat. Then comes a slight hint of coffee I think. It's a darker, somewhat burnt taste that's not quite coffee flavored, but very close. Also, maybe some brown sugar sweetness in there. As it finishes there is a slight hoppy bite.

M- Somewhat light on the palate for the style. Fairly high amount of carbonation. Somewhat of a silky texture going down. Every once in awhile, you'll feel a particulate on your tongue. Could drink a fair amount of these in a sitting.

Overall, this is a very solid brown ale. It's got the sweet tones that I enjoy along with the burnt flavors and slight hop bitterness that balance it out.

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Photo of zerk
3.97/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear light brown, with a hint of amber. A thin cream-colored head sits atop the beer, but doesn't leave any lace. The aroma is quite impressive, with quite a bit of biscuity malt, some caramel and herbal notes. Flavor begins quite malty... not very sweet, more of a bread-like flavor, with some notes of caramel. Finish is pretty bitter for the style, with a grassy hop characteristic. Has a thin to medium body, and medium carbonation. Although it's probably somewhat thin for the style, I think that actually improved the drinkability of this beer.

This is Barley Island's first bottled beer. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this brewery, as this is a most promising start!

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Photo of merlin48
3.95/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

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Photo of secondtooth
3.95/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

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Photo of jwc215
3.95/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.88/5  rDev +6.3%
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.

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Dirty Helen Brown Ale from Barley Island Brewing Company
3.65 out of 5 based on 165 ratings.
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