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 MaximalC
3.54/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours a murky, translucent auburn color with a minimal beige head that soon settles into a thin ring of froth. Random patches of lacing adorn the glass as the beer descends. Aroma smells of caramel, chocolate, cough syrup, and citric hops.

The flavor presents strongly on both the malt and hop fronts, with plenty of caramel and grapefruit to match. Subtler nuances of milk chocolate and hazelnut can be found as well. There's also a vague juiciness that I can't quite put my finger on--not necessarily off-putting--just curious. The mouthfeel is light, creamy, and easy to drink, a good complement to the bright flavor profile.

Overall, this is a flavorful, drinkable brew that looks nice in the glass. There could be a little more cohesiveness among the varied flavors, but at least there is plenty of flavor to be had.

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Photo of Brenden
3.57/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

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Photo of maxwelldeux
3.53/5  rDev -3.3%
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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Photo of rinhaak
3.6/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark reddish-brown with a small head. A sweetish nose of ripe fruit-syrup is offset by a mouth with a slightly tart flavor of sour cherries. There is a very nice balance of flavors between sweet caramel/toffee and sour fruit, with only the most subtle of hop flavors in the background.

A very drinkable and sessionable brown ale that is plenty worth tasting, though not necessarily worth seeking out.

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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 MelissaJ
3.88/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A Dark brown with one inch tan foamy head, good lacing. Some floaty-bits due to the fact it's unfiltered.
S nuts, malts, & cocoa
T A little bit of a caramel along with a lighter cocoa note and the nuttiness and maltiness of the smell.
M Smooth, medium body, some nice carbonation.
O Nice brown ale that I would drink regularly. Nothing spectacular, though.

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Photo of Sdesenberg
3.85/5  rDev +5.5%
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.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.06/5  rDev -16.2%
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.

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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 Genghis22
3.45/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours a light colored brown. Looks like a glass of iced tea when held up to the light. Foamy white head that quickly disappeared. Some decent lacing though.

S - Sweet, biscuity malt aromas. Caramel and apple juice.

T - Much more substantial than the smell. Full rush of brown ale flavors. Hints of cocoa, quickly followed by biscuit malt, sweet caramel and a hit of hops to quickly balance it all out. The flavors rush the tongue quickly, nothing really seems to linger for long. A little bitterness in the after taste.

M - A touch thin for my liking. Good, prickly, active carbonation.

O - A nice brown ale. Not the best one I've had, but decent. I wouldn't go out of my way to get this, but I wouldn't pass it up either. It's flavors are nice, but leave the mouth too quickly, and mouthfeel is a touch thin for my liking.

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Photo of match1112
3.68/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: reddish brown with a full finger of beige head.

s: nuts, brown sugar, cocoa, toffee and tons of malts.

t: mostly sweet malts and brown sugar with the nuts and cocoa hiding in the background.

m: medium body with good carbonation.

o: a good beer. wish it had more of a roasted nutty maltyness to it instead of all the sugar flavor.

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Photo of aasher
3.47/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of glid02
3.83/5  rDev +4.9%
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.

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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 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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Photo of GregBlatz
3/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Never heard of Barley Island until a friend visited Indy and picked me up a variety of their beers.

A - Nice deep raisin brown color. I poured in the sediment as well so my beer is pretty cloudy. Head was subdued and only had a film over the surface area. Color of the head was almost white rather than tan.

S - Dark fruit is the first thing that comes to mind. Some fruity esters are noticeable.

T - Silky and velvety. Very very sweet. High finishing gravity, or high mash temperature? Malt dominates this beer. No noticeable diacetyl flavor. Clearly an American style rather than an English interpretation.

M - Carbonation is light. This has a very thick and full mouthfeel.

D - Good as a one off. I don't think anyone would like to have multiples of this. It is too sweet to have more than one. This would be a good after dinner drink.

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Photo of Durge
3.72/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A thick muddy brown colored brew with a decent light tan colored head and reasonable lacing. The aroma offers mild chocolate malt with a tasteful complement of brown sugar, leafy hops. The flavor brings malty swamp grass stuff with a bit more of the brown sugar sweetness. There's coffee bitterness that bites through and molasses nuances. It's medium-light bodied with fairly lively carbonation. Plenty drinkable with a light hop hint to make this a very interesting brown ale. I don't love it but it's deserving of a try and satisfies reasonably.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.75/5  rDev +2.7%
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.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.06/5  rDev -16.2%
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.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
3.8/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this at the Bar Louie in Evansville, IN near I-164. Poured into a pint glass.

A - Pours a nice light brown dark copper color with some nice dark copper hints. There is a nice .25 inch head that is tightly packed but the bartender lets it sit and then fills the pint up to the brim. Pretty good.

S - Aroma is of slight roasted malts with some slight caramel but is well balanced by some great grassy and slightly piney hops. This brown ale is very similar to an IPA surprisingly. Reminds me of Grand Teton Bitch Creek ESB. Grassy and sweet and delicious.

T & M - The flavor has some nice roasted malts and some caramel as well as some slight chocolate. Then the best part shines through. This malty backbone is surrounded by some nice grassy and crisp spice from the hops. Very nice and fresh with some slight pine to them. Delicious take on this style. It its crisp and clean with nice dry and bitter finish.

D - Very nice. Had three of this that night and felt fine after. Very easy to sip or drink.

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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 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 deereless
3.02/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A: Serious carbonation problem that resulted in a flow over of the bottle, 6 inches of foam to a half an inch of beer off an easy pour, lots of sticky spots down the interior of the glass as the head drops, light brown to weak coffee in color - 2.50, S: Malts really take the stage on the nose, mildly earthy and woody, there is a fair degree of toastiness and nuttiness to the aroma as well - 3.00, T: The palate has a caramel and milk chocolate sweetness, slight fruitiness, mild hop bite - 3.50, M: The mouth feel of Dirty Helen is quite flaccid and thin, the initial burst of carbonation sapped the prickle I associate with the bubbles - 2.50, D: I'm not sure if I have an old bottle and without a date on the bottle it is impossible to tell, but there are a few things about Dirty Helen that seem off yet close enough to the style to merit this review, the initial carbonation really took away from the appearance and the mouth feel, I personally would be unlikely to drink this beer again - 2.50

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Photo of ruckus232
3.18/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 Ounce brown bottle poured into a stein

Appearance: Clear dark brown with really foamy off white head

Smell: Sweet smell that is just slightly on the toasted side. Not a very strong smell but still pretty good.

Taste: Gives the feeling of being slightly flat but the taste is slightly sweet and toasted.

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