Dirty Helen Brown Ale | Barley Island Brewing Company

80 Reviews
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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 salvo
2.31/5  rDev -36.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

This most aptly named brew from Barley Island pours chestnut brown into my imperial pint. The carbonation is soda-like, with large bubbles that produce a fluffy bubbly two-inch head that quickly dissipates. The nose is earthy malt with dark chocolate tones in the background. When first poured, the carbonation tickled my nose, but then over time calmed down to almost flatten completely in 10 minutes.

The taste is why I accuse the beer of being aptly named: with little hopping, the earthy malts take over and the name Dirty Helen becomes cannily descriptive. It tastes like dirt! The "dirty" taste is more powerful than "earthy" and I can imagine the Indiana topsoil from which the ingredients emerge.

It is very light on the palate; almost like soda pop with its carbonation. The lower alcohol--session levels--should make this highly drinkable, but the bitter finish puts me off.

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Photo of hotstuff
2.73/5  rDev -25.2%
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.

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Photo of drtacks37
2.89/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured into a pint glass. LOTS of head. Thick, creamy, light tan head.

Brown body, no light shines through. Some particles floating.

Smells like a scotch-style ale. Heavy on alcohol (in smell only) and hoppy.

Nice, creamy mouthfeel.

Below-average flavors, to light for my palate to diferentiate, with a hoppy afterbite.

I try every brown ale I can find. This one does not do it for me.

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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 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 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 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 cameraman
3.1/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass, with a deep copper/brown color, more like a cestnut color. A slight head forms that disappates quickly. The scent of carmel malt is very apparent with some hoppy spiciness. The taste starts with that malty sweetness, followed by a nutty flavor, and finishes with a hoppy finish. The mouthfeel medium bodied to watery with a little bit of a tingle from the carbonation. Overall this beer is pretty drinkable, the flavor is solid, but nothing stands out to make this beer outstanding.

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Photo of kmpitz2
3.13/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Found this in Indianapolis last week. It pours a brownish amber color with a finger of head that falls to a patchy coating over top. Not quite the color I was expecting. The nose is not at all what I expected. I get notes of citrusy hops and very little roasted malts or nuttyness. Boo. Big boo. The flavor is the same. An odd slight citrusy hop over a very lightly roasted and caramel base. Overall lacking in character for a brown ale of any sorts. The feel is moderate with a moderate carbonation. I'm not very impressed with this brew. It lacks any characteristics of a brown ale. Just not a beer I will get again. Go for their Brass Knuckles.

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Photo of Beejay
3.15/5  rDev -13.7%
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..

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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 nlmartin
3.18/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer was poured into a pub glass.

Appearance: The beer poured a dark brown with ruby opaqueness to light. The head was the coloration of lightly creamed coffee. The head was two fingers high. There was no retention of the head.

Smell: The beer has a citrusy hoppyness. The beer has a light roasted malty quality.

Taste: The beer has an odd astringent citrus hoppyness upfront. This gives way to a lightly roasted caramel maltyness.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The beer has a thiner mouthfeel and taste than I prefer. This is an easy drinking brown ale. I think there are better brown ales available and I will not repeat this one.

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Photo of mntlover
3.2/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a nice medium brown with amber hints. Lots of bubbles rising to a big fluffy tan head that falls slowly to a nice cap. Considering the nice head not much lacing left behind.

Aroma i nice toasted malts caramel light molasses mixed with nutty hints and some light fruitiness.

Taste is bursting with carbonation moving into caramel and molasses mingled with nuts. Finish is lingering nuts along with hops that are grassy in nature.

Mouthfeel is light medium but is sporting way too much carbonation. So much CO2 that it effects the taste of the beer for me making much lower then it could of been if mellowed.

Drinkability is not great due to excess CO2. Thanks go to merlin48 for this sample, a cool looking bottle anyway.

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Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.2/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Presentation: 12oz brown pop top, so-so label, no date

Appearance: Slightly hazy dark mahogany beer with a creamy ivory cap which shows decent retention and some nice lace

Smell: Nice mild, toasty malt and sweet, nutty character

Taste: Overly sweet, almost cloying, really. This shows a lot of warm nutty flavors, which is nice, but this is just too sweet, with a little odd, steely bitterness on the finish...this, combined with the sweetness, just doesn't really work

Mouthfeel: Fairly full, which makes the sweetness seem more intense

Drinkability: Medium at best

Conclusion: This has really nice aromas and appearance, but the flavor just falls a bit flat.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.25/5  rDev -11%
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.

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Photo of beveritt
3.3/5  rDev -9.6%
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.

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Photo of ppoitras
3.36/5  rDev -7.9%
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.

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Photo of 1fastz28
3.41/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

pours a dark brown copper color with a brownish colored head, pretty dark beer overall. smell is pretty malty overall, some coffee is distinguished, but not much else. taste is average, doesn't have any alcohol bite or flavor, just sugary malt, and some roasted malt, no hops are present at all.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
3.45/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

big ass bomber.. cool label and thanks to.. uhh.. patyoda? orbitalr0x? i forget. this has been in the DBF area forever.

pours beautifully, dark brown and thick with some red and orange highlights around the edges. nice creamy head reduces to a thin layer of egg foam. nice lacing. aroma carries creamy hazelnut along with sweet hoppiness and burnt sugars. great nose for a brown. flavor is very grassy, bordering on metallic. coppery. obviously a hop/malt combo that evokes more sourness than balance. something odd in the finish, almost meaty. this beer is very flavorful and has a nice mouthfeel and drinkability.. its just very muddled in its combination of flavors. i think libery with hops, in this case, works against the beer. for the rarity and the unavailability, i probably won't revisit. this would be a good beer to cook with.

although i will finish the bottle and won't hate it.

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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 Contagion
3.46/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

It pours a lovely dark reddish brown color. There is a very thin tan head on it that fades quickly to a film on the top of the beer. There is no lacing on the side of the glass.

The aroma is a combination of nuts and caramel malts. There is a slight sweetness to it that is rather interesting. The smell and flavor are about the same. It tastes like a combination of nuts and caramel malts. There is a bitter finish to it and a slight taste of floral hops. The bitterness lasts into the aftertaste.

This is a medium bodied beer that is easy to drink. There is a decent amount of carbonation in it.

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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 trbergman
3.48/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a shaker pint.

A - Ruddy translucent brown with a towering collar of dense, taupe foam.

S - Caramel, chocolate, and subtle hop aroma.

T - Earthy malt presence with chocolate, caramel, and nut. Earthy hop flavor with moderate bitterness that's accentuated by the high carbonation.

M - Light-medium body. Severely overcarbonated, to the point that drinking it is a bit of a chore.

D - Seems like a decent beer, but could do with lower carbonation. Swirling a bit and letting it warm, it shows improvement. Good enough to warrant another try, though.

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Photo of Gusler
3.5/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

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Photo of francisweizen
3.5/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This poured out of the bottle a dark brown colour with a big head of fluffy white foam. Aromas were straight forward and consisted of some nice malts, and subtle hops. The taste was just how I expected it to be. A bit chocolatey and caramelly with a nice maltiness up front, and a slight sweetness in the back. The mouthfeel was medium bodied and average, as was the drinkability.

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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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