Dirty Helen Brown Ale | Barley Island Brewing Company

Dirty Helen Brown AleDirty Helen Brown Ale
165 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 165 |  Reviews: 80
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.

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Photo of seaoflament
3.77/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Tim for the opportunity to try this beer, one of many.

It pours a tad light for a brown ale, looks more like slightly reddish amber. About a half inch of foam on top that quickly settled to a ring.

Pretty good aroma...I get a full bouquet of roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, toffee, nutty malts, and malted milk. A bit of fruitiness which could be coming from the yeast. It really has a nice combination of chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut. In the background I get a bit of butterscotch.

A little bland at first but the finish is packed with flavor, very similar to the aroma. Nutty malts, bread, chocolate, coffee and a tad grainy near the aftertaste. There's some tanginess that I'm detecting in the middle, it wants to come across as fruits...can't quite put my finger on it. The flavors seem to tone down after a while.

Soft carbonation, on the low side but it feels smooth on the palate and is pretty easy to drink (which is something I look for in a brown ale).

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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.

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Photo of Contagion
3.46/5  rDev -4.7%
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 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

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Photo of JamesS
4.82/5  rDev +32.8%
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 gmfessen
3.67/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass, beer is a deep, crimson-brown color with a thin, sudsy head. The smell is malty sweet; biscuit, chocolate and caramel are present. The taste is similar, starts with a malty forefront and is balanced nicely with a decently bitter, slightly hoppy finish. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a smooth carbonation. Overall, a drinkable beer but nothing that stands out in my mind.

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Photo of 1fastz28
3.41/5  rDev -6.1%
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.58/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance - pours a nice deep iced-tea color, two finger of light tan foam on top. Sticky ropes of lace are left behind.

Aroma - crackery, toasty grain, a touch of sweetness. Light but good.

Taste - toasty grains as expected, a little bit of metal. Nice balancing hops on the swallow, gaining a little momentum into the finish. Good balance of flavors. Ends toasty with a bitter edge.

Mouthfeel - thin to medium body, heavily carbonated.

Drinkability - a little too gassy for me to have many of, but I enjoyed the bottle.

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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.

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

Into a pint glass, pours a chestnut brown, an aggressive-ish pour yielding a half finger head that recedes to a thin film, with splotty and stretching lacing. The aroma is pretty nice, good nutty and mildly fruity tones, a little chocolate. The taste is pretty similar, slightly better. A little less nuttiness, a little more toasted malt, less chocolate than nose. It has a pretty decent body, is a little lighter on the carbonation (which I agree with in this beer), pretty solid. Overall, its a pretty good version of a style I usually don't love to drink, and I could probably tip back a few of these pretty easily, no small feat for me.

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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.

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Photo of crazybrody06
4.2/5  rDev +15.7%
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 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!

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Photo of Vancer
4.27/5  rDev +17.6%
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 ol’ tastebuds.

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

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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.

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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.

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Photo of mntlover
3.2/5  rDev -11.8%
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 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.

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Photo of nouseforotacon
4.27/5  rDev +17.6%
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 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.

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Photo of EvilKeith
3.6/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours murky pale brown to dark amber in color. The head is a finger of thick camel colored foam. The lace is impressive and lines the glass.

The smell is rich with butterscotch, sweet caramel malts and faintly peppery.

The taste is much more bitter than expected for an English Brown Ale. The brewery refers to this one a Tavern Style Brown Ale.

It is a very good beer. It is highly drinkable, but if you are expecting a Samuel Smith's or Murphy's clone you will be disappointed.

Give it a try.

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Dirty Helen Brown Ale from Barley Island Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.63 out of 5 with 165 ratings
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