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

On tap at the Broad Ripple pub.

Pours light and chocolate with a respectable head. Kinda pretty.

Smells hoppy for the style, earthen with a little bit of nutty sweetness. Kinda faint.

Tastes nutty, ashen, and lightly hoppy. In that order, with some nuttiness lingering. There isn't all that much going on, but what's there is solid and it's well balanced and easy drinking. I don't got all that much to say, because there wasn't all that much going on.

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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 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 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 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 yourefragile
3.62/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

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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 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 tpd975
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: Pours a nice deep ruby red hue when put up against the light. Nice creamy tan head that rises to three fingers in height. Very foamy cap on this one. Light spotting of lace.

S: Lots of nutty toffee, brown sugar, and caramel. Malty goodness in a glass.

T: Gooey toffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate up front. Nice caramel malt profile with a touch of brown sugar.

M: On the thinner side of medium, smooth.

D: Not bad. By no means is it the best brown in the world, but it is fairly tasty, and pretty darn drinkable.

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Photo of PirateUlf73
3.87/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Hazy, ruby-brown color with a light tan head that simmers down to a quarter-finger layer.

S: Aromas remind me of toasted barley, soft hazelnuts and a pinch of caramel. There's also a pleasant aroma that I can't quite describe. Chocolate-covered fruit perhaps.

T: A semi-dry smack of semi-sweet chocolate and nutty flavors are the first to hit, followed by an earth, slightly spicy hop presence. Possesses a nice, warming, toasty character that rounds out the taste and ties it all together. Could possibly stand to be blended a little better, but quite tasty as is.

M: Lighter side of medium-bodied and lower-than-average, yet still persistent carbonation. Finish is a tad muddy and dry, and the aftertaste is nutty and sweet.

D: A solid, tavern-style brown that warrants sessioning on occasion.

Barley Island definitely has a winner with Dirty Helen. Certainly not the smoothest brown ale ever, but the flavors are delicious and interesting. I'd be quite happy to drink a sixer of this, whilst in the company of good friends, of course!

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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 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 diabecktic
3.81/5  rDev +4.4%
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 +3.3%
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 +8.2%
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 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 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 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 gmfessen
3.67/5  rDev +0.5%
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 -6.6%
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 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 SMark
3.62/5  rDev -0.8%
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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Dirty Helen Brown Ale from Barley Island Brewing Company
3.65 out of 5 based on 165 ratings.
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