Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Dirty Helen Brown Ale | Barley Island Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
BA SCORE
83
good
80 Reviews
THE BROS
84
good
Read the review
Dirty Helen Brown AleDirty Helen Brown Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Barley Island Brewing Company
Indiana, United States
barleyisland.com

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
80
Ratings:
164
Avg:
3.65
pDev:
16.44%
 
 
Wants:
5
Gots:
7
For Trade:
0
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 80 | Ratings: 164
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.

 354 characters

Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
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.

 526 characters

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.

 3,693 characters

Photo of objectivemonkey
3.83/5  rDev +4.9%
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.

 641 characters

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.

 615 characters

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.

 682 characters

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!

 1,190 characters

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.

 513 characters

Photo of Duster72
3.75/5  rDev +2.7%
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.

 360 characters

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.

 623 characters

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.

 739 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.5/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

 1,705 characters

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!

 868 characters

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.

 460 characters

Photo of EvilKeith
3.6/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

 510 characters

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.

 508 characters

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.

 644 characters

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.

 898 characters

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.

 647 characters

Photo of clvand0
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours an amber color with a small head that falls fast and leaves a little lacing on the glass. The aroma has some roasted and some chocolate with a little dirty hop. Just ok on the smell. The flavor has a little bit of nutty with hints of chocolate, but it's really weak. Good flavor. The mouthfeel is somewhat thin but the drinkability is good.

 346 characters

Photo of rdailey76
3.57/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I have had this on tap from the brewery in the past, but chose to review of the sixer I picked up tonight. Pours a copperish amber color with very minimal head, maybe a bottle cap high. Really enjoyed the scents I was picking up. There was a definitive roasted grain scent with a twinge of sweetness. Enjoyed the initial mouthfeel and taste, but as it reaches the back of my mouth and am a little turned off by the lingering bitterness on my pallette. I bought six, which I am using 2 in a chili I am making, so I would expect that I could have a couple at a time. I will have to give it another try on tap when I head back for their excellent Oatmeal Stout.

 658 characters

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.

 1,085 characters

Photo of Jason
3.71/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 12 oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

Appearance: Thin lacing with a troubled head retention, faint haze on the rusty brown brew.

Smell: Aleish fermentation is apparent with slight fruitiness and nutty yeast. A bit malty in the nose with faint chocolate and caramel notes.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Restrained crispness from a low carbonation and moderate body. Dry toasted malt character throughout, edging on chocolate here and there with a long lingering hop bitterness that sets the palate straight without pushing anything out of balance. A scratch of fruit and yeast in the back, finishes semi-sweet with a semi-rough toasted malt husk.

Notes: A tasty little brown ale, a tad rough around the edges and short on the carbonation. Any easy pick for a lunch time brew with a stacked pastrami on rye.

 826 characters

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.

 380 characters

Photo of Dogbrick
3.62/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From a sampler: This brew is a copper-brown color with a medium thin beige head. Malt and caramel in the nose. Medium bodied with a blend of malt, hops and caramel flavors. The finish is lightly bitter hops. This is an interesting take on a Brown Ale, as it isn't really even that brown. Cool name too.

 302 characters

Dirty Helen Brown Ale from Barley Island Brewing Company
3.65 out of 5 based on 164 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!

    Subscribe