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Old Ruffian Barley Wine - Great Divide Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

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2,173 Ratings

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Ratings: 2,173
Reviews: 1,067
rAvg: 4.21
pDev: 9.98%
Wants: 237
Gots: 334 | FT: 19
Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company visit their website
Colorado, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: gbontrag on 11-28-2004

Old Ruffian is a hefty, hop-forward Barley Wine. Seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness, it quickly becomes aggressive with its bold hop flavors and huge hop bitterness. Ultimately, the big body, succulent sweetness and massive hop character come together to work wonders on your palate.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,173 | Reviews: 1,067
Photo of SteveO1231
4.42/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had an older bottle cellaring for a few years decided to crack it open after two hours of snow shoveling. I'm not sure when it was released but I've had it for 2-3 years, it still has the old label on it.

The brew pours a murky rust with amber highlights and thick off-white foamy head. Huge caramel malt aroma, dried fruits, malt, earthy hop notes in back. Full bodied as all hell with some slickness. The beer is just as sweet as the aroma, huge caramel flavors, dried fruits, pineapple, apricot, raisin and date. Almost juicy fruit. Hop profile has diminished in terms of aroma and flavor but is still very evident in the back end. This beer is still bitter and finishes with piney dryness and an abv that really makes the palate hum. Awesome barley wine.


Photo of IronCitySteve
4.16/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep dark amber color with some red hues. Provides a one finger off white foam head with tons of lacing.

S: A little mild on the nose. Some scents of caramel and bready malt with some citrus hops.

T: Taste is much more potent then the smell. The malt character, mostly rich caramel and some toasted bread are present up front. The citrus hop bitterness comes through in the middle and lasts the rest of the way.

M: Leaves a dryer feel yet creamy at the same time...very nice full body

D: A big ABV makes this a nice sipper. A really nice barley wine that you should seek out. I know I will for sure.

Photo of BeerImmediately
3.96/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served at cellar temp into tulip.

Pours with a respectable off white head over a very clear orange to red body - plenty of lacing.

Lots of orange peel citrusy quality, with candy sugar, and a touch of rye.

Mouthfeel is prickly and spicey up front - this thing attacks the tongue. Thick rye bread flavor in the middle, with some deep raisin and banana-like sweetness balancing the bitterness which takes over the finish.

Mouthfeel is good for a barleywine - nice level of carbonation, and sufficiently smooth.

Pretty darn nice BW.

Photo of perrymarcus
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle served in a snifter glass.

pours a deep amber tone with ruby red highlights... yields a solid finger and a half of a khaki colored head; solid retention and beautiful walls of lacing. pretty damn impressive presentation.

nose is led by sweet malts, followed by notes of citrus and a bit of pine.

flavor follows the nose to a T. caramel, bready maltiness with a strong ensuing citrus/pine presence - huge hops showing, even for an american barleywine - carrying through to a hoppy bitterness in the finish... very well-hidden 10.2% ABV.

nice full-bodied mouthfeel with adequate carbonation. dangerously drinkable for such a big beer. while i prefer the english counterpart of the style, this is great rendition of the american version.

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Purchased in CA, at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, the only store I've come across these brews. Brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.

Pours a gorgeous red-orange colour, burnished brightly and shining when held to light. Head forms in tiny cascades initially, but becomes large-bubbled froth as it settles, which is not that surprising for a beer of this gravity. Body looks heavy and thick. Overall, it's a very robust and intense looking brew. I'm looking forward to sampling it.

Ooh, yes. The nose is just right for an American Barleywine. Big on the hops, of course, but nicely balanced with a big sweetness of rich toffee malts, and a pleasant sweet/savoury nut character. Very faint hint of phenolic booze, but it merely mingles with the other big flavours. Pleasantly, it's not a beer that could be mistaken for an Imperial IPA, it's clearly meatier and sweeter. Lovely.

Oh yes, and the taste keeps this trend alive, Big American hop presence on the front, but mellowing beautifully into a rich, sumptuous and chewy body, full of malts and a whiff of fragrant boozy characters. Finish is long and languid, with some roasted characters coming through again with a slight drying hazelnut or almond character.

Feel is full and smooth and tremendously firm to support all the characteristics.

A damn fine Barleywine, surely one of the best there is. They've done a magnificent job making it big in every area, but keeping the balance right for the style. Big, boozy and sweet, with great body and bite.

Magnificent beer.

Photo of Frosty80
4.08/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Nov 2010 bottling:
Color: pours light-medium brown. sits clear amber

Smell: great balance of citrusy hops and malt sweetness. notes of dark fruit, caramel and citrusy, piny hops. well hidden alcohol - just enough to brighten everything.

Taste: big, citrusy hop flavor up front followed by a moderate malt character and fruity esters. some caramel and dark fruit. alcohol is pretty assertive throughout and is slightly hot. bitterness is moderately high throughout. finish is slightly dry with a long, lingering bitterness and hop flavor

Mouthfeel: high-medium body and carbonation

Notes: solid barleywine with the balance shifted toward hop flavor and bitterness

Jan 2010 bottling:
Color: sits lighter than Nov 2010 brother with a clear, brownish-orange color

Smell: much less citrusy hop character, though still present, and more bready malt with raisins and a little banana. light alcohol presence.

Taste: again, much less hop character and bitterness, or at least more balanced. bready malt, with notes of raisins and a tinge of banana. alcohol is warming but not as hot it seems as other one. finish is slightly dry with only a light citrusy character and bitterness with a hint of fruitiness.

Mouthfeel: high-medium body and carbonation

Notes: a little more balanced overall than fresh batch. not sure if its just attributed to age or if the recipe changes slightly. a "cuvee" of both is outstanding!

Photo of LiquidCucumber
4.2/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Deep, dark red. Pours with a small white head that sticks all over the glass.

S - Sweet, bready malts well backed up by a thick pine-like hop scent.

T - Powerful malts and powerful hops mix together to make a very complex fruity, malty, and hoppy beer. I taste mostly darker fruits and piney hops.

M - Slightly drier than expected but smooth and creamy for the style.

D - This is definitely a sipper; too much going on to be able to down this easily. Quite a bit less hoppy than Bigfoot, but that's good because it cuts way down on the astringency.

Photo of UTCengOwl
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm a huge fan of this beer and I was glad to see bombers back on the shelf at my local Central Market. Served in a Great Divide balloon glass.

The look of this beer is probably its least impressive quality. It pours a mix of burnt orange and brown with surprising clarity for how dark it is. There is a muddled light tan head on top of the beer that starts at around a finger and dissipates quickly. The head does leave some nice laces on the side of my glass, though.

The smell is doubly sticky. The malt backbone calls forth similar depth as any barleywine. Sweet, bready and sticky malt. Good caramel depth. However, there is a significant American hop presence, too. Sticky, piney hops. These two kinds of stickiness come together to present a great unified front in my nose. However, the hops aren't quite dynamic enough to give this a perfect rating.

The taste has distinct layers that come forth. The initial taste has some aroma hop presence, but is dominated by the big malt backbone. However, this eventually blends and then gives way to the American hop taste. This, combined with the hit of booze at the back end gives it a distinct difference from the beginning and middle taste. The finish is strong, but ends clean. This invites me to keep imbibing and finish the 22 oz far too quickly. The weight of the beer in my mouth is significant, but not stickily overwhelming. This is exactly what I want from my barleywines.

I love Old Ruffian and it's not hard to see why as I work my way through the bottle. This is my favorite Barleywine and the standard upon which I judge all other barleywines that I consume.

Photo of harrymel
3.23/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

$8 for 22oz @ Huck's in Spokane, WA
Poured to NB tulip.

A: Ale pours a dark mahogany with red edges. Mildly transparent around edges. Light caramel, thin cap over the ale. Can agitate bubbles to thicker head, but less so as temperature increases.

S: Caramel, toffee, mint, pine, earthy hops. Still a small hint of alcohol. Standard lineup of a BW.

T: Bitter. Pine, astringent. Sweetness from alcohol present, too much bite on back of palate. Finishes with a hair of nougat, but not enough to help balance out the mass of early wort hops on this one.

M: Medium to heavy ale with medium to low carbonation. A bit sharp with high ABV.

D: This is absolutely a big beer, in GDBC's nature. Although this beer is decent, and I imagine fantastic with two years under it's belt, I cannot call it great. Worth a try, worth a purchase to age a couple. Beyond that, mediocre as far as BW's go.

Photo of BeanBone
4.37/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: A crystal-clear red-brown body capped by two fingers of creamy off-white head that fade slowly and leave patchy lacing.

Aroma: Lots of rich and earthy sticky toffee pudding malt, leafy and citrusy hops, and a hint of booze as it warms.

Flavor: A complex mix of citrusy, piney, tropical-fruity, and moderately bitter hops, sticky toffee pudding malt, and spicy alcohol. Lots of rich and complementary alcohol character throughout. There are a lot of potent elements here, but everything is balanced nicely. Earthy toffee, citrus, and lots of spicy booze in the finish.

Mouthfeel: A sticky and chewy full body with smooth medium carbonation and a neutral finish. Nice warmth from the alcohol throughout.

Drinkability: Surprisingly drinkable given the bruising double-digit alcohol content, though it's hardly a fast drinker.

Verdict: Old Ruffian is a terrific example of the American Barleywine style; it's tasty, complex, and criminally drinkable. This is such great beer when fresh that I can't wait to see how it ages.

Photo of WildTurkey
4.2/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear ruby amber color. Thick off-white head. Smells of yeast, pear, and floral hops. Sweet malty taste along with tart fruit like cherry, apple cider, with spice. A little hop bitterness at the back. Medium to fuller bodied. A little oily. Really nice drink.

Photo of SykDoc
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a snifter. It pours a amber/ruby mix forming a 3/4 inch tan head that reduces to a nice mostly full coverage lacing. Carbonation visible.

The aroma is primarily hops up front with a malty sweet backbone and just a hint of alcohol.

The taste has a strong upfront caramel malt sweetness followed by a balancing and pleasant hop component. Alcohol is there, but blended well with the other components.

The mouthfeel is fairly full bodied with an appropriate level of carbonation. A bitter hop bite is present at the finish leaving a nice dryness.

Overall, this beer is quite drinkable with a well hidden ABV, nice balance between hops and malts, as well as palate that allows you to have more than one.

Photo of montecristo2
4.55/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a tulip glass. This particular bottle was from a two year old batch.

Pours a dark reddish/brown in the glass. A thick two fingered head. Good lacing.

Big aroma of caramel with slight hoppy smells of pine and candied citrus.

Sweet tasting-rich flavors of caramel and slight dark fruits. Sugary and delicious.

A perfect mouthfeel, perhaps due to the aging. Smooth, balanced, perfect.

Very drinkable for a barleywine, but I love barleywines so that may not be a good indicator! I shared this bottle with friends, but could totally put down one alone if I were already home in front of the fire.


Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Had this yesterday at the map room in chicago.

Appearance: hazy bronze / redish amber color. White and fluffy head.

Smell: All hops, some maltiness hiding behind the hops. Smell a little boozey too.

Taste: rich carmel flavor inturuped immediately by the hops flavor. Hops tasting citrisy and herbal. Maybe even some grapefruit. Great balance between hop and malt here! Booze is hidden very well, practically non-existant in this brew. I love barleywines that taste this way!

Mouthfeel: Slick and carbonation is right on! Full body.

Drinkability: With the booze well hidden, this one will sneak up on you! So watch out!

Another fine example of why i love great divide Brewing CO! Solid American Barleywine!

Photo of Manoftyr
4.75/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance-Pours a dark walnut color into the glass with dulled red highlights that become more prominent when held to light. A distinctive, and longly-lingering beige head tops the crown of the beer, a very nice head especially considering that it's a high ABV barleywine. Lacing is abundant. This is one nice looking barleywine.

Aroma-That distinctive, huge aroma of caramel-malt that sets barleywines apart IMHO is the first thing to assail your nostrils and sharply following is a wave of hops emparting smells of pine and candied citric fruits. These alternating waves of malt and hop pretty much define this beer, and indeed what I've come to expect from American Barleywines.

Taste-Sweet, sweet waves of rich caramel, toffee and sweet dark fruit rush over the tongue only to be promptly weathered by an onslaught of piney, hoppy bitterness around mid-palete, the typical flavors of grapefruit and citric fruit rind are present on the back end. Some alcohol is noted but the sheer hugeness of the flavors covers it up sufficiently. Awesomely rich American Barleywine.

Mouthfeel-Syrupy, heavy, silky-smoothe, medium carbonation; luxurious.

Drinkability-Well, it's a Barleywine so drinkability is hard for me to rate but it certainly leaves me satisfied and looking forward to successive sips with each drink. For style it's pretty much perfect.

Photo of JamesMcPolin
4.42/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into a 22oz weizen glass. Aged one-day-shy of exactly a year from the bottled-on date.

Pours with significant carbonation, good head, off-white or light beige in color. Dark reddish-brown at the top, dark reddish-orange at the bottom, beautiful/complex coloring.

Still kind of a newbie to the barley-wine style. So, can't pick out all the subtleties and name them in isolation, but love the nose. Smells sweet, hops come through for sure.

Little bit of hops at the start but not as much as I would have expected, given the nose. 10.2% nowhere to be found with one year cellared. Bananas come through as the main ester, big time. Tasty as hell. Very interesting in the way that it finishes with a 50/50 split (perfect balance) between bitter hops and sweet dark caramel.

Full bodied but still fizzy with the good carbonation. Warm & tart.

Completely unsure of where this ranks against other cellared barley wines, since this is the first one we have cracked out of our cellar. But what a great start to our voyage into the style. Overall, a very good ale even if you're not into barley wines.


Photo of DoubleJ
4.62/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I'm feeling cold tonight, so you know what that means...bring out the barleywine! The 22 ounce bottle, bottled on December 29, 2009, shall provide plenty of joy for the rest of the night. On to the beer:

A finger and a half worth of head lay on top this crimson colored beer. The head goes down slowly, giving a little lacing to stick.
Despite being only days shy of its first birthday, I can still smell some magic in the hops. Their tea-like aromas mixed with drippings of caramel are a great change of pace from the usual over resiny American barleywine.

For an American barleywine, it's rather sweet, but it still has some American character to it. The malt wastes no time greeting your palate with heavy carmelized malts and burnt sugar. Then suddenly some resin and tea leaf notes crop up. Gentle breezes of pine and pineapple add further complexity to this magnicifent beer. Speaking of magnificent, that mouthfeel is meaty and smooth; full bodied/grab your palate by the horns, all while the 10.2% ABV is buried like treasure.

I expected Old Ruffian to be good. I didn't expect it to be this good, considering that I am not as keen of American-style barleywines. Simply a magnificent beer to sip on throughout the night, and a slice of caramel cheesecake that the label recommends as a food pairing sounds dank.

Photo of MetalHopHead6
4.28/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Great Divide Old Ruffian is a boozy, hoppy, floral, fruity mouthful.

It poured a deep gorgeous ruby red with a thick creamy head that left thick rings of lace throughout the glass. The smell was sweet and floral but subdued. The flavors were more explosive and complex, with earthy grassy notes, a hint of sweet dark cherry, and a ton of flowers. The high alcohol level left a boozy aftertaste and a warming feeling that was nice on a snowy December day. The feel was very bitter and full.

Old Ruffian is a wonderfully aggressive flavorful ruby gem. Too strong for everyday yet delicious and bitter enough to make any day special.

Photo of pmlondrigan
3.98/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Nice ruby red color and an inch of dense white foam, speckly spotty lacingis produced. Aroma is piney and sticky with notes of cherry blackberry and fruityness. Fruity and lightly bitter. Caramel and caramalized sugars, and slightly syrupy, also flavors of berries and cherries. Also plenty of piney a resinous hops make themselves known.
Easy to drink, actually too easy to drink. I prefer my barleywines a bit more syrupy, but thats me. One thing is for sure there is no sign of this being above 10 % abv. Glad I picked this up.

Photo of DovaliHops
4.21/5  rDev 0%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very pretty, cloudy amber-dark red with a medium-large off white head. This one was bottled just about one year ago. Scent is maple syrup, brown sugar, delicious dark fruits, sweet malts, and a bit of booze. Taste is lots of maple syrup and brown sugar. I get some very tasty plum, prune, raisin, and date flavor with some amazing sweet malt flavors. This is my first time having this beer, so I have never had it fresh. There isn't much hop profile...AT ALL... so possibly faded over the year. There is still quite a bit of booziness, which is fine with me on this cold, rainy night. Mouthfeel is full-bodied and viscous with a bit of a syrupy feel. Drinkability is high, as this is very tasty! Great Divide has not let me down with what I've tried so far.

EDIT: Just had to edit my review. There is a ton of toffee that comes through as this beer warms up a bit. Which is GREAT!

Photo of HalfFull
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. bomber bottled in January of 2010 and poured into an oversized red wine glass. Old Ruffian pours a slightly hazed mahogany red in color and sports a brief half inch of pourous tan foam. A surface film does keep for a bit or can be swirled back up if desired. Light though not sticky lacing is in order.

Nose is initially a blast of woody hops through the foam, settling into classic barley wine scents of caramel and light brown sugar, a bit of alcohol and some candied dried fruit. Pleasant though perhaps a bit subtle in nature.

Taste is in stride with the aroma, with a caramel candied apple leading the way, along with some cocoa spice and an underlying hint of citrus which is muddled enough to lose the tartness and actually lightens the body of the beer so as to ease the alcohol presence. As a result this beer drinks quite easily for its heft and does so without an overbearing sweetness.

Old Ruffian lacks the bite and burn I would normally associate with the style. Very hoppy and very drinkable in exchange and I like that trade.

Photo of JackieTH
4.1/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Reddish-orange and hazy with a small light brown head.

Smell: Citrus, sweet, toasted malt, dark dried fruit.

Taste: Big. Sweet/malty, oranges, molassess, dark dried fruit - figs and raisins, rum oak casks. Hop bitterness. Substantial presence.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, smooth, full.

Drinkability: Sipper.

Photo of TheHoppiest
4.03/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into an oversized snifter. Poured from a bottle bearing a "Bottled on Dec 08, 2009" stamp. Pours a cranberry-orange with a 1" tan head that slowly reduces. Decent carbonation hides in the slightly cloudy brew.

Has a strong piney-hop smell with over notes of yeast, leather, alcohol, oak, and grapes.

Has a buttery bitter start with plenty of alcohol. Loads of peppery spice on the tongue, and earthy leafy hops make for a pleasantly bitter finish. More of a yeasty aroma in the mouth than a yeasty taste, this is not as malty as other barleywines I've had.

Creamy mouthfeel is tempered by the bitter spice finish this provides to the belly.

A nice, hoppy barleywine, this is my second time having this brew. Warm in the gut, its a nice brew for a snowy day outside.

Photo of eclaycamp
4.02/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage - bottled on December 2, so just over a year of aging on this one. The Ruffian pours a rusty red color with a fizzy and bubbly head. Aroma has this raisin and fruit thing going on, with a subtle malt sweetness in the background. Taste is ... huge. (The label says hefty, and it might actually be appropriate in this case) The first sips let you know that there's a big hop profile on this one, with a lingering bitterness that I associate more with IPAs than the Barleywine style. This has to be dry-hopped. I'm amazed that a beer this old can have this much hop presence. Impressive. Beyond the hops is this great, caramel-toffee malt backbone that holds everything up. As the beer warms and opens up there's this very nice raisin and fruitcake sweetness that comes out the more you drink it. There's some alcohol burn on the way down, though it's not unpleasant and certainly something you kind of expect with the style. Overall this is a hefty and hoppy (borrowing from the label) example of the American Barleywine style.

Photo of kingcrowing
3.04/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

22oz bomber poured into a Duvel tulip. Bottles on December 22, 2009. Big thanks to VTbobcat for picking this up for me in Mass!

Pours a very hazy mahogany brown with a small light brown head that quickly fades to nil. Nose is really quite hoppy given the age, very sweet and floral, it's got the same bready yeast note as Yeti. Booze is not noticeable.

Hmm, it almost seems like there's a tinge of vinegar to this. It's not overt and it's not sour, it may be more of an iron taste but it is a bit odd. It might also be the alcohol that is giving it this flavor. Mouthfeel is nice and creamy with good carbonation for the style.

Have to take off points for drinkability because of he acidity. I'll re-review my other bottle in 6-12 months and see if it's gone away.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,173 ratings.