1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

Old Ruffian Barley Wine - Great Divide Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

2,118 Ratings
THE BROS
99
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,118
Reviews: 1,054
rAvg: 4.21
pDev: 9.98%
Wants: 228
Gots: 310 | FT: 15
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
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Old Ruffian Barley Wine Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,118 | Reviews: 1,054 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TKEbeerman
3.93/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into my SN XXX glass, this brew pours and opaque brown, a little lighter brown than the bottle, with ruby highlights when held to a light. The tan fluffy head is quick to dissipate, but does a good job at laying down some lace. I'm gonna up the score here.

S: Fruit like hoppyness pokes its way trough first, then quickly is taken over by the massive malt character of this brew. Carmel and toasted malt is present.

T: I've had this brew fresh, this bottle is 1 year old. The hops are tame, big malty complexity is present. Toasty and caramel. Alcohol is no where to be found. Fresh, I remember the hop complexity greatly complements the malt.

MF/D: The mouthfeel is rich, but the drink is a little rough.

Overall, drink this brew fresh, its fantastic! With some age the hops mellow, and this brew starts drinking more like an English Barley Wine, which I do not prefer.

Photo of TheQuietMan22
4.03/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Straight pour into a pint glass. The color is a thick amber-honey. Three fingers of off-white, maybe tan, head developed and dissipated slowly. Very thick head.

Smell: Hoppy grapefruit citrus. There's also a little bit of orange.

Taste: Major hoppiness. Really aggressive hoppy. Grapefruit citrus is most prominent, but, strangely, the aftertaste is very malty. Toffee malts and perhaps some caramel malts as well. It's pretty complex for a hop bomb, but the hops really drown out any other flavors.

Drinkability: Tasty stuff, but way too hoppy for me.

Photo of twiggamortis420
3.53/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz bomber of the 2008 vintage. Pours a crystal clear, ruby-copper color with a creamy, dark beige cap of head. Decent retention for the age and ABV, leaves an impressive sheet of lace on the glass. Doesn't get much better looking than this.

Nose is caramely and sugary oxidized malts, not quite to the malted milk ball stage though. Most of the hops are gone with just a bit of grassiness lingering on.

Taste still has a massive bitterness with a thinned-out malt backing. Tons of alcohol heat and some raisiny fruitiness. Carbonation is low and fits an aged barleywine well. Malts are smooth going down, but the biting bitterness and heavy alcohol make this a slow sipper. I think this is actually better when fresh, or is in an awkward middle phase of aging...hard to tell which. Needs some hop flavor in the middle palate and some varying malts throughout. I will be getting a fresh version of this and give it a re-review at some point.

Photo of TCgoalie
4.34/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Notes from 7/18/10

Pours a murky copper brown. Bubbles gather at the top trying to conjure some head, but it doesn't quite gather.

Musty overtones highlight the smell with bits of roasted barley and brown sugar. Hops are present in the end taking the form of pine that tingles my nose.

The beer store employee that sold this beer to me mentioned that it was about 3 years old being a good find. The only evidence was the old price tag. I may have found further evidence in the taste as this is very mellow with all of its flavors seamlessly fitting together. Big roasty notes up front and throughout accompanied by mild pine hops and brown sugar. There is an almost chocolate flavor as well, not sure if it is from the burnt flavor. Either way, this is rich and delicous.

The first thing I noticed with the mouthfeel was how smooth this was. The burnt flavors add depth making this heavier in the mouth without overpowering the tongue.

This is as drinkable as a barleywine could be. I like it.

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

Tried this side by side with its whiskey barrel aged brother, and found this to be a great deal better. Poured into a Stone Old Guardian glass. Review from notes.

Clear ruby body with a finger and a half of off white head. Wisps of lacing and good retention

Smells of caramel, green apples, and apricots. There is also some piney hops.

The taste follows smell exactly. Tastes of caramel/toffee, green apples, and apricots. Then the back end brings some bitter resin and piney hops.

Mouthfeel is thick, a bit syrupy, and well carbonated.

A very intense barleywine, but very nice. Definitely a hop head's barleywine.

Photo of StaveHooks
4.39/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a hazy ruby mahogany color. Lightly tan head. Thick sheets of lace.

S - Pined infused caramel malt, rich toffee, dark chocolate notes, peaches, cherries, alcohol vapors, hints of earthy spice. Very inviting!

T - Intense pine hops wrapped around a buttery caramel malt. Dark complex fruits are beautifully layered into the the rich malt. Chocolate notes keep popping up. The spicy bitterness from the hops keeps the sweetness in check. Alcohol is evident as it warms. Hints of vanilla oak.

M - Thick and velvety texture.

This beer smells heavenly! I wish I could make it into a candle. This a hop forward Barley Wine. The malt almost seems to get lost in the dominance of hops. Still a fantastic and very complex beer.

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

Was told this bottle is from either 2006 or 2007. Pours a mahogany colour with off-white head. Lots of caramel malt with a little bit of hops. Still has some bitterness in the flavour, but quite sweet. Aging seems to have done this beer well. Classic barleywine.

Photo of KAP1356
4.18/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 650ml bottle dated December 8, 2009 into a snifter...

A - Pours a hazy deep amber red color with a very smooth frothy eggshell, off white one and one half finger head. Some incredibly thick sticky lacing.

S - Getting lots of hops up front; lots of piney hop smell. Sweet malts also take over the scene afteer the hops are noticed. Toffee, vanilla, and some woddiness as well. Getting lots of fruits like apple and melon being the highlights.

T - Very sweet with a strong toffee fruit mix. Theres apple, caramel, toffee, vanilla, melon, grapefruit and a strong piney hop presence. V ery candy like in the back ofthe palate.

M - Heavy bodied with mild carbonation. Coats the mough incredibly nicely.

D - Easy to drink although the ABV and heaviness made it a little tougher to get through the bottle. A very great example of an American Barleywine though.

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

A - Pours hazy copper in color with about two fingers of head; good retention and nice sticky lacing.

S - The aroma of this is just fantastic! Sweet like a candy apple, caramel and toffee malts, hops and rough citrus.

T - Again I think candy and or caramel apple really sums this one up. Really nice malts, with some hop bite and a subtle bitterness in the finish.

M - Pretty heavy in body, perfect carbonation and it really coats the mouth nicely. Extremely well balanced.

D - Sweet, malty, tasty, delicious, I could drink it all night, but then I would pass out from the ABV! Anyway, enjoy this one because it's a great barley wine!

Photo of wolfsleepy
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber, clear with a finger of light tan foam. Great retention. High level of aroma. Caramel, molasses, spice. Slight whiff of hops and alcohol.

Tasted of dried fruit, quite bready and full bodied. Lingering and powerful bitterness that balances well and masks the high level of alcohol. Pretty good. I'm not crazy about barley wines that come across as syrupy and this one doesn't. Fairly complex and well balanced. We couldn't believe it was a purported 85-90 IBUs.

Photo of bamadog
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks to my buddy Jeff for grabbing a bottle of this for me. Review is from notes taken on 7/19/2010 and poured from the bottle to a snifter.

Appearance: Pour is a deep coppery/ruby color and starts with a 1/2 finger creamy off-white head that fades quickly to a thick ring and thin skim on the surface; body is a little murky and shows small and quick bubbles of carbonation; thin washes and spots of lacing are left behind.

Smell: Definitely an American Barleywine with this strong hop forward presence -- lots of bitter and piney hops; some sweet maltiness and hints of vanilla and oakiness and a bit of an acidic apple flavor lingers in the nose; overall, the smell is quite robust and kind of pours out of the glass.

Taste: Definitely just as hop forward here as it is in the nose, and they're piney with a bit of a citric twist; nice and big caramel maltiness with a bit of an acidic and spiced apple presence; definite bite of alcohol, but at just over 10%, it is certainly more than expected and not overly dominant -- well blended.

Mouthfeel: Body is a little thick and slick; carbonation is very soft and it allows the beer to come across very smoothy; a thin and semi-dry sticky coating is left behind; the gums are left tingly and there is a warm alcohol vapor lingering in the mouth and throat; belly is definitely left warm.

Drinkability: The drinkability is moderate, despite this being an extremely well-crafted beer; the ABV and weight are simply too much for too much, but still worth sipping, and would probably be more ideal for the cooler months.

Photo of 100floods
3.63/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber copper with a cream white head. Smells of a typical hoppy, malty Barley Wine, similar to Gnarley Wine in aroma. Mild-Heavy hop flavors. A little bit of citrus and something else I can't put my finger on. I'm thinking orange... but what? Not much a noticeable malt flavor, not in comparison to the hops. Kinda tastes like hoppy orange peels. There's a tobacco flavor mixed in there, too. Definitely a few flavors I've tasted before, but not combined like this. The body is medium-thin, kinda throws me off a little. There's not enough carbonation to make up for it. I think they were using a california mindset for this beer but made an attempt at originality, so it wouldn't be copycat brew. I'd maybe drink this again, definitely not bad, just my loyalties lie elsewhere.

Photo of Zodijackyl
4.54/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz brown bottle, no freshness date. Pours a dark reddish brown, cloudy with no head. Aroma is bready and sweet, lots of sweet malt, and some citrus hops and fruit to balance it out.

Taste is first a sweet barley with somewhat tannic yeast in the background, followed by a mouthful of some fruity and citrus hops. The hops and fruit flavors balance out the malt quite well, but the taste is still very characteristic of a strong barley wine. Aftertaste is an astringent and tannic wine-like yeast feel combined with the presence of tangy hops. Mouthfeel is very smooth with mild carbonation and quite a bit of yeast flavor, contrasting with the very strong taste.

Very smooth and drinkable for a strong barley wine, very savory with a pleasant aftertaste.

Photo of vkv822
4.35/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into snifter.

Pours a slightly hazy, rusty-amber color with an incredibly thick, light toffee colored head. The head is beautiful, frothy two finger thick, with a thin bubbly layer covering about half the diameter. It leaves great lacing as well.
This is a wonderful blend of citrus, resiny hops, caramel malts, and a dark fruit backing both in aroma and flavor. It has a subtle boozy warming finish.
The mouthfeel could be a bit heavier for the style in my opinion, though it is still fantastic, and the carbonation is fairly subtle.
The balance in the hops and the heavier malt and dark fruit flavors really makes this a very drinkable beer.

Photo of mklinger
4.38/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into large wine glasses. A rich amber, orange color with a huge billowy tannish head that lingered & left tons of lacing. Slightly hazy.

Aroma was full of lots of caramel malts. Rich & sweet like a warm caramelly upside down cake.

Flavor was big & rich but with balancingly substantial hop bitterness and a bit of alcohol in there. Great barleywine with just perfect style characteristics.

Mouthfeel was certainly full without being cloying. Plenty of rich carbonation helped with this. For such a big rich beer, this was so easy to drink. This is not a crazy "extreme" barleywine as some make these days, and it benefits from that -- just a perfectly executedstraight forward barleywine. Great beer.

Photo of dstc
4.4/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a murky brown color with a light tan head. Head falls very slow and stays. Average lace.

Barley wine smell. Strong hopped malt aroma backed by booze.

Big sweet malt taste backed by plenty of hops. IBUs are great with a lingering bitter aftertaste. Alcohol is nice.

Very full and very smooth in the mouth. Mild carbonation.

Awesome barleywine. Love this one.

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

A - Pours a deep amber. Head is big, frothy, and creamy. Head retention is excellent. Considerable lacing.

S - Fragrant bouquet of fresh fruits, specifically grapes, apples, and melon.

T - Very fruity and sweet. Melons and apples are strong up front. Fruitiness is blended with a bit of honey. Undertones of bready maltiness. There's definitely some caramel too. Finishes with some citrussy, oily hops. Some nice complexity.

M - Full bodied and creamy. Feels great on the tongue. No complaints here.

D - Flavorful and complex. Much more drinkable than other barleywines. A nice alternative to some of the more "angry, hoppy" interpretations of the style that shred your pallate with an overload of hops. I'm curious to see what this tastes like after a year or so of aging.

Photo of kirkpjr
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a hazy caramel copper color with one and half fingers of head that fades to leave some nice lacing. A nice beige head lingers around the top of the glass.

S: Not sure of the vintage of this one, but I have sat on the bottle for a few months. Sweet malts and caramel dominate the smell. Very faint pine and grapefruit notes. Almost a chocolate smell here as well. A little alcohol detectable.

T: Sweet malts and some fruits - maybe apple. Caramel is fairly strong. Also some grapefruit here. I'm enjoying the taste more than the smell. There is a nice level of bitterness here - but the barleywine sweetness levels out the taste.

M: Medium to medium high in body. Moderate carbonation. Sweetness lingers on the palette.

D: A little sweet and boozy to be very drinkable. Great barleywine, but its tough to call this one drinkable. A sipper. Also would love to try this as fresh as possible to see what hop character is initially here.

Photo of flipper2gv
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled at Mondial de la bière 2010 in Montreal without any notes, so this is from pure memory so the review can be somewhat inaccurate.

A: Very nice copper color, fully transluscent. Nice off white head with good retention and very good lacing.

S: Caramel, more caramels and even more caramels. Also, a nice level of vanilla, dark fruits and some heavy grainy bread. Some hops, piny and citrus, were also presents at my surprise.

T: Lots and lots of caramels and brown sugar. Heavy bread with good vanilla and dark fruits. The hops were less present than in the smell but quite present. Fantastically balanced.

M: Heavy, thick, sticky. Low carbonation. Perfect, to me.

D: Well, it's a heavy and really sweet so it's one at the time. But it is better than most barleywine.

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

A: This poured a nearly opaque dark copper, with moderate tan head.
S: It smelled like strong caramel and sweet brown sugar and bold citrus hops, with honey wheat and a bit of berries.
T: The taste started with super sweet caramel and brown sugar and burnt barley, then hit with super bitter citrus and pine hops. It ended with a strong bitter aftertaste.
M: It was thick with a little carbonation, and had some alcohol warming.
D: This was a very bold and complex beer with great scent and taste and body. It was a little hot, so it was easier to sip fresh. But it will probably mellow out and improve significantly with age, making a great beer even better.

Photo of SeattleBeerBlog
4.28/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A- An off white head that seems to last forever, gently going down to a finger, pours a dark ruby red, and very clear.

S- Complex might be an understatement, a Little woody/piney, with some nice hops, a bit of alcohol and some sweet cherry or prunes. Yum.

T- Super Smooth, zero rough edges, very well rounded for a barley wine, upfront flavors of dark carmel, wood, rich chocolate, and a good amount of grapefruit bitterness. Also some Alcohol as well.

M- Great carbonation level, nothing spectacular here

D- Overall a great barley wine, definitely a sipper but if you are a fan of Barley wines you must try this beer.

Photo of mountdew1
4.05/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into an imperial pint glass. Color was a orangy amber brown with small amounts of constant carbonation rising from the bottom. Thin 1 finger milky white had that clung very well. Aroma was slightly sweet with a hoppy aroma. Slightly tart, a bit of Mediterranean spicy sweet. Taste was slightly sweet, slightly hoppy with a touch of tart citrus. Coated very well, clung just right, nicely carbonated. Easy to drink, but the ABV hit hard and fast.

Photo of Kegatron
4.35/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle into a tulip glass. Bottling date of 12/29/10 on the label. I got into this one in early March, so I was psyched to be able to get into a fairly fresh bottle of this.

Pours a beautiful looking crystal clear deep ruby, topped with 2 tight fingers of smooth off-white head. This retains with a near 1/2 finger of rich foam that throws a big frothy cascade of thick sticky lacing up on the sides of the glass. Those fresh American hops just seem to blow up in the nose, with peppery floral notes, pine, and herbal accents all being fairly strong here. Ripe tropical fruits spread out across the back, mingling with the bread and caramel of the malts to give this a deep juicy tang in the back of the nose.

The hops are equally aggressive in the taste, with a sharp bite of resinous pine and an intense deep spiciness. Those juicy citric notes really add some fruity sweetness to this as well. I'm pleased to find that the malt backbone is more than up to the taste as well, with a thick balancing backing of roasted graininess and sticky caramel sweetness. The hops remind me of who's in charge though, finishing this herbal and very spicy, while remnants of that fruity and maltt mixture coasting the mouth with a sticky tang. The mouthfeel is full bodied, with a big hefty creaminess that intertwines with a much sharper carbonation up front. A deep oily slickness from the hops also adds a certain amount of slickness to the body and keeps all of those big flavors moving. The alcohol presence here is hefty and a does get a touch sharp towards the end of the each swallow but this remains nicely drinkable for the most part.
Very warming overall.

This seems to have gained a reputation as the benchmark for nationally available American Barleywines over the last several years and there's really no question why. The fresh hops here were just explosive yet this still remained balanced and drinkable for such a big beer. I definitely sensed a little more complexity to the malts and I'm interested in checking this out in a few years from now when those hops subside and some new flavors emerge. This was some great stuff and a go-to in the style for me.

Photo of alpinebryant
3.65/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark Caramel brown color with a small light tan head that quicklyi settles to just lacing.

Smell of sweet caramel, brown malts, bitter hops and some malty sweetness.

Taste very similar to aroma, planty of sweetness to go around, easily confounded with bittering hops and brown malt. There is a slight astringency there and a little too much bitterness for my liking. All around decent, not my favorite barleywine. Slightly light on the mouthfeel for a 10.2% abv, and good carbonation. Vanilla cookie flavors from sugar caramelization.

Worth a try

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

A - Pours a deep raisin color, clear burgundy brown. Initially pours with a thick, caramel colored creamy head, then subsides to a creamy ring with foam sticking to the glass like glue. Carbonation is very light with tight, tiny bubbles.

S - Bread crust, mild raisin and some other dark fruit, light caramel, and some citric tang from the hops.

T - Starts out very creamy and unpretentious on the palette with a nice caramel backbone that's moderately mild in the background, and some fresh bread crust that stays around for about 3/4 of the way through before giving in to the malts and hops. Half way through some dark fruit enters in before finishing with a huge hop ending - pretty hoppy for a Barley Wine, and darn enjoyable too. Considering the massive 90 IBU's, it's not too aggressive, but yet very assertive for the style.

M - Mild prickly carbonation on the tongue and still creamy in character, big body, and a little chewy.

D - Very good, but given the ABV, most people (including me) are only good for one bomber.

Overall, a well brewed barley that really stands out in the crowd. Well balanced, non-cloying, just the right amount of hop bitterness, and extremely enjoyable. Worth checking out.

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,118 ratings.