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Old Ruffian Barley Wine - Great Divide Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,030 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,030
Reviews: 1,040
rAvg: 4.22
pDev: 9.95%
Wants: 215
Gots: 295 | 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:
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 added by: gbontrag on 11-28-2004)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Old Ruffian Barley Wine Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,030 | Reviews: 1,040 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Fweezle
4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a beautiful clear copper with a dense cream head. Even after a year of age this beers had tons of piney bitterness (though no citrus) hops and a wonderful "husky" malt profile. Bready and biscuity with a perfect hop bite. Wonderful.

Fweezle, Nov 04, 2009
Photo of smuttanator
4.05/5  rDev -4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First off, this beer looks gorgeous. It has a perfect caramel color and pours with as perfect a head as I've ever seen. Taste-wise this beer is well balanced with a nice hoppy and malty feel. I wish the taste was more complex, but all in all its a solid example of the style.

smuttanator, Nov 02, 2009
Photo of matty
3.98/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark amber colored beer with a rapidly fading head.Aroma is dominated by caramel malts.Taste is caramel,malts,hops,dark fruits and alcohol on the very end.This is a very good beer that was worth the 7.99 I paid for 22 oz.Like all the beers I have had from this brewery I recommend and would purchase again.

matty, Oct 27, 2009
Photo of KCHopHead
4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I read some of the reviews and I agree with most so I am not going to repeat. What I will say is that this is a prime example of an American Barleywine. There is nothing to offensive about but nothing that stands out from other American Barleywines. It is a sweet, hoppy, heavy sipper that hides 10% very well. I rated every category at a 4.0 just because nothing stood out to me, but all categories were a good example.

KCHopHead, Oct 23, 2009
Photo of PatrickJR
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle into St. Bernardus chalice.

Not exactly sure how old this bottle is, but it's a least got a few months on it. I've had it sitting around awhile and it has the "old" Great Divide label on it.

A - Slightly hazy reddish brown color. Half inch of tan head rises. Retention is decent for the ABV and plenty of lace sticks to the glass.

S - Good stuff here. Moving up from Titan to Hercules to Old Ruffian, this is quite similar to the two. Lots of caramel from the malt with traces of vanilla. Full on herbal hop aroma with hints of mint, grass, flowers, pepper, and even some basil and parsely. Some alcohol and slightly woody and earthy aromas enter near the end.

T - Moderate sweetness with lots of caramel and a doughy backbone. Hops shine through quickly with strong leafy overtones. Grass, pepper, bits of citrus peel, and a very herbal/tea-like ride over the sweet malt. Late palate is earthy with noticable alchol and a strong but managable bitterness that sweeps any vestige of sweetness away.

M - Solid full body with a medium low carbonation. Very close to perfect here; totally smooth and mouthfeel allows to malt and hop characteristics to shine through equally well.

D - Though I can't quite pinpoint why (though I'm guessing the mouthfeel), Old Ruffian is quite drinkable despite the ABV and the bitterness. Somehow it's going down quite smoothly. Fantastic balance here.

PatrickJR, Oct 21, 2009
Photo of TommyW
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Hazy, brown/amber body with a light tan head.

S- Big malty aroma with some smokey notes and a little molasses.

T- Caramel malts with notes of tabacco, molasses and a slight smoke. The malts are well balanced with floral/citric hops. There is a slight lingering bitterness. You can feel the warming effects of the alcohol as well.

M- Medium to full body that is very smooth. The alcohol warms and numbs the tongue just a bit.

D- The first barley wine I've had, and I really like it. I'm really surprised at how balanced this is; its really a great sipper beer for me.

TommyW, Oct 19, 2009
Photo of augustgarage
4.4/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Obtained in trade from JosephLondon (thanks!). Poured from a 22oz bomber into my Dogfish head snifter.

Tarnished cordovan liquid with cardinal and ruby highlights covered by a tapestry of light khaki foam which recedes to a hilly tiara with good retention (especially for the ABV!), thin soapy lacing, and sticky legs. Bubbles of all sizes grow slowly then burst, much like a flapjack on the griddle.

Explosive floral arrangement of hop aromas, accompanied by grapefruit zest, potpourri, pine sap, and fresh sea air (in land locked Denver?). A sweet malty note underpins the hops, with a touch of light bodied sherry, but these remain far in the background (this is a youthful bottle).

Acute palate entry with heavy citrus and pine, but there is a sweetness as well: a combination of bread crust, raw cocoa, a touch of fresh caramel, and a mildly fermented dark grape flavor. The alcohol asserts itself next, suggesting sherried single malt. The hops are at Imperial-IPA strength though, and I think overall this bottle might benefit style-wise from being laid down for a couple years at minimum. The finish is long, bready, and bitter. Sipping over an extended period, as the beverage warms it settles down a bit (or maybe I habituated to the bitterness) - revealing a touch of vanilla and cayenne.

Mouthfeel is a bit prickly from the hops and alcohol, rather warming, but also dense with a cruiserweight body. Good carbonation, putting up a valiant fight against the heavy character of the beer.

Certainly this is a barleywine for hop-heads, though this isn't to say other intense tastes don't compete for your attention. I can see how barrel aging or extended cellaring might bring the profile into a more evenly balanced arrangement. Very well executed and very much an American barleywine, quite an assertive departure from the template drawn by the English style.

augustgarage, Oct 16, 2009
Photo of natelocc787
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Caramel colored in appearance with a humongous tan head. Leaves sticky, chunky lacing all the way. Alcohol is well-hidden in this sweet beer. Toffee, caramel and red apple. Buttery toffee in the smell and taste. Big time taste of Sugar Babies candy. Great example.

natelocc787, Oct 15, 2009
Photo of bminor7
4.43/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle from Hoosick St Beverage in Troy, NY.

A - a great deep walnut brown, I really like this color. slightly murky. some lacing, leaving a net-like foam across the surface of the beer once settled.

S - hops, malt, promising! seems very IIPA-like.

T - like a smoked-up IIPA. black cardamom, deliciously strong hop profile, sweet malt. bitterness lingers on the back of the tongue. incredible flavor.

M - heavy, syrupy thick. chewy malts. rolling the beer around in my mouth releases more of the creamy carbonation and flavor.

D - low. thick and boozy, a definite sipper. my mind was supremely altered by this powerful beer.

Highly recommended, this is one of the most amazing beers I've ever had. Absolutely intense malt and hop flavors. Very well balanced.

bminor7, Oct 12, 2009
Photo of alcstradamus
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours with a two finger head on top of a glowing copper/red color. Sticky lacing down the walls of the glass.

Smell is potent earthy hops and a large amount of caramel malt. After a couple glorified DIPA's branded as barleywines that I have tried recently, it is really nice to smell that malt backbone. Appetizing.

The taste reverts back to big hops, with the huge malt backbone somehow getting drowned out in this massive bitter hop extravaganza. Still, very nice, but I would almost guarantee that I would like it better with a couple years on it. A bit too overwhelmingly bitter at this point.

Mouthfeel is just fine for a barleywine. Alcohol is very noticeable. This is an absolute beast of a beer, and I can sure see why it is rated so high. I am going to have to grab some of these for the cellar!

alcstradamus, Oct 07, 2009
Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Light malty and alcohol aroma. I couldn't detect any hops. It poured with a light brown head and clear dark amber color. The lacing was light and the head dwindled but remained to the end. At first sip the bitterness takes the initial attack and remains to the next sip. It had a nice sweet malty palate with a long lingering hint of vanilla and a dry finish. Very well balanced flavors. This is a very drinkable barelywine thanks to the delicious and generous use of hops.

BigMcLargeHuge, Oct 07, 2009
Photo of Anthony1
4.13/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer was deep amber, clear, with a half finger head in my sample glass.

Aroma said malt bomb. Rich, strong malts, no trace of the mustiness that often accompanies a barleywine. Hints of hops, but malt was king.

Taste was definitely a malt masterpiece. Strong, rich, and firm malts with a hint of caramel. No trace of hops evident, but the alcohol was.

Mouthfeel was nothing but smoooth. This was one slick beer.

Anthony1, Oct 01, 2009
Photo of Thorpe429
3.48/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Poured a tawny, rustic mahogany with a creamy off-white head.

S: Lots of alcohol heat followed up by sweet malts, caramel, some hops, and some more alcohol.

T: Again, lots of alcohol atop some sweet malt and same fading--though still present--hops. Some woodiness creeps in as well.

M: Fairly thick without too much carbonation and a whole lot of alcohol kick.

D: Not too drinkable given the high octane character of the beer. Maybe if I'd waited a little bit longer the alcohol would have mellowed out, or had it a bit earlier and allowed the hops to mask some of the alcohol.

Thorpe429, Sep 27, 2009
Photo of sethmeister
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours clear caramel reddish brown with a creamy 2 finger tan head. Sheets of lace. Good retention.

Scent is caramel, smoky butterscotch, booze, dark fruit (fig, raisin), floral hops, lightly charred bread crust.

Taste is caramel, butterscotch, molasses, dark fruit. Spicy alcohol note which reminds me a little of a nice scotch, oddly enough. There's an earthy lightly smoky flavor. Nicely bitter spicy hops hold on for a long finish. Flavors are well blended and balanced between hoppy bitterness and caramel / fruit sweetness. Not an overly sweet barleywine. Hops seem to build as I continue to sip, and pine resin notes appear.

Mouth is creamy, coating and just weighty enough.

Drinkability is very good for over 10% ABV.

A rich and satisfying barleywine, this is right up there with Bigfoot and my personal favorite, Smuttynose.

sethmeister, Sep 19, 2009
Photo of AChamberlain
4.28/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Really a beautiful beer. Amber to red color, clear. Tan, half inch head, most of which lingered around. Pretty. This bottle I think is over six months old (aged). It has the old graphic and the new looking ones have a bottled date of 1/5/09. Hoppy, butterscotch aroma, very inviting. some stickiness. flavor follows aroma. With a strong malt backbone, wait that malt is followed with bitterness. this beer has many levels. overall smooth, but with some good hop thrashings in all the right spots. It's a strong beer, but it's soooo good. Dangerous!

AChamberlain, Sep 16, 2009
Photo of jdg204
4.47/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I needed special a beer to celebrate the Eagles first game of the 2009 season (and what a dominating win it was!). As I perused the beer fridge I came across this legend in the making from Great Divide (purchased from Abe's Cold Beer in Bethlehem).

A: Absolutely lovely, cloudy amber color with a robust off-white head that sticks around for the show and leaves great lacing.

S: Sweet caramel, toffee apple, and a touch of dark liquor.

T: Starts with a sweet toffee/ caramel flavor and by mid-palate a blast of piney bitterness arrives that lasts for the duration and more than balances out the sweetness (a bit too much hops for the balance IMO).

M: Thick, full body with moderate carbonation. Real nice aftertaste.

D: A fantastic American Barleywine, well deserving of its reputation. Feel just a bit short of Fred and Bigfoot in my book, but that's a pretty elite crew to even get mentioned. I've been a Great Divide fan for some time and this is just another feather in their cap. Great way to kick off the NFL season, lived up to the hype. A great brew that all beer lovers should try!

jdg204, Sep 13, 2009
Photo of macpapi
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. brown bottle.

This is my first time tasting this beer with impeccable credentials. Happy to say that it merits all of its acclaim!

Pours a very dark brown, murky color, with a pretty full white head. There is a very sludgy and opaque quality to this brew. Nice lacing as well.

There is a lot going on with the aroma here. Candied molasses dominates on first whiff. A full and deep maltiness is there as well. On the back of the smell comes a hearty presence of dark fruits--raisins, figs, and hints of cherries. This one packs an aromatic whallop. Unbelievably pleasing!

Taste= a big Wow! There is a lot of malt, evenly balanced by hoppiness here. The backbone is composed equally of each important element. Cherry presence is very strong up front, with hints of other fruits as well. The alcohol pull is also noted, with a bit of boozy sting, though it is not unpleasant. This is a very balanced beer.

Old Ruffian packs a good punch to your palate, not in any unpleasant way though. Sting of alcohol, previously noted, is very potent. It is full, sharp, and biting. But the unique and strong flavors moderate any unpleasantness that this sensation would normally cause.

Overall this is a very balanced, if ridiculously potent beer. The 10% a.b.v. is not very dangerous with this one, as it is a brew that makes you sip to appreciate it's wholesome, malty, boozy goodness. Quite a pleasing version of the style--as will be noted by the number of !'s in this review.

macpapi, Sep 13, 2009
Photo of rfgetz
4.2/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage, poured Sept. '09

A- Dark coppery brown with ruby red highlights against the light. Excellent off white fluffy head, great retention and lacing.

S- Carmel, bread, raw sugar up front, floral and citrus hops trail

T- Sweet carmel hits first with a nice flowing floral hop bite. Mellows into a very nice malt/hop blend with a slightly boozy finish.

M- Medium bodied, good carbonation, slightly slick and oily from the hops, semi-dry finish, warming

D- Very smooth going down, the flavors are excellent and if it wasnt for the high ABVs i could have another.

On the aging... the alcohol mellowed slightly, the hops were still bitter but sweeter (which made this beer maybe a touch sweeter than i had hoped) and the dark fruit notes seemed to be lost in the sweetness. Would like to try a fresher one soon.

rfgetz, Sep 11, 2009
Photo of nickd717
4.4/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from City Beverage in Winston-Salem, shared among friends by the pool in Greensboro, NC. This beer kills it, seriously, it owns.

A - Cloudy reddish-brown pour with a large lasting beige head.

S - Lots of caramel malt, oak, dark fruits, and piney hops.

T - Caramel malt, citrus, earth, wood, dark fruits, and a long piney hop finish.

M - Palate full and syrupy, but not too much so, with hop oils.

D - Very high for a barleywine. This was gone before I knew it. Incredible for a 10%+ beer.

nickd717, Sep 10, 2009
Photo of CHADMC3
4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours murky amber to walnut brown with a creamy, tannish head that hangs around for a while before leaving a sticky lacing in its path.

Bold earthy hop aroma with sweet fruit and vinous notes and then reverting back to piney hops. Second approach reveals sweet caramel malt, and perhaps just a hint of toastyness.

Wow, this is quite a complex barley wine with big earthy hop flavors in the front and finish of the palate with sweet caramel malt in the middle, hints of dark fruit, and even wood notes.

Medium to full in body with medium carbonation and a nice dry finish.

The palate really packs a wide range of character, perfect blend of hard hitting hops and sweet malt, and a very pleasant abv presence.

CHADMC3, Sep 05, 2009
Photo of mothman
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into one of my goblets.

Pours 1/2 finger of slight tan head. Not the best retention, but it does leave some splattered lace. Color is a burnt caramel ruby. Very hazed.

Aroma: big hop profile with a very sweet malt style represented. Also has some caramel with some fresh fruits.

Taste: Huge floral hop taste with a big amount of caramel malts. This is a big beer with a ton of flavor. A lot of fruits blend into the caramel.

Mouthfeel: Quite bitter and crisp. Full bodied with a good amount of carbonation. A little booze shows. Ends with a fruity hoppy aftertaste that is slightly dry.

Overall, not a bad barlywine but to me it is nothing too special. I'd easily drink it again, but nothing I would go crazy for. I think trying this fresh would be a fun experience.

mothman, Aug 29, 2009
Photo of Wegbier
3.73/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

I can only guess this beer is rounding 10months but I dont see a date on it,
a- The appearance of this beer spoils in every way, it leaves sticky shelves so i know where i am, the creamy head is stubborn and thick with a sort of cascade and a light ceiling all the way through the pint covering a copper red thick liquid with medium average lasting carbonation

s- enjoyable but not amazing smell of biscuits sweet alcohol and medium dark fruit.

t- similarly honey cinnamon biscuit with a light amount of plum dancing with the lightest of happy esters in a little pool of caramel. hoppy up front as described and bitter

palate- a medium lightly oiled silky body. the bitterness of this beer doesnt give up reaches down into your throat and scratches around without letting go, this guy is stubborn, indeed very well balanced even when i dont find all that i want

d- low, i think barleywines are fun but this one is rough throughout the whole trip.

I look for Great Divide beers with happy thoughts but i dont need to drink this one again- no sir

Wegbier, Aug 28, 2009
Photo of maximum12
1.95/5  rDev -53.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Popped open this bottle from the basement to share with the wife after a beautiful evening on the water bass fishing. Do I have a great life or what?

Looks like an unfiltered IPA, an orange tint to the beer that's not entirely clear, but not opaque. Smells like roughage; raw hops, wet fields, angry farmers.

The caramel is distant, weirdly the hops are still going strong, but the dominant taste is a steely, metallic funk coating the roof of my mouth - rather nasty. This horrid glut of whatever takes over whatever other good points there are & just makes it undrinkable.

I can't finish this. I'd say I rec'd a bad bottle, but the wife says "B-ish" so it's just that it disagrees with me - badly. I was looking forward to trying this. Huge disappointment.

maximum12, Aug 28, 2009
Photo of thekanna
4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: A dark turbid brown with an off-white cream-colored head; like a frosted piece of chocolate cake.

S: I can't say I've ever smelled a flavor more chewy than this one. Extremely reminiscent of a toffee or caramel brownie; it made me want to bite down. A sweet malty backbone with a syrupy cane sugar aroma was everywhere.

T: Big in-your-face flavor of caramel sweetness, dark fruits (dates mostly) and dark chocolate. Then a baker's cocoa-like bitterness pulls through and produces an espresso-like aroma that's overpowering and slightly off-putting. The hoppy finish chases away any residue of sweetness and leaves the tongue with a smoky, earthy (almost dirt-like) aftertaste.

M: Smooth and full-bodied; big in the malts. Leaves the tongue dry and stung.

D: Good dessert beer; nice and heavy. However, I mistakenly paired this with chocolate cake because I assumed it would be sweeter, and I got more of the bitterness of this beer than I should have. I'd say that it would make a great dessert by itself without any food pairing, sippable and complex.

thekanna, Aug 25, 2009
Photo of ShogoKawada
3.8/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, no bottling date, but for barleywines it doesn't really matter.

A- Brown, copper, muddy looking. Eggshell white head, perhaps tapioca pudding color. Very attractive.

S- Malt sweetness, slightly boozy, but very faint.

T- Hops and malts are blended very well. Thick and rich with enough hop bite to cut through the serious malts. Very good, refined, clean barleywine.

M- Pretty good. Not overpowering or overbearing, this is pretty smooth and sippable. This is one of the tamer mouthfeels of any barleywine I've had, and is a testament to the well-crafted beer that this is.

D- Moderate to moderately high. You only want one, but it's a joy to drink and goes down incredibly easy considering the ABV. A quality brew. Do not hesitate to seek this one out. Very well put-together.

ShogoKawada, Aug 23, 2009
Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,030 ratings.