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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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2,170 Ratings

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Ratings: 2,170
Reviews: 1,066
rAvg: 4.21
pDev: 9.98%
Wants: 236
Gots: 332 | 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: 2,170 | Reviews: 1,066
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.

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

Pours a deep rich amber color with a huge khaki colored head that left some gorgeous fat rings of lacing down the pint glass. Yep, hop-forward indeed. The initial nose on this one is all hops, mostly the American varieties which impart the standard grapefruit and pine notes, but there is some caramel buried deep down, maybe some fruitiness, but as far as I can tell, this is all hops. Flavor changes the mood. Delicious, deeply caramelized sugars, molasses, and dark fruit reminiscent of plum and raisin make up a bulk of the malt profile, but it's extremely well balanced by the bitter, pithy, grapefruit rind hop flavor. I was expecting this to be hoppier than it is, but it was brewed in December of 09, so it's had the chance to fade a bit, which I think has done this beer some justice. I don't think I could handle anymore bitterness as I like my barleywines to be malt-forward. There's a touch of chocolaty flavor in there as well, but it's hard to tell with everything else going on. Body is thick an creamy, light carbonation, with the hop bite detracting from this quality only minimally. A great tasting beer, but the alcohol makes itself known and one bomber is more than enough for me. Great brewskie here and will enjoy sipping on it over the course of the next hour. Not my favorite ABW, but a damn good one.

Photo of beerman207
4.08/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Been waiting to try this one for a while. Finally picked up a bottle at PartyTown in Florence, KY.

A: Pours a nice reddish-brown color with a good white head that sticks around a little while leaving some good lacing on the glass. Nice skim head remains throughout the session

S: Sweet fruit and citrus coming through as well some malt. Perhaps some dark fruit in there as well.

T: Very good - dark fruit presence - raisins, wow - hop bomb - lots of bitterness coming through.

M: Decent amount of carbonation. Really nice feel.

D: I could honestly crack another if I had one. This one lived up to the hype for me In the top 3 Barleywines I've had.

Photo of WeedKing4
4.25/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got a older version of this as its got the old style lable. Pours a dark hazy ruby brown with a decent amount of foam. Smells fruity and malty and the taste follow suits. Bitterness lingers with the mellow caramal malty background. This is quite drinkable for the 10.2% and goes down pretty smooth. This is tasty stuff.

Photo of TrippnFiasco
4.63/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A: Caramel color head, about one finger. Begins to get smaller after a minute or so, but small amount lingers for 3ish minutes, with small ring remaining for the entire glass.

S: Smells like intense hops, but a fruity sweetness keeps it from smelling totally like an IPA. Hoppy, fruity, caramely. Very well balanced.

T: Delicious! Tastes like an IPA with a caramely-sweetness, although not as fruity as the aroma first impressed. Slight alcohol bite, but not overpowering. VERY well balanced.

M: Medium-Heavy bodied, slight creaminess

D: Very drinkable, could have one entire bottle over an evening, or split between two after/with dessert

Photo of JoePat
3.68/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This beer pours a deep redish amber color with an off white head.
It smells of sweet caramel with some piney/citrusy hop undertones.
The flavor is a palate destroying bitter with the piney/citrusy hops staning out the most. A fruity maltiness comes next rounding out the flavor on your now destroyed palate.
The mouth feel is a sweet light syrup feeling with a slight dryness at the end.
Drinkability is not too bad for a barley wine but it is still a barley wine.

Photo of Hojaminbag
3.9/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Old Ruffian has a hazy body that looks light brown until it is held up to the light, where it reveals shades of ruby, rust and orange. The head starts out at a robust height of two and a half fingers and is a light khaki color. It's fairly thick, which leads to great retention and a lot of thick, sticky lacing in rings and sheets.

The aroma is powerful. Even when I set the glass down to type I can still smell it. It's packed with tons of caramel malt that gives off a lightly toasted aroma and a bunch of bitter hops. A touch of fruitiness lingers in the background.

Old Ruffian's flavor is big and bad just like the aroma. Caramel and toffee dominate, adding a ton of sweetness that isn't cloying, but I would definitely characterize it as full or rich. The caramel flavor also seems to have a lightly toasted flavor to it, which is nice. The hops are pretty big too, consisting mostly of pine resin. It has a very sharp pine quality actually, which leads to a ton of bitterness. Just a touch of citrus comes from the hops too. Lingering in the background of this giant concoction of caramel and pine is a comparatively small yet noticeable fruity flavor. The combination of fruit and caramel lends a flavor that resembles some sort of fruit cake. The finish is where most of the bitterness is concentrated, and also where the grapefruit and citrus hops are at their strongest. Just a tinge of warming from the alcohol also hides in the back-end of this beer. The smallest bit of tobacco seems to linger in the finish also. The aftertaste has a sharp, hoppy bitterness and a rich caramel malt flavor at the same time. Big, bad-ass, complex: Old Ruffian is definitely an American Barleywine.

The carbonation is pretty prickly, but the body is still full and smooth. It feels almost chewy in fact, but that could just be all that caramel flavor playing tricks on me.

Old Ruffian has a big and in-your-face quality about it that is striking even considering the style, and I'm not surprised at all to see that the ABV exceeds 10%. As big, ass kicking beers go, Old Ruffian is still pretty drinkable though. A pretty good beer overall.

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.95/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage.
Poured a cloudy orange color with with a small white head. Nose is big hops, smells bitter even on this 2007 vintage. Taste has big hops citrus, pine, caramel background and booze. Mouthfeel is sticky, super bitter, citrus and boozy but not as hot as a fresh batch. Good.

Photo of whoneeds8
4.43/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 12/09. Poured into a chimay glass red-amber with a one finger white head. The scent has a sugary smell to it. The taste, being a fresh bottle, has a decent hop pressence which is supprising to my taste buds. The carmel and sugar isn't too terribly strong, in fact it's very smooth. There is no alcohol pressence which is very suprising considering the abv and age of this vintage.

Photo of pwsoldier
4.63/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

'08 release

A - Pours cloudy mahogany with a rich tan head that shows great retention. Lacing is plentiful. This is a beautiful beer!

S - The nose is dominated by dark fruits and spicy hops. Plum, cherry, and raisin come through strongly with some wood notes complimenting the hops perfectly.

T - Lots of spicy hop bitterness up front, followed by the sweet notes of the fruits that were present on the nose. Wood notes enhance the spicy hop character. A strong malt backbone makes itself more assertive as it warms, creating a great balance between sweet and spicy/bitter. Alcohol is well-hidden throughout.

M - Full-bodied with a wet, smooth finish. Carbonation does a nice job of keeping this beer from being too rich.

D - Definitely one of my top 5 barleywines. This beer is immensely enjoyable and the complexity of it is a real treat. The abv makes it difficult to drink more than one, but that's okay.

Photo of Arbitrator
4.26/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lightly chilled bomber into a glass. 09 vintage. I don't remember who sent this to me, but I appreciate your sending it!

A: Pours a clear copper-amber color with two inches of tremendously fluffy, frothy beige head. It retreats slowly, collapsing in sections and leaving thick ivy lacing down the sides of the glass as it does. Truly an exquisite appearance.

S: I'm really surprised by how hoppy this still is. Mirror Mirror became a malty mess in under a year, so this beer is impressive. It's quite herbal with a citrus undercurrent to it. I pick up a nice caramel backbone and some nuts.

T: Caramel and light toffee set the backbone, but this is still aggressively bitter and quite hoppy. Herbal flavors up front give way to juicy grapefruit and orange flavors mid-palate. Throughout the sip I detect toffee and nuts. It finishes with a nice herbal bite, mild lingering bitterness (a relatively quick and clean finish).

M: Big beer. Somewhat sticky flavor. I don't enjoy bitterness that lingers forever, so I appreciate the lack of that in this beer. Still, it's full-bodied with lots of hop flavor. Carbonation is moderately high for the style, but I'm all right with that. Some warmth from the ABV.

D: I'm quite pleased with this one. I have an 05 and I'm not sure I'd enjoy it nearly as much as this relatively fresh iteration, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Photo of TCHopCraver
4.31/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Gorgeous. A very pretty ruby color, with an extremely light khaki, almost white head. A medium hard pour yields a 2-finger head that leaves behind fluffy, pillow-y lacing. The head retention is impressive. This is one of the most attractive beers mine eyes have e'er gazed upon.

S: Heavy on caramel and brown sugar sweetness in my nose. I'm not positive how long ago this was bottled (I picked it up about 2 months ago) and maybe because of this, I am not getting much of a hop presence from the smell. I smell a slight hint of plum and pear mingling with the sweet candy smells.

T: There is a fine pine hop flavor in my mouth (especially on the tongue) that balances the sweetness almost perfectly. The lingering bitterness on my palate is downright IPA-ish, which shows that this beer is aggressively hopped, because the malt bill is huge, as well. Surprisingly, I am getting a lot pear flavor from this beer.

M: Phenomenal. The first word that comes to mind is velvety. Such a full feel that disperses over my palate and then becomes deliciously drying as the hops kick in.

D: As with many beers that are similarly big, I think this is a once in awhile treat. It is delicious and satisfying, but would be too much for both my palate and mind to have more than a bomber in a sitting. I would certainly have another, but not right now.

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

Pours a medium hazy amber color, with a bit of creamy off white head. Good aromas of dark fruit, caramel and piney hops. More hops on the palate; this is a very hoppy barley wine, with a lot of double IPA qualities, especially young and fresh. The hops are balanced nicely with some sweet malt and warming alcohol. Truly an awesome example of the style.

Photo of wolfinthemirror
4.63/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dated Jan. 07 2010, poured from a 22oz. bomber into a tulip glass. Deep mahogany color with a nice fingers worth of an off white head that dissipates and dissolves into a ring. the alcohol forms a clear film on the inside of the glass.

In the nose I get honey drenched hops. It exudes a nectary sweetness. There might be some citrus there, and a faint scent of booze.

WOW. This tastes brilliant. very rich, I get the caramel malts and other sweet amenities enveloped in an excellent crust of the hops. The complexity of this beer almost reminds me of a pie in that way, while the sweetness is the gooey filling on the inside, it's all housed by the hops. Perfectly balanced. As the beer warms, the alcohol begins to reveal itself more. Also, something about the taste really reminds me of the nectar from honeysuckle flowers.

This absolutely just coats the mouth, and is smooth like butter. low carbonation, medium-full bodied . almost seems milky and i'm left with warming from the alcohol.

Despite the ABV being 10.2% on this beer, it is extremely drinkable due to the rich taste. I'll finish this bomber probably over the course of an hour.

I had very high expectations for this beer and have cherished the bottle for a few months since I bought it. I've lookd forward to trying this for a very long time, and it was well worth the wait.

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

A: Big oatmeal colored head of foam over a reddish-brown hued body. Head is very well-retained.

S: Big punch of piney hops hits the nostrils first, followed by some brown sugar and toffee. Smells like a sweet roll glazed with sap.

T: Like the aroma, pine and brown sugar are immediately noticeable. Caramel/buttery flavors come through with time. Decent balance between sweetness and biting hop bitterness. Maybe a bit of overkill on the hops while young, but would love to see how this develops with age.

M: Smooth and creamy with fine carbonation. Alcohol is well hidden, however the heavy hop bitterness is a somewhat palate stripping.

Good beer for what it is supposed to be - an intense American style barleywine with a ton of hops. Would rate it higher, but the level of hops really detract from the overall drinkability and 22 oz is plenty.

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

07' Vintage. Poured from 22oz bottle. Review from notes.

A- Pours a hazy almost mucky looking amberish brown color...almost looks light sludge. Off white one and a half finger head sticks around and stays a while. No real lacing on this per say...everything just slides back into the glass.

S- Big caramel malts come through with this. Light darker fruits as well with a touch of vanilla on this. Big alcohol smell when this warms up more and more. Not bad but nothing to make it stand out from other barleywines of this age.

T- Darker fruits with some caramel malts come blasting through this at first. Vanilla comes into play with some faded hops in the backing of this beer. Alcohol notes finish the beer off altogether. The flavor does a little more justice to this beer than what the aroma would make you think.

M- Medium-heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Very drying on the palate as I sip on this. Caramel malts and light fruits are left on the palate with each sip. Big alcohol flavor on the aftertaste with this beer. Sits heavy on the mouth when drinking.

D- This beer was alright with some age on it. I think it had already started to go downhill. If you keep this beer around for a couple years I would say drink it. If not you might be a little less surprised with the flavors.

Photo of Flashsp2
4.85/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Old Ruffian into snifter (not sure of age on this bottle)

Pours with a three finger head of creamy little orange/tan bubbles on a exquisite ruby body that is intensely deep and dark. Super long retention and great sticky lacing. A big chunk of head that looks like a root beer floats stays for the ride.

Nose is bright citrus, pine resin, sweet caramels drizzled over dessert breads. Smells prickly and sticky with residual malts and herbal/leafy hops. Spicy, dark fruits.

This beer has such a superb flavor profile, and it keeps coming in waves. The initial hit is entirely malt based, with lots of sweet gourmet breads and caramels of different varieties. Then, when you think it's about to subside, the hops come rushing in with a big salty, citrus, tangerine, pine sap, and grapefruit assault. Earthy and leafy, the hops don't pummel but provide immaculate balance to the huge malt profile, and give a crisp bitterness at the finish.

The mouthfeel is spot on for this style. Dense, chewy, syrup-like, then a struggle of very fine bubbles try to break free from this ominous liquid.

The best balanced barleywine ever, ever. So intricately balanced, just when you think the flavors are finished, the wave of hops come rolling in and keep everything in check. It takes a good 30 seconds after the swallow for all the flavors to do their amazing dance. Easy to drink despite it's heavy alcohol presence (well, there is a lot of booze, but you can't taste any of it).

Photo of jlindros
4.25/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had as part of the Central New England BA Meetup #2.

A: Light creamy white head fades as a slower but not too slow rate, over a hazy brownish kinda purple colored muddy looking liquid.

N: Sweet creamy malts hits quite a bit, very malty. Some hops and spicy hop characteristics. With that comes some brown sugar and molasses, and overall sweetness. A nice hop presence blended pretty well with a sweet malty tone.

T: Some sweet malts hit first, lots of chewy thick malts that is. Then comes some bitterness, with spicy hops and some chewy hop tastes. More chewy malts come in layers and add a touch of boozy taste. Some fruity flavors, dried figs, dates, raisins, and all dark dried fruits really. A slight creamy malt flavor. We compared it to an older one (no dates or vintages printed) but by the time it was purchased and look and taste if it we could tell it was older. The older one seemed to dull quite a bit on all accounts, and just meld to a consistent muddy sweet malty beverage.

M: Semi thick with decent carbonation.

F: Lingering bitterness which is pretty nice, and adds a slightly spicy hoppy bitter hop flavor. Some sweetness but still dries well, a strange description I know but its hard to really get the taste right. The maltiness lingers a bit with some added molasses flavor and dried fruits lingering. The bitterness comes through nicely at this point too. The booze doesn't seem @ 10%, but definitely seems more than 8% so hidden but not completely.

Photo of ChrisPro
3.52/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle bottled on 12/22/09 tasted blind on 3/11/10.

Pours beautiful ruby with bubbly tan head and good lacing. Aroma of pine, caramel and licorice. Nice rich sweet flavor with a balanced bitterness. Medium body, good carbonation, a little oily, but a bit boozy. Would love to have this with a little age.

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

I believe this was an '07 vintage.

A- 22 oz. bomber decanted into a snifter results in a murky, reddish brown colored brew. A finger of thick, soapy off-white head sits atop. Excellent head retention with thin lacing makes this a fantastic looking beer.

S- Tons of vanilla and caramel with even a dose of piney hops. This came as a surprise given its age. A bit of booze comes through as it warms, but it's very pleasant overall.

T- Wonderfully complex with loads of vanilla and caramel coming through. A bit of booziness, and good doses of hops. This beer finishes off a bit dry. Again, this came as a surprise.

M- Deliciously smooth and heavy bodied. A bit of carbonation.

D- Definitely drinkable, but the dryness of the flavor wears on me a little bit. Doesn't go real good with the sweetness of the vanilla and caramel.

This was an incredible brew. Now I just need to find a few more and line these up for a vertical.

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

A nice cloudy orange red pour with a giant fluffy tan head. Good lacing.

Malty and hoppy. Caramel like malt and piney hops. Smells more like a dipa than a barleywine.

Still the same in the taste. Very sweet malt and a nice grapefruit like hop presence.

Very viscous mouthfeel. Light carbonation, dry lasting finish.

This is a big beer, I don't think I Could have morenthan a couple.

Good beer. I've been really into barleywines lately, and this is very tasty, though not necessarily an ideal example of the style.

Photo of ndekke39
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tried a 22 oz. bomber of this, decanted into pint glasses. Beautiful pour: rich, reddish brown with a fluffy off-white head. Great retention. Aromas of bready, sweet and piny hops. Taste is the same: nice balance of the sweet maltiness with rich hops. Fairly thick mouthfeel - appropriate to the flavors and aromas. The alcohol creeps up you, so watch out. Otherwise, this is a delicious barleywine - one I will gladly return to in the future!

Photo of dasenebler
4.22/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bomber lacking a bottling date, but that shouldn't be a problem with this big boy beer.

Pours a rich, slightly hazy brown with a nice dense head. Good lacing.

Aroma is big and complex with notes of dark fruit, molasses, rich dark malts and alcohol.

Flavor is quite good, if a bit overpowering-- maybe I haven't had enough experience with barleywines. I do like it though. A super rich malt backbone is balanced by a hefty bitterness that lingers and lingers. Pretty well-balanced but still potent. Flavors of anise, burnt caramel, roast, and vinous alcohol blend nicely. Mouthfeel is exquisite. Super resinous and velvety with just the right amount of carbonation to enhance the creaminess. Obviously a sipper at ten plus percent, but I am still very impressed with the quaff.

A big, bad barleywine that doesn't play nice.

Photo of Mora2000
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to hudsonphotog for sharing this bottle. I have tried it many times but this is the first time I have reviewed it.

Bottled 1/8/09 and drank 2/27/10.

Pours a hazy amber color with a large off-white head. The aroma is complex, with brown sugar, caramel and dark fruit. The flavor is brown sugar, hop bitterness, caramel, dark fruit and molasses. Medium, very smooth mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,170 ratings.