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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.

2,035 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,035
Reviews: 1,040
rAvg: 4.22
pDev: 9.95%
Wants: 218
Gots: 297 | 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
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Ratings: 2,035 | Reviews: 1,040 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of bennetj17
4.13/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice mahogany brown, with a creamy off-yellow head of 1/2 inch, nice lacing, semi-cloudiness. Aroma of strong grassy hops and mild caramel malt. Strong alcohol in the nose. Flavor is a mix of caramel, dark fruit, and chocolate malt balanced with strong hoppy bitterness. The alcohol becomes quite effervescent in the finish. Mouthfeel is slightly thin, with decent subtle carbonation. Drinkablility seemed quite nice for a strong alcohol brew. I enjoyed it alot.

bennetj17, Apr 20, 2006
Photo of kkipple
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My first time trying this formidable brew.

Half-way through an after-dinner viewing of The Shining, my friend decides to crack open one of these bad boys. I was still clear headed enough to grab a tasting notebook and write down my thoughts as Jack Torrance hammered away at his typewriter.

This beer fills my goblet with a hazy, rust colored brew; the head is small, but lingers on the surface of the beer. The smell is immediately apparent, a strong mix of alcohol, piney citrus hops, and prunes. Not much subtlety here really.

Usually the words "barleywine" and "balanced" aren't seen anywhere near each other, but I'm happy to report Old Ruffian is the exception to the rule. It's got the signature bracing bitterness you'd expect, but is evened out with a tasty mix of brown sugar and fresh hops, so that the end result is more than the sum of its parts. There's a nice fruityness to the flavor, prunes and maybe apples was the best I could think of. The hops have a resiny quality to them, and the sweetness is quite syrupy, which culminates in a very smooth (for a barleywine!) and juicy beer.

Mouthfeel is again smooth, syrupy, and a bit bubbly. Finishes moist, bitter, and leaves residual hops flavor everywhere. Yum.

Old Ruffian feels very much like someone's labor of love. There's really not much to complain about. I did notice that the three women in our party made funny faces and proclaimed their utter hatred of this beer, so it is likely best shared with fellow barleywine devotees.

About the time Jack decided the solution to his boredom could be solved via axe, I was polishing off this remarkable beer and wishing I had a bit more. I have no problem proclaiming this the best barleywine I've tasted, and certainly hope to taste it again.

kkipple, Apr 20, 2006
Photo of artusory
4.22/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with reddish tint, nice off-white head that quickly fades. The aroma is caramel, prunes, and citrus. The flavor is very big with lots of sweet malt, caramel, toffee and dark fruit, and lots of good hops, pine and grapefruit. Body is big and chewy.

artusory, Apr 19, 2006
Photo of ColoradoBobs
4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22ounce bomber. No freshness date, but doesn't need one!!

Huge rocky off-white head over a clear red-amber body with apparent fine streams of carbonation. Sticky, thicky lacing. Head is fully lasting.

Smell of malt, cherry, clove, green apple, grapefruit and pine. There is clearly a lot to this thing!

Wow. What a taste. Malt presence is there, but it's at war with the hops! Chocolate goes best three out of five with pine; grapefruit is kicking the butts of the toasted malts. What complexity! Mmmm. Warming. The alcohol is evident but not overpowering on the palate. This is the way to have hops -- balanced with intense maltiness.

Really great mouthfeel. Nice and round, with the malt stickiness very evident, and the alcohol very warming. This feels good: swirl before swallowing.

The only drawback is the alcohol, which renders it less drinkable.

Overall, a great beer, and worthy of its many accolades. Never thought I'd be saying that about something with 90 IBU's, but the bitterness is so balanced by the malt sweetness that it's really fine and complex.

ColoradoBobs, Apr 18, 2006
Photo of cameraman
4.68/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a 22oz mug, a deep amber color that is slightly cloudy, with a 1/4 inch head, that laces down the mug slowly down the glass. The aroma comes with a floral and earthy onslaught, that is evident at a distance. As you get closer to the glass, the malt becomes more pronounced. The taste is excellent, starting with the sweet malt at the beginning and the mid-way the hops begin come forward and it gets stronger as it reaches the end of every taste. In the mouth, it be classified like a light-heavy weight in boxing. Heavy, but not overly heavy. It alao seems to be chewy towards the end. You have to drink this one slowly, the intense flavor and high alchol means this beer could knock you on your butt.

cameraman, Apr 17, 2006
Photo of DaPeculierDane
4.68/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Beautiful rusty red with a golden halo around it poured from a bottle which had been cellared for nearly 9 months. Delectable dollup of beige cream on top. Wildly hoppy, even when cold. The hops intensify greatly as it warms. Body is full, syrupy. The viscosity is simply mind-blowing. Full…that’s an understatement. This beer is bloody explosive. Nose is diesel fuel, citrus fruit, mountain holly, juniper, sweet bread, mango. Taste is brown sugar, jam, rye bread, cinnamon, mango, earth, pineapple, and much, much more. How much more? Well, there are chocolates, melons, dates, grapefruit, figs, and caramels a plenty. The whole deal is great. Tremendous, depthful, balanced better than most if not all of the competitor and ever so complex. Strong and numbing as the alcohol is, the hops just kick starts your face back into believing that you could just drink and drink this brew all day. Minimal carbonation, (as expected). Filling MF. Rich and creamy. Drinkability is crazy good. This stuff is 10% yet I could guzzle it if I wished. A damn near perfect representation of the style.

DaPeculierDane, Apr 17, 2006
Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz. bomber courtesy of AKSmokedPorter.

Color is a lovely fiery copper in color that's clear and sports a cream-colored head that's about a finger+1/2 thick. Excellent head retention and chunky lacing of the St. B chalice selected for this beauty.

Aromas are H-U-G-E: Mammoth hop presence here, flowery...citrus...spicy. Backed up by a plethora of choco-sweet aromas, including Heath bar, roasted malt, some nutty notes.

Flavors jump out and put a stranglehold on your palate. Large. Luscious meld of the Heath bar again, ETOH-soaked fruits, caramel, and potent hop tones. The onslaught of hop infusion is tempered by everything else. Exquisite. Sugary finish, warmed by the ABV. Dries out at the very end.

Beefy mouthfeel really lathers up the palate. Superbly drinkable, as there is not one thing out of whack with this. More expressive as it warmed makes it even better.

OldFrothingSlosh, Apr 16, 2006
Photo of shbobdb
3.95/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Whew! What a barleywine!

Definately a nice American barleywine with the hops and the malt fighting a hard battle to the bitter end. Indeed, that is how the beer fares. It smells heavenly, a mix of malts, PNW hops, and alcohol.
The taste starts with a nice citrus twinge which then moves onto rich caramel. Indeed, I was making toffee earlier today, and it tastes almost exatically the same! Then it rounds off with nice cleansing citrus hops.

Excellent beer. Delicious!

shbobdb, Apr 15, 2006
Photo of acrawf6
4.78/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

No freshness date, but roughly 5 months old

Pours out a dark ruby amber, pretty clear when put up to light, but the beer's color really blocks a good amount of light out. Nice tan head and great head retention. great lacing

Smell. Heavy earthy hops, heavy and creamy. Nice smalll caramel sweetness, and a piney hoppiness. Has a small lemon aroma to it as well.

Taste. It's quite similar to the taste. Seems very earthy with the hops (85-90 IBUs-says the bottle). But i get a great maltiness that really balances this- very malty and roasty. Small lemon tartness with the hops, goes good with the caramel sweetness. Aftertaste is warming with alcohol and slightly peppery.

Mouthfeel. Is great. Very creamy, full body. Nice amount of carbonation and great balance. Very nice

Overall this one is oh, so good. Very heavy on the hops, but still very, very drinkable (could be the age wearing on the hops). I love the amount of malt flavor i get in this. It doesnt rip my tongue clean of tastebuds after drinking, like others in its style. So complex, simply great.

acrawf6, Apr 11, 2006
Photo of bignick
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber purhcased at Marty's in Allston. Poured into an Ommegang glass.

This beer looks fabulous in the glass. The perfect amber color is topped by a creamy, luscious-looking head that extends just above the lip of my glass. It smells bready with a hint of alcohol and hops. The taste is very well balance; it is hoppy, but in a balanced way as opposed to a kick-in-the-mouth type of way. It starts and finishes smooth, is a joy to drink, and is one of the very best American Barleywines I have tried.

bignick, Apr 10, 2006
Photo of waughbrew
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bracing lacing and retention that stands at attention. Reddish-bronze body. Smells like pine tar and tree sap sweetness with orange and grapefruit skin. Flavor is pretty complex in its malt, hops, and alcohol. Fermented dates, caramel, earthiness, dry pineyness. Deep. Lingering herbs and alcohol spice in good balance. Chewy malt body is fought off nicely by an army of hops, keeping the feel wonderful.

Great. Well-done. Impressive. As far as having it often, well I would still prefer their IPA. This is damn smooth, but the flavor profile leaves me slightly annoyed. I can respect it, and I bet it is exactly what they wanted, but it isn't my favorite. The big caramel and date malt along with the piney citrus hops continues to not work on my palate, no matter the company. Probably will not have this often. I still thoroughly enjoyed this, so cheers to Great Divide!

waughbrew, Mar 31, 2006
Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.58/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

A - pours a hazy chocolate brown with half a finger of tan head, too dark to see through. Becuase of that, no sediment or carbonation visible, but it's not black, its weird, almost like it absorbs the light.

S - sinful dark fruits aroma, like figs, or dates, and molasses

T - dark sweetness, too sweet in my opinion, good flavor, i definitely taste the caramel, its just too sweet, the bitters kick in too late to balance it properly

M - thickness is nice, coating, full bodied

D - medium, great bodied, nice flavor, needs a bit more balance

sinstaineddemon, Mar 30, 2006
Photo of dirtylou
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber, cap says $5.89...i feel like i bought this in south bend, which means pre 8/1/05, been in the cellar fridge since

appearance: pours a rusty deep crimson colour into my chalice, foamy beige head, that leaves a heavy lace around the rim... a fine looking specimen indeed

smell: very rich and inviting...the first thing that hits my nose is a very heavy aroma of super-sweet caramel malt, very bready, big hop profile comes next...heavy citrus-grapefruit/orange, lots of other strong dark fruit coming through such as apple and grape. alcohol noticeable but not abrasive

taste: very tasty and very smooth...sweet and thick caramel-apple malt dominates the tongue, sweet and bready, very syrupy, twisted citrus hops with a strong pine sap presence, potent dark fruit, hop bitterness, alcohol present, caramel, toffee, a solid malt driven barleywine

mouthfeel: very smooth and creamy, slight alcohol burn, hop bitterness

drinkability: about right for the style

dirtylou, Mar 28, 2006
Photo of mcallister
3.75/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

what an enormous frothy head with terrific lacing. Not much more you can ask for in this department. Nose is what you would expect of a barley wine; hoppy, caramel, with fruity barley. Very smooth but with decent hop character. Very bold in your face type beer. Not one of my favorite barley wines but would definitely drink one again. Very soon if possible.

mcallister, Mar 20, 2006
Photo of sacfly
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber

Pours a red/orange color. Looks great in the glass. Very carbonated for a barleywine. Huge head of huge tan bubbles.

Nice balance of pine and citrus in the aroma. Grapefruit. Taste is malty candy sweetness upfront and balanced quickly by grapefruit bitterness that lingers deep into the aftertaste.

Begs the question… Does Bigfoot live near the mountains on the label? They seem to be cut from the same centennial hops. Insanely drinkable for a barleywine. Loved it. The best of the Great Divide beers that have come into Maryland recently (IMO).

sacfly, Mar 20, 2006
Photo of futaboots
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thank you beer gods.

Pours out with not much head, but very sticky lacing on the sides. Very dark ruby hued amber.

This is thick. Chewy body with a cloying syrupy residue after each sip. Sweet too, very sweet with strong currents of caramel, licorice, grapejuice, and candy sugar. Normally I don't like thick sweet beers, but I have to give props to Great Divide, they make a strong and pleasant barleywine, and if I like it than something must be working.

What this beer does so well is balance it's extremely strong malty nature with an equally strong counterpunch of hop bitterness, and a pleasant chest warming burn from the alcohol to accentuate everything. You could sip this for hours, and never get sick of it. This would be a great pairing with almost any dessert, or as something to nurse after after a big meal.

My main gripe is the label on the bottle. GD's bottle labels are too bland to do their beers justice. I wish they'd jazz (or punk rock?) things up a bit with their bottle art. Other than that, another high abv beer with a strong hoppy character that nevertheless manages to taste far more balanced than it's IBU rating would have you believe. Way to go Great Divide!

futaboots, Mar 18, 2006
Photo of taez555
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a ruby/brown body with thick white/tan head.

Nose has intense sugary caramel smells, alcohol and this bright fruity citrus, earthy herb, pepper aroma. A very round sort of smell. Not as much a piercing sharpness as some other American Barley wines. Very nice

Body is VERY VERY thick. Starts very soft. Ends with a much brighter sting of Hop bitterness. Almost reminds me of good french Bordeaux as it flows over the palette. Rich caramel, toffee, dark chocolate, sugary malt with a very "chewy" sort of body. Bright alcohol with huge citrus peel, pepper, herbal and floral hops. A huge bitterness, but again mostly comes in the back end of this beer. Alcohol hits you hard after only a little bit of this . Definitely a sipper.

A really nice American Barleywine. It's a unique one at that as well. Big hoppy American with rich almost English like malt base, but at the same time the hops aren't your typical stinging hops. I like it, not my favorite, but up there.

taez555, Mar 15, 2006
Photo of Crosling
4.15/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was bottled yesterday so it is a very fresh bottle. Expect to see it in your local store, assuming it is distributed it your area, within the next few weeks. As it plunges itself from the 22 ounce bottles and descends into my chosen drinking vessel, it appears very healthy and rather dark in color, displaying its ruby hues. The nose is fairly eccentric, hoppy as hell and far from subtle with hints of raw, floral, uncut, brutal hops, caramel and fruits, especially green melon. The taste is full-bodied, the alcohol well masked and the texture is fairly gripping. The beer points and laughs at the English mold. Hop driven with notes of flowers, citrus fruits and dripping, sappy pine. The malt balances well and showcases a nice lingering caramel sweetness. It will be interesting to see how this beer will evolve in the bottle. People will flock to this in herds.

Crosling, Mar 14, 2006
Photo of Gavage
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a clear deep burgandy color with a two finger head that lasted quite a while, which usually doesn't happen with a barleywine.Some moderate lacing developed during the session.

Smell: caramel candy,alcohol, and strong bitterness are easily detectable.

Taste: tons of caramel and fruit sweetness nicely balanced with a strong pine bitterness, and wrapped in a soft layer of alcohol. This is surprising hoppy but it works well. Alcohol becomes more noticeable as it warms.

Mouthfeel: mostly smooth with a bit of light crispness at the start. The flavors last long into the aftertaste. Heavy bodied.

Drinkabililty: for a barleywine, quite good but it will sneek up on you. Slow sipper, but when the bottle was gone I could have had another glass. Simply a must buy.

Gavage, Mar 06, 2006
Photo of jaxon53
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

came across a couple of 22 oz. bottles for the first time yesterday. served in an Ommegang three philosophers chalice , slightly chilled. poured a nice darkish brown with a thick but short head. wonderful aroma of oak, hops, with a nice shot of alcohol. tasted of caramel with slight oak with a hoppy,and well hidden alcohol finish dispite the abv. this barley wine was surprisingly drinkable with no burn, and a very complex flavor.

jaxon53, Mar 06, 2006
Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.78/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22 ounce bottle. Pale and murky off-brown, fused thick corral head. Sticky lacing, which included a sheet of sediment pasted to the bottom of the glass. Invigorating aroma of juicy hops, grapefruit, dark plums and tingly alcohol. Sweet lip numbing hops; loaded flavorings—oak and brown sugar combined with toffee and cherries noted up front; the palate is left with juicy grapefruit hops. The body is full and fulfilling; hop bitterness settles down nicely; sweet malts and anise, traces of alcohol are blended into the mixture. Massive flavoring that brings it's A game. A first class hopped-up Barley Wine that will put others to shame. Superb.

GeoffRizzo, Mar 05, 2006
Photo of CortexBomb
2.95/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

Pous out hazy, burnt orangeish brown into my snifter with a slight, white ring of carbonation on top. The smell on this is fairly typical for American style barley wine, hoppy, with aplomb. That hoppiness also seems to have a sugary, brown sugar like sweet edge to it.

Taste starts out aggressively hoppy, back of the tongue, top of the mouth, they're all tingling from the hops which lend a strongly piney flavour. The pine is subdued by sweetness, though not much...the sweetness is definitely present throughout though...sugary. The alcohol is also definitely present. Abrasive to my palatte, like most American Barley Wines....not as harsh as Rogue's Old Crusty, but still up there. There might be some interesting flavours in here, waiting to come out with some aging, but unaged the hops absolutely destroy everything else this beer is trying to do, and one has to look for the other things in the taste.

The mouth on a beer with this much hops has to be doing something seriously wrong to not get a good score, and Great Divide does not disappoint...a lot of tingles last long after the swallow, which is a sign of a great mouth. The drinkability on this is harsh though, it is a very aggressive beer, and it is not something that is easy to put down.

Overall, I think Great Divide is catering to someone other than me with this beer. These American style Barley Wines seem to offer such a large amount of hops that anything else they're trying to do is lost in the explosion.

CortexBomb, Mar 03, 2006
Photo of phisig137
3.93/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bomber into a tulip. Shows a nice looking ruby/brown color, and a one finger head that is the thickest I've ever seen. Looks like merangue, sticks around forever, and leaves blankets of lacing down the sides of the glass.

The aroma is not the hop explosion that I was expecting, but rather balanced citrusy and grassy hops, with caramel malt sweetness in the background.

The flavor is rather balanced it seems at first, but as soon as you swallow a wave of hop bitterness and flavor wash over your tongue. Further sipping brings out the hops, and they only amplify as the beer warms to room temp, from the cellar temp it was poured at. Slightly astringent, but not unpleasantly so. After the first glass the alcohol becomes quite apparent and warming.

This beer definitely coats you mouth, thick creamy oil slick, almost like a milkshake. Silky smooth, but heavy. This is not a beer you can take a swig of, small sips are the only way to go here.

I dock a few points for drinkablity due to the harsh alcohol flavor after 1/2 a glass. I think after a couple years in the cellar, that this would be much higher. In the end, it's a fantastic brew, and at only $6.29 for a bomber, quite a deal in my opinion.

phisig137, Feb 27, 2006
Photo of rabsten
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bonber into a pub-style pint glass, deep reddish brown with a thick (and I mean *thick*) reddish-tan head. The head is so thick, in fact, you can spoon it out like a root beer float. It lasts and leaves beautiful lacing behind.

The smell is malt and hops. Enough malt and hop aroma to cover up the smell of my downstairs neighbor's cooking (tonight it smelled like sausage and potatoes, until I opened this bad boy up).

The flavor is a sweet, sweet maltiness with a hop and alcohol bite that comes up at the end. The flavor hangs out a bit longer than a lot of beers and could be considered cloying, if it weren't so tasty to start with. The hops and alcohol taste stays behind, lingering like a hot pepper does.

Mouthfeel is good; very "round." It fills the entire space made available to it. In other words, you'll know it was there.

Drinkability. Well, it's very tasty and it seems to be refreshing. However, I still have a third to go, and I'm durn well lit up. Someone before me said this'll either put you to sleep or put you in a straightjacket. I'd have to concur. Definately a "one and done" beer. That said, I'm getting some more to lay in for one and done occasions.

Very nice, indeed.

rabsten, Feb 27, 2006
Photo of russpowell
4.47/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours dark caramel with a huge 2" plus tan frothy head. Crazy lacing & head retnetion

Smell; Sweet malt, piney hops, alcohol & fruticake

Taste: Huge fruitty malts, piney hops & oaky wooden taste. dryness and alcohol on the finish

MF Chewy & well balanced. More like a port or maderia (sp)

Not too too drinkable, this is just too much!

If you want big beer, can't beat this. Great when you are ready to take a snooze or get a straight jacket on...yummy

russpowell, Feb 24, 2006
Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,035 ratings.