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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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2,138 Ratings

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Ratings: 2,138
Reviews: 1,060
rAvg: 4.21
pDev: 9.98%
Wants: 238
Gots: 320 | 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
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Ratings: 2,138 | Reviews: 1,060 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of JasonA
4.25/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a translucent carmel headless

Carmel, sweet, malt. Yummy. Dont get the hops as mentioned. Cant smell the ABV, but I can sense it :).

Sweet into hops. Wow. Lots of flavor, not mesing around. Alcohol present, might want to mask it some. Full bodied.

Little syrupy, staring to really enjoy this about the style. Little biting at the end, but overall sits well in the mouth.

Being an east coaster, Im starting to love Great Divide. Everything seems to be very full bodied. This beeris very drinkable and Im not sure what I would pass up of beers I have had to date for a Great Divide.

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

A very vibrant off reddish/amber pour from a bomber bottle. 2 finger head that seemed to ooze aroma.
Aroma: I smell hops, some roasted malt, berries and alcohol, among other things.
This is a hop loaded barley wine. some herbs up front along with a touch of malt. the piney/citrus hops dominate this brew. some soft fruits like berries and plums are available, but not too widespread.
Crisp taste nips the alcohol in the bud, warming but not burning.
I could drink this one all night, and be completely smashed. Great beer.

Photo of Foxman
4.47/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It pours a hazy, gradated reddish amber, sunny at the edges. Two fingers of light tan head scoops slowly downward. Fangs of lacing nibble the inside of the glass.

In the aroma, there's toothy sweet malt with caramel, toffee, and grainy fruitiness of raisins and dates. A dusting of light citrus hops dances gingerly about an airy does of alcohol.

Upon sipping, a succulent malt sweetness boasts caramel and melon and berry and dark cherry. The hops push more firmly here with a mild but poignant pairing of dry citrus and resiny pine. The alcohol is warm and assertive. The malt revisits with a residual biscuit malt sweetness that dries to a substantial, crisp bitterness. It's a densely tasty and comfortably pushy barleywine.

Full bodied, the thick, syrupy malt is kept from cloying by a very dry buzz on the palate.

I think barleywines are why the temperature drops in winter. OK, maybe not, but this one is a good justification, and it makes the cold a whole lot more bearable, if not fun. And the ABV, big and bold and almost brash, kicks the warmth into another gear. This one's a complete package: a full, drinkable, muscular beer that works any time of year, but sips mighty fine in front of a fire, and that's winter to me.

Photo of benito
4.97/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Drinking GD Old Ruffian has become a pre-xmas tradition for me...this year, I had saved a bottle from 2005 to enjoy. Though the flavors have mellowed some, this bottle still shows all the qualities that set this barley wine apart: great balance of flavors, a rich, malty body, and a dangerously high level of drinkability.

It's a reddish brown with a fizzy head and a bouquet of stewed fruit, hops, cinnamon, and candy cane. Flavors that stand out are cherry and prune, matched toward the back of the palate with a piney hop finish. It's the smooth transition from sweet to bitter, heavy body (just-right syrupy), and snappy finish that make this a great beer.

Colorado craft brewers make some fine barley wines, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It might even be the best barley wine in the US. A must try.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.47/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a great beer. Pours with a serious viscosity, but with very little head. The color is a light brown and a little murky. Thje smell is winey and complex with some serious alcohol and malt and a background of hops. The flavor is magnificently hoppy- serious bitterhops with a finish of warming alcohol and malt. Very thick and syrupy, but not at all sweet. Very drinkable for this alcohol level, especially due to its bitter rather than sweet profile. Really well done.

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

22 oz bottle. Pours a hazy murky rusty red brown, medium sized off white dirty colored head, good retention, with lots of sticky lacing around the glass.
Big presence of citrus and earthy/pine hops in the nose with a big sweet bready malt aroma that is quite complex. Lots of thick molasses, gingerbread, hints of candied spices, and all of these sweet malt related aromas blend very nicely with the hoppiness in the nose.
Sweet bready malty backbone, lots of molasses that matches the nose perfectly, piny hops blended smoothly into the bready sweet malts. I cant say as though the hop character is any bigger or more pronounced than the maltiness and vice versa....very nicely balanced.
Very full and smooth over the palate, near perfect level of carbonation IMO for the style.
This is a barley wine that is bold and very flavorful but also really is easy to drink. If you like deep running malt character with a good big hop presence this is your barley wine.

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

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a goblet.
Nice dark reddish brown color that produced a small head and some lacing. Smell is very sweet but has some notes of hops - one of those beers you want to smell as well as drink. Taste is very good until the unexpected hops come in. I wasn't sure heavy hopping was part of the barley-wine style. I read the bottle and then realized it was the intention. The initial taste starts heavy on the sweet and then the hop bitterness comes in to erase it. At first this was sort of a turn off because it wasn't expected. As I drank through the bottle it didn't bother me as much.

Alcohol starts to work immediately on me and produces the warm throat and belly. I appreciate the warming effects of the barley-wine very much. Mouthfeel was just about perfect for me. Each sip seemed to expand and fill the mouth with it sweetness. Drinkability was good, but not as good as some other barley-wines I've had.

Highly recommended.

Photo of Damian
4.3/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Drank from a 22 fl. oz. bottle purchased at Downtown Wine & Spirits, Somerville, MA

Poured a clear, glowing crimson-brown. The three-finger, sea foam-like head faded to a creamy froth and lasted throughout the drink. Multiple thick ridges of lacing stuck all around the glass.

The smell was rich, smooth and very sweet (almost candy-like). I could smell the sugars in the beer immediately after opening the bottle. Tons of caramel malts with hints of vanilla and warm bread.

Taste was flavorful and powerful. An equal portion of sweet malts and crisp hops was apparent initially before the citrusy hops, spices and huge alcohol kick became noticeable. The alcohol crescendoed on the rear of the palate and the biting, piney, grapefruit-like cascade hops became even more potent. At this point, the alcohol taste had almost brandy-like characteristics. Warm and pleasant alcohol warming in the back of the mouth and the throat. The lasting finish was intensely hoppy, super dry and puckering, with a noticeable amount of residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel was lucious. Super creamy, full, rich and smooth. The beer felt like a creamy froth gliding along my palate.

Drinkability was rather difficult initially. However, as the beer warmed, it seemed to settle and smooth out. If one can manage the intense nature of both the hops and the alcohol, this becomes a terrific beer, perfect for sipping and savoring on a cold winter night.

Photo of Onibubba
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle was going on 2 years. Cracked it open last night to celebrate completion of a project. Strong aroma of toffee and caramel as soon as it opened. Poured a thick hazy dark caramel into a tulip glass with a nice frothy head. The head subsides, but leaves a nice lacing. Looks as good as it smells.

Mouthfeel is good - thick and creamy. A year plus has done wonders for this beer. I recall it having a heavier hop bitterness, but that bitterness is now only present in an aftertaste. Initial taste is a malty sweet backbone of toffee. The taste is actually similar to Stone OG, but a bit more pronounced. Also like the OG, alcohol is not detectable in the least. All in all, I prefer the OG, but this one is mighty tasty too.

Photo of alexgash
4.53/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served at 55 degrees. Fills the tulip galss with a large, thick, rocky, marshmallowy light khaki head and a clear, dark crimson body. Wow. Great lacing too. Nose is malty: rich, chewy caramel, toffee, fresh dates, leather, a hint of sugary fruit, all backed by zesty pine hops. Sweet toffee and toasted malt flavors up front. There's some herbal hop bitterness around the edges. Malt gets fruitier and rummier. And then the hop bitterness takes over. Herbal, medicinal, piney and numbing. Not over the top though. Sweet caramelized fruit comes out in the long finish. Full bodied, with a creamy feel. Very well done.

Photo of Chaz
4.45/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A medium pour into my favorite tulip produces a visually impressive dark tan head which never seems to fade. The ample lacing is as enticing as the head, and while poured cold the nose is fruit-forward with pronounced alcohol and a sharp hop presence - very much on-style, and gives me a very pleasant flashback to my first run-in with the style ('91 Old Foghorn!) Dark-brown amber in color, the first sip of the Ruffian is sharp, sweet, and boozy - oh yeah! Banana in the nose and strawberry preserves on the palate, it's a little surprising that a touch of yeast character manages to emerge from the pig-pile of hop bitterness and rich maltitude in this burly brew, but it is there. Chewy and full-bodied, with a creaminess that coats the tongue for a moment before yielding to the lingering bitterness. As the brew warms it's redolent of anise, plum, and raisin . . . amazin! If you ever here someone talk about "a beer that drinks like a meal" this is *exactly* the sort of beer they're talking about. Old Ruffian really is the sort of brew that should be shared and savored, particularly after a good meal, and with a good friend. One of my favorites in the style, and from a brewer that has never let me down.

Photo of mikesgroove
4.3/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep, hazy brownish, copper with a huge creamy head that just stayed and stayed and stayed. Smell was incredibly hopped and fruity. Overwhelming citrus all over, wonderful on the nose. Taste is wooo, strong, this one grabs you. Incredible bitterness, and the alcohol will warm you on the way down. Very dry finish. Did I mention hops?!?! Wow, a great sipping beer(power to you if you can do anything else) Perfect for a cold winter night, this was a treat I will be sure to return too.

Photo of msubulldog25
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured this 22 oz. bottle to a pint glass. Label lists abv as 10.5% and an IBU range of 85-90.

A: Deep caramel brown, hazy with a pillowy off-white head, about one-finger. Head fades quickly, but an abundance clinging lace.

S: Sweet & juicy fruity hops. Bountiful sweet caramel and bready malts. Nose-tingling spiciness. Alcohol without much burn. Complex smells that are big and intoxicating before the first sip...

T: Gigantic hop presence, but starts with a mellower sweetened caramel malt flavor with notes of sweet citrus (oranges) mixed with more bitter (grapefruit). Seemed punishingly bitter in the finish at first, but the sweeter notes became more prevalent as the glass warmed.

M: To say the mouthfeel is 'full' seems an understatement. Certainly among the biggest, fullest beers I've had...thick and luscious hops. Sticky-sweet on the lips. Alcohol is warm in the mouth but flavors are masked well.

D: Whew, amazing flavors. Definitely one to have again. Drink with caution - a powerful conconction with tons of flavor and alcohol kick. A sipper for sure, highly recommended.

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

--2006 Vintage--

A: Hazy reddish brown. Tan head that dissipates quickly.

S: First whiff is very spicy. Obviously from both the hops and the alcohol. Strong malt aromas of fruit and caramel are also very apparent.

T: Big, bold malt and hop flavors. Caramel and spice are perfectly intertwined. The alcohol adds a bit of heat to each sip. Malt and hop flavors are very well balanced for an American barley wine. Excellent representation of the style.

M: Full bodied and smooth. Thick on the tongue, but not cloying at all. Well done.

D: Very drinkable for its size. However, at 10% ABV this is a sipping brew for sure. Perfect for the winter months.

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

This has become one of my favorite beers. Typically, I will have one of these before bed as a nightcap. It's a little too alcoholic for some, overly sweet for others, and some feel it's too hoppy. So if you average all those opinions out, you get a high rating in its style and that is exactly what we see here.

I drink about three of these a week poured exclusively into a 24.5 oz pinot glass at an optimal (in my opinion) 46°. I start out at this temperature because colder than that the proteins precipitate out causing chill haze and warmer than that will put it in the 60° range by the time I'm finished.

This is a sipping beer, not a mainstream offering. This is not a beer that is quaffed like a PA, IPA, Lager, Pils, or BMC. This is a beer that you have to become accustomed to. I''m sure there is some food that everyone can remember they didn't like the first time they had it, but now they love it. That is Old Ruffian.

If you don't let this one get below 46° it pours a clear orangish copper color and if it's head you want give it a spank at the end.

This is a big beer, size notwithstanding, so the smell, taste and mouthfeel are going to be big as well. Malt, hops, alcohol. Expect anything less and you are in for a disappointment.

As for drinkability... one at a time... slowly. Treat this one as the barley wine it is - not just a beer.

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

Poured into my Duvel tulip glass a musty reddish brown, with off white almost tan head. There is some lacing present already, even though I poured lightly. Smells is of toasted, maybe 2 row barely, some malty sweetness, alcohol is definitely there, not nearly as over powering as my last barely wine though, but undoubtedly there. The hops in this one are present although not too aggressive, but their definitely there. There are also some ester scents produced from the alcohol, they are slightly fruity, but not to the point where I can really describe the specifics of them. The taste is much the same as the smell, slightly sweet start with mild balanced bitterness and then onto a bitter dry finish. Maybe some toffee and or coffee flavor from the toasted malts, but there is that definite barely wine taste, which I'm not really sure how to describe yet, but I will figure out soon, this is coupled with alcohol warmth on the swallow. The mouth feel is a little sticky and the residual sugars are totally present. Honesty this beer will kick your ass if you drink too deep. I am new to barely wine, but I think I understand their monstrously dangerous appeal. So far this has been both a challenge and a delight to drink even though the bottle is not even half empty, go for it.

Photo of MrHungryMonkey
4.3/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Massive head, light brown color, very lasting – beer is a deeply translucent light brown/amber color – almost no carbonation – heavy head lace left behind

Strong hop bitter smell – sweet malt – little alcohol – nice blend of bitter/sweet

Massively strong taste – strong hop bitterness, with its citrus vibe – strong sweet malt – strong alcohol, almost like wine.

Thick – very present carbonation in the mouth, but light sting – alcohol presence

This is a really strong beer. Less than half a pint and my tongue has taken quite a beating. The heavy citrus taste associated with the hops (IPA level) is very present in smell, taste, aftertaste, and as it is burped back up minutes later. The meld of bitter and sweet is nice. I can’t drink it quickly, it is crazy.

Photo of SudNut
3.93/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours to semi-transparent dark amber. There is a strong smell of grapefruit and hops. Taste is similar, slightly sweet hops to a tart hops with grapefruit finish. Mouth feel is medium with a bit of stickiness. More than one of these big bomber bottles is a bit too much for me but its drinkable enough with no annoying aftertaste.

Photo of joedon
4.52/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What a bad-ass beer and a big surprize to find in B-More.

My waitron at Ale Mary's mentioned a barley wine so I asked for one after my lunch. Old Ruffian is what she brought me. I've had the bottled version and the tap beer seems quite a bit smoother and more mellow.

Huge beer with lots of hop and malt aroma. Good balanced in the flavor. Not so much hoppiness as a Bigfoot, but still big. Quite sweet but not overpoweringly so. I would consider it closer to a big English barleywine but that is kind of a semantic debate.

Mouthfeel and drinkablity both good for such a big beer. One pint is about all I could handle after three previous beers.

Photo of jmz62565
4.33/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a clear dark mahogony with a huge tan foamy head that lasts forever. This is really impressive looking with great lacing and head retention. The smell is "bisquity" with some dark fruits, alcohol, and hops. A nice mellow smelling beer and not over blown like some barleywines. The taste is mild with dark fruit, bread yeast, alcohol, and some hop bitterness. This is different from other b/w's as the flavor has more hops and is much more mild in regards to dark fruit and alcohol. The m/f is heavy with all flavors mixing very well including hiding the high alcohol and the hop explosion in this beer. This is an incredible beer. A true classic that most be tried. Cheers.

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

Pours a beautiful, cloudy burnt copper/orange with ruby highlights and a tan head.

Aroma's are fantastic! Sweet, rich, malts balanced with citrusy, piney hops and strong alcohol.

Taste is just as great. Dried citrus fruits; mandarin orange, apricot, a hint of dark fruits such raisins and plum. The citrus fruit marries with the hoppiness as the darker fruit taste blends with the sweet rich maltiness. Also caramel, toffee.

Mouthfeel is thick and full. Wonderful alcohol warmth.

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

Pours from bomber to snifter a slightly murky orange-burgundy color with a thick, dense beige head which shows superb durability. Heavy, almost continuous sheets of lacing coat the glass as it drains. Beautiful rich aromas of grapefruit and pine needles are apparent, backed by notes of caramel, malt, toasted bread and butterscotch. Mouthfeel is full, creamy and slightly syrupy with a perfect level of carbonation. Initial taste shows hints of caramel candy, crystal malt, brown sugar and toffee sweetness. However this quickly transforms into a very assertive and muscular hop presence with flavors of fresh cut grapefruit, pine and citrus rind along with an ample ethanol kick to amplify the whole experience. If you’re a fan of huge, hoppy BW’s (i.e. Bigfoot) you’ll love this baby. Great stuff!!

Photo of Osiris9588
4.4/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber. Pours a murky, amber color with ruddy and orange overtones. The off-white head is extremely creamy, showing great retention and leaves behind a sticky web of lacing with bubbles of varying size. A stiff cap puffs up in the center and remains until you sip it.

The aroma offers a blast of dried fruit--apricots, tangerine, plum, and raisin, as well as other fruity notes--all with toasty malt, barley, and yeast--and some chocolate and caramel. The flavor is a blend of the aforementioned ingredients, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, and a flame up of warming alcohol.

The mouth is full and very complex, warm with ample carbonation and balance. It's remarkably drinkable for a barley wine--wondeful to sip for the duration of a cold winter's night. One of the best of the style that I have had.

Photo of gonzo138
4.2/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- pours a deep brownish red color, has a low cream colored head that retains decently and laces very well

S- a complete balance as far as smell goes, rich chocolatey malt sweetness balanced with a just a strong citric hoppy aroma, alcohol smell is present towards bottom of glass

T- just as balanced as the smell is, rich chocolatey fruity malt sweetness, strong hoppy bite on the finish

M- low/moderate carbonation, full heavy body, very sticky mouthfeel, taste lingers in mouth for quite a while

D- a good barleywine is not too drinkable, you can sip it for a while, but you dont need more than one, an excellent beer, would buy/drink/recomend any day

Photo of aforbes10
4.51/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

well, ive had this bottle for a couple of months and i was going to wait a year to drink it but all the reviews suggest that it doesnt really need to age very much and that its basically good to go right away. so here goes...

pours a deep majestic red like liquid mahogany. densely packed, short head. syrupy looking lacing hugs the glass. massive hops nose with more than a hint of ethanol. obviously a lot of malt in the nose too. not exactly how i think of a barleywine smelling....more like a super malty double IPA. But hey, wow, the taste is something else. this IS a good beer. initially there's a very bitter hoppy taste with little hints of breadiness and fruitiness and the malt really just acting as a kind of delivery system for tons of hops. Then, as it warms and your mouth becomes acclimated to it, there's some orange zest and maybe even some grapefruit that becomes more noticeable. by the end it really is like a good well aged barleywine...nice and sweet and fruity and great. The mouthfeel is appropriately thick and syrupy. its overall not terrifically well balanced, but i wonder if it should be? Lastly, its maybe a bit too much to drink a whole bomber in one sitting....i did, of course, and i kind of regret it because its one of those beer that i know will give me a swirly feeling in the morning (it did). but, yeah, ill buy some more.

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 2,138 ratings.