Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,088 Reviews
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Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States | website

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

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.

Added by gbontrag on 11-28-2004

User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,088 | Ratings: 2,376
Photo of BMMillsy
3.91/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep red amber with a nice creamy looking beige head. Aroma of sweet toffee and caramel, with some hop citrus. Drinks easy for the style with big malt balanced out by bitter citrus. A lingering bitter left on the palate. Somehow both malt and hops really shine equally here. Lighter mouthfeel (not light, but more than expected) with adequate carbonation. Not a heavy super sweet barleywine but a nice warming brew.

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Photo of richj1970
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 22 oz bomber into snifter glass.

A: Golden honey color tinted with auburn. Two to three finger fluffy white head with lots of lacing.

S: Sweet caramel and malts mixed with piney and earthy tones from the hops.

T: Slight sweetness with caramel, malts, dark fruits mixed with hoppy bitterness and floral notes.

M: Medium body and carbonation. Coats the palette nicely without being too thick.

O: Very nice. Perhaps a bit too hop forward for my taste, but a solid barley wine none the less.

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Photo of Jonada
3.96/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650ml bottled on 12/20/2012. Served in a DFH signature glass

Appearance: Pours hazy amber, brownish red color with 1 finger of a light tan head.

Smell: Caramel, dark fruit, vanilla, floral, pine, with some earthy and spicy hop character.

Taste: Sweet upfront with notes of caramel, toffee, toasted bready malt, and tropical fruit. Hop bitterness is minimal upfront, but builds throughout the sip eventually leading to a lingering bitter finish and aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, not quite syrupy mouthfeel, with medium levels of carbonation.

Overall: Lots of malt and hop character that you'd expect in an American Barleywine. If you're a fan of the style, this is worth try.

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Photo of brureview
4.14/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured a light tea color with a 1 finger head.

The aroma was a strong vanilla-toffee presence which lasted for much of the warming.

Mouth feel: moderately carbonated.

Taste: there was some vanilla and slight toffee which was masked by a strong alcoholic presence, distinct bitterness, and hops.

I would have preferred more fruit and balanced bitterness. The alcoholic presence overwhelmed the beer.

Overall, a good American Barley Wine, but unbalanced. Perhaps the December 2011 brew date was past its prime. I prefer the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, which has a more balanced taste profile.

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Photo of DrewV
3.83/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow, 100?? Seriously? This is a decent barleywine for sure, but nowhere near a 100 rating. Appearance is reasonably attractive, but the wierd fruity breadiness is off-putting. Not enough hops to balance it out, and it ends up more sweet than anything. A strange flavor lingers from the first sip to the last, and I can't quite put my finger on it. The 10+% ABV is well hidden and the finish is clean, but it doesn't exactly leave me anxious to take another sip. Not a chore to drink, but no pleasure either. Just a slightly-above-average barleywine, nothing more. I'm giving this a B+.

Let me just say that this brew is absolutely nowhere near Bigfoot in terms of taste and true-to-style composition, and yet it's got a higher rating. WTF? My faith in BA ratings is diminishing.

PS. Not to pick on anyone in particular (these were cut-and-pasted from various reviews), but here are the flavors "supposedly" contained in this beer:

Dry fruit, black cherry, port wine, sherry and raisin. Bold and sweet caramel and toffee, brown sugar, bitter earthy hops, touch of cocoa, leather, slight licorice and wood characteristics. Mild pine, fruity esters. Tangy citrus, spicy herbal. Caramel apple notes, gala apple. Strawberries, cherries, and molasses. Nuts. Grainy bread. Dates and prunes. Grassy notes. Oak and vanilla flavors. Lots of lemon and orange. Butterscotch, liquorice. Hearty baked sourdough, bitter pecan shells and black licorice. Honeydew melons, grapefruit peel.

And that's from less than 50 reviews. That's over 35 different flavors. SERIOUSLY???? I'm sorry, but this is just craziness.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.52/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a 25oz snifter, pours deep amber-brown topped with a frothy, ivory head that leaves a little lacing on the glass as it fades to a foam. Aromas are rich caramel, toffee, grain, earth...as it warms, tons of cherry and juicy fruit notes. Bold flavors hit the palate with a heavy dose of rich caramely and bready malt, booze, toffee, earthy hops that linger with some mild pine, fruity esters come out as it warms. Body is full, creamy, smooth, and chewy while being lower on carbonation. Overall, awesome American Barleywine - it's about time I tried this one!

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Photo of IronLover
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Hazy ruby red in color. Poured with a thin off-white foam that quickly reduced to a thin wispy cap. Sugary sweet, caramel and bready malt aromas. Citrus and pine hoparomas are initially pungent but quickly mellow. Medium to full bodied with light carbonation and a pleasantly smooth feel. Sweet caramel and bready malt flavors up front followed by tangy citrus and pine hop flavors through the middle. Finishes with spicy herbal, citrus and pine hop bitterness with a malty sweetness beneath - not to mention the requisite, yet pleasantly mellow booziness. A wonderfully balanced barleywine. Very impressive.

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Photo of Friedmanandeggs
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Apparently, this bottle was bottled in Dec 2011.

A -- A hazy (misty?) auburn/maroon. There was maybe half an inch of head, which is now a clump of small, off white froth (with bubbles) sitting like a skin on the top of the beer. Good lacing. Almost fuzzy.

S -- Smells pretty well balanced, with the hops leading and the malts underneath resulting in this kind of rich, fresh tree-bark, nature. It's like taking a walk in the woods. There's a little brandied alcohol in there, too.

T -- Again, really well balanced, smooth, more intense than complex. Forward malts and dark caramel sweet with easy transitions and a light, lingering, chlorophyllic bitterness (with some brightness coming through as it warms up) that builds over time and generally intensifies as you get closer to the bottom of the glass (i.e. more sloshed). Swishing it around with my tongue brings out more of the hops. There's almost a sour mash quality to it. Any fruitiness, I think, is more malty/apples than hoppy/citrus (and, regardless, reads as sweet).

M -- Not so much syrupy as it is thick. Like orange juice, except beer.

O -- A nice, relatively easy-drinking barley wine.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: into an oversize snifter, mahogany brown with orange highlights, tan finger of bubbly froth left behind specks of lace

S: malty caramel and a profusion of hoppy aromas

T: complex hops bring bitter earthy and herbal flavors to the rich malt character; meaty and chewy, slightly sweet, but very hoppy and hefty, bitter finishing

M: full and rich with some spark and some chew, semi-coating, easy drinking, great aftertaste

O: a fantastic barley wine, savory and only semi-sweet, hop-forward and bitter

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Photo of kagent777
4.67/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

22 oz bottle poured into my CCB snifter. This was bottled on Nov 8, 2010. I don't remember whether I traded for this one or got it while on my trip to Denver a year ago.

Appearance: A reddish brown that has a bit of haze and a wonderful whitish head that was one finger and settled to a film. Looks very nice. Gorgeous lacing all the way down.

Smell: Nothing smells better than a good barleywine. Rich malts with dried dark fruit, raisin and plum. I also get a bit of general bittering hops as well, subdued I am sure compared to what they were.

Taste: Really complex! I get rich nutty malts with those rich dark fruits, no sweetness goes into a long lasting bitter finish. I taste tobacco, leather notes, toffee, and caramel. The alcohol may be the bittering opposed to the residual hops, I am not sure. The alcohol is not solventy or hot, well hidden for such a big beer.

Mouthfeel: Not as thick as I was imagining. Huge flavors, my tongue cannot hide from them. Low carbonation, that gives a really velvety mouthfeel.

Overall: As awesome BW. This is why barleywines are probably my favorite style. I am jelous for the people that can get this regularly, especially on tap. I am sad to say that I do not have an un-aged bottle to compare to, at 2 1/4 years old, this one is amazing.

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Photo of LeeryLeprechaun
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a wonderful amber color with a tiny tan head that does not sit atop the beer very well.

The aroma is a kick in the face of hops and alcohol. I smell mostly pine and grassy hops, not very fruity.

The beers tastes of caramel, toffee, alcohol, and toasted bread. The finish is very bitter and resin like pine hops.

The beer is full bodied.

Overall the beer is warming, complex, and has an assertive hoppiness. My only criticism is that the hops do not play well with the malt background. They come off as harsh.

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Photo of SolipsismalCat
4.18/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter.

A: Clear red-brown with two-and-a-half, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes. Pretty good lacing.

S: Strong tropical, citrus hop aroma. Alcohol. Makes my nose hairs tingle.

T: Moderate sweetness and moderate hop bitterness. Caramel malt. Bitterness from the hops without much hop flavor. Alcoholic.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Smooth and warm going down. Slightly astringent.

O: Great looking Barleywine with a strong smell and a smooth mouthfeel. Quite alcoholic.

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Photo of Someguy1_8t
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012/2013 release bottled Dec. 20 2012. Served in a snifter.

Appearance - Light brown amber color, like whiskey. Small rapidly diminishing head.

Smell- It has a great aroma of tropical fruit scented hops followed by caramel malt.
Hint of sweetness is present. Pretty straight forward, just like what's written on the side of the bottle.

Taste - Great taste of hoppiness and malt. This reminds me more of a malty imperial IPA, like Green Flash Imperial IPA or Dog Fish Head 90 min. Like those beers there is a strong malty presence.

Mouthfeel - light - medium bodied with plenty of carbonation. Some amount of lingering hop bitterness.

Overall - I really enjoyed this beer. Not exactly what I had in mind when I read barley wine, but then again it also does say hoppy on the bottle. So I guess the bottles description is rite on. I would definitely recommend this one.

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Photo of popery
3.43/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From notes, 10/28/10. ~11 month old bottle. This beer could use some more time. Right now, it’s sticky, kinda boozy and harsh. There are some nice caramel notes lurking in there, but it’s just not all that enjoyable right now. Aroma is caramel malt and citric hops. Sweet sugar cane, apricots and an acetone/metal note also show up. The taste is sweet leading to harsh. Lots of caramel malt flavor is packed into this beer. Mouthfeel is fairly sticky. Appearance is a darkened amber with an off-white to beige head. At any rate, I imagine a vintage bottle would get higher marks. Also, I’m sorta down on barleywines, right now, so I’ll give this one another try in the future.

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Photo of AmitC
4.63/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This will probably taste much better right now than it probably is. Cause I am in the mood of celebrating. Ticking off one from the top 250 as well. This one a 2009 vintage - Dec 08 2009. At 8.99,i guess it is good. There was a 2011 sitting right next to it, but bought this instead.

Poured from the 22oz bomber into a large snifter. Freezer cooled for 30 minutes. Will pour half of it a bit later.

About one finger thick tan colored creamy head. Color is Brown with huge ruby highlights. Excellent lacing on the sides with each sip and the one left by the head. Surprised to see some bubbles rising up still, after over three years of bottling. There is tan colored layer that stays throughout. A bit dark and more cloudy and hazy. Almost opaque. Suspended hops or some white suspensions seen in the bottom.

Aroma is extremely boozy and malty for this old beer and at 10.2% it is not hiding it well. I will give it points for that. Hops have completely died out, I wasn't expecting either. Maltiness is fairly neutral and dominated more by alcohol. Smelled a lot like a boozy stout or American strong ale. Smelled some hops in the later stages, which is good. I guess i like the smell.

Taste is also full of booze. A good amount of bitterness as is expected. Probably a bit warm which is good as such, but i like it when drinks are colder. Hops are doing well to impart bitterness to the stuff that stays as an aftertaste. A very well constructed sweet bitter finish. Bitterness is what is lovely about this. I must try a fresher version of this. Alcohol is exceptional and in your face.

Mouth feel is more medium to very slightly full. Astringency - No - just a lot of booze. Smells as if it is 15%. Drinks rather well for me. No carbonation seen, but those bubbles might indicate a more stronger carbonation in the fresh ones.

Cold version drinks exceptionally well. I love this stuff.

Ticking off. And good luck to me.

Style rate: 4.5
Personal Rate: 4.5

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Photo of DmanGTR
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes

Hazy, tawny copper with maple hues. Very light head. Beautiful aromas of lemon zest and grapefruit rind, but not overwhelming the delicate raisin and figs coming through the rich maltiness. Very well balanced, but expressive. Full bodied, rich, yet a bit of dryness in the finish.

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Photo of Moose90
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle into tulip
Bottled Dec 20 2012

A – Very deep dark copper, red hues to it. Small head, but sticks wonderfully.

S – Sweet and sugary here, pretty big hop character from this one. Pine, citrus and grapefruit.

T – Molasses, caramel and brown sugar. Balanced by a great hop profile, nice and strong on the flavors here. Biscuit malts and nice sticky piney hop notes. Caramel apple notes, gala apple, with fresh caramel. Simply amazing that these flavors can come from a beer.

M – This is very drinkable, it is thick, but the alcohol is very well hidden. Medium-full mouth feel, has a lingering finish.

O – Wonderful BW, will be looking forward to this with some more age on it. Wanted to try it fresh first, but have a few cellared for future consumption. If it is this wonderful now, I can't wait to see what it develops into.

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Photo of Stoutfan23DJ
4.87/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2011 Vintage
650ML bottle – 10.2% ABV – 90IBU’s - Bottled Dec. 05, 2011
Poured down the center of a large brandy snifter at 60 Degrees.

Appearance: Poured a very murky brown body with a 1 finger brown dank color head. Pours really thick, sticky and leaves a oily looking film on the sides of the glass along with some alcohol legs.

Aroma: The caramel, toffee, and the dark fruit come to the forefront. Dry fruit, black cherry, port wine, sherry and raisin. Bold and sweet caramel and toffee, brown sugar, bitter earthy hops, touch of cocoa, leather, slight licorice and wood characteristics. After a year, the hops have really taken a backseat while everything else came to the forefront.

Taste: This is big, sweet and robust! There’s 2X more complexity in the taste than in the aroma. Loads of sweet caramel, toffee, and molasses absolutely dominating here. The big fruit flavors like dark cherry, wine grapes, fig, pear, raisin, and other dry fruits are boldly displayed. Other flavors like port wine, old leather, sherry, wood tannins and cocoa nibs are also present. The earthy, floral and slightly pungent hops are still present after a full year in the cellar but are balanced out pretty well with malt and fruit characteristics. A full year of aging really improved this barley wine from being very hop dominant with the dark fruit and malt in the background to a barley wine with all of those characteristics standing out together with exceptional balance.

Mouth feel: Full bodied, intense, thick, viscous and almost chewy mouth feel with a nice carbonation that is minimal but sticks around to the very last ounce. The alcohol is also very minimal here. This was most enjoyable at 65 degrees, everything really opened up in the aroma and in the taste.

Overall: Right away I have to say that I enjoyed this much more with a year on this than fresh a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, this a great barley wine when it is fresh but I believe that this is much more enjoyable when the fruit, malt, and hops are equal to each other, the rough-edged characteristics smooth out and round-off, the overall complexities increase and the alcohol nearly disappears. This is a top-notch barley wine that I will recommend to anybody that is a fan of the style. Add a couple bottles to your cellar and be amazed at what a year or more can do to a barley wine!

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Photo of BeerWizard
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I'm gonna come right out with it - this is my first barleywine ale, so not totally sure what to expect. It pours nicely, and came away with a 3/4" head that disappated in a couple of minutes leaving larger, soapy-looking bubbles. Beautiful red-orange in color when held up to the light, and also totally clarified. I'd expected some suspended bits or murkiness in there, but there's nothing. I can see right through to the other side of the glass. It initially smells overwhelmingly like Red Vines to me, oddly; then breaks up into fig, strawberry, cherry chapstick, and molasses. Flowery, very sweet. No noticeable alcohol on the nose, and some underlying yeast. I'm really just bowled over by the nose - definitely a lot there! Tasting exposes the alcohol, as well as some hop bitters, and I very much get strawberries, cherries, and molasses. Honestly, I'm not super-psyched about the flavor. It's really good, but I've had some winter ales (Hibernation being one, go figure) that are similar, and I was just hoping for something different. Mouthfeel is what you'd expect from a big brew like this, but it's well done and not so punchy as you might think. It's actually pretty smooth. Overall, I think this is a great beer. Very complex aromas and flavors, and I'll definitely be investigating this style more. I probably wouldn't buy this one again, though it is enjoyable, fairly priced at $8 for a bomber here, and I'm happy to have tried it.

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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber color, a bit hazy, with a fairly small head but ample lacing.

Aroma is deeply fruity, with lots of mid and dark fruits coming through, figs, plums, raisins, some honey and brown sugar too. There's also a plentiful degree of hoppiness that lets you know this is a bold and potent brew! Alcohol is notable.

Flavor is very deep and rich, with tons of great malty flavors coming through right away. Caramel malts, grainy bready flavors, nuts, brown sugar, molasses, and rich dark fruits come through first, followed by an intense hoppiness that creates something almost "balanced" (LOL, if that's even possible with barleywine!).

It has what I consider to be the quintessential property of a barleywine... it's pungent! I love the pungent malt/hop interaction that leaves your mouth puckering from the intense malt flavors. To me, it's very distinct to the barleywine style, and this barleywine has it in spades.

Body is very thick and full, leaving a fruity, resinously hoppy finish. Alcohol is warming and noticeable, this is clearly a strong beer!

If you like barleywine, definitely try this one!

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Photo of jmarsh123
3.18/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Pours murky rust with a finger or so of tan head receding into nothing. Little lacing.

Lots of caramel and burnt sugar in the aroma. Some plum and other dark fruits.

Similar flavors. Very sweet throughout until some bitterness grips at the end. The bitterness should be welcome, but clashes a bit and doesn't mesh well with the dark fruit and caramel.

Medium bodied somewhat sticky so good for the style. Medium carbonation. A little cloying at times, but still finishes with some bitterness so sweetness doesn't linger on the tongue.

Ok barleywine and for the price and availability probably worth it. Not something I seek out all that often though.

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Photo of IronDjinn
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From a 22 oz. brown bottle with black foil around the cap, picked up in Ponderay, ID. Pours out a bright clear russet copper hue, with a short creamy beige head.

Sweet estery malt on the nose, very clean, some dates and raisins, floral hops.

Clean sweet caramel malt up front in the flavour, some dates and prunes, balanced with spicy, herbal, citrusy hops. Warm alcohol presence throughout.

Full-bodied mouthfeel, full velvety creamy texture, with moderate carbonation.

Solid Barleywine and very approachable for what it is, not overwhelmingly intense but proficiently balanced. If this were available locally it would easily be a go to for the style, certainly one of the most balanced and refined American Barleywines I've yet to sample.

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Photo of TwelveOunces
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle poured into a snifter
Bottled on Dec 02 2011 (13 months to the day)

A- A deep copper color. A one finger of a very lightly tanned head. Nice alcohol legs.

S- Very sweet sugary malts. Burnt sugar, caramel, molasses. A big faded hop character. Citrus and some pine.

T- A big beer. A massive hop bitterness and a surprising amount of hop flavor. The flavor has receded some but there is still a strong pine and citrus. A big burnt caramel and molasses flavor. A sugary barleywine. A huge breaddy malt backbone. A slight roasted quality.

M- Sticky, stinging, bitter and thick. It hides the alcohol taste well but not the feel.

O- This is a world class example of an american barleywine. It's hopped to high hell and that I like. (Keep in mind my review is of a 13 month old bottle)

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Photo of sommersb
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted On: 12-30-2012
Freshness: Bottled 12-05-2011
Packaging: 22 oz. brown bottle, pry-cap covered in foil
Glassware: Snifter
Purchased: Received in a trade

A: Murky, orange-brown beer with a finger's worth of off-white head. Very good lacing and a fair amount of retention.

S: Aromas include caramel malts, dark fruits such as figs and raisins, honey, maple syrup and piney and earthy hops. Bold and pleasant smells!

T: Taste is rich -- initially piney and hoppy, and then malty sweet caramel and bread flavors. Has a nice layer of alcohol warmth.

M: Full-bodied and thick with medium carbonation. The finish is of both malt and fruit sweetness as well as hop and piney bitterness.

O: An excellent balance of hops and malts on this year-old barleywine. Recommended

Thanks to baybum for this one!

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Photo of PorterLambic
4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Arrives a deep brownish orange. Head is minimal and tan in color.
Smell is a nice mix of malt and hops with caramel and herbal notes.
Taste is the same with the well blended hop/malt mixture plus the aforementioned caramel and herbal/grass notes.
Medium plus body with lighter effervescence. Warming from the first sip.
A solid sipping beer but I wish I hadn't gotten the full pint.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 1,088 ratings.