Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Old Ruffian Barley Wine - Great Divide Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

1,080 Reviews
THE BROS
99
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 1,080
Hads: 2,346
Avg: 4.22
pDev: 14.45%
Wants: 280
Gots: 409 | FT: 19
Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States | website

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: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Old Ruffian Barley Wine Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,080 | Hads: 2,346
Photo of Prufrock
2.82/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

22 oz. bomber poured into a pilsner.

hazy light brown with an inch of tan head that takes an eternity to fall into puffy peaks, leaving rings of lacing.

tons of sweet, caramel malts in the aroma, but the hops are there as well with a touch of pine and citrus rind.

thick, syrupy mouthfeel. sweet with licorice at first, but then overwhelmed by a harsh, authoritative hop bitterness. it'd be hard to call this one drinkable, especially once the 10.2% kicks in. oddly enough, is too sweet and then too bitter, without really finding a balance.

 550 characters

Photo of MSchae1017
4.85/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was tated in a snifter from a 650mL bottle.

It pours a deep burgandy in color with a huge frothy head that holds and laces fantastically. It smells hoppy surrounded by subtle fruity aromas. Hops are the first thing I notice on my tongue as I continue to drink I sense cherry and citrus flavors that blend well with the hops. This beer has a full thickness and fantastic carbonation. Overall, I would love to have this beer again.

 442 characters

Photo of derrickt007
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a copper color with a nice cream colored head. Sticks around and laces pretty well. I really like the appearance of this beer.

The smell of this is hops and malts, very inviting.

The taste is a very hop forward barelywine. The malt comes through after the initial hit of the hops and it balances well to me.

I think this beer hides the alcohol very well, and the mouthfeel is kind of light but the hops and malt leave a pleasant taste in your mouth. With the taste and the alcohol hidden so well this is a very drinkable brew for me and will definitely seek out again soon.

 593 characters

Photo of Jason
4.49/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz brown bomber with no freshness date, blurb about the beer on the label.

A- Sea foam lace sticks to the glass well, good head retention as well. Completely hazed reddish amber color.

S- Portuguese sweet bread, caramel and a rough citric and herbal hop in the back.

T&M- Big lush mouth feel with a long drawn-out smoothness. Juicy palate of malt and hops. Suggestions of caramel drizzled shortbread and toasted whole wheat potato bread from the malt. Fruity middle with a one two punch of hop bitterness and hop flavor which are very expressive yet not overwhelming. The bitterness comes at the same time the warming alcohol leaves a numbing sting on the tongue. Finishes with a sweet maltiness and a long lingering hop character.

D- Wow! Perhaps one of the most balanced American Barley Wines I have ever had ... very easy to sip and the taste buds do not get bored of this one.

 895 characters

Photo of Shaw
4.2/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a very nice barley wine. It looks really nice, quite dark with a brown head. It smells of hops, alcohol and malt.

The taste is typical barley wine: fiery and quite warming. This isn't quite as bitter and hoppy as Rogue's barley wine. This is a bit more balanced, if such a word can be applied to the style.

The mouthfeel is quite slick and smooth.

Overall this is a very nice barley wine. I'm really glad Great Divide's beers are available here in Florida. They are quite the brewery.

 502 characters

Photo of mattcrill
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Crystal clear viscous red amber pour. Perfect two finger sticky, fluffy tan head. Visible carbonation in the body.

Smell: Carmel, toffee, orange-ade, citric Northwest hop aroma.

Taste: Malty carmel sweetness up front quickly followed by a citric hop slam and a bitter, dry hop leaf finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied and slightly syrupy.

Drinkability: One to savor. I had this over the course of an afternoon and in to the evening. One of my favorite American Barley Wines to date. This is the real deal...malt, hop, and love. Strongly recommended.

 578 characters

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

Appearance: Hazy copper color, with a large, persistent tan head, thick, sticky lacing, and fine, slow-rising carbonation.

Aroma: Sweet caramel and vinuous alcohol, notes of brandy, and subtle dark fruits.

Taste: Sweet, warming alcohol from start to finish, with lots of dark fruit and caramel, late orange and grapefruit hops, and a late surge of metallic bitterness.

Mouth feel: Smooth, soft, and very full, with sharp champagne-like carbonation, and an almost syrupy mouth feel.

Drinkability/notes: An interesting example, which can be said to expand the boundaries of the style. Well worth a try.

 612 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A treat for all of the senses. Great Divide does it again. Aromas of molassas and hops jump out of the bottle even before the pour. The beer boldly plops into the glass with a dark ruby glow and a tan-yellow head that rises through the durration of the glass. Continues to release aromas of ripe and dehydrated dark fruits with cherries, plumbs, dates, figs... and big-time hop balance. Tastes very sweet and bold with the same fruits as in aroma. Throw in brown sugar, liqorice, raisons, U.S. hops for ultimate hop spiciness, boquet, and flavor. Hops rise up to keep the malts from becoming cloying or undrinkable. Alcohol flavors and feel comes on imediately and never dies, but never becomes too hot or too fusal. No flaws in this beer; if there were, they would become lost in the abundance of flavor. Finishes sweet, yeasty, and alcoholic. Though it's easy to be put in the top 100, it's similar to many other great big beers.

 931 characters

Photo of canucklehead
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer pretty well defines the American Barley Wine style as far as drinkability goes. Unlike Old Crusty or Guardian this beer tastes great and smooth within a year. But unlike some BW's this beer is huge and hoppy and full of flavour. Drinkable young yet complex is a rare quality so I relish this beer and hope to get another bottle in my travels.

 352 characters

Photo of nickss
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a beautiful copper hue with a nice 1" creamy head... large chunks of lace.... exquisite.

Huge hoppy aroma, very musky and outdoorsy... almost grassy.... wonderful.... crisp.

The hops really make themselves aparent in the taste.... but with a pleasant sidekick: a distinct nutty flavour.... very toffee-esque. Some maltiness comes through in the end, providing a nice balance to this big tasting beer. The alcohol is very well hidden in this beauty.... wonderful.

Big creamy mouthfeel... hop bitterness on the tongue.... perfect for this style.

Scarily drinkable for a 10.2% brew... I have to make sure and stop myself after one bomber of this gorgeous brew.

 675 characters

Photo of unclederby
4.08/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This old ruffian pours beautifully, a murky dark amber topped off by a creamy, frothy tan head. Lots of bubbles work their way up from the bottom of the pour. The head doesn't stay too long but bits of sticky lacing coat the glass.

Lots of good stuff on the nose: caramel, raisins, wood, chocolate.

Flavours of caramel, honey, raisins and chocolate present themselves upon sipping. Sweet up front, it all smooths out nicely in the middle and then the piney, sappy hops kick in and assert their presence on the finish. We're left with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Alcohol is noticeable more by it's warming effect than in the taste.

Mouthfeel is full and viscous: slick and oily with good carbonation. It lingers...

Well let me tell you i am torn on it's drinkabilty. I could sip a bomber say over a period of a couple of hours... but i think that's about it. With it's nice hop character this barleywine is a bit of a palate wrecker. Definitely screams "nightcap", and one to share too...

 1,000 characters

Photo of sinistrsam
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Right off you can tell you're in for something special here; a beautiful red amber color and a HUGE foamy white head, which seems to last forever. It left amazing lacing on the snifter.
The nose was impressive; very flowery, hints of caramel, alcohol, yeasts, sweet malts and something akin to chocolate or coffee.
Alcohol is definitely present, but masked very well behind a wonderful almost burnt caramel taste, with a bombardment of hops and yeasts. Roasted malt in there as well. I need to emphasize a great stab at balance here. The only reason I give the drinkability a 4 is that if you drink a whole 1 pt 6 oz bottle you'll be three sheets to the wind without knowing it (all the while having a smile on your face) Definitely one of my favs from Great Divide, and one of the better Barleywines I've ever had.

 818 characters

Photo of neonbrown82
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer even *looks* like it is going to be insane. The thick and sticky beer pours into the glass to a hazed nutty amber color with a nice thick collar of everlasting head. The lacing seems to stick fairly well.

The smell is great. Thick with sweet caramel malts with hints of earthy raisins and plums. A ton of hops dominate the aroma, however. The bouquet is heavy on the grapefruity and pine resiny hops.

The first sip provides a nice and big well-rounded bitterness accompanied by a very complex and seamless array of sweet malts. First the bitterness, then the sweet caramel, plum and fig, followed by some piney, grapefruity hop flavors with a bitter finish. Has lots of residual sugars that layer up in the mouth for added complexity as the glass finishes.

The body is huge! Thick and chewy, only a little bit syrupy and juicy. Very creamy with a light carbonation. As I said, the residuals coat the mouth for long after the last drink, and the overall taste perception seems to accumulate on the palate as you drink.

This is a perfect drinker for the barleywine season, even though it is starting to warm up a bit around here. It's one of the strongest barleywines I've had this season, but still one of the smoothest and most well rounded. Very similar to a DIPA, though the intense malt flavor tips it back to the barleywine side of the thin line.

 1,373 characters

Photo of SupaCelt
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This sweet creation pours a madly deep orange tan. A huge beige coloured head erupted off the pour and sent my mouth into action sucking foam in an effort to preserve the sacred liquid I held in my hand. Damn, I should have known better than to test this one's abilities. The head I speak of is very resilient and is still holding itself aloft and displaying some chunky semi-solid features as I grovel for words to describe it. I visualize some random bubbles floating toward the surface, but overall it seems fairly light on effervescence. This is a truly great looking glass of beer.

The nose is rich in caramel and sweet dark fruit like features. I am completely unable to elaborate on what a dark fruit is because I never partake in their consumption, but I have an imaginary one that is grown only for brewing and it lives only in my own special world. That is what this momma is chock full of. It is not a fig, or a plumb, or raisin, or grape or anything else I can think of. I also see caramelized sugar glazed grains and alcohol floating about in my mind's eye as I whiff. A toasted quality presides over all scents. My nose is nearly clogged by the thickness of the aroma. This style usually provokes feelings of apple to my senses and this one follows suit for me. Cidery, fermented apple with a liquid caramel and the aforementioned dark fruits from another dimension.

The tastes all lie within the more delicious aspects of the elements that the nose has forecasted. There are no sour or off notes that would inspire a negative idea about this brew. It is absolutely phenomenal. By the way, as I look at what is left of my first pint I notice that it is casting off some serious lace. Another mark of greatness. This lace is three dimensional and comes very close to completely coating the periphery of the glass as I drop the level ever more. Brilliant caramel soaked flavourscapes flood my face and leave me reaching for the right words to appropriately describe them. This one defies words and must be swished about on the palate and swallowed to be truly understood. It is complexity at its finest.

The body is thick and round. It feels absolutely superb paired with the flavours it carries on its shoulders. This is as close to perfection as I have ever approached in my time.

I am truly enjoying this bottle. The drinkability is great even at the heavy level that this one tips in at. It is toying with dangerous in the realm of ease of consumption. This brew makes me reconsider things in regards to beer. I think I have found the one in a place I was not expecting to find it. Astounded am I.

 2,626 characters

Photo of far333
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky dark orange, lightening up toward the bottom of the glass where more light can penetrate. A thick head of even orangey bubbles rises up a stiff inch high and slowly pulls back, but leaves a thin cap atop the liquid with thick oily looking lace riding up the sides of the glass.

Aroma is sweet malt, actually smells thick, with rich caramel and ripe fruit, some alcohol notes, and a hint of hops. Very inviting, my mouth's watering.

Flavor is rich and pungent, with thick caramel and toffee, a wisp of smoke, and a thick and juicy hop bite that complements the other flavors well. There is ripe pear and apple, rich candy, and cinnamon. The ABV definitely lets you know that it's in the room, but doesn't detract from the flavor. Lots going on here and it all works well together.

Mouthfeel is smooth and full with a sharp carbonation tingle as it rolls across the tongue, and is wrapped up in a crisp finish.

This one has a ton of character, great selection. Thanks to Brent for passing along a top beer.

 1,022 characters

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

Giant thick beautiful tan head erupts atop this deep rich perfect brown body. Leaves a lot of lace behind.

A very complex nose yields a variety of smells including rich fruit, honey, vanilla and cola like maltiness.

Bold zesty malt character enters the mouth. Slightly sweet long lasting burnt feel rounds out the palate. You get a hint of lichtly strong alchol at the finish. This is a king of barlywines. Great deep mouthfeel. A taste bud loveing experience. Yum!

 471 characters

Photo of TheBungyo
4.88/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Worth every penny.
This beer reminds me of what someone might come up with if they took notes on what would make a perfect barley wine and then executed it.The head is perfect ... about an inch in hight. The body such a dark orange they call it brown around these parts. One whiff and you know it's gonna be bitter, even with such a syrupy malt sweetness that really does rival the hops. The taste will blow you away. Imagine cough syrup thickness and coating but only this tastes PERFECT. Malty sweetness beaten into submission by the hops, but not too bitter for the layman. The taste is so overwhelming that I know you'd gladly drink this all night, I know I would. This is the best barleywine on the market period.

 719 characters

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

A: Ruby brown, with plenty of head! Leaves a little lace.

S: Piney hops, caramel malts.

T: Piney hop flavour and bitterness is pleasant, and a little assertive, but it's not an assault on your taste buds like some of the hop bombs (Nothing like BigFoot or Old Crustacean, a nicer balance like Old Foghorn). Well rounded caramel malt flavour.

M: Not as heavy as one might expect. Nicely carbonated.

D: I think it's quite drinkable, and at this alcohol level, quite dangerous!

 486 characters

Photo of cheers2beers
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a wiezen

Apearance: As I poured this brew lots of caramel looking cascadeing took place.The head is off-white and rocky with lots of staying power.Plenty of laceing to linger.The liquid is a deep burnt orange and hazelnut.

Aroma: The nose is piney,candied hops,and caramel. Minimal alcohol is present as this beast warms.

Taste: Huge burst of candied orange peel,caramel,brown sugar,pine needles,and a slight estery fruitiness. Like the nose, alcohol flavors bite my tongue and throat as the beer warms to room temperature.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy,silky and oily. Slighty tingley on the sides of my tongue ,probably due to the hops.

Drinkability: This brew is easily drinkable,but due to the high abv one bomber of this masterpiece makes this a non-session beer.But, I would for sure buy this again.One of my favorite barely wines.

Overall: Huge beer, huge aromas, huge flavors, huge mouthfeel,huge alcohol and a huge buzz!! Death by Barley Wine.YUUUUMMM!

-Cheers2Beers

 1,004 characters

Photo of sacrelicio
4.78/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

poured cold into a classic pint glass. Pours like whole milk. Wow.


The color is pure caramel that allows ruby red orange when held up to the light. Wow.

After allowing it to warm up a bit, I take a long whiff. Intitial notes are of intense bitter, fruity and spicy hops. Earthy, malty undertones follow and meld with the hop edge perfectly.

Each sip is wildly complex, showcasing spicy, zingy fruity hops. Very bitter but still approachable. Vegetal notes like carrots, radishes and celery are also present midpalate. The finish is long and warming.

Mouthfeel is, like orbitalr0x noted, spot on. Full and creamy, almost like oil. Delicious.

Drinkability is fantastic, but only for a barleywine. A definate buttkicker.

 736 characters

Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle(room temp) a gorgeous ruby red-brown with a sizeable head that dissipated after about 10 minutes into a fine layer with lacing.

The smell that came from this brew is awesome! I note fruit, hops, and sweet caramel malt that has me spending more time with my nose in the glass than a person oughta shoulda. ;^)

And....the promise from the smell does NOT fail to tranfer itself to the taste in big bold fashion. The sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops just works so darn well together that I literally have to pinch myself to make sure that I'm not dreaming. Then, add the fruity tones(hard to say which is dominant. Grapefruit, plum, other?) to the mix and here, imho, is a Barley Wine Style Ale that sets the standard by which all others should be judged. And I'm a BIG fan of SN Bigfoot

Btw, the +10% abv doesn't even come into play as far as the taste goes and that's *another* testament to how great this brew really is.

Life is good. :^)

 994 characters

Photo of etaggie09
4.85/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance was much better this time around. Looked the same, but had a larger head with greater retention. Much better lacing too. Aroma was wonderful, as usual. This time I noticed apple and a bit of cranberry in addition to the tangerine and spice. The flavor, mouthfeel, and drinkability remain flawless. This is my favorite beer- period.

 342 characters

Photo of deBeers
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Fresh, complex, with a lovely off-white head. Strong hops and I'm picking up hints of caramel malts. Beautifully balanced and no doubt this would cellar a couple of years with grace.

To quote the bottle (I read it after the tasting)..."hefty hop-forward barleywine style ale...seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness. 85-90 IBU's.

Superb job! Seek this ale out and share it with your best friends...

 451 characters

Photo of hero27
4.82/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber.

Possibly the best I've had in Great Divide's amazing bomber series.
90 IBUs..crazy, the bitterness seems much more subtle..the hops blend in so well with the massive malts that it tames the hop character down quite a bit. The enormity of this brew alone may be enough to intimidate even some BAs, but it's really one of the easiest drinking barleywines I've had. The flavors are full, rich, and complex without being overpowering. The piney & citrus hops are as present as ever, but they go in perfect harmony with the toffee & caramel malts.

Such a fantastic beer..and one of the best (if not THE best) barleywine I've had. Full bodied and very chewy mouthfeel..and still, the drinkability is insane....the bomber was gone before I knew it. If you're looking for the quintessential American Barleywine, look no further.

 840 characters

Photo of budsboy
4.37/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours brown, cloudy, with a thick tan head. Some floaties bobbing around in there.

Cotton candy sweet aroma mixed with a big dose of hops and wiffs of alcohol, dark fruit.

Mellow at first with a burst of sugary fruit. Then a rush of hops that leaves the finish brutally bitter that lasts until morning. Alcohol is hidden and warming.

Full and silky in the mouth, little bit of oil left on the lips.

Big beer. Very big beer. Meant ot be sipped. This one will knock you into last week if you're not smart about it.

 525 characters

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 1,080 ratings.