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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: 2,386
Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.69/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into tulip; deep orange/brown, with murky depths lurking within. Big, fluffy solid yellowish head that fades slowly leaving thick rings of lacing.
Smell is nutty caramel malt and sweet bread, with subdued notes of bitter citrus rind, earthy hops and some sort of slight sour yeast aroma that I can't identify.
Taste follows nose exactly; sweet, nutty, bready malt starts off and then a punch of earthy, bitter hops with hints of citrus rind breaks through for a time before sliding into a finish with all the flavors crashing down and leaving lingering bitterness after the nutty malt fades away, as well as a last puff of charismatic alcohol.
Mouthfeel is relatively full and smooth, well-carbonated.
Overall, a robust and unique barleywine that is very well-balanced. Great stuff.

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Photo of jaltland
3.85/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark hazel color with a finger of tan head with very little carbonation up the side of the glass. Although, head dissipates shortly after pouring. Substantial lacing with bits of alcohol legs here and there.

Caramel in the nose accompanied by a pleasant hop aroma. The smell of alcohol is present and almost masks a slight sweetness to the ale.

The nose leads to a different taste up front with roasts and caramel coming and then a subtle hop feel growing stronger with citrus through the mouth. Bitterness toward the back end.

Mouthfeel is medium to almost a very light syrup. Brings a minute warming to the back of your mouth.

Overall it comes together to forge an exceptional barley wine ale. The lower ABV gives it a bit more drinkability imo. Aftertaste is going to give you hops for days waiting for that next sip. Great beer. Glad to have found it finally.

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Photo of drpimento
4.56/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Fabulous beer! Opened with a blast of caramel to my nose. Poured at a good temperature with modest, thick, slightly slow to settle, cream/light tan colored head and some lace. Color is a brown, orange amber that's a tad hazy. With the pouring came some heady wafts of fresh hop. Flavor is outstanding, tang and bitter up front, tang drops off, very slightly sweet, lots of resin, a little citrus. Body is excellent and while carbonation is a touch soft, it doesn't seem to hurt. Finish is like flavor, lots of booze, and long. Great beer for sipping and/or sharing.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.58/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottled Nov 2010, opened Dec 2013

A - Gorgeous mahogany, burnt siena body. Creamy, off-white head has great retention and nice lace.

S - Caramel, cognac, raw wood, figs, tobacco, tart cherry, raisin.

T - White wood, booze, raisin, touch of cold coffee, bitter dandelion.

M - Surprisingly light, thin body. Way under par for a barley wine imho.

O - A little disappointing. The flavor could use a little more depth and complexity, and the body was surprisingly thin. It's possible the bottle didn't age well, so I will definitely be trying a fresh bottle of this beer as soon as I can.

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Photo of gshak
4.44/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As I continue to wind down my cellar collection, this one caught my eye: a 2010 vintage of Old Ruffian. Was hoping to cellar it for another 2 years, but what the heck, it's been a while since I enjoyed a solid American barley wine. Let's see how this one has held up in all these years.

A - A non-vigorous pour into my Chimay chalice produced about a half-inch width of head that dissipated quickly leaving minimal lacing. Reddish amber in color. This may not be the prettiest pour, but for a beer at over 10% ABV, it is acceptable. 3.5/5

S - Oh yes, brings back memories of the first time I had this beer back in 2011. Loads and loads of sweet caramel, toffee with an earthy, citrusy, perfumey hop kick. Smells almost like a hoppy, imperial red ale. 4.5/5

T - I can already tell from the smell, that this one is going to be one heck of beer. And the taste doesn't disappoint. Taste follows the nose - it is like a concoction of sweet caramel blended in with orange/grapefruit rind. Initial blast of sweetness, immediately checked by the bitterness from the hops (oh yes, the hops haven't died down yet in this one). The sweetness hits the tip and sides of the tongue, while the bitterness holds center stage in the middle of the tongue. The after-taste of grapefruit zest lingers, bringing back the memories of summer 2011 when a buddy and I shared a bottle on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The taste has everything one would expect from a bold American barleywine. This one does not pull any punches back. 4.5/5

M - Oh so lush and full. The middling carbonation plays oh so perfectly with the beer. The flavors pop open on your palate. It is not sticky or chewy, but makes its presence felt every moment. 4.5/5

O - For reasons beyond a review, this beer to me remains a personal favorite. The folks at Great Divide sure know how to create a great, cellarable brew. Between this and their Yeti offerings, I may safely say, they have quenched this reviewer's cravings for a masterfully crafted american barleywine and imperial stout. 4.5/5

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Photo of Apellonious
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1 pt 6 fl oz from FMcD's poured into a tulip glass. Bottled on 12/20/2012.

A - cloudy brown with orange and amber highlights. One finger head that disapates quickly.

S - dark fruit, fig, plum

T - fig and dark fruits, malts, mild heat. Getting some back end hop bitterness.

M- carbonation is low, heft is solid. Mildly sticky.

O - I am drinking a fig newton soaked in booze. Excellent barley wine.

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Photo of stooge
4.34/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on January 7, 2010. Served in a Kuhnhenn tulip glass.

A- Pours cloudy copper red with a nice two finger off-white head that took forever to settle. Foamy lacing lasts forever on the side of the glass.

S- Sweet, caramel and toffee, strong alcohol and hop aromas

T- Tastes as it smells, sweet with malt, caramel and spicy black pepper flavors and a piny resinous hop presence. Surprisingly smooth for the strength, well balanced and distinct hoppy finish.

M- Smooth as silk, nice carbonation level, well balanced.

O- Surprisingly smooth for a barley wine style ale, with a nice strong hop flavor that I would not expect for this style. Complex, very well balanced, and delightful to drink!

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Photo of wr3ck00n
4.64/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottled early December 2012, poured 11.30.13.

Poured a lovely rosey copper with a nice thick head. Very pretty lacing as I sip. Pleasantly sweet nose, malty with hints of caramel and maybe toffee. Taste follows right in line with the smell, just stronger. Nice and rich, bold even, but manages to do so without feeling the slightest bit heavy. Smooth and filling in the mouth, warms as it goes down. ..Everything I love about a barley wine, personally. I will note that I pulled it out to sit a good 30-40 minutes before I poured it, and I don't think it would have been nearly as good right out the fridge. Sipping slowly, it's only gotten better as it warms. Overall, this one is going straight to the top of my list. Great Divide has yet to disappoint me, and this is no exception. Wonderful brew.

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Photo of megahurts4
4.43/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Great Divide Old Ruffian

Appearance: deep red, small head, and good lacing.

Smell: fine barley wine and a malty yeast.

Taste: dense sweet barley, mild hops, and a faint toffee.

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy.

This is rich and dense. The flavors are quite robust and not overly heavy. It is fairly smooth and very pleasant. Great Divide has become one of my top breweries.

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Photo of Jimmys
3.12/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

bomber into tulip. bottled on: DEC 20 2012.

A: a very hazy deep ruby hued brew. head is frothy and slightly off-white. great retention and boatloads of lacing.

S: a good deal of oxidation hits me right off the bat. a little challenging for me to work around. halfway through the bottle im starting to work through the oxidation and get some caramel, malty aroma. sweet caramel apples.

T: similar to the nose, a lot of oxidation on this thing. bitterness is there, but there is enough sweetness to keep it in check and from being overwhelming. a little bit of booze, but pretty calm, which is what I would expect after almost a year of being in bottle. I don't know if I would say there is much hop flavor left in this thing. definitely some caramel graininess. lingers as well.

M: really creamy, smooth mouthfeel. I am enjoying the carb being so mellow on this big of a beer.

D: I bought this at my local Wegman's and figured it was pretty fresh when I saw them on the shelf. after I got home is when I realized how old it actually was. I thought to myself, "hey maybe I get a aged gem, some of these reviews seem to incline that way!" im afraid I was dead wrong as oxidation has really taken this down a notch for me. as oxidation can work with most barleywine's, this particular one just has too many hops (as most American's do) to come back from. however, I would love to try this fresh.

If you are only going to read one line of this review, buy and drink fresh. DO NOT AGE.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.39/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This bottle is from 2009.

The beer pours with a healthy head that is three fingers thick. The beer is a copper color with khaki colored head. The beer looks clean and with good carbonation given the years that have passed.

The smell offers a complex medley of sweet-smelling hops, spicy rye, and vanilla and caramel. These smells remain with the taste, but a slight boozy, bourbon-like taste joins the mix to further add some enjoyment to this beer.

Despite the slight booziness and high alcohol, the beer is smooth as silk and drinks pleasantly smooth. This is a great barleywine and one I must find more of.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.17/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle, late December 2012 production date, and another of this brewery's foil-ensconced offerings, one which I have had many opportunities in the past to purchase, but never at the beginning of a stateside trip, so, here we finally are, on a company venture to Denver.

This beer pours a hazy, dark bronzed amber hue, with a whole handful of puffy, rather bubbly off-white head, which leaves a decent array of cob-webbed lace around the glass as it slowly ebbs away.

It smells of semi-sweet caramel and toffee malts, black raisins, thin, astringent black cherries, a bit of hollow licorice, leafy, weedy hops, and more than a hint or two of warming, slightly metallic alcohol. The taste is heady caramel malt, but not so much as to not acknowledge the musty, dank basement character therein, pungently restrained drupe and mixed berry fruit, middling anise notes, equally blended citrus, leafy, and earthy hops, and a hard to ignore edgy booziness.

The bubbles are generally well sublimated, the body a more than sturdy medium-heavy weight, mostly smooth, and even a tad creamy, with a certain boozy uplift. It finishes rather off-dry, the bready, biscuity caramel malt still loud and very proud, as are the now piney, citrusy hop esters, all in deference to the rising, plundering heat of a bursting at the seams ABV.

A pretty heady and uncompromising instance of the style, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose. Big caramel variances, bludgeoned hops up the yin-yang, and boozy orchard fruit notes to match. Good stuff, overall, I cannot deny, as all that sturm und drang seems to wash out well enough, in a self-flagellating sense of the term.

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Photo of fourstringer
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Split a bomber into stemless wine glasses x 2 with moderate hand. Bottled 12/20/2012. Drinking the week of purchase. Very cool bottle label with what I perceive as some kind of hat-wearing, Sasquatch-esque character. Or an Old Ruffian. Whatever. I dig Great Divide labels.

A: This is a fine looking brew. Slightly cloudy with a beautiful amber brown body. Solid 1.5 fingers of offwhite/cream-colored head. Moderately slow dissipation with ample lacing. Hell yes.

S: Sweet with cherry, dark fruit highlights. Some mild maltiness and booze. Some indistinct hop presence.

T: Initial taste parallels the scent with cherry-type sweetness. Some pleasant nuttiness. An assertive bitterness develops gradually and lingers on a fairly dry finish. Notable alcohol presence, but pretty appropriate for 10.2% ABV.

M: Creamy, full on the palate. Well balanced carbonation. Superb.

O: Very tasty. Complex without being schizophrenic. Sweet, hoppy and exhibiting quite a bit of depth. As it warmed there was some loss of smoothness without a whole lot of change in smell/flavor nuances. Pretty minor gripe for what is otherwise a top notch barleywine.


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Photo of Dope
4.15/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12/02/2011 bottling date. Coming up on 2 years old.

A: Pours a nice dark mahogany. Big dense tan head. Head fades super slowly with fantastic retention. Thin but widespread walls of lacing. Great island of foam sticks around forever.

S: Sticky caramel and toffee. Pretty mellow, probably due to the age.

T: Yup, lots of sticky caramel and toffee just like the nose. Surprising decent bit of hoppiness sticking around. Mainly a piney, resinous hop. Hints of raisin and fig, mainly in the finish and the aftertaste oddly enough. Lingering resin in the aftertaste with just a hint of toffee.

M: Third time I'm going to use the term sticky. It truly does stick to your mouth like drinking caramel (not that I've ever tried that). Or maybe it's hop oils. Who knows. Nice heavy body to go with it.

O: Hmph, interesting. I wonder how hoppy this is when fresh. It's got plenty of hop flavor even after 2 years, which is saying something. Nice hoppy barleywine balanced with quite a malt wallop. Honestly reminds me of Bigfoot a lot. Big, belly warming and tasty. One of the best.

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Photo of asaharyev
4.7/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pour: A nice looking clear red/auburn with a finger of cream colored head that lingers for a while.

Aroma: Very sweet, ripe dark fruit. Figs, dates, licorice, and a ton of alcohol. A slight kick of citrus hops.

Taste: Tons of licorice, overripe strawberries and cherries immediately apparent. Fades into dried figs and dates. A nice kick of hop bitterness after the sweet front. There’s a big wave of alcohol warming at the front, then again in the aftertaste. This one sits on your palate well.

Overall: This is a fantastic barleywine. It’s probably the hoppiest one I’ve had as well, even more than Lower De Boom from 21st Ammendment. A great beer that just gets better as I sit here sipping it.

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Photo of SebD
4.21/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It has a nice deep orangy/amber color to it. It has a nice beige head that dies down moderately and leaves some lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet caramel, dark fruit, bready malts, piney hops, grass and some earthiness.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has some sweet caramel, toffee, some dark fruit, piney/grassy hops, some earthy notes and some breadiness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low/medium carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with great flavors and aromas.

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Photo of Dave1999
4.9/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a ruby red with a big foamy white head, looks fantastic an't wait to taste it.

The smell is sweet and malty, with a huge does of grassy, earthy hops. The smell is so rich and powerful.

The taste is sweet and malty, finished with a good level of bitterness. Perfectly balanced and delicious.

The mouthfeel is smooth with low carbonation.

Overall this may be my new favourite beer, perfectly balanced and delicious. The sweetness and bitterness are bang on, and drink great. The abv is very well hidden as well.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.93/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Great Divide : Old Ruffian

22oz bomber. 2012 Vintage
Pours a hazed dirty reddish shade. A few inches of dense creamy froth form, and it isn't going anywhere. Leaves behind a fair amount of lace.
Aroma of bread, caramel and over ripe cherry. Mild toasted aroma as well.
In the flavor, cherry like fruitiness , a bit of toast and strong clean alcohol. The hop presence is noteworthy; earth, citrus, roots and solidly bitter. Anise, caramel and toffee flavors work with the hop bitterness to counter the alcohol presence. Sweet flavors are big but then the hops dry the beer out in earthy fashion. The 10% abv is noticeable in the taste, but not a major distraction, actually it's quite nice.

Carbonation is low, hop bitterness does outlast the sticky sweetness, actually sticky in an earthy, resinous sense. Drying feel and has a elegant creamyness and very large indeed. This is a BBB big beautiful beer. A nice brew to sip upon, knowing full well I couldn't do it for long in public; bad things would happen. Definitely a classic American Barleywine.

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Photo of jngrizzaffi
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy amber/reddish color with a small head. Head retention and lacing are both mild. Has a malty, sweet, oaky aroma. Big malty, oaky, smooth taste. caramel with some hoppy bitterness. Alcohol content evident. Medium bodied with low carbonation. Silky smooth.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 650 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice. Bottled on December 20th, 2012.

Appearance: Pours a deep brownish amber orange with a moderate amount of bubbles. Solid three fingers of off white head with decent retention. Leaves a lot of creamy lacing along the glass.

Smell: A big and rich aroma of sweet caramel malts and earthy hops. Strong hop presence upfront with good hints of grassy, earthy, piney, and herbal hops. Big bready malt scent with hints of sweet caramel, toffee, toast, biscuit, grains, nuts, and yeast. Sweet hints of brown sugar as well as a slight hint of vanilla. Undertones of dark dried fruit with hints of dates, raisin, fig, and plum. A scent of booze as well. Pretty good Barleywine aroma.

Taste: As big as it smells, a rich combination of deep caramel malts with a big hop presence and notes of dried fruit. Bitter and hoppy upfront with good notes of earthy, grassy, piney, and herbal hops. Big bready and toasty malt taste with notes of sweet caramel, toffee, biscuit, grains, yeast, and nuts. Some brown sugar sweetness along with a subtle note of vanilla. In the background are some nice notes of dried dark fruit including some dates, fig, raisin, and plum. Somewhat boozy as expected. A very good taste.

Mouthfeel: Big full body with a moderate amount of carbonation. Fairly chewy and somewhat oily. Very drying on the finish. Alcohol presence is noticeable as expected for the style.

Overall: A very good Barleywine. One of the better American versions out there. Big and bold with both the malt and hops.

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Photo of humulus
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: reddish, chocolate with a beige head.

S: malt, chocolate, syrup, leather, red berries and dark fruits.

T: very well balanced. Dried fruit, chocolate, pomerans, orange zest, bit of oak, bitterness that is very well balanced against the fruity chocolate sweetness.

M: creamy, smooth, elegant.

O: World class. This is incredibly good. Just a shame I only got one bottle and it's out of stock in Sweden.

Drank from snifter.

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

660ml bottle served in a snifter glass.

A: Pous a deep amber color forming a medium to small thin bubbled and creamy yellow head. Medium to low retention and many small spotty lavings left in the glass

S: Sweet. Strong notes of caramel, caramel malts, brown sugar and flowery hops. Booze

T: Sweet upfront. Strong notes of caramel and caramel malts. The sweet taste switches to bitter quite quickly. Nice bitter hoppy kick, anyway. Great bittersweet balance

M: Heavy, creamy and molasses body. Medium carbonation. Lovely smooth bittersweet aftertaste

O: Great drinkability. Perfect barleywine. World classic

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Photo of mverity
4.54/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Nice creamy head, and gorgeous deep amber brown hue. Aroma is malty goodness and brown sugar. Taste also wonderful, sweet, fruity, toasty, hoppy, and a touch earthy. Smooth, it coats the tongue in a rich caramel feeling. This had about 6 months on it, which took down a bit of the holiness, in a very good way.

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Photo of cvm4
3.79/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled Date: December 2, 2011

A - Pours deep amber in color, hazy and has a one finger light tan head.

S - Vanilla, caramel, bready malts and light pine hops.

T - Starts off with a bit of a sweet tooth... Caramel, vanilla & toffee. The pine/earthy hops are there in the beginning and come on stronger through the end to leave a bitter taste. There's a lingering "off" taste that I can't figure out.

M - Medium bodied and carbonation. About the right body for the style.

O - This is a good barelywine but no where near a 94 or a 100, IMO.

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Photo of VeganUndead
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

First time trying it having a 2012, 6 months old, next to a 2010. A sipper with only a few months on it, still has a significant hop profile, but once the IBU's diminish over time this stuff goes down real easy. Grab a few bottles and hide them for a few years. Great brew, cheers!

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