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Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Great Divide Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Barrel Aged Old RuffianBarrel Aged Old Ruffian

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

321 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 321
Reviews: 133
rAvg: 4.14
pDev: 12.08%
Wants: 252
Gots: 102 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company visit their website
Colorado, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  12.70% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: ArrogantB on 10-08-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 321 | Reviews: 133 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of billshmeinke
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

2009 bottle, 787/1188. Poured into a Bruery tulip. Had this side by side with the regular Old Ruffian for comparison. Review from notes.

Very dark brown, almost black, murky body with ruby highlights. Bubbly foam that's gone in an instant and doesn't even manage to cover the entire surface of the brew. A tiny trace of foam clinging to the side of the glass. Oily legs, but no lace.

Smells of apple pie, raisins, apricots, oak, a touch of whiskey and alcohol.

Tastes of rum raisin ice cream, green apples, apricots, caramel and raisins. Some oak and vanilla. Only a hint of bourbon. Some piney and bitter resin clean out the back end.

Full and heavy with almost zero carbonation. A bit of heat.

Would have been better (especially in terms of looks and mouthfeel) if it had some more carbonation. The alcohol is well hidden in the taste however.

There may have been a problem with the bottle I got judging by the issues with carbonation.

billshmeinke, Aug 27, 2010
Photo of nickd717
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle shared at a tasting awhile back. Not sure who I owe this pleasure to. Realized this had been a lost tick that I'd forgotten to record. 'Tis nothing so sad as a lost tick.

Slightly hazy medium brown color with a small light tan head leaving a ring.

Aroma is great - hoppy with great barrel notes and caramel. Lots going on.

Flavor is caramel, toffee, oak, whiskey, and piney hops. Like Old Ruffian gone -bals to the wall. Drier than the original. Man I love -bal aged barleywines.

Smooth, subtle, and hoppy with medium-full body and medium-low carbonation.

Awesome beer overall. Great even for the style of -bal aged awesomebeer.

nickd717, Aug 20, 2010
Photo of mentor
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Original Batch (2008), bottle #225/461. Cellared for the two years in my cool dark basement at excellent cellaring conditions. Pours a heavy two finger tan fluffy head over a clear rich mahogeny liquid. Smells strawberry fruity and bourbon oaky during the pour. To the nose, rich strawberry vanilla, licorice, playful oak, bourbon char, sweet caramel, cherry, clean alcohol, pineapple, lavender, and more. Wow, just amazing, I hope the flavor is a match.

Tastes strong wood waxiness with bourbon, caramel, and cherry beneath. Clean alcohol is present and cooperates with the well-fermented beer to give a dry finish leading to a peppery aftertaste. Beneath alot of tannin, I get some raisin and some basil (may sound awful, but it actually fits pretty well). Md-light body with some dextrins and a nice creaminess. I wish this were a bit heavier for a more enjoyable mouthfeel, plus it would make the beer stick and the finish would be not quite as dry. Too hot and dry going down, similar in many ways to the Anniversary Ale made by Shorts Brewing, I think in 2006 or 2007 (check my reviews).

Needs at least two more years, probably five, for the oak and peppery sting to settle. No sign of the sherry-like (I describe it as soured caramel-like) oxidation that would so enrich the flavor of this beer.

mentor, Aug 17, 2010
Photo of grub
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

ritzkiss shared this one. thanks eric!

750ml bottle topped with black foil. 2009 vintage, bottle 603/1188. sampled aug 10/2010.

pours hazy reddish brown with a thin ring of fat bubbles that drop quickly and leave only a few spots of lace.

aroma is great. vanilla and caramel. barrel. bit of toffee. whole wheat bread. biscuit. touch of cracker. bourbon. hints of citrus, cherry, and other dark fruit.

taste is good. caramel and vanilla. raw oak and barrel. light toffee. whole wheat bread and biscuit. bit of cracker. hint of fruit. good, but a bit muddy. light alcohol. medium-low bitterness level. the barrel comes across more as whiskey than bourbon.

mouthfeel is good. medium-large body. low carbonation level.

drinkability is good. nice balance. good barrel character. overall it's a bit muddy and i think that with another year or so in the cellar this one will be amazing. now to find another somewhere...

grub, Aug 13, 2010
Photo of ritzkiss
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Received in a trade with cschmidt87, thanks man! Bottle #603/1188, 09 vintage.

Pours a hazy burnt caramel color with hints that almost lean to purple, just a few big bubbles on the pour, very lightly carbonated.

Rich brew that feels a little young still. Burnt caramel, wood, loads of whiskey, spices, toffee, nuts, toast, vanilla, a light bitter finish which is in contrast to regular Ruffian where hops are much more of a component, a little hot still, especially noticeable in the finish. Moderately sweet, full body but light carbonation could be upped a touch IMO.

This is a well made brew that feels a little unintegrated at this point, I imagine with some more age on it, it would be amazing and one of the best.

ritzkiss, Aug 13, 2010
Photo of womencantsail
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jerz for sharing this one at Sour Fest.

A: The pour is a dark amber color, bordering on brown with a thin ring of foam.

S: The nose is certainly reminiscent of a barleywine, with good caramel and toffee notes providing sweetness. There is, however, a very surprising amount of piney and resinous hop character to this beer.

T: The bitterness that this beer retained is quite surprising. Lots of resinous bitterness, toffee, a subtle sweetness of caramel, and some oak, tobacco, and bourbon.

M: The body is medium with a fairly low level of carbonation to it, which is fine for a beer like this.

D: I was really shocked by the amount of bitterness this beer still had. A nice beer all around...

womencantsail, Jul 20, 2010
Photo of drabmuh
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Last beer cracked by Lunch and I at his place. Long time desire to try this, sampled side by side with Ruffian. I don't know if the Ruffian vintage was similar to the BA Ruffian, I drank mostly the BA Ruffian but preferred the regular Ruffian to the BA version somewhat. All the oak-a-philes will come after me with a stick.

Bottle 361 / 2188 - I believe. Beer has no head, no lacing, carbonation is really low. Its brown and kind of cloudy. Looks OK I guess.

Aroma is malty with a mild oak running through it and some old hop character, almost lauric acid in aroma. Odd.

Beer seems heavy, very malty, sweet up front, finishes slightly dry overall. Mouthfeel is good, no carbonation in mouth unfortunately but its still good. Overall a smooth mouthfeel. There is some bitterness in the back of the mouth. I'm glad I got to try it. Thanks Lunch.

drabmuh, Jul 13, 2010
Photo of pwoods
3.15/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

750ml brown bottle poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a dirty, murky brown with damn near no carbonation. No head on the pour with no lacing.

S: Sweet yet rich malts with a light bourbon aroma but a good barrel nose.

T/M: No carbonation. Some citrus but more of the rich but sweet malts. Bourbon comes out as it warms but not very bit. Lots of barrel. No carbonation is very dissapointing.

D: drinks easy for as big as it is bit no carbo....

pwoods, Jun 26, 2010
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #233/461. Bottled August 2008. Midway between brick red and burnt orange with a gem-like glow and diamond clarity. The upper third of the chalice is filled with a luscious crown of buttered wheat toast colored cream. How can a barrel-aged ale with an ABV this high generate so much outstanding looking lace?

The nose is beautifully balanced between barleywine and whiskey. Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey (aged 9 months) to be exact. Each sniff delivers melted caramel, all sorts of liquor macerated fruits, a mild oakiness and a bit too much ethanol to be granted a perfect score.

Great Divide Old Ruffian (along with Midnight Sun Arctic Devil) is my favorite barleywine of all-time. A large part of that love is due to the perfect combination of huge malt and huge hops. This bottle of Barrel Aged Old Ruffian, now 46 months old, is too long in the tooth to still be a hop monster. Granted, that's my fault for aging it this long.

It's still incredibly beautiful beer, but it's an entirely different beast. Whiskey barrel aging will do that. GDBC nails it *much* more often than not. Such is the case with the amount and quality of the whiskey influence in this Limited Edition brew. As an aficionado of both big beer and America's finest spirit, I hereby pronounce the balance to be... dead... solid... perfect.

As expected, the various flavors are becoming bolder and deeper and more complex as the starting chill seeps away. The rundown includes gooey toffee pudding, golden brown sugar, candied cherries and sugared orange peel, vanilla-soaked oak, and a small shot of Stolichnaya. It has to be extremely difficult to completely bury 12.7%. That said, it does put the score ceiling at 4.5 for taste and drinkability.

The mouthfeel is a little more chewiness away from being outfreakingstanding. Inventing words is fun, and is easier once the alcohol begins to take hold. Each sip is pure pleasure. The carbonation is understated, yet still committed to the cause.

While BA Old Ruffian isn't as mind-blowing as BA Yeti, it's still a remarkable ale that I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced. Thanks to JMBSH for both bottles. I would still take the original over this beer (and 99.9% of all beer on Earth), but BAOR is definitely one of the best of 2010 so far.

BuckeyeNation, Jun 06, 2010
Photo of largadeer
3.95/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Bifrostguard shared this one last night. Thanks, Cameron. The beer is a murky and opaque dark amber with a thin off white cap.

The aroma has a surprisingly robust hop character to it, noticeably faded but pine-like in character. It's moderately oxidized with a good balance of bourbon, tobacco and earthiness. It smells fairly dry and nuanced rather than sweet and rich.

It has flavors of pine and earth, leather and tobacco, some whiskey sweetness that balances the oak and hops. Sherry-like oxidation contributes depth. Full-bodied with a boozy, oaky, caramel finish and lingering resiny hops. This is pretty dry and hoppy for a bourbon barrel barleywine, a nice change of pace for the style.

largadeer, Jun 06, 2010
Photo of wagenvolks
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up bottle 168/1188 on a Geology field trip to western Colorado. Great little liquor shop in Dillon, CO on the way out to Grand Junction. Poured into a Motel 6 plastic cup (that's right, bitches, eat your heart out!)

Pours sluggishly and forms a listless head of wispy, light khaki foam. The color of BA Old Ruffian is an amber-crimson, with edges transitioning to an earthy toffee hue. A sharp pungency from the Stranahan whiskey barrels leaps out of the cup, and pairs nicely with the underlying sweetness from caramel and toffee malts.

This is delicious stuff. The barrel-aging process lends a sharp, green, fresh & tannic woodenness to the normal Old Ruffian barleywine profile. Loads of whiskey flavor, almost as if ale & spirits were blended and bottled. Mouthfeel is smooth, chewy, and breathy with booze but far from hot. Low carbonation, thick body, and a slightly bitter hop note on the finish. This beer is a sipper for sure, and something I'd gladly have again. I almost wish I could've checked my baggage flying home from Denver and given this beer some age, but it was still wonderful fresh. A tad pricey, but a treat worth savoring.

wagenvolks, Apr 22, 2010
Photo of lightindarkness
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL bottle, '09 number 362/1188 (11.9% abv listed on label)

Unique color to this one, murky without being clouded at all. Burnt caramel in appearance, a dark, rich, warm brown, and yet nearly clear, with ruby and burnt sienna flashes of color. Hard pour gives some bubbles, but no head. Only a thin wisp of anything shows carbonation, leaving a moment of fading milky-way-esque galactic formation on the surface, but then... nothing.

Nose is very enticing. Rich notes of aged grain-heavy beer blend into smooth aromas of vanilla and caramel, hinting at the whiskey aging and mellow tones of old soft oak. Very little alcohol. Very smooth and supple.

Taste follows nose with more intrigue and heightened intensity. Sweet and caramelly at first sip, with nice soft aged oak character, becoming more airy and astringent in alcohol with increasing grain flavor through the sip. Caramel and vanilla give way to dry sharp roasty grains, tight raspy bitterness and alcohol. Fades with a hop bitterness and boozy heat that hits a little in the back of the throat. Hot out of the bottle it presents as two different beers overall from start to finish, both great, but there's some conflict between them. The latter of the two suggests some more years in the bottle would mellow this one nicely into a more unified beer (but a little decanting to let it breathe accomplishes this nicely for now). The bright bitter finish, however, is a nice reminder of the base beer hiding in the swirl of oak and whiskey. My biggest problem with the beer at this point is the sharp finish isn't a nice cap to the rich aged beer up-front. I like it in sum total, but hard to really get into it more given its current character. It's as if I keep finding myself reluctant to take another sip knowing that the sweet caramelly taste up front will yield a bitter tight bite on the back end each time.

Feels smooth and silky, except for some mild astringency at the finish and some slight harshness in the alcohol. Carbonation is barely worth mentioning.

Overall quite a treat. Not a disappointment in any sense for what it is, and really seems a great display of barrel aging for this big hop-forward barleywine. Though, if Old Ruffian is your favorite beer, don't expect this one to wow you with being bigger and better, because it really seems to come out of the barrel its own creation. Definitely one I wish I had more bottles around to sit on for a couple year.

lightindarkness, Apr 13, 2010
Photo of fairdinkum2
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is quite the education. Not what I expected at all.

First the pour. Weak, watery head that required a very vigorous pour to generate anything at all. No lacing, no retention whatsoever. First impression is OH OH - not good at all. Murky brown appearance. Strike two.

Now things start to get interesting. Very attractive nose of malt, caramel, vanilla with chocolate notes. Alcohol is there too, but not the dominant or even very noticeable characterisic.

First taste impression is not alcohol, as I would have expected and it's not hoppiness either. Actually cocoa and vanilla, followed by smooth, oaked alcohol. Long finish without any alcohol heat.

Very low carbonation. Could almost be described as flat. However, the complex nature of this ale makes up for these deficiencies.

Limited production. I'm stocking up, so get it while you can.

fairdinkum2, Apr 04, 2010
Photo of brownbeer
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is from the second bottling.

Pours murky brown, very clear, with no head at all.

The nose is wonderful. Maple, brown sugar, vanilla, and really doesn't show much alcohol.

I didn't like the experience of drinking it as much as I enjoyed the aroma. Pretty sweet with caramelized brown sugar and what I thought was a pretty serious lack of hop flavor, considering the non-barrel-aged stays hoppy for years. It's thick and boozy, and prickly on the tongue and has next to no carbonation.

It's pretty hot right now, so I would say to hold on to it for now.

brownbeer, Apr 04, 2010
Photo of jjayjaye
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage bottle 242 of 1188. Pours a translucent clouded caramel color with ruby hues. Even with an aggressive pour, there is negligible collar nor lacing.

The aroma is aggressive and classic caramel butterscotch with an overarching vanilla character from the barrel aging.

Lightly carbonated, the mouth feel is medium bodied with a creamy character without the coating texture that might be expected. The barrel treatment adds a slight lingering complexity that adds nicely to the drinkability.

Taste is a reflection of the nose; a substantial bourbon structure with a relaxed malted earthy sweetness and a vanilla component that follows the barrel treatment.

You can tell that it's heavy, but the 12.7% is well integrated. Quite drinkable.

jjayjaye, Apr 02, 2010
Photo of wnh
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle poured into a wine glass.

Pours a clear, bright chestnut-mahogany with just a slight semblance of a head. Mostly flat.

Buttery caramel dominates the nose, alongside a fig-like fruitiness and faint resinous hops. Doesn't smell much like Old Ruffian, oddly, nor does it smell much like whiskey.

Big and rich on the palate, with vanilla, oak, earthy buttery caramel, but again not much discernible whiskey character. Barrel notes are evident, but this seems more like it's oak aged than spent-whiskey-barrel aged. Warming alcohol comes through as the beer warms, along with some bittering hops on the finish.

Medium to heavy bodied, thick-ish and viscous. Very low carbonation; were the brewers at Great Divide so concerned with getting Barrel Aged Yeti carbonated that they turned a blind eye to the Ruffian?

A tasty beer, but like the Barrel Aged Yeti not appreciably better than the original. I've tasted three-year-old Old Ruffian that was a lot hoppier than this interpretation; perhaps that's what happens when you put the beer in whiskey barrels.

wnh, Mar 29, 2010
Photo of DefenCorps
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is from the 2009 release. I got a bottle from Bardwashrind. Thanks, Andre! And then, rather inexplicably, bottles showed up at my favorite bar on the east coast. And to further the twist in the tale, I didn't grab any, and John was kind enough to grab one to split with me this evening.

The pour is a practically still ruby red with a wispy off-white head that recedes to a few bubbles rather quick. The nose opens with big caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, bourbon and booze, this is what I'd expect a BBBW to smell like. Vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, candy syrup, this smells big and serious. Fruity with a little pine, the 9 months in the barrel have wiped out the hops for the most part; I still get some citrus,though, along with a mild floral character that's not unlike jasmine. Very complex, along with the spicy, minty alcohol, I'm enjoying smelling this 2 hours after pouring it.

The palate opens with plenty of barrel character, caramel, vanilla and oak tannins. Not as complex as the nose suggests, there's still plenty of nuance, though, with honey, brown sugar and caramel. Boozy heat appears mid-palate, lingering on into the finish. Vanilla is moderately noticeable as well. A touch tannic, this aspect helps balance out the mellow sweetness of the beer. Medium-high in body and quite low in carbonation, this feels great on the palate. Soft and lush until the tannins take a hold, the way this beer segues from a malt-forward experience to the oak finish is quite excellent. As I sip this alongside the BA Old Numbskull, I can only be thankful for both, the experience and the decadence of it all. I would love to try this with a few years on it.

DefenCorps, Mar 24, 2010
Photo of John_M
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sweet mother maria. It's coming across beers like this that make trying new beers fun.

At Dyan's tonight. Bottle number 906 of 1188.

The beer pours a tannish, toffee brown color with minimal head retention and lacing. This is the sort of thing I see in beers that have seen some serious barrel aging (which the label indicates this beer has seen). On the nose, this is one of the more exotic aroma profiles I've ever come across (I assume the 9 months in whiskey barrels had something to do with that). In any event, I get an exotic display of brown sugar, clove, light mint, pine, vanilla and even ginger. It doesn't entirely work, but it certainly keeps things interesting (something I always find fun). On the palate, this beer is dominated by milk chocolate and brown sugar, but with some pretty noticeable hoppy bitterness in the finish. However, unlike the regular ruffian, the barrel aging has really mellowed the hoppy bitterness, which imparts barely a kiss of bitterness and alcohol in the finish with this beer. Mouthfeel is probably this beer's best attribute, with the beer showing a soft, sweet, creamy and very long finish. The sweetness in this beer is countered very nicely by the underlying bitterness in this beer, and drinkability is not bad for the abv. (though it's clearly there, and does detract just a bit from this beer's drinkability). Still, this is very cleary a sizeable, rich, intensely flavored barleywine that would undoubtedly benefit from some considerable cellariing.

A very impressive effort from the folks at Great Divide.

John_M, Mar 24, 2010
Photo of Bitterbill
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Black foil wrapped and capped, 2009 Edition. Bottle number 515 of 1188.

A small pop when I removed the cap, it pours a hazy colour of amber brown with no apparent foam. Sitting in my glass, I see some foam start to form but just around the edge of the glass.

The smell is comparatively light for the style with some notes of dark fruits, caramel malt, and light whiskey. I said comparatively but to be more accurate...the nose is way light. Based on this nose, I can't expect much from the taste at all.

The taste...mmm....that's what I'm talking about! A very smooth taster and Very BWSA forward with well balanced flavours of caramel malts, chocolate, a bit of whiskey that's most noticeable in the finish but lingers unabtrusively throughout, and some bitter tones that also play around in the background and show up mostly in the finish. Holy heck the taste is so damn smooth and the alcohol, while substantial, only adds some warming during the swallow. Oh and now some of the woodiness is showing up. Very damn nice.

The mouthfeel is thinner than I expected but I'm cool with that. The carbonation is very very low, very close to nonexistant. It works for some other brews I've had...maybe by the end of the sitting I'll feel the same way about BA Old Ruffian.

Drinkability? For a big in alcohol bad boy, this drinks surprisingly easy. Btw, I'm using my Riedel glass from Samuel Adams for this review and I think it's the perfect glassware for this brew.

Bottom line: Great looking beer colourwise though the lack of any "real" foam hurts just a tad. Very weak smell but more than made up for by the taste, which is superb. Mouthfeel on the thin side and the carbonation or lack thereof, in my final analysis, works ok as it does in certain other brews. Drinkability is another very strong point for this brew. Overall...I'd have to say highly recommended.

Bitterbill, Feb 28, 2010
Photo of MasterSki
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Joe1510 for sharing this one last night. I think we've meant to get to this bottle for about six months. Served in a pint-style tasting glass. Bottle #23/461 (this is the original Stranahan batch).

A - Pours with a finger of tan foam that slowly settles to a thin cap and leaves a good amount of lacing. Pretty impressive for such a big barrel-aged barleywine. Bright red-orange body that is mostly opaque.

S - Raisins, dark fruits, caramel, burnt sugar, earthy barrel, boozy spirits. The Stranahan character is markedly different from the Kentucky bourbon barrels and it's not overpowering either - there's still a lot of aged (read: non-hoppy) Old Ruffian character shining through. I wish there was a little more sweet barrel and a little less earthiness to it.

T - The taste is more in line with what I was expecting. Coconut and vanilla flavors supplied by the barrel-aging, dark fruits, caramel, raisins, and significantly better hidden alcohol. This is what I expected when I heard the name Barrel-Aged Old Ruffian. It's quite good, but not in the upper echelon of barrel-aged barleywines.

M - Smooth, medium body, low carbonation, chewy with high residual stickiness. Not very tannic or woody though, which is a surprise considering how long this sat in barrels.

D - It's relatively easy to drink considering the heft to it, but it still took my a while to put down my 6oz or so. A very nice beer, but for the price I think there are better options available.

MasterSki, Feb 18, 2010
Photo of GbVDave
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle into multiple glasses.

#555/1188

A: Pours a deep russet color with a sticky dark brown head. Some lace was left behind.

S: HUGE nose of whisky and/or bourbon. As it warmed, I also detected aromas of vanilla, toasted malt, and maybe a hint of coconut?

T: See above. Awesome boozy flavor that got a big assist from a cool, charred barrel flavor that really emerged the warmere it got.

D: Suprisingly good considering its' heft. This bottle is meant to be shared by many.

GbVDave, Feb 13, 2010
Photo of CrellMoset
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Batch #2, 483/1188, 750 mL bottle courtesy of waltonc. Part of the barrel-aged barleywine series. Poured in to a 22 oz. snifter.

Appearance: Pours an alarmingly dark, nearly full-on dirt brown hued brew, thick and viscous out of the bottle, but with a fair amount of embedded carbonation slowly seething and churning beneath the surface. Exposure to light reveals flashes of garnet, ruby, mahogany, and other sundry "wooden" modifiers that seem to suggest barrel aging (on a purely visceral level) without actually being suggestive of barrel aging (on any level that would make sense). It's also a tad shade darker than I remember regular Old Ruffian being, and I should remember - I enjoyed one just the other day during Superbowl XLIV. The head forms slowly, or rather, the head would have formed slowly if what ultimately formed could really be described as a head - both by virtue of the wide mouth of the glass, the low level of carbonation, and the thickness of the beer, a soapy, foamy exterior necklace forms, as do patches of breezy interior surface dusting, though these things together shouldn't really be called a head. The lacing is similarly quasi-formed, glittery, ethereal, runny, spotty, definitely alcohol retarded. Surprisingly fast and erratic internal carbonation is visible, and a great deal of fine bubbles cling to the sides of the snifter throughout. The whole thing comes together nicely despite its flaws, however, though I find it difficult precisely to explain how it all works together.

Aroma: Whiskey and earthy notes are prominent here, intermingling with light hints of cherries and raisins, as well as tons of dark toffee and caramel. Earthy, spicy hops blend with a ton of whiskey - though it is somewhat shallow whiskey, I should note, sort of the estery remnants of a good whiskey - to make for a solid if not mindblowingly impressive aromatic profile.

Taste: Ah, how I love Old Ruffian. It's one of my favorite barleywines for a reason - it's malt foundation is one of the earthiest, richest, most wholesome malt bases you'll find in any American barleywine, and the way those malts interact with the hop profile and bitterness is both incredibly subtle and complex as well as tongue-bashingly in your face and bold. Adding another player to the mix here is nothing short of magical. Huge underlying malt sweetness - a little sweeter than the regular Old Ruffian, perhaps a result of barrel sugars - presents a caramel, toffee, raw sugar, brown sugar, and molasses smorgasbord to the tastebuds. Every malt element has that telltale OR kiss of dirt and earth, without any real individually identifiable toasty earth note coming through - it's just "everywhere" all at once. Now toss in those hops, incredibly herbal and piney, with overtones of spruce, leather, wintergreen, tobacco, some dark citrus and faintly tropical fruit notes, and a little less bitterness than I remember. Now, it could be that the hops have faded a little as they've sat and stewed in those Stranahan whiskey barrels, or it could be that the hop bitterness has been pretty thoroughly rendered subservient to the gloriously integrated whiskey notes present here. That final earthy element - those barrels - adds a few great flourishes, with tons of toasted coconut, vanilla, and woody notes melding with that spicy, warming, prickly whiskey. Everything works surprisingly well, and though the barrel aging doesn't launch the taste of the regular OR in to the stratosphere ... it does augment certain pleasing aspects and doesn't detract in any way other than the heat.

Mouthfeel: A bit of a step down. This beer is a little thinner than I'd like, I think - suggested earlier by the racing carbonation - or perhaps what I mean to say is less chewy. The carbonation is subsequently a little quicker to fade, a little softer, a little more subtle. And while it all works fairly well, I feel there's some room for improvement here, to make this one creamier, smoother, a little chewier and thicker and "bite"-ier. Still, it's solid.

Drinkability: BA OR is a good beer. It is not a great beer, and on the whole I find it lacking in many of the ways that makes Old Ruffian itself a truly great beer. I can't help but thinking that the barrel aging really adds as much to this beer as it takes away from it. While it augments the rough, harshly pleasant earthiness of this beer, it also thins if out. While it compliments the underlying sweetness with barrel sugars, it also kills the head and mutes the bitterness in the mouth and nose. And though the barrel aging may be - on the whole - a wash, the higher abv% does knock the drinkability down a little. So, definitely worth having if barrel aging (particularly whiskey barrel aging) is your thing, but - since most people won't get the chance to try it - don't feel bad if the plain ol' every day Old Ruffian is the only thing you have access to. You're more than breakin' even.

CrellMoset, Feb 11, 2010
Photo of afausser
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle split with crellmoset--Thanks Chris!

Appearance: Pours a thick , almost opaque (yet extremely bubbly) cherry and mahogany-toned dark brown. It's odd how the light carbonation bubbles really show through in this brew for how dark it is--the only other color evident is only seen when held up to the light. Little to no head is evident (no surprises) but there's a thin, creamy ring of large, creamy bubbles around the edge of the glass. Looks very woody, but it's hard to describe exactly what that means. Almost no lacing--there's a tiny bit of fizzy bubbles that slink down the side of the glass, but they disappear quicker than any I've seen before.

Smell: Smells predominantly of oak, cherries, and earth, in that order. Also evident are spiced and rum soaked dark fruits, particularly raisins. The alcohol doesn't make itself particularly apparent in the nose--there's a hint, but it comes across as a sweet, cinnamon spice. The scent, as a whole, comes across as very light, spicy, and nice, and not overwhelming in the slightest. After I've tasted it and go back to smell it again, there's a metallic note as well.

Taste: The taste is not particularly alcoholic, either--tastes of whiskey, earth, and oak, but is not in itself particularly hot. The fruit from the smell is not as apparent here--it's present, but in very small amounts in the background, and the cherries are not present--just raisins and prunes here. There's also an ever-so-faint hint of caramel there, as well as sweet, malty flavors. There's a slight hop aftertaste, but it's barely there. Overall, a bit watery for a brew that I would have expected to be much bigger. When I pair it with food a lot more tastes begin to come through (oddly enough), particularly the malt and sugar notes, as well as piney hop notes.

Mouthfeel: I can't say I'm a huge fan of the mouthfeel on this--it's pretty damn flat, which is odd considering all the initial bubbles that were present. However, the ABV is hidden very well, leaving you with a brew that is only slightly hot and has little to no aftertaste. That in itself is pretty remarkable, but I'd like to see some tiny carbonation bubbles here--otherwise, it goes down a bit like flavored water, though it is quite smooth. I think that even slightly more carbonation would bump up the score of taste and mouthfeel on this one quite significantly.

Drinkability: very drinkable--goes down smooth with almost no alcohol evident--which I think is spectacular given the high ABV. Nicely done here.

afausser, Feb 11, 2010
Photo of Lothore
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Batch 1 442/481

A- Pours a deep reddish brown hue with a massive frothy pecan colored head that leaves tons of lacing on the way down.

S- Berries, brown sugar, light caramel

T- Brown sugar, lots of bourbon notes, creamy all the way through with hints of alcohol toward the end.

M- Medium carbonation, thick and creamy.

D- Excellent beer but I think it loses a bit in the barrel.

Lothore, Dec 31, 2009
Photo of JoeMayo
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours a deep mahogony with a light tan head.

S- Malty with a distinct alcohol presence. Heavy bourbon influence on the nose with deep, sweet notes of citrus (orange in particular) and caramel.

T- Slightly more than I got in the nose. Still a huge orange and caramel presence, but the bourbon flavor is balanced by hints of maple syrup. Warming alcohol presence.

M- Mildly hot, but with a dry, yet sticky mouthfeel.

D- Definately a beer to be sipped!

JoeMayo, Sep 13, 2009
Barrel Aged Old Ruffian from Great Divide Brewing Company
93 out of 100 based on 321 ratings.