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Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,098 Reviews
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

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

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Reviews: 1,098 | Ratings: 2,425
Photo of BlindPig
4.77/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- about a 1/4" cream tan head on a cloudy amber brown body. There is a bit of lacing covering the top and sticks to side of glass.
S- Big alcohol with caramel malts. Hops come in strong also. A light roasted aroma is behind it all. Bit of yeast too. Maybe a bit grassy mixed with citrus hops.
T- Toffee malts. Bit bigger on the caramel side. The hops kind of help balance it out but the malts are winning by just a bit. The bitterness cuts through it all though. The alcohol leaves a tingle on the tongue and very lightly warms up the back of your throat. There is a little bit of a bread to it also. The bitterness is pretty big and lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Also in the aftertaste there is a light caramel malt flavor and a bit of toffee too. It has a nice complexity to it. The more I drink of this the more I love it. I wish I could give it a 4.75-4.99 on the taste I just don't think it's a perfect 5.
M- Medium to full body but smooth with low carbonation. Not cloggy at all and I think just the perfect body. Not to big but not to thin. Has just a silky feel to it.
D- It is very good. I wouldn't say it's better than some of the Old Guardians but is better than some of the years. I would love to taste this after a few years. I think it would age very nicely.

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Photo of surprenant1138
4.77/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy amber/orange color with a finger of quickly fading cream colored head. Good retention of lacing. Aroma is of hops, caramel, raisins, bread, caramel. Very sweet smelling. The taste is pretty much the smell with a bit of citrusy hops and slightly bitter. Sticky, medium bodied mouthfeel. This is my #1 barleywine style ale. I love it.This beer ages very very well. A two or three year old bottle is fantastice. All of the flavors become incredibly bold.

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Photo of orcrist_cleaver
4.76/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

A: Ruddy, nectarine red. Nectar hazy. Just off white lofty head. Clings to glass as it dissipates with look of sea foam.

S: I get a lot of resin, like walking thru an evergreen forest. Mossy earth and citrus; that's the bright. Toffee malt, rum raisin cake, pineapple, berry jam, thyme, good leather. Alcohol that can over-dominate if you get the wrong whiff, otherwise near perfect.

M: Near gel like chewiness. Very fun, velvety soft. Light and flirtatious carbonation. Good residual warmth. Tasted thinner as it warms/consumed with food.

T: Boozy and alcoholic, perfect drink fireside. Very aggressive hop bitterness noticed next. Pine, orange peel, oak wood, hint of coffee, tangerine sours. Brandy soaked fruits, light sweetness of honey+ woodsiness of maple. I like the bitter and booze. Bitterness is actually perfect for style; taste it with a clean palate else all you'll get is booze.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%

A lightly hopped nose with touches of spice and alcohol faintly suggestive of bourbon. Pours brilliant chestnut with a ½” foam cap that surprisingly provides intricate lace. The palate combines big malt, big alcohol and big hops with dried fruit, caramel, faint vanilla, alcohol and a balancing, sustaining bitterness that provides a lingering bitter aftertaste. A very creamy big beer just a shade less than chewy.

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Photo of HoustonTX
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark mahogony in color. Murky appearance, with a small white head, that maintains with a great deal of retention. Lacing is also extremely sticky. The smell has a strong piney hopiness about it, with light undertones of caramel.

Now that my mouth is salvating, it's time to break into the taste. Wow, first taste was incredibly pleasant. Upfront has a nice piney/grapefruit hop bitterness, very direct and straight to the point. Balancing caramel malt comes into play half way through. Closely followed by another hop burp this time with resounding amounts of florals thrown into the mix. Very resinous, and slightly leafy. Finishes a hint rough, with a large alcohol warming sensation. Mouthfeel is creamy, rich, and semi-dry. Drinkability is average, due to the high abv.

Last thoughts... This is an outrageous take on a Barleywine, and one that will leave a long lasting impression. I especially enjoyed the consistant hopiness, which continued throughout every sip. It doesn't necessarily represent the average run-of-the-mill Barleywine, but instead takes it up a notch. This is one incredible beer, and one that everyone should try.

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Photo of wescj
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a snifter.

Color is a very deep ruby red, and the body is so clear it almost shines. Very thick head, and lace is pretty good for a barly wine.

Aroma is very prominant, and should be a benchmark for the style. The hops are all orange and pine, the malts are sweet and caramel.

I don't know if I've ever had a better barly wine. There are some good dark fruits and a nice presense of alcohol. Some hops and malts as in the nose, and the sweetness is exactly what it should be.

Mouthfeel is perfect, and this one's fairly drinkable, if there is such a thing for huge barly wines. Excellent, all around.

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Photo of HattedClassic
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The beer pours an off-white head that dissipates quickly and leaves some very noticeable lacing. The beer itself is a clear ruby with hints of purple. The beer is very clear and see through. The beer has a strong notes of barley with lighter dark fruit notes that resemble raisin with a slight hint of alcohol. The beer taste is slightly different. The barley notes are weaker than the dark fruit notes. Also, the beer has a slight strawberry tartiness. The dark fruit notes are raisin with a bit of plum. The beer is heavy-bodied with a smooth feel and biting carbonation. Overall, a fantastic barleywine and worth drinking.

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Photo of grub
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

quarterly tasting party may 16/07 with northyorksammy, Derek, and me (grub). everyone threw in a few bottles and we had an interesting mix of beer. i contributed this one.

22oz bottle purchased in december 2005. i've actually brought this one to our last 4 or 5 tastings, but we never seem to get around to it. the age has done good things for this one.

pours deep red-brown with a huge fluffy tan head. drops very slow and leaves tons of chunky lace. this one was so sticky i was having trouble rinsing the lace off afterwards!

aroma is excellent. i could sit and smell this one all night. loads of caramel. bit of alcohol. big biscuit malt. bit of resiny pine hops.

taste is great. big bread and biscuit malt again. lots of caramel, without being the least bit buttery. light alcohol. hint of grapefruit. resiny pine hops. hint of cattyness, but i think i really only picked it out after derek mentioned it. medium bitterness level. just a hint of orange. to me this is pretty damn close to perfection.

mouthfeel is great. medium-low carbonation level works great. nice big body.

drinkability is excellent. well balanced and very enjoyable. this one was definitely a treat and i'm quite glad that i kept it around this long. definitely a different experience from a fresh barleywine, and as much as i like them fresh a couple years turns them into liquid gold in my tastes.

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Photo of DavidST
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip, bottled on 12 - 5 - 12. This pours a brownish color with a massive lace leaving tan head. The smells are of toasted malts, caramel and a nice little bit of pine hops and dark fruit. The feel is thick. The taste is pretty good, a load of bitter hops, nuts, caramel and toasted malts, excellent. I'm glad I bought this today, I was looking for the 12 Bigfoot, but this is a fine alternative.

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Photo of dreadnatty08
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Decided this would cast away this brief cold spell here in Kansas.
Picked it up at my local packy, the great owner, a beer lover himself, was so happy I brought him an Oberon (we don't get Bell's in KS) that he gave me the Ruffian no charge, hehe great deal!
Anyway, pours a dark ruby red hazy brew. Lucious head stays around way too long. Aromas are like candy, sweet, fruity, deep and malty, with some floral, grassy hops bringing up the backbone. Mouthfeel is heavy and slick. This tastes like a fine wine, with complexity, spice, bitter hops (slightly less so than Bigfoot), and tons of alcohol to boot. Ahh, the warming is seeping in already. Sweetness and hops are in perfect harmony on this one as they both hit a high right at the end before the spicy alcohol gets you. Carbonation is minimal and just right for style. This is the perfect beer for cheese, nearly any kind of blue would be perfect, with some pears and honey to go with it. I'm glad I can find these bombers so far regularly unlike other only seasonal barleywines. Definitely a treat.

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Photo of Bear1964
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%

Poured from a 22oz bomber into a Mason Jar, beautiful color and a creamy off white head. Aroma of hops and dark fruits hits the nose..things get heavy here and I couldn't get much else, no matter because the taste is awesome and although hop forward it has some levels of depth with the overall flavor which covers the ABV very well. The mouthfeel is heavy at first sip and changes on the tongue to medium..almost light and then finishing a solid medium..the tongue takes a journey here but it should with a good Barley Wine Style Ale! Overall a very solid and enjoyable brew..glad I picked it up and would grab it again...Great Divide Brewing Co turns out some nice stuff.

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Photo of Manoftyr
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance-Pours a dark walnut color into the glass with dulled red highlights that become more prominent when held to light. A distinctive, and longly-lingering beige head tops the crown of the beer, a very nice head especially considering that it's a high ABV barleywine. Lacing is abundant. This is one nice looking barleywine.

Aroma-That distinctive, huge aroma of caramel-malt that sets barleywines apart IMHO is the first thing to assail your nostrils and sharply following is a wave of hops emparting smells of pine and candied citric fruits. These alternating waves of malt and hop pretty much define this beer, and indeed what I've come to expect from American Barleywines.

Taste-Sweet, sweet waves of rich caramel, toffee and sweet dark fruit rush over the tongue only to be promptly weathered by an onslaught of piney, hoppy bitterness around mid-palete, the typical flavors of grapefruit and citric fruit rind are present on the back end. Some alcohol is noted but the sheer hugeness of the flavors covers it up sufficiently. Awesomely rich American Barleywine.

Mouthfeel-Syrupy, heavy, silky-smoothe, medium carbonation; luxurious.

Drinkability-Well, it's a Barleywine so drinkability is hard for me to rate but it certainly leaves me satisfied and looking forward to successive sips with each drink. For style it's pretty much perfect.

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Photo of ommegangpbr
4.74/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Take Great Divide's Hercules, bump up the booze content and the malt content a little bit and you have Old Ruffian. Perhaps this is what happens to Hercules when he lets himself go... not as good looking but packs just as much punch. This is the old, experienced warrior that knows where and how to hit you. Very rich and tasty. Definately a hopped up barelywine. Reminds me a bit of Double Bastard in certain respects but I think I enjoy this more. This isnt as pretty as pretty can be... hazy and unshaven as it is... but who cares?
Not too far from perfect as far as the style goes.

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Photo of acrawf6
4.73/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

No freshness date, but roughly 5 months old

Pours out a dark ruby amber, pretty clear when put up to light, but the beer's color really blocks a good amount of light out. Nice tan head and great head retention. great lacing

Smell. Heavy earthy hops, heavy and creamy. Nice smalll caramel sweetness, and a piney hoppiness. Has a small lemon aroma to it as well.

Taste. It's quite similar to the taste. Seems very earthy with the hops (85-90 IBUs-says the bottle). But i get a great maltiness that really balances this- very malty and roasty. Small lemon tartness with the hops, goes good with the caramel sweetness. Aftertaste is warming with alcohol and slightly peppery.

Mouthfeel. Is great. Very creamy, full body. Nice amount of carbonation and great balance. Very nice

Overall this one is oh, so good. Very heavy on the hops, but still very, very drinkable (could be the age wearing on the hops). I love the amount of malt flavor i get in this. It doesnt rip my tongue clean of tastebuds after drinking, like others in its style. So complex, simply great.

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Photo of rabsten
4.73/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bonber into a pub-style pint glass, deep reddish brown with a thick (and I mean *thick*) reddish-tan head. The head is so thick, in fact, you can spoon it out like a root beer float. It lasts and leaves beautiful lacing behind.

The smell is malt and hops. Enough malt and hop aroma to cover up the smell of my downstairs neighbor's cooking (tonight it smelled like sausage and potatoes, until I opened this bad boy up).

The flavor is a sweet, sweet maltiness with a hop and alcohol bite that comes up at the end. The flavor hangs out a bit longer than a lot of beers and could be considered cloying, if it weren't so tasty to start with. The hops and alcohol taste stays behind, lingering like a hot pepper does.

Mouthfeel is good; very "round." It fills the entire space made available to it. In other words, you'll know it was there.

Drinkability. Well, it's very tasty and it seems to be refreshing. However, I still have a third to go, and I'm durn well lit up. Someone before me said this'll either put you to sleep or put you in a straightjacket. I'd have to concur. Definately a "one and done" beer. That said, I'm getting some more to lay in for one and done occasions.

Very nice, indeed.

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Photo of hobbes2112
4.73/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber

Pours a beautiful garnet color with a thick huge off-white head. Long retention (2+ min halflife) and tons of lacing. This is a really good looking beer.

Aroma is a lot more hops than I am use to in barley wines, and that is a good thing. The label boasted 85-90 IBUs and with this hop content in the nose if backing that statement up! Big brandy and pine notes with some obvious alcohol too.

Taste is like a barley wine "kicked up a notch" on the hop scale. I was worried that a lot of the sweet malty and fruity flavors would get lost in the hops but that was not the case. In fact I think this might be a perfect blend of the hop and malt worlds. Oh, and this perfect blend just kicked you in the mouth! What a knockout!

This beer is one of the tops for me, I am going to go pick a bunch more of these up and pack them away for a rainy day.

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Photo of letsgopens
4.73/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've been looking forward to trying this barley wine for a long time, and it certainly did not disappoint. It pours a very cloudy, woody brown with a nice tan head and decent lace.

The aroma is surprisingly malty with some good light fruit: orange, cider, and some graininess.

Sweet malt, honey, caramel, citrus, apple, some roasty nuttiness, some characteristics that I wasn't expecting from this selection but were very welcomed. Exceptional, Buttery toffee, yet maintains its fruitiness.

The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety with a reasonable clean finish due to good natural carbonation. Really awesome. One of, if not the best, barley wines out there.

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Photo of Poser
4.72/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber with excellent lacing and retention. Caramel aroma up front but with hints of some bitter. Goes down smooth and creamy. Caramel and wheat flavors are very pronounced up front. Finishes with a powerful, hoppy finish. Leaves a alcohol/hop stringiness that makes you want to take another sip immediately. When I started the glass I thought the the finish was too powerful, but now I think it was just perfect. It's still pretty rough (flavor and the 10.2%) so I have to give a small cut to the drinkability. Probably my favorite barleywine, though. I always pick one up when I'm out of state.

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Photo of dsa7783
4.72/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1 Pint, 6 fl oz. bomber-bottle purchased for $6.99 from Bottle King in Parsipany... As someone who is not even a particularly big fan of barleywines, I was absolutely blown away by this beer - an amazing selection from Great Divide - in fact, every beer I've tried from this company so far has been top-notch... their Old Ruffian is probably the finest depiction of the style that I have yet sampled... tastes very similar to an Imperial IPA, but with added rich malts and caramel sweetness... a very interesting, intricate blend of hops and malts make this a unique, one-hell of a big beer... Very nice mahogany-brown, ruby-red appearance leads to a modest frothy and foamy head which lingered on for a bit and left quite a bit of lasting... smell was outstanding - ultra-rich, sweet, dominated by a smooth blend of hops and malts, caramel, and brown sugars... the best way to describe this beer would be to label it as a "sweet IPA"... there is enough bitterness evident from the hops and the almost 90 IBU's to feel it, yet there is also a nice dichotomy of malts and caramel sweetness to nicely balance this out and make it a very unique and interesting sample... creamy, rich, thick mouthfeel with a good level of drinkability... the 10.2% ABV will soon creep up on you... Great stuff... Definitely recommended....

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Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.72/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I have become very fond of this style, and Great Divide's version of barley wine is outstanding. All of the elements you would want in a powerful brew. Hops takes a slight nod over malt, with a bit of a prickly dryness in the finish. The malts come back enough to call it a draw in the end. The ABV isn't discernable in the taste, but I was a bit dizzy after finishing the bomber. This one is in the same league as the Bigfoot and Old Crusty as the best BW's I've had to this point. I love this brewery!

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Photo of phishgator
4.72/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The best barleywine that I have had to date! The deep ruby color pours into a snifter with a nice head that thins and then dissipates. You can smell the hops so present that they smack you into the face. And the bitterness in the thick malty sweetiness samcks you in the tongue and the back of your throat. As far as the flavor all I can say is that as this brew warms is becomes intensely delicious. After one bomber you feel just fine!

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

Easily the best barley wine in my recent samplings, and quite possibly the best one I've ever had. This is an awesome beer. Served in aa snifter, the beer was a hazy amber color. It had a thick tan head with excellent retention and some great lacing. It had a caramel aroma with some fruit and a little bit of floral hops. The taste followed the aroma, and expanded on it. Sweet caramel to begin with, then the fruit, and a nice hops kick. A wonderful combination of the sweetness and the hops. I'll drink this beer anytime, anywhere.

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

Appearance: This poured out the color and consistency of motor oil (in a good way). No head and minimal lace. I have never seen bubbles move so slowly in a beer.

Smell: Tons of floral hop and booze aroma with sweet preserved figs in there somewhere.

Taste: Incredible. This is most definately the most interesting and best barleywine I've ever tasted. Lots of sweet dried fruit and hops with a little booze mixed in. Very chaotic on my first few sips, but as I progress, they all seem to intertwine perfectly, not one flavor dominates the others.

Mouthfeel: Very thick with hardly-there carbonation. Like drinking cough syrup (in a good way).

Drinkability: Definately drinkable enough to finish a bomber all by myself. The only thing preventing me from popping another is the high alcohol content.

I have come across some American barleywines that have almost turned me off from from the style by completely overhopping it to the point of nudging out the malt character. This is one beast of a beer, and it is as close to perfection as I have ever tasted in a barleywine.

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Photo of Jdecarol
4.7/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

What a surprise this beer was. Vintage December 2009 but it didn't taste harsh at all.

At first I thought I had a bad bottle because of how hazy it poured. Until I noticed it was just very hazy and not suspended yeast/bacteria floating in the beer.

Smells like caramel malts, butter bread and some sweet sweet toffee with citrus hops.

Taste is very very sweet and smooth but balanced by the hops. 90IBU? I can't taste them, it's that balanced and I wish I had another bomber or two of it. I would love to have an 08 or 07 of this bottle.

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Photo of tatterdash
4.7/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Split this with chunkylover53 at Cafe Volo... A wise choice!

Pours a beautiful hazy red brown with a big rocky yellowish head, a classic-looking American Barleywine, excellent lacing as well. Smell was a huge chocolate/hop blast, could smell it from a long distance away and I am a better person because of it. Taste was HUGE and chocolatey, almost chocolate mint from the huge hops. Mouthfeel was full and thick thick thick, a little too cloying though to be perfect. Sooo goood... I love this brewery's products so far.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,425 ratings.
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