Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,106 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: 1,106 | Ratings: 2,455
Photo of stooge
4.34/5  rDev +3.1%
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 +10.2%
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 +5.2%
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 -25.9%
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 +4.3%
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%
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 +3.6%
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 -1.4%
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 +11.6%
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%
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 +16.4%
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 -6.7%
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 +5.7%
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 +6.9%
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 +9.3%
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 -0.2%
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 +7.8%
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%
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 -0.5%
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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Photo of BMMillsy
3.91/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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Photo of richj1970
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 22 oz bomber into snifter glass.

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of Jonada
3.96/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of brureview
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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

Mouth feel: moderately carbonated.

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

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

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

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Photo of DrewV
3.83/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of barnzy78
4.52/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

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

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,455 ratings.
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