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Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,096 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: 1,096 | Ratings: 2,417
Photo of Stoutfan23DJ
4.87/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2011 Vintage
650ML bottle – 10.2% ABV – 90IBU’s - Bottled Dec. 05, 2011
Poured down the center of a large brandy snifter at 60 Degrees.

Appearance: Poured a very murky brown body with a 1 finger brown dank color head. Pours really thick, sticky and leaves a oily looking film on the sides of the glass along with some alcohol legs.

Aroma: The caramel, toffee, and the dark fruit come to the forefront. 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. After a year, the hops have really taken a backseat while everything else came to the forefront.

Taste: This is big, sweet and robust! There’s 2X more complexity in the taste than in the aroma. Loads of sweet caramel, toffee, and molasses absolutely dominating here. The big fruit flavors like dark cherry, wine grapes, fig, pear, raisin, and other dry fruits are boldly displayed. Other flavors like port wine, old leather, sherry, wood tannins and cocoa nibs are also present. The earthy, floral and slightly pungent hops are still present after a full year in the cellar but are balanced out pretty well with malt and fruit characteristics. A full year of aging really improved this barley wine from being very hop dominant with the dark fruit and malt in the background to a barley wine with all of those characteristics standing out together with exceptional balance.

Mouth feel: Full bodied, intense, thick, viscous and almost chewy mouth feel with a nice carbonation that is minimal but sticks around to the very last ounce. The alcohol is also very minimal here. This was most enjoyable at 65 degrees, everything really opened up in the aroma and in the taste.

Overall: Right away I have to say that I enjoyed this much more with a year on this than fresh a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, this a great barley wine when it is fresh but I believe that this is much more enjoyable when the fruit, malt, and hops are equal to each other, the rough-edged characteristics smooth out and round-off, the overall complexities increase and the alcohol nearly disappears. This is a top-notch barley wine that I will recommend to anybody that is a fan of the style. Add a couple bottles to your cellar and be amazed at what a year or more can do to a barley wine!

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Photo of BeerWizard
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I'm gonna come right out with it - this is my first barleywine ale, so not totally sure what to expect. It pours nicely, and came away with a 3/4" head that disappated in a couple of minutes leaving larger, soapy-looking bubbles. Beautiful red-orange in color when held up to the light, and also totally clarified. I'd expected some suspended bits or murkiness in there, but there's nothing. I can see right through to the other side of the glass. It initially smells overwhelmingly like Red Vines to me, oddly; then breaks up into fig, strawberry, cherry chapstick, and molasses. Flowery, very sweet. No noticeable alcohol on the nose, and some underlying yeast. I'm really just bowled over by the nose - definitely a lot there! Tasting exposes the alcohol, as well as some hop bitters, and I very much get strawberries, cherries, and molasses. Honestly, I'm not super-psyched about the flavor. It's really good, but I've had some winter ales (Hibernation being one, go figure) that are similar, and I was just hoping for something different. Mouthfeel is what you'd expect from a big brew like this, but it's well done and not so punchy as you might think. It's actually pretty smooth. Overall, I think this is a great beer. Very complex aromas and flavors, and I'll definitely be investigating this style more. I probably wouldn't buy this one again, though it is enjoyable, fairly priced at $8 for a bomber here, and I'm happy to have tried it.

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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber color, a bit hazy, with a fairly small head but ample lacing.

Aroma is deeply fruity, with lots of mid and dark fruits coming through, figs, plums, raisins, some honey and brown sugar too. There's also a plentiful degree of hoppiness that lets you know this is a bold and potent brew! Alcohol is notable.

Flavor is very deep and rich, with tons of great malty flavors coming through right away. Caramel malts, grainy bready flavors, nuts, brown sugar, molasses, and rich dark fruits come through first, followed by an intense hoppiness that creates something almost "balanced" (LOL, if that's even possible with barleywine!).

It has what I consider to be the quintessential property of a barleywine... it's pungent! I love the pungent malt/hop interaction that leaves your mouth puckering from the intense malt flavors. To me, it's very distinct to the barleywine style, and this barleywine has it in spades.

Body is very thick and full, leaving a fruity, resinously hoppy finish. Alcohol is warming and noticeable, this is clearly a strong beer!

If you like barleywine, definitely try this one!

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Photo of jmarsh123
3.18/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Pours murky rust with a finger or so of tan head receding into nothing. Little lacing.

Lots of caramel and burnt sugar in the aroma. Some plum and other dark fruits.

Similar flavors. Very sweet throughout until some bitterness grips at the end. The bitterness should be welcome, but clashes a bit and doesn't mesh well with the dark fruit and caramel.

Medium bodied somewhat sticky so good for the style. Medium carbonation. A little cloying at times, but still finishes with some bitterness so sweetness doesn't linger on the tongue.

Ok barleywine and for the price and availability probably worth it. Not something I seek out all that often though.

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Photo of IronDjinn
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From a 22 oz. brown bottle with black foil around the cap, picked up in Ponderay, ID. Pours out a bright clear russet copper hue, with a short creamy beige head.

Sweet estery malt on the nose, very clean, some dates and raisins, floral hops.

Clean sweet caramel malt up front in the flavour, some dates and prunes, balanced with spicy, herbal, citrusy hops. Warm alcohol presence throughout.

Full-bodied mouthfeel, full velvety creamy texture, with moderate carbonation.

Solid Barleywine and very approachable for what it is, not overwhelmingly intense but proficiently balanced. If this were available locally it would easily be a go to for the style, certainly one of the most balanced and refined American Barleywines I've yet to sample.

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Photo of TwelveOunces
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle poured into a snifter
Bottled on Dec 02 2011 (13 months to the day)

A- A deep copper color. A one finger of a very lightly tanned head. Nice alcohol legs.

S- Very sweet sugary malts. Burnt sugar, caramel, molasses. A big faded hop character. Citrus and some pine.

T- A big beer. A massive hop bitterness and a surprising amount of hop flavor. The flavor has receded some but there is still a strong pine and citrus. A big burnt caramel and molasses flavor. A sugary barleywine. A huge breaddy malt backbone. A slight roasted quality.

M- Sticky, stinging, bitter and thick. It hides the alcohol taste well but not the feel.

O- This is a world class example of an american barleywine. It's hopped to high hell and that I like. (Keep in mind my review is of a 13 month old bottle)

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Photo of sommersb
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted On: 12-30-2012
Freshness: Bottled 12-05-2011
Packaging: 22 oz. brown bottle, pry-cap covered in foil
Glassware: Snifter
Purchased: Received in a trade

A: Murky, orange-brown beer with a finger's worth of off-white head. Very good lacing and a fair amount of retention.

S: Aromas include caramel malts, dark fruits such as figs and raisins, honey, maple syrup and piney and earthy hops. Bold and pleasant smells!

T: Taste is rich -- initially piney and hoppy, and then malty sweet caramel and bread flavors. Has a nice layer of alcohol warmth.

M: Full-bodied and thick with medium carbonation. The finish is of both malt and fruit sweetness as well as hop and piney bitterness.

O: An excellent balance of hops and malts on this year-old barleywine. Recommended

Thanks to baybum for this one!

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

Arrives a deep brownish orange. Head is minimal and tan in color.
Smell is a nice mix of malt and hops with caramel and herbal notes.
Taste is the same with the well blended hop/malt mixture plus the aforementioned caramel and herbal/grass notes.
Medium plus body with lighter effervescence. Warming from the first sip.
A solid sipping beer but I wish I hadn't gotten the full pint.

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Photo of srhoadsy
3.62/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served slightly chilled into snifter.

Pours a murky orange color with a quarter inch tan head that quickly recedes with a slight surface layer and light lacing.

Aromas of burnt sugar, vanilla, dried fruits and very mild dark coffee background.

Sweet flavors follow through from the aromas with a clinging bitternes that I didn't really care for.

Body is medium/heavy, sweet and sticky with mild carbonation.

A decent barleywine, but couldn't get by that lingering bitterness. This was a 2011 batch so I will age my other bottle and see what happens.

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Photo of vandemonian
3.83/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine 2008 is a strong, flavourful beer but was a little too sweet for my taste.

A: Very cloudy orange brown colour and a decent 4 mm head that fades to lacing. 4

S: Malty and oxidised. Sweet. Pear. 3.5

T: Roasted malt and sweet brown sugar. Some sharp balancing bitterness. 4

M: Thick and fairly flat, as expected. 3.5

O: 4

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Photo of mlazzaro
4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dec 2011 Bottle. This is my first Old Ruffian aged out proper.
I purchased this just under two years ago. See how it holds up.

Thin white head over a hazed amber body. Tiny bubbles that lace the glass even though there is barely any head.

Smells like caramel and pine. -Pleasant. I honestly found younger versions of the beer to smell better. But that is expected.

On the sweet side. ABV and FG match up well. Bitterness is spot on. Hops bring the beer forward. Citrusy, Pine, Resin flavors.

Im always surprised at how little the ABV effect the mouthfeel of this beer. This is a highly drinkable barleywine. Hops come through even this one was cellared. Pine and citrus hops. Clearly American Hop choice(s).

I drank these all the time in collage. And a decade later I'm still happy to drink this beer. Cheers to the Brewers to hold up the standard for so long.

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Photo of metter98
4.18/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is very hazy amber brown in color and has a light to moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a half finger high beige head that gradually died down but never completely faded away.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of caramel malts in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of malty sweetness and caramel but this is well balanced by a light to moderate amount of bitterness from the hops, which help to prevent the malts from becoming sticky or having cloying sweetness. There are also some notes of pine resin, oak and vanilla flavors (only some faint hints of alcohol are noticeable).
M: It feels full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. There is some warming from the alcohol.
O: This barleywine is quite easy to drink considering its strength because any traces of alcohol are well hidden from the taste. It is also very well balanced between the malts and hops.

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

Bottled Nov 8, 2010. Thanks Hooliganlife!! From notes.

Appearance. Pours a hazy, deep rusty orange with almost a finger of creamy, pale orange/tan head.

Smell. Caramel and citrusy hops, and graham crackers . Big and bold.

Taste. Sweet caramel and plenty of citrus hops. Lots of lemon and orange, some malts in with the caramel, and a lingering bitterness. Very little booze. Very nice.

Mouthfeel. Full body, medium-low, incredibly smooth carbontion. Again, very nice.

Overall. Such a smooth barleywine with a ton of flavour, yet not overbearing. Really enjoying this.

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Photo of MadScientist
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This was picked up about 7 months ago so it's probably last years release; it kind of got forgotten about in my basement.

A: A medium copper with a red hue and excellent clarity. A persistent, light-tan head that is a quarter inch of compact foam and leave small patches of bubbles on the glass instead of lacing.

S: A strong, rich malty aroma with a moderately-strong caramel malt character and a moderately citrus hops aroma. There is a low fruit ester with a slight raisin character. Smooth, perfume alcohol aroma a a moderate level.

T: An intense malt flavor with bready and caramel malt flavors. The hops bitterness is at a moderately-strong level with a moderately-low citrus hops flavor. There is a modest amount of malt sweetness up front but the balance is strongly towards the bitter with the alcohol also countering the malt sweetness. The after taste is of caramel and hops bitterness.

M: A smooth and slightly cream medium-full bodied beer with moderate carbonation. The alcohol brings a moderate warmth that keeps on creeping all the to the belly.

O: Even with a year of age it's still a sipping beer but man is smooth. Normally I'd be more than happy to enjoy this in all of it's young, aggressive, hop forward glory but a little bit of age smooths the rough edges and tamps down the hops. This beer would pair well with a steak but I'll be matching it with a Reuben for tonight's dinner.

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Photo of PacNWDad
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a wonderful beer! Poured from a 22oz bottle into a snifter. Thick, tan colored head, that lingers an exceptionally long time. Really one of the best, if not the best, pours of a beer I have seen. Aroma is of toffee, butterscotch, liquorice, caramel, with lots of floral and herbal notes from the hops to balance it out. Flavor is just what I would expect with a barleywine, sweet and bitter, with fire from the high alcohol content. Mouthfeel is heavy, with moderate carbonation and an abundance of fire from the alcohol. Overall, this is now my favorite barleywine, and that is saying a lot.

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Photo of Jeffo
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this one at Premier Gourmet in New York.

From a bomber into a snifter
Bottled on 5 December 2011
IBU: 90

APPEARANCE: Pours a two finger, looser looking, off-white or cream colored head with good retention. Very loose head actually. Perfectly clear rust orange in color with slightly higher levels of carbonation for the style. Head slowly fades to a good foam cap that sticks to the top of the glass. A half wisp remains until the end and leaves lots of lacing down the glass. Head was pretty lousy initially, but this one finished better than it started.

SMELL: Nice nose of toffee, butterscotch, red fruits and some citrus aromas. Grapefruit and lemon there, though the toffee and berries are more prevalent. Light floral notes as well. Bold and interesting.

TASTE: Toffee and caramel sweetness with lots of red fruit and berries up front. Quite bold, and very flavorful at the swallow, with sweet malts, citrus fruits, grapefruit and lemon flavors, then some floral hop bitterness as well. A touch of booze and leathery flavors add a level of complexity too. Solid stuff.

PALATE: Fuller body and medium levels of carbonation. Enough weight on the palate, creamy as well, goes down smooth with a bit of a burn at the swallow and finishes quite mouth-coating. Some heat lingers as well. Enough weight and pertty creamy-smooth. Solid stuff.

OVERALL: Great Divide never ceases to impress. This is a top notch barelywine with lots of goodness going on, and a full, creamy body to support it all. It's too bad these guys decided to stop exporting to Europe, as they were a staple in my beer fridge. Good stuff here, and available all the time in the USA.

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Photo of bmwats
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 650 ml bottle into a tulip.

A: Medium brown, with a ruby hue. Pours a thick, tight, 1 finger, foamy, bone white head. Settles slowly, leaving a distinct beer ring. Eventually settles to a light, even blanket. Dry, thick beer ring lacing. Head renews with each pour.

S: Baked pumpkin bread, caramel, with a light floral note of lavender, a spice note of basil, and pecan.

T: Hearty baked sourdough, bitter pecan shells and black licorice, a slight indistinct sweetness, and a subtle floral character.

M: Full body. Thick and syrupy feel. Slightly sweet in the front, counteracted with a bitter lingering aftertaste. High alcohol profile present, and a dry finish.

D: Sip, savor, swish around, and enjoy.

Great atmosphere. Nice coloration topped with a tight, foamy head; and persistent, thick lacing. Nose autumn spice, baked bread, with some floral notes. Flavor is bready, with plenty of sweet and bitter components balanced against each other. Full body and flavor. Overall, this is a great quaff.

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into a snifter, bottled 12/02/2011, 10 months old

A: Pours a hazy amber color with a finger and a half of off white head. Above average retention.

S: Lots of caramel and piney hops. Well balanced between sweetness and hoppiness.

T: This is a very bitter Barleywine - tons of early addition hops in this one. Piney and resiny hop flavor is also very prominent, fairly balanced between the two. Caramel sweetness balances out the bitterness and hop flavor with some bready malts to help round the beer out. The sweetness is moderate, but the bitterness definitely stays in the forefront. Booze is there, but well hidden.

M: On the thick side with creamy carbonation.

O: A very nice, but extremely bitter Barleywine. I could use a bit more malt complexity, too.

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Photo of JamesShoemaker
4.07/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle shared with my girlfriend, poured into our snifters.

A – deep orange, amber, with a thick foamed head. Pretty beer, not unlike most DIPAs. Translucent even in low light.

S – delicious. I smell lots of citrus, again, not unlike most DIPAs. The hop character is strong in the smell, but I can barely detect the alcohol. 10.2% seems low for a barleywine.

T – after the smell, the taste is somewhat disappointing. The first sip is the best. In it, I taste mostly barley and the perfumed aspects of the hops, but there’s not a lot of sweetness like I expected. Again, 10.2% seems low, but I found myself dissatisfied with the alcohol content somehow. I can’t really place my finger on whether it needs more or less. The subsequent sips are not impressive.

M – this beer somehow numbed my mouth so that it tasted less and less dynamic as I continued drinking it. Eventually it just tasted like a bland, semi-carbonated IPA.

O – not bad, but there are much better barleywines out there. I liked the smell and the first few sips a lot, but I won’t be paying $8 for another bottle any time soon.

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Photo of DRyan
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a beautiful ruby red with moderate white / light tan head that sticks around for a while and has thick lacing
S: Malts dominate but there is some hop note to the nose as well, smells sweet
T: Not as overpowering as some Barleywines, good strong malt characteristics very nicely balanced with a strong hop addition. Not overly sweet, not overly bitter. The high ABV is very well hidden.
M: Lightly carbonated, with a velvety mouthfeel
D: For a barleywine, very drinkable. The alcohol in this one could easily sneak up on you with how easy it is to drink.

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Photo of thegodfather2701
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Pours a nice amber/copper with a dense off-white head that dissipates slowly and leaves some lacing up and down the glass. The lacing seemed better than other versions of the style so I gave it a bump in the appearance rating. However, it is not as good of a looking beer as Big Foot, as far as color goes.

S-Booze, caramel, and hops.

T-Hoppy and bitter with some alcohol sweetness, and a decent amount of alcohol. A very hop assertive beer.

M-Fairly thick and syrupy

D-A true sipper giving its massive hop presence and high alcohol content.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with this beer, but I have another bottle I will age for another couple of years and I think then it will be awesome. I think this needs some time to mellow. It was bottled in December 2011, so two years from now I expect it to be spectacular, but for now its just a little too hoppy and boozy for my preference.

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Photo of jsulko
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into a tulip glass

Dark amber color with a strong off white head.

Smell is of sweet with carmel and malt and a hint of boozyness.

Taste is malty and a bit sweet with some of the dark fruit flavors in the finish. Alcohol not as pronounced as in the smell.

A great barleywine that I had no original expectations for, having just bought it because it was Great Divide.

Will pick it up again.

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Photo of Gosox8787
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Bomber bottle poured into my Portsmouth Brewery tulip glass. I have cellared this bottle for a while and now seemed like a good time to open it up. Bottled on date of Dec. 22, 2009 (so this is almost three years old). Served chilled but allowed to warm to close to room temperature over time.

Appearance: Dark amber to medium brown in color. Pours a really nice, fluffy beige head that laces plenty of lacing around the glass.

Aroma: Really big caramel and molasses from the malt bill here. Definitely an underlying earthy character from the hops. Also some background notes of maple and oak. Really complex and enjoyable.

Taste: My first thought was the hops have held up well for this beer being so old. The malt bills does well to complement the hop character. Lots of caramel and molasses and brown sugar notes. Light pine and earthiness from the hops keeps this from being too sweet. This is really drinking nicely at this point. The aftertaste is a bit bitter as well.

Mouthfeel: Plenty of carbonation, considering this beer was cellared for a while prior to open. Really smooth with a nice full body.

Overall, a really enjoyable and tasty American style barleywine. The hop character has held up incredibly well and adds a nice counterpoint to the caramel and molasses notes from the malt. Everything I look for in a hoppy barleywine. A real treat to be able to find this on the shelves easily. Very good.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from tap at the brewery. Pours a wood amber with thin tan head. Sweet malt, vanilla, caramel. and hop aromas.

Taste is of sweet vanilla malts, some dried date, caramel, and lots of hops. Its a little too bitter and the alcohol burns a bit but its not bad. Its a really nice barleywine but not my favorite. Maybe some aging would mellow this out.

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Photo of eriktoyra
4.62/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark copper colored and clear liquid. A massive creamy and
off-white head forms and stays for long. Nice lacings on the glass.

S: Lots of caramel malts up front. I can also find maple syrup, candy sugar, bananas, orange peel and honeydew melon. Some earthy tones and alchohol at the end. The alcohol smell is very mellow for a beer of 10.2% ABV.

T: Starts with a distinct malty flavour and then continues with maple syrup, burnt sugar, and honeydew melons. Very sweet. The alcohol is distinct and most noticeable at the end. It leaves a long and clean bitter grapefruit peel aftertaste.

M: Full bodied with a nice and oily texture. The alcohol burns a little. Low to medium carbonation.

O: Hands down one of my favorite Barley Wine style beers. Fantastic!

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,417 ratings.
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