Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,102 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: 1,102 | Ratings: 2,441
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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Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.81/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ever since I fell in love with Great Divide, I desperately wanted to try their barleywine. Thankfully, there was a store that wasn’t sold out in Indianapolis come five months or so after it was released – only place in town where I found a bottle. Lucky me – cheers!

Brewed a little over eight months before the date of this tasting (“BOTTLED ON: DEC 02 2011”).

A: A truly gorgeous beer, especially in the body: it’s a wondrously-bright and powerful red, exposing rich color from the glass at every angle. The head is none too forgettable, too, forming slow enough to make me almost overfill my glass. Its chunky foam texture marks a truly thick beer, settling so very slowly that it leaves silky, light tan lacing everywhere.

S: Extremely potent malt scents: bubblegum, fresh-cut red apples, and the leafy sweetness of dark grains. Has quite a bit of fig character underneath, too, while also boasting moderate tones of walnut and black cherry. Finishes with a familiar touch of toffee and port, as the style goes. Unfortunately, though, it is a little medicinal on the back end. Could be the age, but it’s out of place and unsatisfying; its stale scent greatly diminishes what could be a wonderful nose. Also, with all the talk of hops on the label, you’d expect some shred of bitterness in the nose (even after eight months). No can do, apparently…

T: Damn, these guys got the slow burn of a high-alcohol beer just right. Flavors of dark fruits and subtly-sweet malts come in first, opening the palate to a cascade of raisin, apple chutney, chocolate-toffee, and grainy bread. Slowly, then, with a transitional smoky taste, come those hops: spicy and herbal, lemony with hints of mango. In a moment’s time, the predominantly light hops fall into darkness, bringing the bitters more into the territory of resins and slick alcohol. The palate is rounded out by nutty, woody tastes, with chopped walnut, oak, and smooth Scotch flavors in the aftertaste – though some prickly hop oils end up lingering.

M: This beer is easy to finish quickly: it has a slight viscosity to it, but the hop presence lends a ton of lightness to the palate, drawing attention away from the thicker textures of the body. Barrel-aged might be too much for this beer; this is just right.

O: One of those rare beers where I liked the taste, but was just alright with the nose. Maybe that says something about the age of the beer; looking into the bottom of the bottle, I can see that this beer was not bottle-conditioned. It’s a possibility, so I’ll be looking out for fresh bottles this December.

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Photo of Dudeletter
4.97/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The final beer we tasted, which was my wife’s favorite, was the Old Ruffian by Great Divide, an American style Barleywine. I want to emphasize here two things. First, we ate palate foods, but ate similar food while drinking (the cheese plate) and secondly, we drank these over time, I was not drunk on the floor giggling. This beer surprised me, though. The flavor popped, but was well balanced. The alcohol led to high sweetness, but this was balanced by the hops. I immediately tasted it and loved it, but was concerned that my wife would find it too hoppy, not at all, she loved it and I did as well. This beer is phenomenal and one of my favorite American Barleywines.


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Photo of ThickNStout
4.08/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle from Crabapple Bottle Shoppe (Alpharetta, GA). 8.99. Bottled 12/02/09. Served in a Southern Tier snifter. 

Pours deep hazy reddish brown with 2 fingers of manilla head. 

Smells of candy sugar, raisins, sweet biscuits and faint booze. 

Big sweet malty flavors. Fig, raisin, sugar, biscuits and booze. A bitter finish is the only hint of hops that may have once been present. Alcohol is strong but appropriate for the style. 

Feel is where this really shines. Lush full body with nice zest if carbonation. Coats the tongue with a sticky, resinous feel. Long sweet aftertaste. 

This has held up well for over 2 years. I've never had it fresh but I'll happily drink it again. A thick sweet malty treat. 

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Photo of Onenote81
4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Went to a friend’s house and he pulled this one out of the fridge. Surprised I’ve never had this one before. Poured my allotment into a pint glass. Pours a dark amber with a thin beige head on top. Notes of herbs, hops, citrus, toffee. The mouth is creamy and smooth, slightly syrupy feel on the back end. Semi-sweet syrup, molasses, mild bittering hops, bitter citrus rind. Really a good beer. Definitely an evening sipper.

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Photo of heygeebee
3.13/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on [illegible] 2010

Pours a wonderful hazy deep gold/copper. One finger head stays. Good lace.

Aromas of hops, toffee, malts.

Taste is a let down. One dimensional and thin, hop driven with little malt to support. Alcohol burn. Astringent. Bitter. Skunked.

Mouthfeel good, medium to full bodied, low carbonation.

Overall, not a good example. Given 2010 bottling, even more of a let down.

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Photo of KajII
4.05/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

[Best served in a Snifter]

The pour was a clear dark mahogany red with a large (2-3 finger) light tan pillowy head that was mostly lasting, receding down to a large puddle and collar with excellent sheeting of lace.

The aroma was of a sweet toasted biscuit malt, pine hops and a sweet doughy yeast with notes of toffee, citrus (grapefruit), caramel and some dark fruit (plums and raisons).

The taste was sweet and rather malty with hints of toffee and dark fruit at first and then became slightly hoppy with a really nice bitter citrus note and a decent alcohol warming sensation at the end. The flavor hung around for a long while with a bitter sweet citrus flavor left to lie on the taste buds.

Mouthfeel was just below medium in body with a dry oily texture and a prickly carbonation.

Overall a sensationally tasting Barleywine with just the right blending of sweet malts and bitter hops...

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

Serving Type - 22oz bottle

Appearance - Tan/brown, ruby hue, 1/2 creamy, foamy head and lots of lacing.

Smell - Lots of fruits, grapefruit, orange, pear, grapefruit, pineapple, grapes, some sugars. Has everything, hops, malts, caramel, even some alcohol comes at the finsh, wow im ready to taste this!

Taste - Huge fruity bite with a mix of sugars and caramal malts. Plenty of sugars mixed with the fruits to make this very flavorful. Pineapple, grapefruit and orange hop kick add even more to this brew. Alcohol comes at the end to finish this off.

Mouthfeel - Thick, chewy and lots of flavor. Tounge gets the malt/hop kick with lots of sugars and a little booze. Palate gets more malt/hop kick with some added sugars, a nice bitterness mixed with sweetness. Afertaste is bold sugars, caramel malts and spices.

Overall - Really big, lots of flavors, and a big more hoppy then most. It takes you on a ride of flavors, malty, hoppy, sugary, bitter hoppy, alcoholish, yet balanced and fun to drink. Excellent example of a well done american barleywine. Great to enjoy fresh, would love to try aged, worthy a drink for sure.

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

Nose: Dark cherry and molasses. Deep, woodsy earthiness. Slightly solvent. Mild hints of vanilla. Overall I would have expected a it to be a little more pungent.

Appearance: Gorgeous ruby/mahogany. Vanilla skim of head grabs the glass.

Sweet and bitter. Hints of vanilla. Very woody - almost overpowering. No shortage on grains here.

Overall: Very good, but a little disappointing. It's complex, but doesn't seem to play well with itself. Some of the flavors just compete.

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Photo of BostonHops
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle served in a snifter glass.

pours a deep amber tone with ruby red highlights... yields a solid finger and a half of a khaki colored head; solid retention and beautiful walls of lacing. pretty damn impressive presentation.

nose is led by sweet malts, followed by notes of citrus and a bit of pine. flavor follows the nose to a T; even exceeds it. caramel, bready maltiness with a strong ensuing citrus/pine presence - huge hops showing, even for an american barleywine - carrying through to a hoppy bitterness in the finish... very well-hidden 10.2% ABV.

nice full-bodied mouthfeel with adequate carbonation. dangerously drinkable for such a big beer. while i prefer the english counterpart of the style, this is great rendition of the american version (which is growing on me).

originally reviewed: 01-09-2011

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Photo of Immortale25
3.92/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Florida Beer Co. tapered glass. Label says Bottled on: DEC 02 2011.

A- Pours a medium copper color with a 1/2 inch light tan head that does a good job retention-wise before slowly declining to an 1/8 inch head and leaving a full ring of lacing behind it.

S- Sweet malt nose upfront with notes of caramel. Hops linger in the back and are more herbal than grassy. Slight whiff of alcohol.

T- Intimidating bitterness along with powerful pangs of booze. Things mellow out in the finish but every sip is a plunge back into a not-so-pleasant intensity of flavor. The malt is still there but not as sweet and balanced as in the aroma. Sipping will definitely be the best approach. Once the palate finally reaches an equilibrium, things start to make sense. While the hops still are over-the-top, the alcohol burn subsides and the malt can begin to express itself adequately bringing with it a cereal graininess. Hints of oak and bourbon

M- Somewhat creamy with a full-ish body and medium carbonation.

O-Could be a bit better if the flavors didn't clash so much initially. Probably just needs more age.

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Photo of Gatch
4.08/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap @ Taste of Tops in Tempe, AZ.

A: Beautiful amber color with an off-white, fluffy head that fades quickly.

S: Sweet, toasted malt and faint hops. Some booze.

T: Boozy, hoppy, sugary, malty sweetness. Molasses and tasty American hops.

M: Smooth, sweet, delicious.

O: Fantastic American Barleywine.

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Photo of RickS95
4.54/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a reddish brown, looks like it should. Opaque, a thin brown head. Not a lot of retention, but leaves some sticky on the glass and a light colored ring around the perimeter.

Might be the best smelling barley wine I've hard. The resinous, piney, hoppy scent is there, but this time the fruit isn't citrus, but something much sweeter...some kind of berry.

The malt backbone is there, as it the overwhelming hoppy flavor, but surprisingly, it all starts with a sweet, fruitness.

It's sweet for a split second and then the bomb explodes bringing bitter and alcohol to the equation. It's tolerable for a barley wine, and quite pleasant.

While hard to drink in general, it's a gentle barley wine. The sweetness from the red fruit and the malt tempers the bitterness. Still hard to chug, but relatively easy to drink for the style.

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Photo of WillCarrera
3.9/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bomber, bottled in December 2011, poured into a snifter.

A- Pours a hazy amber color, produces a finger of off-white head, decent retention, leaves some spotty lacing.

S- Powerful hop aroma, loads of citrus and orange, has a sweet caramelly aroma behind it, considerable booziness.

T- Extremely aggressive hoppiness, even five months out from bottling they don't seem to have faded much. Also sweet caramel malt, lots of booze, has a slightly hot finish with lots of hop bitterness.

M- Full-bodied, has a slick, oily feel, dry bitter finish with alcohol warmth.

O- I'm just not crazy about this one, the hops are pretty aggressive for the malt on this beer (don't get me wrong I love hops), and the booziness seems a bit harsh. Maybe it's just at an awkward age, but it seems unbalanced right now, I'll have to try a bottle a few years out.

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

Appearance: Amber/ruby. Pours a massive, dense white head, with a slight hint of amber. Beautiful and persistent head, the beer behaves very nicely!

Aroma: Deep malt, nutty. Alcohol is present but not overwhelming. Yeast, dried fruit, a little bit of honey perhaps. Very delicate and complex.

Taste: Hoppier than the aroma would suggest, even bitter. The sweetness of the aroma is gone, but there is certainly heavy malt and some dried apricot. Alcohol quite strong in the aftertaste, warming. A tiny disappointment given the delicious appearance and aroma, but tasty enough.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied, lingers at the back of the throat; hop attack in the cheeks!

Overall: I feel that the beer is a bit too strong for its own good, but it's a good barley wine. Very rich on the hops. I would've preferred if the tender malt and sweetness that I got from the aroma would've been more present, but they're now overwhelmed by the strong hops. A good beer though, no doubt about it.

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Photo of dogfishandi
4.13/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Vintage. 22oz foiled and capped bottle poured into a pint glass, fridge temp. bottled 12 5 11.

pours a dark reddish orange color, bordering on copper. the slightest bit of haze. a thick light tan colored head with some great retention and really nice looking sticky lace.

initially in the aroma i get lots of big resiny hops. perfumey, pine resin, slightly woody with a bit of alcohol heat as well. a light candied caramel as it warms, but this smells more hop forward.

similar to the aroma. resiny, piney, woody hops, some deep candied caramel malt (more than the aroma suggested), a slight prune like dark fruit, slight booze. finishes with a big resiny bitterness. almost like a really malt forward DIPA.

big sticky body, but really not that big for a barleywine. carbonation feels spot on.

overall, this is a really solid american barleywine. exactly what it claims on the bottle "hefty and hoppy". similar to say bigfoot, but not quite as complex as doggie claws. this would be a nice one to age, exspecially because its so readily available.

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Photo of lnashsig
4.32/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

#BOTG number 20!

2009 Vintage, thanks to MDaschaf (Matt)! Thanks dude!

Poured from bottle into CBS snifter. Looks like dark brown rain water. Some decent head, still some carbonation present. Appearance of an English Barleywine. Smell- sweet molasses and caramel. Toffee, faint plastic in the background- but it doesn't detract too much. A great smelling beer, I am guessing that I am probably sniffing the remnants of the hops. Vanilla is also present. Taste- whoa. cocoa, roasted caramel/toffee, vanilla. This is mellow and delicous, and I am amazed at the surprising chocolate and creme brule taste profile. The hops have mellowed and the malt has developed a very nice complex profile. For the ABV, I get no booze at all. In fact, its scary how quick this can go down. I've had this beer fresh, and its abrasive and super hoppy. In fact, I didn't like it fresh. This is great though, I was glad to try it. Thanks again Matt!

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Photo of SawDog505
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a 20 Duvel tulip glass, bottled 12/02/2011. Pours a ruby red, with a two inch off white head that leaves an amazing coting of lace. Smell is big carmel, brown sugar, pine hops, and some dark fruit. Taste is all of that, but larger with more pine and grapefruit hops then the nose would have you expect. Body is large, wonderful amount of carbonation, more lush than dry, and very drinkable for its large body and ABV. This is my new favorite non barrel aged Barleywine, wow is this is special.

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Photo of claspada
4.13/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated Jan 07 2010.

Pours a hazy tawny, rustic mahogany with a substantial creamy, fluffy off-white head that leaves some nice sticky/soapy lacing on the sides of the chalice.

Aromas begin quite heavy on the caramel and dark fruity malts, as you might anticipate from being aged for 2 years plus. Second pass I get a light citrus and pine hop presence which still remains, which makes me think this was a hop bomb fresh. As it warms I get more complex maltiness highlighted by brown sugar, toffee and figs/dates. A decent amount of toasted breadiness is present throughout with no real booze or heat to speak of.

The tastes directly follow the nose with big toffee, dark caramel and brown sugar maltiness. You then get a light but substantial enough bitterness on the back end, enough that I can pick out the pine and light blood orange hop flavors. Toasted bready and the dark fruit flavors are once again present, no alcohol whatsoever. More bitter than I expected still but not too much so for the style. Fresh this may have been too bitter for the style, but aged here it is at a perfect level.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a surprisingly medium level of carbonation. The slight extra bit of carbonation helps this from being too sweet, which is important because barleywines can become too sweet with this much age on them. Finish is lightly sweet but more so lightly bitter.

Overall this is one of the best American Barleywines out there. Not quite up to the level of the Alaskan Barleywine which I consider the top, but really close. Really nice flavor profile, pine/citrus bitterness to complement the sweet caramel/toffee maltiness. Just a great showing overall. (This beer once again helps to prove my theory that American Barleywines peak at 2 years of age, so I will continue to follow that practice of waiting until that maturity date to sample going forward and recommend all to do the same for maximum enjoyment.) Definitely a must try for fans of the style and another high quality brew from Great Divide.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,441 ratings.
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