Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
2,464 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,464 |  Reviews: 1,111
Photo of tewaris
4.06/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Old Ruffian brewed by Great Divide Brewing Co. tops Beeradvocate's list of American Barleywines at the moment. At 10.2 % ABV and 85-90 IBUs, this is quite a beer. I bought a bottle about 2 years ago that's at least 3 years old now because Great Divide changed their labels by the August of 2008 and this one has an older label, and no dates. One of the more accessible beers, I had no trouble getting a recent bottle for this tasting.

22 oz. bombers: 2007 winter or older (minimum, and most likely 3 years old) poured into a 25 oz. snifter and 2010 winter release (bottled 11/08/2010) poured into a Duvel tulip.

The older version was noticeably darker and hazier than the better looking newer one. Both poured amber-brown with different degrees of clarity but both had huge light brown heads and excellent, excellent lacing. Sticky lace decorated the glasses while chunks of foam floated on the surface, hiding garnet highlights beneath them. Some legs could be noticed when the heads subsided.

It's amazing that the older one still had hops in its aroma! And lots of sweet caramel and fruity goodness. Figs came up with warmth, and the aroma was overall quite rich and complex. On the other hand the newer one was bigger on hops and sharpness of alcohol, but that's pretty much about it, especially in comparison to older.

Both tasted equally bitter on palate with older one displaying less aggressiveness at the beginning, and letting the sweetness come through while the new one turned everything in its path bitter, up to the back of the throat. Older was mellow and flavorful, but none was exceptional. The fruitiness didn't shine in either but was present in both, obviously stronger in the older while hop flavor, specifically citrus rind notes, stronger in the newer.

Carbonation was spot on, no doubt. And the older hadn't lost any. Even though the older one seemed sweeter, it tasted more attenuated. Both finished quite clean and drinkability was good FWIW. Alcohol didn't interfere but I don't find much to look forward to. Maybe I don't like American Barleywines all that much, but in the end, this is definitely a well done beer.

Old: 4, 4.5, 4, 4, 4
New: 5, 4, 4, 4, 4

Scores in the review are averages.

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Photo of haazer
4.38/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A bomber all to myself, poured into a pint glass.

A- Beer is a filtered cherry skin color. Tiny bubbles with a litle bit of carbonation. Large khaki colored head on the beer, very chunky. Where the head drops down there is lacing left on the sides of the glass. Good retention on the head as it takes some time to settle.

S- Nice hop aroma up front. Very floral and grapefruity. Caramel malt blends very nicely with complex fruit scents. Fruit reminds me of cherry and grape, with some banana. Barley is evident. Booze aroma however is not here. Last smells are sweetness and candied sugar.

T- "Seemingly mellow at the start...it quickly becomes aggressive with its hop flavors and huge hop bitterness". Well, they're not kidding. Fruity tastes are up front in the flavor, cherry and raisin and just sweet enough. Midway through the palatte the caramel malt and barley flavors make their presence with some nuttiness, but they then give way to the BIG hop bitterness at the end. Great bitterness ends the flavors with grapefruit, grass, and a little sourness. Long lasting bitterness left in the mouth afterwards.

M- Very smooth at the beginning on the mouth. Medium to full bodied beer. The heat from the booze really hit me on the first sip, but it mellows very nicely about halfway down the pint. The mouthfeel ends on a bittering, somewhat dry lasting finish.

D- This pretty much meets my definition of quaffable. I'm making this bomber dissapear rather quickly I must say. The abv gives you some serious heat at first, but the flavor and smoothness as this mellows out makes me take gulps instead of sips. I give it a 4.5 only because of the initial heat and the abv I'm sure I'll be feeling when the bomber is done.

I've been wanting to try this for some months now and had planned to buy a case of it if I could in my area. It had to be special ordered and was 90$ for 12 of these bad boys. A little much for a case in my book so I opted out but I'll definitely be picking singles up whenever I can find them. Can see why this is highly rated.

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Photo of chriswilkes33
3.08/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Had a pour of '08 ruffian in a snifter

Appearance: pours a dark amber with a thin quickly dissipating white head
Aroma: biting alcohol and caramel/toffee one would expect from a monster barleywine
Taste: toffee, sweet (a little too sweet) and alcohol up front. Harsh swallow with lingering warmth
Mouthfeel: thick but not terribly

Overall: good slow drinking beer, nothing super exciting taking place in this beer.

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Photo of oglmcdgl
4.32/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bottle split with onix1agr and poured into yet again my trusty old friend the duvel tulip.

A- a hard pour yields a small cap of dense tannish head that settles quickly leaving a gossamer film on top and a thin ring around the edge. Muddy brown orange in color.

S- chocolate covered raisins and dates with caramel and toffee. A earthy spice and some slight booze. Mostly its about the raisinets and its awesome.

T- brandy soaked chocolate covered raisins with more dried fruits, caramel, toffee, dark bread. There a nice amount of hop bite still and you get a little grapefruit and spice.

M- on the fuller side of body but not thick or chewy maybe a bit of stickiness. Carb is a few steps less then medium but does a good job of keeping thing up. A bit of heat on the palate with some warming but its nice.

D- for a big barley wine this is exceptionally drinkable. You can toss this back but you don't want to since its so damn good. The beer develops more with each sip and the ride it takes you on kicks ass.

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Photo of mdaschaf
3.8/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Review from notes 1/22/11. Thanks to THECPJ for sharing. 2010 vintage.

A: Hazy reddish/dark amber in color in color. Half finger of head forms with good retention. Decent foamy lace down the sides.

S: Quite hoppy! Some citrus aroma along with a good bit of malt - caramel and bread. Also get a good bit of alcohol on the nose as well.

T: Taste is similar to aroma. Get a ton of caramel and some toffee. The bread flavor is sweet and there is also a grass/citrus hop flavor.

M/D: Medium bodied with good carbonation. Overall, I liked the flavor profile, it is very complex, especially for a barleywine. My problem was how present the alcohol was. It was a struggle to drink this one, I look forward to having one with some age on it.

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Photo of jayhawk73
4.7/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark copper w/ a nice 1 finger caramel head. The head sticks around a bit, then goes down to a sliver. I can smell this beer without even lifting the glass to my nose. It smells of caramel, fruit, some pine, and malt. Wow- if the taste lives up to the smell, this is going to be fantastic. The taste is even better than the smell- WOW. This is a fantastic example of a Barley Wine Ale.. In fact, I can tell after one taste, it's the best I've had. The taste is perfect- thus the rare 5. Everything works really well together, the malt being the backdrop that holds it all together. Mouthfeel is great- hops come through here, but it's all very balanced, and goes down easy. Drinkability is really good as well. At 10.2%, the bomber is probably all I'll want, but it goes down easily. All in all a fantastic beer, and one I'll definitely pick up and enjoy again.

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Photo of DrStiffington
4.32/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I can't believe how long it's taken me to try this one. Old Ruffian pours a thick, creamy head on top of a dark, ruby body. I'm smelling something fruity here. Maybe grapes or grape juice. I'm not noticing any hops to the taste. Just sweet, malty goodness backed up by a warm, boozy aftertaste. I'm a big fan of hoppy beers, but every now and then I do enjoy strong malty barleywines. This is dangerously good. Gotta love Great Divide!

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Photo of hickmancase
4.3/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from Total Wine poured into my Ommegang Chalice.

A: Three finger head on a hazy, reddish light-brown ale.

S: Hops singe the back of my nose.

T: Big, robust hop profile. Or, the hops and the malts have fused into one enormous beast. Or, the hops have beaten and submitted the malts and then stole their flavors to flaunt. Unique take on a barley wine.

M: Thick. Sticky bubbles.

D: Unique barley wine that I wouldn't mind having again.


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Photo of Fenris244
3.95/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thick creamy 2 finger head, good retention, leaves a thin lace as the beer gets consumed, amberish brown in color, more on the red amber side than the brown side though.

Bubble gum like aroma of all things at first, kinda juicy fruit like in aroma, cherry and dark fruit aromas are also present.

Right of the bat the hop character is peasant, not overpowering though, cherry and raisin flavors as well as a molasses like note, the alcohol is there but pretty well masked, the flavors overall are pretty well balanced.

Heavy in body and certainly a sipping beer, it's the kind of beer that a bomber in a night would be enough. That said I'm a happy man with this brew

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Photo of grittybrews
4.47/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 bottle, opened 02/2011.

Poured a vivid ruby-amber into a tulip with a thin slick of off-white head. Bold, complex aroma of caramel, sugar cookie, vanilla, grapefruit, and pine.

Moderate carbonation and a thick, creamy mouthfeel. Sweet caramel up front balanced by a rich, biscuity backbone. Elements of cherries and fruit lead into a wonderfully biting, bitter finish. Slight alcohol warmth on the finish, but that's about it!

This brew was complex, well-balanced, and very drinkable for the style. Haven't tried an aged version, but I look forward to buying several more for both the fridge and the cellar.

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Photo of chumba526
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 22 ounce bottle that was from 2007 (I think it could have been a 2008 also though).

It pours a full-bodied deep brown color with about an inch of a dark tan head.

It smells initially sweet. I get a strong toffee and caramel like smell. There is also a very mild bit of a citrus orange smell.

It tastes much like it smells I get a strong toffee like flavor and a bit of a caramel like flavor. There is also a bit of sweet bread like flavor and a bit of a grassy and citrus like flavor. It is sweet but at the same time it is smooth and multi-dimensional.

The carbonation is moderate low. The mouthfeel is somewhat thick.

The drinkability is not bad. But this is a heavy rich beer so one or two glasses is all that I would want of it.

Overall a pretty good barley wine that aged nicely.

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Photo of Dhren1979
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage: 2010

Serving Type: 22oz Bomber poured in to a tulip glass.

A:Pours a rich amber color that is tansparent with no haze. Carbonation is observed and the head is quite substantial.

S: Bitter hops with sweet caramel malts. Aromas of fruit is also detected.

T: Smooth caramel malts, The bitterness of the hops go well with the sweet fruity tastes that are present.

M: Clean, crisp and smooth. Medium body brew with decent amount of carbonation.

D: This is a great example of the Barlywine style! I must go out and get more to age!!

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Photo of Aiptasia
4.18/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Holy crap! This is an excellent, "in your face" style of barleywine. Kudos to Great Divide for coming up with a brew that isn't as sweet as it's European counterparts. Definitely for anyone that's a fan of medium to strong bodied beer fans!

A: Poured into a 22 oz. plastic beverage mug (hey, it was clean). Poured a humongous head, at least 3" (and yes, I was careful in the pouring) and the lacing was tenacious. Clinged foam throughout drinking. OMG!

S: Smelled of hops and sweet barley notes. Very pungent and smacked of imminent enjoyment on the tasting. Pine, alcohol and magic.

T: Initially, very hopsy. Floral bouquet explodes on the pallete. Mid, nice hops semi-dry sweet with the alcohol curbing nicely on the tonge. Finish is semi-wet with definite hops aftertones and the alcohol content, while well balanced, kicks ass.

M: Very nice and luxurious on the tongue. Intitial hops on each draught fades into alcohol dryness with only a slight residual.

D: Because of the alcohol content, gets over on you very quickly. Be prepared, very prepared. You don't want more than two of these in any one sitting. Pair it with breads to absorb some of the alcohol. I'm completely "f'ed" up, be warned.

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Photo of clayrock81
4/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a auburn brown body with decent head retention and lace ring on top of a thick, malty aroma: bready, dry, roasted, sweet, caramel - all in there. Hints of herbal hop bitterness as well. A filling heavy body that is balanced as I pick up a bready, dry malt base along with some caramel sweetness and there is also a decent patch of herbal hop bitterness. Minor sweet fruit flavors and a crisp finish thanks to a barely poking out ABV - a dangerous sipper as it is strong and boozy but real easy to drink and quite enjoyable.

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Photo of imbibehour
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass. Bottling date or freshness, not mentioned. Perhaps... like good cheese or wine.. it shall give forth it's gift later. But for now, the goods gotta be coming pronto so give it up, let's see what you got!

Out of the bottle Ruffian pours an easy four fingers of faint tan bubbles. Bubbles on head fall at a small pace but are all very uniform in size. Body is a great dark orange getting into a very nice red color. The body is opaque in character. Once excellent looking beer with real good lace.

Bouquet is, a faint stemmed fruit into sour cherry territory without the sourness but not even the sweetness. Malt chew sensation on the nose interestingly, borders between malt backbone and kreik territory, very fascinating. Dry spices of brown and a great earthy dirt quality.

Taste... DENSE!! big dense malt and a giant hop faint fruitness not of citrus but a some sort of combination red fruit, I am thinking borderline pomegranate. Hop lime bitterness really kicks in and with some rough wood tree bark notes. Gets into doughy territory but not quite. Very fascinating. Abv masked somewhat but not totally. A real kriek borderline Belgian lambic territory. Good stuff.

THis brewery never stops to leave me impressed. Like many others it just surprises me with every concoction they come up with.

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Photo of TheSaboteur
4.48/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a tulip.

The appearance is a masterpiece. A glowing ruby that gives quick rises to a marshmallow-beige, three-finger head. Nice sticky lacing makes lemur like rings around my glass.

The aroma is huge. Caramel sweet maltiness, candied fruit, pine and citrus, cherries and butterscotch. Personally, a touch too sweet if I had my drothers.

This looks and smells like a big, bad mutha...and it taste like one too. Damn...rich caramel, deep, sweet fruitiness, and a pine/ slightly herbal finish...plus some booziness that is expected (and welcomed by this guy).

IMO, this is where this beer truly shines...it's like liquid velvet dancing on my tongue (and I mean that in a very, very good way). Silky, creamy, chewy...perfect.

I enjoy this beer. I really do. At the end of the day, a 12 oz bottle would be best, I think (or somebody to share with). About 16 oz through the bottle and it's just getting a bit too sweet for me...it's been there for a few ounces, actually. This is a fine example of an American Barleywine that should be tried.

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Photo of jdb8507
4.27/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The smell- incredible. At first, very sweet smelling- hints of pineapple. The taste is a 180...malty and strong taste with a coffee taste at the end.

A very complex beer. I taste/smell trying to figure out more and more things.

Maybe not my favorite style of beer, but I can certainly recognize this as being an amazing beer.

For such a strong beer, it finishes very abruptly, leaving you with just a tad of malt.

I wish the bitterness was cut with something a bit softer/sweeter, but not overwhelming.

Overall, incredible.

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Photo of CourteManche
4.54/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served from a 22oz bottle into a snifter.

A -- Murky, cloudy, dark brownish color. Some apparent sediment. Looks like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Minimal, fingernail's-width head, but retains well. Minimal lacing. Slight carbonation.

S -- Malts. Fruits. Sweet coffee / caramel toffee. Subdued hops. No heat.

T -- Wow, taste deviates from the nose - Fun! Even more fruits on a foundation of well-balanced malts and hops. Complex. Cherries. Hints of butterscotch, bitter hops and some heat on the finish. Bit of a linger.

M -- Medium-bodied, syrupy. Not much carbonation. Burps smell good.

D -- Complex and fun. Big beer, high ABV. Might be hard to come by.

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Photo of comfortablynumb1
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled on Dec 29, 2009...

Poured from a 650ml into a Canada pint glass...

A - Pours mahogany with a two finger tan head. Good amount of head retention and lacing to be had here...

S - Pick up a good amount of hoppy notes. Also pick up caramel, citrus fruits, and a faint scent of alcohol...

T - Sweet caramel malts are the first to make an appereance. Grapefruit and pineapple follow. Ends on bitter hop note with some pine lingering in the after taste. Pick up a little heat in the finish as it start to warms, but nothing that is over the top, or distracting from the balance of the other flavors...

M - Nice and thick with mild to medium amount of carbonation...

D - A little hoppy for my tastes, but still a solid brew. Definitely not something that is going to be my rotation, but something I could see myself drinking again if the situation was right...


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Photo of jault52
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter from a bomber.

Very pretty dark amber with a bubbly head that quickly recedes. Great lacing.

Sweet malty smell, with some hops coming through.

Tastes just like it smells, with the hop bitterness coming through at the end. Very good.

I like this one. Another great effort by Great Divide, they can do no wrong.

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Photo of Pellinore1
4.33/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very nice reddish amber, producing about a finger of white head. This eventually fades to some lacing.

The aroma is malty, caramel sweetness, balanced by citrus hops.

The hops are big in this barleywine, and they serve well to balance out the sweet malt. I taste caramel, fruit, and some spiciness, then a long bitter finish. There is a lot going on here, but it all works well together.

This is smooth and full on the tongue, and just a bit sticky.

The ABV is very well hidden, making this quite a drinkable barleywine.

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Photo of nataku00
4.3/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap poured into a snifter. Beer is a dark amber, mostly clear, with a thing soapy off white head on the pour. Not too much head rebuilds after swirling, just at the surface really, leaving very light lacing that slides back into the beer. Some light carbonation visible through the beer, slowly ascending from the bottom of the glass.

Nose has a strong citrus hops, grapefruit peel mostly, with some of the bitter pith as well. Dark caramel sweetness tries to balance the hops, some biscuit malts as well.

Citrus and a strong malty backbone plays well together on the tongue. Bitter citrus peel hops upfront, mellowing into the malty sweetness, caramelized sugar and sugar cookies come to mind. Lingering citrus hops on the tongue and back of the throat helps to remind you what you're drinking as alcohol warmth keeps you to small sips.

Medium bodied, bordering on syrupy if not for faint carbonation trying its hardest to lighten things up. Alcohol isn't present on the tongue, but the warmth in your throat reminds you that you're drinking a very big beer.

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Photo of rawfish
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Two and a half finger, beige seafoam head that recedes slowly. Pours a beautiful amber red hue. A gem.

S: Big malt notes on the front, caramel, toffee and sweet dark fruit like bread pudding. Patchy citrus hops and a whiff of alcohol on the backend.

T & M: Exceptionally smooth, with none of the alcoholic bite. Matches the nose perfectly on both fronts, sweet malt a toasted raisin bread combined with light caramel. Sweetness permeates the front with a big hop kick at the finish which sticks for a while with lasting bitterness. Leaves a dry feeling that ranges from soapy to refreshing depending on where it is felt.

D: This much alcohol should not be so drinkable, exceptionally smooth sipper, the flavor masks the booze so well.

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Photo of aasher
2.46/5  rDev -41.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This bottle was 2010 vintage. This beer poured a burnt amber in color with a one finger soapy looking off white head. The aromas were off. There were some dark fruits and a whole lot of malt. I think that this was possibly consumed a little too fresh and needed time to figure itself out. The flavors too were a mess. It was far too sweet and had a lot of molasses and candied sugars going on. The hops were still present but there was an onslaught of malt. This didn't really relate to any American Barleywines I've enjoyed in the past. It wasn't very good at all and left behind a bitter aftertaste. Like all of Great Divides beers it had the dry and sudsy mouthfeel, feeling like you had coated the inside of your mouth with soap. This has got to be one of the least enjoyable barleywines I've tired. I'd be willing to give an older bottle a try, but this '10 was just not my kind of barleywine.

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Photo of obrike
4.42/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bought a bomber from Spec's in Round Rock, 2/7/11.

Beautiful burnt amber color, gave it a hard pour...nice fluffy off-white head that lasted a few minutes then faded, leaving a sticky lacing as a drank.

Delicious smelling brew...spicy, hoppy, dark fruits. I like the smell better than the Bigfoot i had the other night.

Very tasty...reminds me of a DIPA...uber hoppy, resiny.

More carbonation in this than in the Bigfoot in my opinion,...a very dry, sweet finish.

Big beer...very big...but oh so good. One in a sitting is just fine. I'll certainly be getting this one again.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.2 out of 5 with 2,464 ratings
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