Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
2,476 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: 2,476 |  Reviews: 1,114
Photo of jlindros
4.25/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had as part of the Central New England BA Meetup #2.

A: Light creamy white head fades as a slower but not too slow rate, over a hazy brownish kinda purple colored muddy looking liquid.

N: Sweet creamy malts hits quite a bit, very malty. Some hops and spicy hop characteristics. With that comes some brown sugar and molasses, and overall sweetness. A nice hop presence blended pretty well with a sweet malty tone.

T: Some sweet malts hit first, lots of chewy thick malts that is. Then comes some bitterness, with spicy hops and some chewy hop tastes. More chewy malts come in layers and add a touch of boozy taste. Some fruity flavors, dried figs, dates, raisins, and all dark dried fruits really. A slight creamy malt flavor. We compared it to an older one (no dates or vintages printed) but by the time it was purchased and look and taste if it we could tell it was older. The older one seemed to dull quite a bit on all accounts, and just meld to a consistent muddy sweet malty beverage.

M: Semi thick with decent carbonation.

F: Lingering bitterness which is pretty nice, and adds a slightly spicy hoppy bitter hop flavor. Some sweetness but still dries well, a strange description I know but its hard to really get the taste right. The maltiness lingers a bit with some added molasses flavor and dried fruits lingering. The bitterness comes through nicely at this point too. The booze doesn't seem @ 10%, but definitely seems more than 8% so hidden but not completely.

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Photo of ChrisPro
3.52/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle bottled on 12/22/09 tasted blind on 3/11/10.

Pours beautiful ruby with bubbly tan head and good lacing. Aroma of pine, caramel and licorice. Nice rich sweet flavor with a balanced bitterness. Medium body, good carbonation, a little oily, but a bit boozy. Would love to have this with a little age.

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Photo of kbeals
4.28/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I believe this was an '07 vintage.

A- 22 oz. bomber decanted into a snifter results in a murky, reddish brown colored brew. A finger of thick, soapy off-white head sits atop. Excellent head retention with thin lacing makes this a fantastic looking beer.

S- Tons of vanilla and caramel with even a dose of piney hops. This came as a surprise given its age. A bit of booze comes through as it warms, but it's very pleasant overall.

T- Wonderfully complex with loads of vanilla and caramel coming through. A bit of booziness, and good doses of hops. This beer finishes off a bit dry. Again, this came as a surprise.

M- Deliciously smooth and heavy bodied. A bit of carbonation.

D- Definitely drinkable, but the dryness of the flavor wears on me a little bit. Doesn't go real good with the sweetness of the vanilla and caramel.

This was an incredible brew. Now I just need to find a few more and line these up for a vertical.

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Photo of ryanonline
4.13/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A nice cloudy orange red pour with a giant fluffy tan head. Good lacing.

Malty and hoppy. Caramel like malt and piney hops. Smells more like a dipa than a barleywine.

Still the same in the taste. Very sweet malt and a nice grapefruit like hop presence.

Very viscous mouthfeel. Light carbonation, dry lasting finish.

This is a big beer, I don't think I Could have morenthan a couple.

Good beer. I've been really into barleywines lately, and this is very tasty, though not necessarily an ideal example of the style.

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Photo of ndekke39
4.5/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tried a 22 oz. bomber of this, decanted into pint glasses. Beautiful pour: rich, reddish brown with a fluffy off-white head. Great retention. Aromas of bready, sweet and piny hops. Taste is the same: nice balance of the sweet maltiness with rich hops. Fairly thick mouthfeel - appropriate to the flavors and aromas. The alcohol creeps up you, so watch out. Otherwise, this is a delicious barleywine - one I will gladly return to in the future!

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Photo of dasenebler
4.22/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bomber lacking a bottling date, but that shouldn't be a problem with this big boy beer.

Pours a rich, slightly hazy brown with a nice dense head. Good lacing.

Aroma is big and complex with notes of dark fruit, molasses, rich dark malts and alcohol.

Flavor is quite good, if a bit overpowering-- maybe I haven't had enough experience with barleywines. I do like it though. A super rich malt backbone is balanced by a hefty bitterness that lingers and lingers. Pretty well-balanced but still potent. Flavors of anise, burnt caramel, roast, and vinous alcohol blend nicely. Mouthfeel is exquisite. Super resinous and velvety with just the right amount of carbonation to enhance the creaminess. Obviously a sipper at ten plus percent, but I am still very impressed with the quaff.

A big, bad barleywine that doesn't play nice.

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Photo of Mora2000
4.32/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to hudsonphotog for sharing this bottle. I have tried it many times but this is the first time I have reviewed it.

Bottled 1/8/09 and drank 2/27/10.

Pours a hazy amber color with a large off-white head. The aroma is complex, with brown sugar, caramel and dark fruit. The flavor is brown sugar, hop bitterness, caramel, dark fruit and molasses. Medium, very smooth mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

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Photo of Trueant1
4.28/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick pancake batter like head. Lost of haziness stirring around in the glass. Dark orange brown color. Exceptional looks in the glass.
Smelled up the whole room upon opening. Sweet molassis and sweet bread smells. Great!

Not an overly bitter barley wine, but just enough to be in your face. The alcohol and hop bitterness is three to one over the malts that are in the background. The malts are like molassis candy. Every thing works with this huge brew.
A sipper.
Mouthfeel is somewhat dry for this style. A bitter tinge stays on the tongue and pallet for quite a long time. After three minutes your mouth is begging for more.
Great brew, great brewery.

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

22 oz bottle. 7 bucks from Beer Run in Charlottesville. This is a 12/09 bottle.

Appearance: Clear, dark ruby colored. Thick, frothy light tan colored head. Surprisingly good head retention. The big head leaves nice lacing.

Smell: Lots of hops. Sweet and citrusy. Pine resiny. Caramelly malt and brown sugar. Its pretty amazing to smell so much malt and so much hops at the same time. There's definitely alcohol here too.

Taste: Sweet up front, bitter in the back. Big caramel sweetness and sweet citrusy hops flavors followed by quite a bit of hoppy and alcoholic bitter bite on the back. After you swallow, sweetness washes over your tongue again. I think I will like this even better when it mellows.

Mouthfeel: This is a big mouthfeel, but it is different from many barleywines. It is very smooth and soft in the mouth. Not thick and syrupy, but like a big mouthful of cotton candy that melts away.

Drinkability: Well, this is a great barleywine. It smells and tastes great and feels insanely smooth and silky. Its also not too expensive. Delicious.

11/27/11- Another 12/09 bottle. Still surprisingly hoppy and bitter at two years. Rich and fruity. The last bottle can wait one more year.

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Photo of zoso493
4.9/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz. bomber that was bottled on 12/29/2009 into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, deep, dark and hazy burnt garnet color that lights up to a radiant amber when held up to the light. The beer is crowned by a massive three-finger, offwhite head that has very good retention and leaves only trace amounts of lacing on the glass.

Smell: This a wonderful- and interesting-smelling barleywine, in my opinion. A huge plume of hops meets your nose first, followed by some hot, port-like alcohol. The hops make this brew smell like thick, resinous pine sap. There is also a big caramel-malt profile which is accented by some delictable brandy-soaked fruit. This is a hugely complex and powerful nose.

Taste: Smoothness is the name of the game for Old Ruffian. After the smell, you might be expecting to get blasted by the immensity of the flavors, but Old Ruffian manages to tie all the tastes together wonderfully. The hops don't play quite as central a role as in other barleywines (Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for example) but they are ever-present in the background, providing a bitter, piney and even floral counter to the huge malts.

The caramel malts are absolutely massively incorporated into this tremendous beverage. How can a brewer make this much flavorful goodness work this beautifully in a beer? It's easy to overlook just how good this beer is because of how smoothly and magnificently the tastes are blended together. In addition to the enormous caramel malts are the brandy-soaked fruits, which are a treat on their own.

Mouthfeel: Perfect. Old Ruffian is the perfectly "weighted" barleywine. The thickness of the beer is sensationally thick and appropriate to the style. Despite being so hugely flavorful and powerful, the beer just slides off your palate. The carbonation works to wick any residual flavors that might work to cloy at your palate, while still allowing the beer to retain just the right amount of body.

Drinkability: For being 10.5% alcohol, this is a very drinkable beer. Pure ethanol is very difficult to come across in the taste, but it does have some liquer-like qualities to it. Thus, even though the alcohol is not directly involved in the taste, it does have some of the "hotness" that's characteristic of alcohol. I feel ashamed to criticize an aspect of this beer, but this is what keeps it from attaining the perfect score.

Overall, this is a beautiful, beautiful beer. My criteria for a truly great beer are simply as follows: how bold and complex is a brew and how well smoothly are the flavors therein tied together. Well, Old Ruffian is brazenly bold, massively complex and effortlessly smooth. I can't compliment the brewers at Great Divide enough for this, because my eloquence cannot fairly and accurately describe how insanely great this beer is.

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Photo of brdc
3.8/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Large capped bottle, bottled 2007.

Coming from Stone, and expecting this to be a hopbomb, I have aged it for nearly three years. Poured into a snifter, it shows a glowing golden-red beer, with a very thin, short lasting off white head. Gorgeous color, would be amazing with a nicer head.
The aroma is better balanced than the flavor, sweet caramel maltiness, bread notes, grassy hoppiness. Both malts and hops come nicely out of the glass, strong and pleasant.
On the palate it feels pleasant, somewhat below full bodied. Good carbonation.
Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, this is still overhopped. The grassy and fruity hops come out on the top, overwhelming everything else on its way. The caramel is a vague recollection from the aroma.
For a major hophead, a nice barleywine. In my case, the second bottle will sleep in the cellar for about 6 years.

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Photo of goldbot
4.25/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 12/2/2009. 22 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Pours thick, orangy brown with medium, off white to tan head and good retention. Plenty of lacing on the glass.

Lots of cherry and sweet fruity aroma, with plenty of pine and herbal hoppiness. Backed by a definite caramel malt note. Some bitter hops in the flavor, a bit on the sweet side but far from cloying. Some caramel malt and grainy flavor. Very earthy and herbal overall.

Nice and creamy feel with low but pleasant carbonation. Medium body. Overall a great example of the style. Hoppy, but not overly so. The flavors all play well on each other, without much hint of the strong ABV.

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Photo of donkeyrunner
3.92/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

@ The Indie, Somerville MA.

Murky, mud color with ruby highlights--I think (it's dark in there). Arrived with a thin head that never really left, just formed a collar from which little foam vessels dispersed and reattached like ancient Greek trading ships navigating through the Mediterranean Sea. How's that for obscure.

Smells like floating through a hop forest down a malt candy river. Lots of pine and citrus hops, booze, and sweet, fruity, caramel malt. Made me think of Anchor Man when Rebecca Corningstone says "take me to pleasure town."

Taste is citrus infused, ridiculously decadent fudge and caramel. Has a boozey, mint aftertaste that is identical to Binaca breath spray--I hate that stuff.

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Photo of jampics2
4.37/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the Beer Engine. 12oz or so in a snifter.

A reddish brown liquid with a thick tan head sits infront of me. Looks great!

Smell is wonderful. Nice citrus hops remind me of grapefruit, oranges, and pineapple. Also some nice hints of the sweet barley that lies below.

Taste is great as well. Nice baked bread, caramel, and toffee. Figs and some toasted malt. Then an attack of the bitterness with huge citrus flavors and a resinous bitter element that sticks around.

Mouthfeel is good. This was creamy and smooth!

Drinkability was graded on a curve as this is obviously a huge beer. But it went down easy and was a very enjoyable barleywine that will only get better in time.

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Photo of stakem
4.17/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy brownish red color with a yellow stained head. Slight spotty lace upon the glass. Nose is full of citrus hops similar to grapefruit. Nice amount of malt sweetness filling out the rest of the aroma. Taste is better hoppy citrus like grapefruit upfront with ample malt sweetness to back it. Finishes bitter and quite boozy both in warmth and in taste. Medium to heavy feel with this beast and low amount of carbonation. Pretty good overall. Nice fresh hop and alcohol kick. Some time spent in the cellar would have worked some magic for this beer im sure.

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Photo of generalnotsew
3.94/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark hazel brown with an enormous tan frothy head.

S: Sweet biscuity chocolate malts. This is not anywhere near hop forward like Old Guardian and Bigfoot. Sadly that is what I love about those 2.

T: Hmmm. Hops are present but not nearly to my liking. Sweet, woody and earthy malts dominate the palate here with a bitter hop aftertaste. Still very enjoyable though.

M: Very nice mouthfeel. Very rich and smooth with carbonation that is not overdone.

D: Must say it is an easy drinking brew despite missing out on my hop fixation.

I am sorry but I love the hoppiness of Old Guardian and especially Bigfoot. This just does not compare. However not comparing it has it's own place as a pretty good brew. It just isn't going to be my go to barleywine.

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Photo of ale1
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another great barley wine/ale
can't contribute much more than previous reviewer, served cool medium head ,good hops/malt nose with malt finish , like the Talon barley wine, top shelf barley wine style.
Other that fall in this category that are quite good seirra nevada big foot ale

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Photo of cpetrone84
4.45/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A-hazy reddish copper color liquid with a thick tan colored head. Solid retention linger for quite some time and leaving a very nice lacing on the side of my glass

S-the nose is pretty big and quite balanced. Brown sugar and toasted biscuit are balanced by a strong hop presence. Citric hops of pineapple and a touch of bitter grapefruit

T-this is quite big in taste. Some sweet burnt caramel and bready malts lead off. Big resignous pine hops take over only to let a slight bit of citric and herbal hops come in towards the finish. Bitterness galore at the very back on what seems like a big malt DIPA.

M-this has a full body, it is thick and syrupy, almost chewy. It is very smooth and creamy, slick on the back of the throat, with a fair amount of carbonation really backing up a thick mouthfeel.

D-this is big and delicious. Very bitter and piney so hard to drink it fast and repetitive. Definitely looks like an interesting beer to cellar as it would definitely change over the years

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Photo of jbphoto88
3.75/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer looks great. Clear and deep blood ruby red with a gorgeous cap of khaki suds. Big head for a high ABV brew, always a nice thing to look at.

If I didn't pour this one myself I'd swear that someone has cut and dropped fresh pineapple into my beer. Big citrus hops and loads of malty goodness. The nose screams amazing potential.

The taste fizzles out drastically. More bitter then any actual flavor keeps the real character of this beer from shining through. I also find what bold malts make it through the astringency to be overly caramelized and too sweet for my taste. Gone are the awesome pineapple and citrus only to be replaced by stale old canned fruit flavors. A record disappointment from the nose.

However the taste isn't so bad to stop me from enjoying this beer. I actually like the bitterness and appreciate it's potency. Although I wish there were more character to the palate I find it to be a strong bodied, appropriately carbonated, easy drinking brew and that's something to be proud of with anything over 10%. After a grand start and a disappointing middle Old Ruffian finishes strong and is worth a look.

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Photo of ManVersusBeer
3.83/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Great Divide Bomber into a Great Divide, Great Minds Drink Alike Goblet. Amber orange tint with a creamy reddish head that sits atop the beer as I drink. Leaves solid lace around the glass.
Smells a lot of malt and caramel with an alcohol aroma present. There is a bit fruity molasses and date hints.
Tastes malty with sweet resin. Bit of bread and caramel flavors with a definite date sugar taste and bam! hop pine with apple/pear tartness in the back end. Alcohol is present, but smooth.
Carbonation is minimal and malty as it warms, but alcohol bite makes sure that this doesn't go down too fast. It is still easy drinking with stickiness lingering on the palate. Mmm...good.

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Photo of glid02
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Aroma's in Athens, GA. As evidenced by my bottle review I was curious to see how it stacked up.

Pours a hazy caramel-copper color with a one-finger yellowish-tinged head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of sticky caramel malts with good amounts of herbal and leafy hop aromas.

Tastes similar to how it smells, though a bit more complex. Caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined by toasty and bready flavors. Midway through the sip good amounts of leafy, pine, and herbal hop flavors join in along with hints of milk chocolate. The hop flavors take over more toward the end of the sip before ending with a solid bitterness.

Mouthfeel is very good. It's got a thicker than average mouthfeel with grainy carbonation.

Drinkability is also very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall the beer I had on-tap seemed to pop a lot more than the bottle and held a good deal more complexity. Be sure to give this one another fair shot if you weren't terribly impressed the first time around.

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Photo of cratez
4.49/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

650ml bomber shared with friends. 2008 bottle.

Pours a murky mahogany hue with dark ruby edges and a thick ring of cream coloured head.

Smell and taste are burnt caramel, biscuit, phenolic and woody aromas, roasted barley, sweet and sticky pale malts, berry-like fruitiness, and a big punch of herbal and citrusy American hops. Substantial bitterness in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is lush and full-bodied with an assertive hop bitterness that clings to the palate. Alcohol warms the insides but is not apparent in the flavour.

A bold and delicious barleywine that was well received by the entire group.

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Photo of TheFightfan1
4.42/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I got this from TRT in PA. Poured into a snifter. Pours a slightly hazy ruby color with a thick off white color heading. Lacing and heading stay intact until about the last quarter of it then turns flat.

Smell is fruity at first. Then a heavy malty - apple aroma kicks in nd then is immediatley put to rest by the overwhelming tropical fruit aroma.

Taste is ridiculously malted almost to the point where it turns sour.The bitter hops slowly take place. First numbing the teeth then leaving a heavy linger on the palate. Also finishes very warm in the belly with that same lingering hoppiness.

Very heavy in the mouth if that makes sense.Excellent bubbliness on the tongue and again a helluva linger of hops.

Drink is a bit much for a good sessionable beer but is an excellent tasting beer. Superb.

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

Bomber dated December 10, 2009

Old Ruffian pours a dark coppery amber, clear with ruby highlights, a big creamy off white head and loads of nice lacing.

Big hops and big caramel malts come through in the aroma.

The flavor is big and deep, full of huge citrusy hops, buttered toast, caramels, toffee, a bit of pine, grapefruit zest, orange and ripe preserved figs and a bit of honey. Bitterness is quite prominent but well backed by a big malt sweetness. The finish is long and ends bitter while the alcohol is well hidden in the flavor but noticed in a pleasant warming in the mouth.

Mouthfeel is full, creamy carbonation and silky smooth on the finish.

Great Divide makes wonderful beers and Old Ruffian is no exception. Great fresh but I can only imagine what it's like aged, this is perhaps my favorite Barleywine now!

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Photo of darklordlager
3.71/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark ruby colour, with an abundant medium-tan head exuding a dark orange hue. Shows great retention too.

S: Sweet citrusy hops paired dark fruit. Some grainy two-row can be detected underneath the monstrous caramel as well.

T: Lots of caramel malt, some dark fruit and citrusy hops up front and in the middle, receding into a pleasant cleansing hop bitterness. Sweet caramel malt stays in the finish as well.

M: Medium carbonation, slightly syrupy mouthfeel. A bit creamy.

D: A good American Barleywine for sure--not the most complex, but very smooth.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.2 out of 5 with 2,476 ratings