Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

2,461 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

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,461 |  Reviews: 1,110
Photo of ChadQuest
4.4/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter paired with 4 personally selected wisconson cheeses and crackers.

A-Amber colored with a lingering finger of head. nice lacing.

S-tropical fruit,caramel apple, and kettle moraine pine forest.

T- strong hops over a smooth caramel backbone that holds it all together. The hop/malt war is balanced perfectly for an american barleywine. Alcohol is hidden well.

M- Creamy and smooth, not quite syrupy but thicker and slick.

D- Drinkable for a 10% american barley wine thanks to how smooth and creamy the mouthfeel is, but very filling.

Awesome American Barley wine that sets the standard for me. To other Barley wines, good luck.

 652 characters

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

A-Pours copper in color with a decent off white head that faded fairly quick and left decent lacing.

S-The booze is noticeable, but not in a bad way. Caramel malts and piney hops.

T-Carmel malt and piney hops are both noticeable with some brown sugar and fruit. Nice balance here and the alcohol is hardly noticeable.

M-In between medium and full bodied. Carb level is not too high or too low. Just right. Somewhat creamy and chewy but has a dry finish.

D-Surprisingly drinkable for a big beer, but one is enough.

American Barleywines are one of my favorite styles and this is a good one. I've had better, but this is definitely worth a try if you like the style.

 669 characters

Photo of wd40
4.05/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown appearance with lots of sediment, making it very cloudy. Interestingly herbal aroma with sweet maple syrup undertones. Very bitter hoppy flavor. Herbal hops left lots of hops. Linger bitterness hurts drinkability a little, but still great. Were the finish a little drier, I think the overall taste and drinkability would be enhanced. Still a good brew, and worth having.

 381 characters

Photo of bonsreeb85
4.77/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Off white head forms from a hard our into my snifter and sits on top of a murky brown/tawny colored body with black cherry highlights when backlit.

The nose gives way to a huge wave of citrus hops backed by booze saturated fruits and caramel.

Every thing I look for in taste is present. after the initial rush of candy-like sweetness, the hops cling tight and never let go. finishes boozey and bitter.

Big body on this bad boy(thats a lot of Bs). slick and smoothh with a moderate to low amount of C02.

Possibly the best example of an American BW that I've tried. I'm thankful this is a local treasure.

 606 characters

Photo of MOB210SA
4.88/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Huge, rich slowly creeping up 2 finger head that retains well and looks absolutly great for a decently high ABV barley-wine.

Nose and taste is great. Thick and creamy huge hoppiness. Stong eminating hoppiness with a strong caramel backdrop. Complex and balanced. Bold and Sweet. Almost candy like, but not syrupy. {Probably the best barley-wine ive ever had.}

Super smooth silky mouthfeel. Almost feels as if it melts in your mouth. Phenomenal mouthfeel.

Drinkability, this couldnt be any better.

This was a favorite of mine a long while ago. Still as great as I remember.

 577 characters

Photo of Lunch
4.4/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served on-tap at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, MD (01/11/10). Served in a 12oz. snifter at a slighty colder than desired temperature, but allowed to warm just slightly.

A: Pours a slightly hazy dark copper with a reddish hue. Capped off with a 1.5 finger off-white head with nice retention and lacing.

S: Strong hop presence up from with nice citrus and piney tones. A strong sweet caramel malt helps to round out this American Barleywine with notes of toffee.

T: Intensely rich flavor with pine and citrus hops hitting the palate first and quickly engulfed in a caramel/toffee malt. This is a big, yet well-balanced beer. The hops add a bit of bitterness and some grassy qualities into the finish.

M: Full-bodied and oily with creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation.

D: Very well-balanced, but still extremely intense. The 10.2% abv. is hidden quite well, but it is still there.

Overall I have had this beer several times from the bottle and I must say that this on-tap version is the way to drink the beer. The mouthfeel is much thicker and creamy as well as a more abundant hop profile. Don't get me wrong, you can't go wrong either way, but on-tap has the edge. Another great beverage from Great Divide. Recommended.

 1,228 characters

Photo of jsh420
4.31/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

bottle has no dating but i now i have aged it for over 1 year

pours couldy ruby orange with a big pillow 2+ finger head had great retention and covered the glass with lacing

smells of carmel toffee and pine

taste just like the nose - sweet toffee and carmel malts some dark fruit balanced by the earthy piney hops that have mellowed some over time

mouthfeel is a medium heavy body but still has a smooth and slick feel to it

drinkability is good but i did need some help with this bomber - wish they sold this in 12oz

 523 characters

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

New review July 24, 2011. 22oz bottled Jan 8, 2009...about 2.5 years old. Let’s see how this does with some age. Served at cellar temp.

Pours red/copper with a three finger beige head that leaves some spots of lacing and holds a nice creamy cap.

Aroma is caramel, toffee, brown sugar, some dark fruits, wood, bread & toast, some earthy hops as well still lingering on. Very good strength.

Flavor is rich toffee & caramel, brown sugar, dark fruits, wood, vanilla, some hop notes of citrus & grass are present as well as some warming alcohol. Fairly sweet with some moderate bitterness.

Mouthfeel is medium/full, creamy, a bit oily, with low to moderate carbonation.

A very tasty barleywine that I feel could go even longer. I’ll pick up some more for some extended aging for sure.

Original review Feb 25, 2008:
Pours a murky dark red/copper with very little head. Quite sweet on the nose and tongue from the caramel malts, but mixed nicely with the hops for some bitterness. Creamy, and a little sticky on the mouthfeel. Finishes relatively dry considering what it’s like up front.. Alcohol taste is completely hidden, but this one can knock you out! Couldn’t finish the bomber or write a review on night #1 with ’Ol Ruffian due to it’s effects, and am instead having to do so tonight with the leftovers...
Aroma 3.5, Appearance 3, Taste 4, Palate 3, Overall 4, Score 3.75

 1,389 characters

Photo of drabmuh
3.98/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Great minds drink alike.

Poured from a bottle dated Dec. 4, 2009, into a Stone Arrogant Bastard glass. Beer is brownish and hazy, forms a yellowish / brown head of small to medium bubbles. Head has some staying power but not really. Ends up broken and diffuse but leaves lacing on the glass.

The aroma is less than I expected but its fine. Caramel, a hint of hops, lots of malt.

Beer is well balanced. I can't drink a beer like this very quickly though. Full bodied, almost like I'm chewing it, a nice strong bitterness and a lot of malt character in the front. Caramel and a nice sweetness up front. Slightly bready overall great. I enjoyed it a lot.

 654 characters

Photo of sneth019
4.57/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sooo good
Smooth Yet Soo complex
one of best barley-wines Ive had
so drinkable not overpowering
has a hint of pine and a nutty aftertaste
Great Lacing, stays while you drink
Gives great warming feeling
Great off the tap

Bought a bomber to age after I had it on tap....
Highly recommend

 288 characters

Photo of ktrillionaire
4.45/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

G – The highly recommended Duvel tulip.

A – Great red-amber hue, nice foamy head with splattered lacing.

S – Boozy, toffee-ish and piney. Especially quite hoppy, but all of the aromatic elements are assertive.

T – Nutty barley, warm alcohol buzz with a strong piney herbal, citric and resiny hop, clean sweetness on the finish. Amazing taste.

M – A tad sticky, but not unusually so for the style, nice carbonation for a sharp bite, very clean finish.

D – One of the best drinking for the style.

This beer is nice to sip over a two-day period, assuming you have the bomber. If you have wine cork, just jam it in there after pouring up a snifter. It'll be good tomorrow.


I had a three to four year old bottle. Better than new, mellower malt in the taste, still aggressive hop. Awesome! (I didn't change my scoring, however.)

 874 characters

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

Poured from a 650ml bottle into a Duvel tulip. Bottled on date of 12/10/09 on bottom right of label. It was a rich burgundy color with carb streams from the etching only. It had a large two finger off-white head that slowly dissipated into a foam cap and thick collar. Good sticky lace.

The aroma was excellent and best of the AmBW's that I've had so far. Heavy on hops with grapefruit, pine and c-hops but also a good deal of pineapple, brown sugar and caramel. Well balanced. The taste was also well balanced between hops and malt. The sweet of the malt starts it off then the hops rapidly kick in for a nice smooth hop finish. Very well done. Mouthfeel is nice and creamy with good carbonation and slightly dry finish.

Overall, an excellent beer and the best AmBW that I've had. Smooth and easy to drink with good hops that are well balanced by the malt. You feel the ABV at then end a bit but never smell it or taste. Most highly recommend. Worthy of the T100 rank. Rotation - avail here in TX in bottle and tap at FS/GM. I've had at the brewery on tap and finally got around to reviewing it. Should have done sooner as this will earn a spot in the occasional rotation.

 1,176 characters

Photo of Pahn
4.45/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into Duvel tulip. No bottled on date to be found.

Appearance: 1/2 inch bone white head dissipates steadily into a small bubbly pile of foam. Decent lacing and wine-like legs. Color is a very warm and dark orange, reddish and brownish. Opaque from haze.

Smell: Deep brown sugar and caramel, fresh bread, and some less pronounced notes creeping in the background (I think I got some apple and grassiness hiding alongside the bread and sugar).

Taste: First sip: smooth, juicy start with a strong and bready taste of brown sugar and caramel, then a pleasant explosion of hop bitterness. Hot alcohol finish. This is a perfectly balanced, classic American barley wine; big malt, big hops, deep and complex caramel/candy flavor profile, some hot alcohol, with nothing overshadowing anything else.

The beginning of each sip has the mildest of hop bitterness and a slight prickle of carbonation on the top of the tongue. Then the full, bready and sweet malt flavors bloom, then comes a bomb of not-just-bitter-but-flavorful hops which proceed to dance back and forth with the malt until the alcohol heat shuts down the dance leaving a pleasant warmth with some sweet malt breadiness sticking around for the aftertaste. Perfect.

Mouthfeel: Juicy then creamy, punchy hops and subdued carbonation, then boozy heat and an ever so slightly chewy finish. On a personal note, for me, this beer has the perfect carbonation; a bit player in the taste and feel--not at all soda-like, but just enough to punch up the experience.

Drinkability: While this beer doesn't hide its ABV, it's so well-balanced and delicious that the only impediment to drinkability is simple drunkenness; it's not too heavy, nor too sweet, nor too bitter, nor too anything. Plainly not to be pounded, but no reason not to sip multiple bottles over a long period of time.


This beer speaks for itself. All I'll say in summary is that if you even remotely like American barley wines and haven't tried it, do so. If I had to suggest 1 beer to introduce someone to American barley wine, it would be this one.

Another amazing offering by Great Divide (their Hibernation has been my go-to beer for the last month or so). If I lived in Denver, I'd be a fixture in their tap room.

 2,256 characters

Photo of sweemzander
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into a snifter. No bottled date found.

(A)- Pours a cloudy brown, yet red mahogany color that produced a solid tan to off-yellow head with good retention. Left some bits of lacing behind as it dissipated.

(S)- Deep & rich fruits of figs, raisins, and cherries with toasted toffee, caramel, and honey. Bits of cinnamon biscuits. Finishes very dry & woody.

(T)- Wow! Ridiculously dry! It totally dried out my entire mouth with bittering woody hops, but immediately morphs into an array of complexities: Under-ripe cherries, figs, raisins, and toasted toffee, yet with a still constant underlying dryness throughout.

(M)- A great carbonation level with an overall good balance. Just massively dry. A relatively good alcohol integration with only a minor warmth as it went down.

(D)- This barleywine means serious buisness! Pretty massive on all levels, yet by no means overpowering. This is an excellent example of the style!
I would definitely share this with a friend though, because this bottle kicked my ass once I finished it! This beer could age for many many more years considering how it is at this stage. I just wish I knew how old this one actually is; its still got tons of power behind.

 1,226 characters

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

Poured into a Duvel glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically. The 2007 version in a 22 oz bottle.

Appearance: As poured the beer is a lightly hazy caramel brown color with a 2" light tan head that soon recedes to a ring around the glass and an island of foam in the middle of a thin layer over the surface. The foam clings to the glass and sipping leaves behind patches and rings of foam and lots of tiny speckles. Even towards the end of the beer there are still sticky sheets of foam on the sides of the glass and sipping leaves behind scattered speckles of lacing.

Smell: The aroma is full of caramel and toffee from the malt backbone, along with pine and traces of grapefruit from the hops, even two years after bottling. As the beer warms the hop character recedes into the background and becomes harder to detect.

Taste: The flavors include the things predicted from the nose--caramel, grapefruit zest, and pine, but there is more. There is a fruity character in here that reminds me a bit of cherries. There is no really presence of the alcohol except for its warming effects. As the beer warms the flavors from the hops become more subdued as the malt becomes more assertive. Lots of complexities in this flavor.

Mouthfeel: The mouth feel is full bodied and sticky but with a soft silky feeling and moderate persistent carbonation that tickles the tongue and mouth. The long finish begins with caramel almost, but not quite, dominating the hops. Then the toffee flavored sweetness of the backbone fades more rapidly than the grapefruit and pine resin bitterness of the hops. That bitterness is forward for a while and then simply fades off into a dryness that cries out for another sip.

Drinkability: This is a first rate American style Barleywine and I hate to come to the end of it. This one is dangerously drinkable at its high ABV. I'm sure I'll be having this one again and I'm already mentally adding it to my shopping list.

 1,966 characters

Photo of Blitzstyle
4.19/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a my new DFH glass. Color is a muddeled brownish color, with a small big bubble head and some good sticky lace.

Smelled of heavy citrus and pine hops but a big caramell sweetness that provides great balance in the scent. Alcohol is present but minor.

A great mixing of bitterness and sweetness. Cirtus hops that have a really strong front taste, but a pine like finish to them. Caramell sweetness dominates the finish of the beer. Alcohol is well hidden in here but is detectable.

Sweet aftertaste medium heavy body, thick and creamy. Has a bit of a warming feeling to it. Really nice balance to the beer alcohol is well hidden very drinkable barleywine.

 689 characters

Photo of cyraxx
4.26/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - In a word, beautiful. A rocky off-white rocky head sits atop a lovely ruby-red body. One of the prettiest beers I've had the pleasure of drinking.

S - Sweet and hops. The citrus hops seem to dominate but there is a definite caramel malt sweetness underneath.

T - Hop overload upfront that lingers on the back of the tongue as the caramel/fruitiness comes through.

M - I like my barleywines to have some body, so I was hoping that they'd be able to give me something in the terms of their Yeti. Not as thick as I'd like, but definitely has something to it. You know you're drinking a barleywine.

D - Fairly drinkable for the style, but as it warms up the alcohol becomes more prevalent and cuts down the drinkability a bit for me.

 737 characters

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

Served at the Great Divide Tap Room in a snifter.

A: Deep copper, with nice clarity and mild carbonation. A frothy cream cap has decent retention and leaves lots of lace.

S: Heavy on the hops, with a lot of citrus, pine and even a touch of anise. Malts are there with aromas of toffee and toasted bread. Alcohol adds a bit of a tingle.

T: The bittersweet toffee starts things out, but is quickly replaced by a rush of bitterness. Pine is the predominant theme, but grapefruit and pepper are at work as well. Alcohol adds a nice warmth, but is otherwise well masked.

M: The slightly thick body is lighter than I was expecting. Carbonation feels right on.

D: This is a very nice barleywine. My sample was fresh from the 2009 vintage. It felt like it could stand some aging to even out the rough edges, but was quite nice given its youth. I'll revisit this one again.

 869 characters

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

I poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a snifter. It pours a deep caramel, with a big sticky white head. The aroma was hop forward with multiple layers of alternating sweetness and floral notes. The flavor was complex. Big sweet caramel notes are paired well with big piney/ citrus to create a perfectly balanced beer. The alcohol is perfectly hidden until the finish, leaving a warming taste in the back of the throat. The beer is a well made, full bodied sipper. Perhaps the best barleywine I have had.

 502 characters

Photo of bsp77
4.37/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is the Jan '09 release, so about a year old.

Serving glass: Poured from bomber into Snifter.

Appearance: Dark reddish-orange with thin tan head and some spotty lacing.

Smell: Big Barleywine malt smell (caramel, plum, butterscotch) with citrus and pepper bitterness creeping in and overtaking everything else. Strong alcohol aroma as it warms.

Taste: Slightly sweet upfront with caramel, butterscotch, figs, plum and other dark fruit. Then it turns nasty (in a good way), with a very spicy and slightly citrusy bitterness that is almost overwhelming. Almost.

Feel: Low carbonation, thick and creamy body, warming, mouth wrenchingly bone dry finish.

Drinkability: Similar to Bigfoot, but maybe a notch better. Great Barleywine, but still a little hard to drink too much of it.

 785 characters

Photo of Tone
3.96/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a hazy, dark copper color. 1/2 inch head of a pale tan color. Great retention and great lacing. Smells of alcohol, hint of yeast, slight hops, strong sweet malt, dark citrus, and strong caramel malt. Fits the style of an American Barleywine. Mouth feel is smooth and crisp with an average carbonation level. Tastes of alcohol (strong), slight roasted malt, slight hop, yeast, and strong sweet malt. Overall, a strong alcohol, good blend, body, and aroma.

 460 characters

Photo of jhammel01
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark dark ruby red into glass mug with a great sticky thick head. The head sticks around forever. Its a bit off white and very dense. Tons of lacing..

Smells of ALCOHOL! tons of it...also a bit of hoppiness that seems the most prominent. Some caramel and citrus from the hops as well.

The taste up front is bittering hops. Not much other than the bitterness of the hops, not oily but alot of some citrus, almost "soapy". Also heavy amounts of malt. Tastes like roasted malts to be honest. A good mix of two bittering things.

The mouthfeel is tingly, a bit thick-full bodied. Its very good.

Definitely, a great beer for a cold night. I'm enjoying this one quite a bit.

 679 characters

Photo of luchris80
3.92/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasting Notes: Stored in wine fridge and served in a snifter

Aroma: Prominent hop nose with a slight hint of caramelly malt. A bit of dark fruit aroma present (prune, raisin, etc). Some noticeable alcohol.

Appearance: Copper to brown in color with a slight hint of red. Solid, off-white head with fairly quick dissipation. Good clarity - bubbles can be seen rising.

Flavor: Fairly strong and lingering bitterness. The alcohol is not quite as strong as aroma implies. Tiny bit of malt (caramel) flavor. Long, but pleasant finish with good hoppy bitterness. The higher alcohol content is well balanced with the hop flavor(s).

Mouthfeel: Smooth and velvety on the palate. Alcohol warmth is present, but not excessive.

Overall Impressions: This is the first barleywine that I can recall having. Really a very enjoyable drinking experience that gets even better as the beer warms towards room temperature. The good hop bitterness is typical of the American Barleywine style (from what I have read). I would certainly (buy and) drink again.

 1,039 characters

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

1 Pint 6 Fl. Oz. poured into pint glass. Served 50-55 F.
A: Dirt red brown. No apparent CO2 bubbles. Pours 1/2 inch thick yellow slightly brown head, retains a good amount. Leaves thick bubbly lace.
S: Citrus filled fruity hops, caramel, and I can smell it from a far.
T: Bitterness is accompanied with by citrus and fruit. Toasted malts balance hop presence. Alcohol presence is welcoming.
M: Great on tongue, sweeping warmth, and it is complete from front to back.
D: Super hoppy, super malty, and appreciable alcohol content. Everything blends well and makes for a great Barleywine.

 585 characters

Photo of NittanyBeerFan
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown murky appearance that produces a rich ruby color when held up to light. Thin head with fairly good retention. Lacing comes in a delicate pattern with little gobs of bubbles.

S: Sweet, malty, and an aroma of piney hops. Not even a hint of alcohol heat after one year in the cellar.

T: Sticky malts and resinous piney hops. The initial flavor is sweet with notes of toffee malts. Fruity notes of dates and other dark fruits. Finish has a hint of residual hop bitterness among rich caramel malt.

M/D: Smoothly textured with a sticky malty finish. Far less heavy than the style and alcohol content lead on. Very drinkable, but the alcohol catches up quickly.

 671 characters

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,461 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.