Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
2,475 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

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Ratings: 2,475 |  Reviews: 1,113
Photo of MbpBugeye
4.29/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Really pretty looking beer. Lots of head that never really goes away. Lots of lacing too. Its a semi-hazy ruby red colored beer. Basically the same shade of red thats on the label. Quite nice lookin stuff.

S- Kinda faint. But there are big malts and big hops. Floral and fruity hops. Really nice caramel notes from the malts.

T- Wow really nice, especially after it has been sitting in my snifter for a while. Starts out malty sweet. Caramel and dark fruits like cherries and berries. Then the hops come in. They are mostly citrusy and juicy. There is a slight bit of spice from the alcohol. There is a lot of complexity in this beer.

M- Light carbonation. Fairly big and chewy. Goes down really smooth.

D- Not HUGE on alcohol but its still there. Its warming, as a good barleywine should be. At $5.99 this beer is one hell of a deal. That certainly helps the drinkability here.

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

Blood orange color and a creamy off-white head.

Big nose, but very balanced between malt, hop, and alcohol. A bit of fruit and pine forest.

Powerful bitterness spread evenly across the palate, softened by a reasonable amount of sweetness. Tasty, but the bitterness obscures some of the complexity that I know is lurking in this beer. Still, outstanding as a different kind of hop fix.

Velvety, and even a bit sticky, but kept lively by the carbonation and bitterness.

About as fun and easy to drink as a barleywine gets. I'm sure this is a completely different beer in a few years.

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Photo of billab914
4.33/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into my Dogfish head snifter. Pours a dark amber, slightly brown color with a thin bubbly white covering on top. It has a very nice head on it compared to other similar strength Barley wines, and it left excellent lacing as well.

Aroma big on both malt and hops. There is a good amount of caramel and toffee coming from the malts, which is very appealing. The taste is malty as well with a lot of caramel malt. It has a pretty strong bitterness from the hops that helps balance it out.

Mouthfeel is on the thicker side and slightly creamy, the carbonation is relatively low giving it a very nice mouthfeel for the style. Drinkability is good considering the abv %, and I really enjoyed this on a cold winter night. This is a very nicely made and delicious straight forward Barley wine. It was very tasty but it also scored major points with me in the look and mouthfeel categories especially.

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Photo of kiddynamite920
4.25/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 Vintage picked up at Capones. Poured into an oversized snifter.

A: Probably the best looking barleywine I've come across. Beautiful thick and foamy head that rebuilds with each swirl of the glass. Nice, deep brownish amber. Very dark with not much light getting through. Not much lacing going on.

S: Although near 3 years old, the hops are very present here. I can only imagine how hoppy this barleywine is when fresh. Has a sweet alcohol aroma and is quite malty and complex. Caramel and molasses are noticed. Also very nice citrusy hops, and a touch of floral hops. Alcohol presence seems to have subsided.

T: Very hop forward barleywine, bitterness seems to take most of the palate. The sweetness of the malts hit the tip of the tongue as the back of the tongue is hit by bitter hops. Has an oaky/smokey flavor that I don't know what to attribute to. Each sip seems to provide different flavors, very interesting. Haven't experienced a BW like this that hits you first with sweetness and finishes with a roasty bitterness.

M: Expected this to be a bit thinner, since its a hop forward BW. Just an inch thin. I feel that if this beer was a touch thicker, the balance between malts and hops would be smoother. Since its swirls around the mouth so easy, the bitterness surrounds the palate.

D: A very drinkable barleywine, but the bitterness makes it a slow drinker. Have a feeling I won't be through this over the course of this hockey game on tonight.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. From a 22oz. bomber.

A - Pours a gorgeous dark red with a nice .5 inch head that recedes pretty quick and leaves a nice thin film.

S - Sweet alcoholic esters with some fresh resiny piney hops. There is also a nice caramel and candy sugar malt backbone. Very complex nose which

T - Very sweet and malty. Caramel and some hints of honey. A nice hop pine finish that is faint but is solid and present. A nice dry finish with an alcoholic warmth. This is a very good beer and I personally enjoy a more balanced Barleywine. This one is a bit on the sweet malty side. Still a good offering. The beer goes well with spicy food IMO.

M - Very creamy and smooth an absolute delight.

D - Not so high because of ABV and flavor intensity. Great beer though.

Edit: As this beer warms it becomes so much more complex and delicious. A very strong beer but at the same time so delicious. There are some buttery and nutty hints that develop as it warms that go so well with the sweetness and dry hop bitterness. Great offering by GD.

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

Poured into a snifter.

4.5 A: Clear dark amber color. Two fingers of super creamy beige head with good retention and tons of lacing.

4.5 S: Tons of caramel malts make a sweet toffee aroma. Candied fruits with plenty of plum, prune, raisin, and dates. Hops are citrusy with emphasis on orange and a touch of pine as well. Big, bold, and wonderful.

4.0 T: Surprisingly bitter, which I fully welcome. Many a barleywine are cloying messes, but not this one. Bitter backbone is accompanied by citrusy and piney hop flavor. Crystal malts are very present, but are dominated by the bitterness to an extent. Still, this is a very fine barleywine with dark fruits making an appearance.

4.0 M: Heavy medium body. Good carbonation. Pretty creamy and except for a touch too much of bitterness, pretty smooth.

4.0 D: A good American style barleywine. Definitely worth a occasional glass.

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Photo of smulkowski
4.52/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled on Dec 09 2009

A - Poured into brandy snifter. Two finger head, dissipating quickly to a swirl on the top. Thick, dextrinous lacing. Reddish chestnut, glowing amber under light.

S - Intriguing hop profile, with bitter orange peel most forward and a slight pine twang. Sweet malt with spiciness - a twinge of cola and tobacco. Lovely, and somewhat hard to pin down.

T - Grapefruit phasing to caramel, heavy vague fruits, shifting to an astringent finish. Very nice, especially for a three month old American Barleywine. This ought to mature very nicely.

M - Dextrinous, thick and sweet, without being tacky or cloying. Astringent finish pushes me to sip more.

D - Excellent for the age.

Overall/intangibles: My first from Great Divide. Lovely. I look forward to sampling this when it has some age on it.

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Photo of Jdecarol
4.7/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

What a surprise this beer was. Vintage December 2009 but it didn't taste harsh at all.

At first I thought I had a bad bottle because of how hazy it poured. Until I noticed it was just very hazy and not suspended yeast/bacteria floating in the beer.

Smells like caramel malts, butter bread and some sweet sweet toffee with citrus hops.

Taste is very very sweet and smooth but balanced by the hops. 90IBU? I can't taste them, it's that balanced and I wish I had another bomber or two of it. I would love to have an 08 or 07 of this bottle.

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Photo of sitarist
4.37/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

22 oz bomber, brewed Dec-08-09

A- Pours a inviting deep amber. The head looks like the head on a root-beer, khaki/tan in color, about an inch, fades quick, lots of lacing.

S- Maybe the best smelling beer Ive come across. It smells like you are at a fruit stand in a pine forest. Lots of ripe fruits(sweet apple,pear,pineapple,etc), citrus(grapefruit), pine, some caramel also.

T- Lots of dark malt sweetness and hop bitterness together; strong and well balanced leaning on the bitter side. At first you taste dark roasted caramel/toffee,nutty,toasted marshmallows, it quickly turns to bitter citrus hops, coca leaf, leaves you with a coffee liquor aftertaste.

M- Its astringent and dry which quickly robs you of its flavors. Ill see how that changes after some time in the cellar.

D- Its cold, windy and snowing here tonight. This is the perfect beer for the occasion. Warming and intoxicating just as it was meant to be.

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Photo of Chico1985
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

My first barleywine! 2007 bottle (old label). Exploded upon opening. Fun. Pours red, great big off-white creamy head. Leaves great lacing, would've gotten a 5 if the head had retained a little better. Smell is huge caramel, pine. Taste is also huge, complex and all over the place. It blasts you with caramel and candy sweetness, with pine, citrus, booze, and some dark fruit coming into play more and more as the beer goes down. For a beer with some age this thing still has some major hops that really go to work on the palate. If I had to compare this to another style I'd probably go with a strong ale. Mouthfeel is good and creamy, although drinkability suffers. It was definitely tough to finish the bomber, the mad amount of hops/booze/sweetness are rough to get down after some time. Overall an excellent, hefty, complex brew. I'd like to try it fresh sometime.

***more notes 8/10/11***

Opened a 2008 bottle for a friend's 21st birthday. Taste is excellent, tastes very stellar and fresh for a 2 1/2 year old brew. Huge caramel and toffee malts, piny hops and dark fruit strangle the palate. Not alot of heat for the abv. Really a great beer all around and one of my favorite barleywines for sure. I'd love to try a bottle 5+ years old and see how that holds up.

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Photo of h00dak
3.95/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I have no idea what to expect when i open this beer. I have been very curious about the barley wine style ever since I first heard it existed. Now I finally have my chance.

Poured dark brown, almost opaque when held up to the light. No head even with aggressive pour.

Smell is very hoppy and citrusy and also a tinge of alcohol in the nose too.

The feel is sharp at first, but then smooth, very little carbonation.

Taste is amazing. Rich and robust. Hops and malt balanced very well. Starts with a malty sweetness, something akin to brown sugar and coffee and then hoppy bitterness kicks in. Not what I was expecting at all. Very drying at the end.

I would highly recommend this for the adventurous beer drinker. High alcohol, full flavor, very complex but not for the weak at heart.

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Photo of zoso1967
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A very attractive amber mahogany color. The aroma is malty and sweet. I can detect a bit of alcohol and what smells like mandarin orange. I was quite taken aback by the flavor. Unlike other barley wines I have had, this one seems to have a bit more going on than just malt. It is a little boozy tasting with plenty of caramel and bready malt sweetness, but it also has a nice amount of citrus hop flavor. Full body for sure but it is so smooth. Definitely a sipper and not the kind of beer you would want to have more than one of in a sitting.

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

A: dark copper, with tan head. about 2 fingers of carbonation

S: a nice profile. dominated by the sweetness of th e malts, but piney hop aroma is present as well.

T: very malty, with brown sugar as the lead. again, hops are noticable in the background. alcohol heat is present

M: sweet, full mouthfeel. carbonation seems approporiate.

D: aggressive with the sweet malts and alcohol. drinable, but only within reason.

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Photo of hopsbreath
3.78/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This was aged just over 1 year. The high 11% alcohol content allowed it to age nicely. It was still quite sharp and slightly astringent but good for the style. The heat may have mellowed more if it had sat back another year. Very sweet and syrupy. I identified toffee, caramel, and other sugary candies in the taste. Very nice and worth checking out.

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Photo of ChadQuest
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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Photo of Lerxst
4/5  rDev -4.8%
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.

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Photo of wd40
4.05/5  rDev -3.6%
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.

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Photo of bonsreeb85
4.77/5  rDev +13.6%
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.

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Photo of MOB210SA
4.88/5  rDev +16.2%
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.

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Photo of Lunch
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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Photo of jsh420
4.31/5  rDev +2.6%
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

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Photo of elgiacomo
4/5  rDev -4.8%
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

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Photo of drabmuh
3.98/5  rDev -5.2%
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.

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Photo of sneth019
4.57/5  rDev +8.8%
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

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Photo of ktrillionaire
4.45/5  rDev +6%
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.)

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.2 out of 5 with 2,475 ratings
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