Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

2,459 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: 2,459 |  Reviews: 1,109
Photo of BarrelO
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into a goblet. I poured this for myself as a reward for finishing my student note. Never go to law school, kids.

A: Ruby red in the glass. A vigorous pour creates a ginormous Duvel-like head (albeit one that doesn't last nearly as long). Plenty of lacing.

S: A Hopslam-esque bouquet of pineapple and grapefruit hops mixed with caramel malt. Very appealing.

T: Whoa. Hops overload. The malt meekly asserts itself in the middle, but the beginning and the end are all hops, all the time. I left the bottle on the counter for half an hour to bring out the flavor and it's still a hop overload. Odd, I remember it being more balanced before. Oh, well. Time to pour the rest of the bomber into my glass...

Now this is more like it. I guess it needs to be close to room temperature for its true flavor profile to emerge. The hops are still huge, but now the malt has a fighting chance. The two come together for a nice balance. Toward the end, notes of cherry and wood become more apparent.

M: Thick and syrupy, all the more incentive to sip it like you should.

D: A fine brew, but not one to be gulped down recklessly. This is a beer that demands to be sipped and contemplated. Split a bomber with a friend after dinner.

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Photo of UA8
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours a translucent ruby hue with a huge pale toffee colored head.

S- Dried apricots, oranges, pineapple, mango, and sweet malts.

T- Lead with a touch of orange peel hops and pineapple, mid palate is of caramel malts, and finishes with a huge resinous kick of piney hops.

M- Medium carbonation with a semi slick body and fullness.

D- This is one huge barely wine. I really like it now but think that with a year of so of aging this would easily turn into one of my favorites. The pronouncement of the hops in the one is a bit overwhelming and with aging that would likely become more subdued with many other flavors coming to life.

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Photo of StrangeBrewer76
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 1-08-09

Into the glass the color is a reddish-brown as one may expect and with an overly rough pour the head is half the volume of a tulip glass. The head is a two parter that is creamy and lacy on top with larger, fading bubbles underneath. The lacing is spectacular due to the pour, closest analogy is a corral reef. Neat!

Smells of leather tanned with cascade hops very clearly. It may not be the ideal for the style but it smells really good. There is a flowery component like lilac or lavender that makes me want to drink it even more.

First few sips leave me wondering. I don't get it. I feel like I'm on a subway platform waiting for a train and it comes by as I sip but does not stop. I'm not sure where this one is going. I'll give it some time to warm. I served it directly from the back of the fridge; my mistake.

Ok so I get the woody sensation to the extreme. Like a family of Amish were raising a rough-hewn oak barn on the back of my tongue to support my tonsils. Yes, to get the full flavor here you must consume at cellar temperature. Any warmer and you might miss something.

Warmer taste is quite buttery and sweet to start and then fish-hooking a bourbon-oak bite with a hate-to-love pleasantry.

Barleywines done right are the cigarettes of beer as this one is. You will hate them until you love them then love them until you hate them but you will not stop until you admit that they are a force to be taken seriously.

I give this beer high marks for it's perfection of the style but I also caution you reader; beware the barleywines. They are to be treated with respect and caution.

If you value your life take caution with this and barleywines et al.

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

Out of a bottle this beer was an amber color with two-fingers of Dijon-mustard-colored head. The retention as a cap was very good and the lacing equally good; a great looking beer all around. The aroma was complex and appealing, caramel, toffee, alcohol, some rich esters, wood, hazelnuts, and candy sugar. The flavors were equally complex and beautifully balanced. I tasted lost of things starting with the sweetness of caramel malt, chocolate malt and honey. The fruity alcohol esters and well developed pine and herbal hops flavors concealed the alcohol well and helped the beer be unusually crisp for a barleywine. As it warmed it continued to develop and I definitely smelled more hops presence in the aroma. I really enjoyed the sweet-to-woody-to-bitter arc of the flavors. The mouthfeel was smooth, the body full and the carbonation soft. The girl I shared this beer with, a suds-aficionado herself, agreed with me that this was a marvelously complex offering and the best barleywine either of us had ever had.

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Photo of rhinos00
3.75/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 22 oz. bottle into a snifter.

A- Pours a cloudy, murky tan-brown, sort of has an apple cider complexion, except a little darker. Gives off a solid 3 fingers width of head that dissipates over consumption.

S- Nice aroma of caramel, malts, honey, and some hops. Wish it was a little more distinct or pungent than it actually was.

T- From beginning to midway through it was pretty enjoyable. Had a nice caramel, dark fruit flavor with a great malt back bone. Just when I thought the taste would go up a notch as it finished, the bitter hop oils killed it all. All the taste I enjoyed and expected to savor as the beer went down were erased with one foul swoop.

M- Medium bodied with some carbonation. The viscosity wasn't as thick as I would have hoped and the beer finished with a much dryer mouth feel than I cared for.

D- As the beer reached room temperature, the hops infusion became less intense and made the beer much more drinkable. The 10% will kick your ass.

Overall, please take this review with a grain of salt. I love hops and I love barleywines. However, after many attempts, I just don't seem to be a big fan of mixing the two together. I bet this one would be awesome if it were layed down for a few years.

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Photo of PeprSprYoFace
4.11/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a couple bottles of this from MiguelMandingo in a trade. Thanks for the hookups...

Poured into my Stone Old Guardian BW tulip. Pours a dark slightly cloudy amber color that is quits beautiful. Nice foamy white head formed which doesnt happen for me much on BW's and has great lacing.

Smells sweet caramel sugary malty goodness. Smells like a BW...

Taste is surprisingly way hoppier than I was expecting. I didnt smell any hops at all. This is a pretty hoppy BW. The sweet malt goes well with the hops though.

Mouthfeel is great. Nice low carbonation which suits the style.

Overall a good beer that i am glad I got to try. Wouldnt drink a ton of this though because it is pretty heavy as most BW's are.

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Photo of MrDerp
4.66/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A - Great dark amber coloring. Head leaves a light lace behind.
S - Caramel and hopps aroma
T - Taste starts and ends slightly hoppy. In between, is a bold caramel somewhat citrus-ish flavor. Very, very good.
M - Medium body, but stays with you. Seems to be more carbonated than others. Very good.

Overall a fantastic, great tasting beer. Its not extremely hoppy like you find with a lot of American Barleywines. Instead theres a great distinct flavoring between the hops. Very higly recommended. One of my favorites.

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

A - Poured from a bomber into a pint glass. Pours cloudy amber with a thin, tightly foamed ecru head that slowly shrinks into a gloppy film.

S - Sweet roasted malt, pungent hops, dark toffee, raw sugar.

T - Strong alcohol presence throughout, but in a nice, warming way. Sweet and maple syrupy when it first hit the mouth then hoppy when it hits the tongue and it continues the grapefruity tinge throughout the finish.

M - Sticky, medium bodied, lots of carbonation. Or seems like it. Hell, I can't really tell whether something is very carbonated or just "medium carbonation" because I don't really have a max threshold here. Anyway... hey it's a good beer.

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Photo of damienblack
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours like an apple cider would, a pale mapley brown that turns to a light amber when all the beer is poured. Huge head, frothy, foamy, great lacing. The smell is what gets me, though. Huge hophead aroma, it smells like a DIPA, not a barleywine. Piney and soapy, little bit of malt but it really cant get through.

To my uncultured taste buds, this is closer to a malty DIPA than a barleywine. By far, on the hoppier side rather than the maltier side. The malty sweetness is there, just buried under a layer of pleasent hop bity. Very piny on the back palate, while the sweetness lingers a bit on the front palate. A little bit leathery. I'm not the biggest fan of hoppy beers, but this is working for me. I'd rather a hoppy barlywine than a malty DIPA, if that makes sense. Pretty creamy and smooth for something. A little bit boozey, but I think the hop bitterness also enhances the alcohol effect, if it weren't so hoppy it would hide it very well. This is definitely a sipper for me, but quite pleasant. I can see why it gets the respose it does.

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Photo of davidchollar
4.83/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Wow. This has to be the closest to perfect I've had in ages. It looks amazing. Dark and auburn with a light beige, neverending head. Wall-to-wall lacing. The smell is outstanding and unique. Giant caramelly maltiness with a huge piny hop presence.

Taste is exceptional. Perfect. Un-fucking-believable. This is easily the best beer I've had this year. Full-bodied and strong, the alcohol is present but not distracting. Highly drinkable. I could totally go for another.

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Photo of taylorhamrick
3.75/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one pours out a very hazy copper color, with a beautiful tan/off-white, sticky head that clings to the glass, leaving all kinds of lacing. This one is just beautiful - other than the haze. I can forgive the haziness a bit for the other wonderful aspects. The smell is full of sweet malts, darker crystals, maybe a bit of chocolate, a great caramelly sweetness, with just a bit of piney, citrusy hops in the background. A very pleasant aroma that invites you to drink. The taste gives an intense bitterness along with an initial alcohol burn. Though there is quite a bit of malty balance. There is a distinct breadiness, backed by crystal malts with a bit of a chocolatey back. I also detect some citrus peel, with that piney feeling, not much in terms of resiny qualties, though. There's a hint of golden raisins. Overall a great flavor, but not the best I've had in the style. The mouthfeel is nice, good carbonation levels, a nice kind of chewy feel, but there's a hint of thinness at some points. The alcohols hits you, even with a bit of age, and the bitterness persists. The drinkability is nice. Definitely good to the last drop, but it starts to hit hard quickly. Worth a shot to all.

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Photo of jujubeast6000
2.8/5  rDev -33.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed 12/13/2007 (Bottle aged ~2mo):

Pours a dark brown colored body, pretty clear, with a small diminishing head, off-white in color. Has a malty sugary sweet aroma. Molasses aroma, but sickly sweet. Hoppy sweet taste. Sugary & piney. Smoother as it warms up.

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Photo of SaucyA
4.18/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Looks awesome in the snifter. Deep rusty red with a super-tight, frothy tan head. Total American Barleywine. Bits of lacing on glass one, sheets on glass two.

S - Huge west-coast hops with a caramel malt running underneath. Booze, light toffee notes.

T - Pretty much the quintessional example of the style. Nice light booze notes amidst a huge bitter hop kick, coupled with a sweet, balancing malt. Great flavors and great execution. Huge without being overdone.

M - Med-thick bodied with ample carbonation help this go down too easily.

D - Uh oh. If this weren't so pricey it'd defintely be on my regulars list. As is, it's a beer I'll definitely revisit.

Notes: Benchmark.

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Photo of br3wmeister
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Lightly hazed dark brown beer. Small off white head with minimal lacing and decent head retention.

S- Lots of malty sweetness in this one. Caramel, honey and light nuttiness up front, some herbal and piney hops as well.

T- Caramel and sweet roasted nuts, pecans maybe. Actually tastes similar to a pecan pie. Some cinnamon, and other sweet spices.

M- Medium full bodied with a good hop bite and good carbonation.

Overall- Great barley wine, one of the best i have had. I will be getting this again.

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Photo of AdmiralDiaz
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber to 20oz snifter.

A: Pours a opaque brown with a 1.5 finger yellow head. Pretty good retention.

S: Malty with strong earthy tones and some spiciness. Very appealing.

T: More hops than what came through in the scent. Strong malt with a bit of hops and strong spiciness and cinnamon accompanied by some earth tones. Hints of nuts throughout. Not extremely complex for a barleywine. Alcohol comes out pretty strong however.

Overall: Well carbonated and fairly smooth. If it weren't for the strong alcohol taste I could bump up the drinkability more. Still a very good barleywine worth picking up.

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Photo of mdwalsh
2.75/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A: Brown and copper, red when held up the the light. Great, creamy textured, light tan three finger head that is holding well with some active carbonation. Maybe a little haze, but it's hard to tell with the darkness of the brew.

S: Real thick malt character, slightly complex. Only sign of hops is a slight earthy/floralness, but not anything suggesting oncoming bitterness.

T: Is thin and bitter. It tastes like an artificial burnt coffee flavor. Terrible. All roast, no malt. More hop smell comes out with the combined olfactory-taste bud combination. A little alcohol warmth.

M: As I said, thin and watery. I'm having trouble keeping it in my mouth for too long though, so who knows.

D: Terrible, I am not looking forward to finishing this whole bomber.

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Photo of jdklks
4.85/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

oh my god, what a beer!

A- color of the body is a perfect see through dark amber/brown. had an off-white head.

S- lots of hops in the smell. noticeable malts and brown sugar.

T- Not nearly as hoppy as the smell would suggest. the hops and malts are balanced, and when i say balanced, i mean BALANCED AS FUCK! i hate the very term "balanced" when it comes to beers, but there is just no other word to describe it. there is a sugary sweet and dry finish that emphasizes the hops more than the taste up-front.

M- easily one of the smoothest beers ive ever had. enough said.

D- i split a bomber with my friend... that's all we had (he got it in a trade). if i was able to buy it, i would have a weekly old ruffian night, during which i would drink old ruffian ALL NIGHT.

EDIT: got another bottle in a trade and had it all to myself. nothing has changed except the score for appearance has gone up... it looks totally different from the other one i had, and is a bit hoppier. fantastic beer.

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Photo of jkendrick
3.68/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Very nice and clear amber color with a thick light tan head. Light is visible through this. In fact, the clarity is such that you can read through the glass. The head recedes moderately fast, but seems to hang around quite a bit longer than most barleywines. Thick, clumpy lacing clings to the side of the glass.

Aroma: Floral with a some caramel maltiness. It is sweet in the nose though and the alcohol isn't obvious.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth, medium-bodied with mild carbonation.

Taste: Wow, very hoppy for a barleywine. The malty sweetness is there, but doesn't quite have enough to balance out the bitter. The alcohol is very present in the finish and after the swallow. Flavors are caramel and some pine, but it is tough to distinguish much over the intense bitterness and heavy alcohol.

Overall impression: Overall, this is just too bitter for me, especially for the style. I love hops, but want to taste the flavors not just the crushing bitterness. About halfway through I pulled out some almonds and that pairing really helped. This is a young bottle, just over a month old. I really think this would be better served after aging.

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Photo of Stimack
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brew poured to a nice deep amber color with a good sized light tan head that has good retention and lacing. The aroma is of very sweet caramel and huge amounts of hops, the sweet aroma is more than just the caramel but I am having a hard time placing it. Also there is a slight alcohol scent, but all of these aromas mixed together are very inviting. The flavor is also very nice, the malt seems to come to life a bit here with a dark sweet fruit mix and caramel/toffee. There is big hop presence here but it is not as overwhelming as I thought it would though it does dominate the tail end. Overall this is a nice brew, slick/creamy feel with adequate carbonation. Alcohol becomes more noticeable as the brew warms and provides a welcome warming feel. Good brew, will wand to see if I can track down the other offerings of this one.

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Photo of sweetbrew82
4.78/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. into a tulip/ no freshness date

P: Honey-golden brown from the bottle, and crimson-infused deep amber in the glass. Light tan head is thick & creamy with medium bubbles on top and showed great retention. Finally sinks to halo with a thin film in the middle that never disappeared. Left thick chunks of lace all over the glass upon retreat.

A: Smells grrreat! Citrusy & piney hops like grapefruit, oranges, and lemon drizzled with pine sap. Toasted malts and caramel as well.

T: Sweet start with toasted bready malts, caramel and lots of tropical fruit like melon, pineapple, & peaches. Hops are fashionably late and bring some intense bitterness to balance things out with pine, grapefruit & orange flavors. They're more fresh & leafy than dank & resinous. Deliciously creamy caramel is abound throughout, and the alcohol is masterfully masked.

M & D: The mouthfeel of Old Ruffian is incredible! It's full-bodied, thick & chewy, rich & creamy, and velvety smooth. Thus, the drinkability is superb, even though the 10.2% ABV is viscious.

Notes: This just automatically catapulted itself to the top shelf of my all-time favorites list. It's absolutely incredible! Flavors are mind-blowing, mouthfeel is perfect, and the ethanol is undetectable. Sorry Bigfoot, but this is probably the best Barleywine I've had! Highly recommended


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Photo of Slatetank
4.68/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I poured 3/4 of this bomber for myelf in two separate doses into my Samuel Smith half pint. octopus87 tasted the rest.

A - A deep copper w/ a dark amber hue at the base of the glass. The cap is smooth and is a shade of khaki. There are rocky crags in the head from a slightly more than easy pour ino the center of the glass. The bead is very fine and even as hazed as it is the carbonation is still visible rising to the head.

S - Sweet and malty scents w/ fruit soaked in brandy as the esters are strong, but smooth. The depth of pine aromas is vivid and like pinesap mixed w/ sweet grapefruit. The aroma is bountiful
w/hops and malt that carries a heavenly brown sugar and citrus aroma with each inhalation

M - A kaleidescope is presented as if my tongue had eyes. First toasted grain, then alcohol following with intense citrus and spice hop textures and woody dry notes w/ a perfrct level of carbonation to enhance the maltiness while the bitterness is blanced w/ an alcoholic heat that lingers

T - An amalgamation of hop citrus and dark fruit w/ woody resinous flavors and subtle sugary malt w/ hints of berry and a mellow burn of alcohol as a sidecar to the fresh green pine hop taste. The resinous and grapefruity bitter flavors have the cushion of big sturdy caramel, pale and sweet crystal malts w/ the alcohol letting you know it deserves the name 'Ruffian' and it finishes as fiery and vibrant as it starts. The flavor is as balanced as a 10.2% Barleywine from west of the Mississippi can be.

D - An example of how to brew an American Barleywine-and how to make a drinkable American Barleywine in the sense that it is a big boozy barleywine, but doesn't lack for the fresh hops and the malt is substantial enough to keeep the pace. This Barleywine doesn't come across as an alcohol bomb or have overly sweet residual malt flavors either-it finishes with the hops resonating as the style should.

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Photo of Haybeerman
4.03/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Brown color with ruby highlights. Poured a 3 finger rocky yellowish head that dissipated fairly quickly. Inconsisnten lacing.

S: Very with citrus, grapefruit and apple. Piney hops follow along with caramel/roasted malts.

T: Very hoppy beginnings; pine and grapefruit. Sweet caramel malts and fruity esters come to bear in the middle that hoild on slightly to aq big bitter finsish. Warming alcohol.

M: Light body (almost thin). Ample carbonatrionouthfeel.

D: The abv's a bit high, but interesting enough drink. I've not had a lot of barley wines, but this ones the best I've had.

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Photo of babaracas
4.17/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a crystal clear dark orange with dense eggshell colored head, thick lacing. Smell: grapefruit and floral hops, with a sweet caramel note that pushes its way through accompanied by an effervescent alcohol whiff, candied citrus. Taste: very sweet caramel merges with a whole lot of pine hops, white grapefruit and orange, dried pineapple, leafy and earthy and mildly boozy finish. Mouthfeel: on the full side, smooth with a serious bitter drying. The sticky dryness gets a bit intense halfway through the bomber, but that's why they made water. Very nice "hop-forward" but actually fairly balanced barleywine.

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Photo of gonzo46and2
4.03/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber brown with a towering head.

Aroma of fresh wet hops like a fresh cut field that was recently rained on. A brown-sugary maltiness was evident. Hints of caramel and pine were also there.

Taste was nicely bitter and sweet that leaned more on hoppy than malty. The ABV was well hidden with no overly hot alchoholic flavors.

Easy to sip on. Definitely one of my favorite BWs.

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Photo of bfields4
4.22/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A nice pour on this one revealing a cloudy dark amber beer with a very tight head.

The smell is very appealing allowing strong notes of sweet malty caramel laced with citrus and maybe even a little hint of the alcohol in the pinyness.

The sweet fruit flavors accompanied by malt hits me right away. The caramel is savory in this beer.This beer leaves me with a piny hoppy aftertaste. Every sip seems to take me to another flavor of this beer. A very unique creation. My first barleywine and I have to admit I'm impressed.

Very easy to drink with a little alchy kick in the back. Smooth with a nice carbonation. Very nice.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,459 ratings.
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