Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
2,479 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: 2,479 |  Reviews: 1,114
Photo of tr4nc3d
3.78/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured this into my snifter

Pours a light caramel brown like color, when held to the light it has a light ruby accent to it. Huge three finger off-white which is slightly on the tan side, truly magnificent. The head was very foamy and thick leaving soapy lacing stuck to my glass.

Malted barley, wheat, grains, spices, bread like, brown sugar, caramel, bitterness hops, and slight alcohol. Smells delicious!!!

Up front hoppy bitterness with some spices showing up and then it gives way into the sweet caramel malts. Leaves a tad bitter dry taste in the end.

Medium bodied with very good amounts of carbonation tickling my tongue.

Its been a while since I tried a new style and thought I should give barley wines a try. So as my first barley wine ever, I thought it was good. This is a little to boozy for me though to drink more then one. I definitely will seek out other barley wines and compare.

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Photo of connecticutpoet
4.05/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at Julio's. Boy, I am sure reviewing a lot of Julio's samples today.

This beer was deep amber, clear, with a half finger head in my sample glass.

Aroma said malt bomb. Rich, strong malts, no trace of the mustiness that often accompanies a barleywine. Hints of hops, but malt was king.

Taste was definitely a malt masterpiece. Strong, rich, and firm malts with a hint of caramel. No trace of hops evident, but the alcohol was.

Mouthfeel was nothing but smoooth. This was one slick beer.

Watch out when you drink this one, it will go down faster than you may think. And it's got the power to lay you out.

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Photo of gameface23
4.35/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

A: Brownish amber pour with a tan head.

S: Aroma is caramel sweetness combined with hop tartness.

T: The flavor is similar to the aroma.

M: It has a great mouthfeel that is nice and thick.

D: A well rounded beer. It's definitely a sipper, but one that I enjoyed during the entirety of drinking it.

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Photo of froghop
4.08/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a cloudy burnt auburn with a large foamy beige head, and great lacing.

smell is faint, some caramel, dark fruit, malt, alcohol, some hops, a touch of spice, and a touch of roastiness.

taste is thick and creamy, bitter, malty, burnt caramel, some spice, bitter in the end.

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Photo of Brad007
3.78/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 version (before the label change)

Pours a medium reddish color with a thick two-finger head into my glass.

Aroma is strong with a hint of raisin and sweet malt in the nose. Grassy hops show in the nose as well. Seems very appealing and to the style.

Taste is strong with alcohol showing up front, giving way to grassy hops and raisin/sweet malt. Alcohol warmth coats the throat. Hops aren't too strong.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering hops, alcohol and raisin. Alcohol is still strong even with nearly two years on this beer (unless I'm wrong?).

Again, a very nice barleywine that could use more aging to it. Strong, hoppy and has a lot of cellaring potential. Check it out.

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Photo of brow1901
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Old Ruffian BW poured into a tulip glass. Nice brown redish color with off white head that lasts for ever. Smells good, not much exceptional smells but I like the alcohol as the beer warms. Tastes a bit too sweet compared to other BW's but I love the hops in this beer much more pronounced than other BW's. The alcohol is there in the taste but not overwhelming, just warming. The beer is fairly drinkable, as it warms the alcohols comes out and it became harder for me to finish but overall a pretty drinkable brew.

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Photo of amneziak
4.06/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: From Great Divide's new labels, Old Ruffian is probably the most beautiful looking Barleywine I've poured. It appears a clear deep ruby red color with a very nice amount of carbonation that forcefully makes its way up and out of the glass. There is also a substantial amount of light and frothy tan-colored head that is accompanied by an unyielding amount of lacing. The lacing as it slowly drags down the side of the glass has a sparkly (or sugary) effect. Very nice.

Smell: There is a really nice aroma of pungent hops paired with a heavy caramel backdrop here. There are also some other dark fruit components that make their way out of the glass. Additionally, I get quite a bit of oak quality though I know it has not been aged in oak. Finally, one of my favorite things about this beer is the amazing floral component that comes from the hops. When you can get floral elements in a beer it typically means great things are going to happen as it opens up.

Taste: Because this was recently bottled, I can tell you that there is a pretty strong alcohol presence in the taste. What can I say - I couldn't wait. But it just demolishes your mouth seconds before you start to really taste the other components. I will say, though, that even though there is still a heavy alcohol presence there is a load of goodness going on in this glass. Once it airs out a bit in the glass it becomes even more spectacular.

Mouthfeel: As with all good Barleywines I've had, Old Ruffian has tons of mouthfeel. There is the strong bitterness from the hops and the warm burn of the alcohol. It's also a little bit sweet, which does wonders for the heat. Overall this one is a tongue bruiser for sure.

Overall: I love Barleywines and I really love Great Divide. I've yet to have a less than stellar beer from them and this is no exception. Old Ruffian, along with the Oak-aged Yeti Imperial Stout and Hercules Double IPA, is one of the most dependable beers on the market. This bottle that I've enjoyed was still a bit young and fiery, but I can tell that the other one I have will taste ten times better next year. Come to think of it, I did see a couple bottles at the store with the old labels. Guess I should make my way back and buy them if they are still there because this one is a keeper.

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

A- Pours a translucent auburn hue with a 1.5 finger, creamy off white head.

S- Lots of caramel in the nose, raisins, figs, brown sugar and perhaps a bit of piney hops.

T- Taste is superbly balanced. Huge malt notes come through with lots of caramel, brown sugar and dark fruits followed by a nice piney hop bite to counter the malt.

M- Thick and creamy with medium to low carbonation.

D- I put off trading for this beer for a long time and ended up getting it as an extra. It is by far one of the best "easily available" beers i've ever had.

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Photo of tmoneyba
4.1/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured red brown cloudy hue with large frothy head that mostly lasted with good lacing. Complex aroma of bread malt, citrus and alcohol. Full body with thick texture and flat carbonation. Complex flavor of sweet complex fruit and medium bittersweet alcohol bite finish of long duration.

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Photo of wescj
4.75/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a snifter.

Color is a very deep ruby red, and the body is so clear it almost shines. Very thick head, and lace is pretty good for a barly wine.

Aroma is very prominant, and should be a benchmark for the style. The hops are all orange and pine, the malts are sweet and caramel.

I don't know if I've ever had a better barly wine. There are some good dark fruits and a nice presense of alcohol. Some hops and malts as in the nose, and the sweetness is exactly what it should be.

Mouthfeel is perfect, and this one's fairly drinkable, if there is such a thing for huge barly wines. Excellent, all around.

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

A: Standard dark copper body. Massive off-white head that quickly receded. Notable lacing.

S: Dank, resinous hops. Heaps of caramel malt goodness.

T: A terrific balance of hops and malts... unlike some double ipas that end up barleywine-ish... this is an american barleywine through and through... as in the nose, the hops are dank, heavy and seriously resinous... taking on a pine/forest like character... the caramel malts are ever present and tasty.... boozey indeed.

M: A little undercarbonated for my liking... but other wise nice... nice bite at the end.

D: Solid at 10+... a tad boozey to drink more than a bomber.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4.2/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

John from Maloney's Pub (BA handle JohnRoss) in New Jersey recommended this excellent barleywine. While I've heard of it, I've never had the chance to enjoy one. Nice recommendation John!

Poured into a wine glass and was actually greeted with a bit more off white head then I had expected. Not much lacing and the head did vanish rather quickly. The color was a very deep copper. At first a tiny bit hazy.. (Chill haze?) then as it slowly warms it becomes very clear. Nice looking beer.

Aroma is of deep malts, slightly boozy and fruity. Some nice hop character to the aroma.

Flavor is huge and well balanced. Deep layers of malt and almost an almond flavor. Slight booze towards the end. But not too much. Some real nice fruit and hop notes. The bitterness is a pleasant balancing component.

Mouth feel is thick and big, but not cloying or sticky.

I found this to be quite drinkable. Although one to savor for quite a long time.

Excellent barleywine.

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Photo of katan
4.03/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bomber into a goblet

A - Pours a dark copper color. Fairly opaque, but not really cloudy - just a thicker looking beer. Head formation is minimal, and and only leaves behind a film. A single bubble just won't go away.

S - A very strong hop fruitiness leads the way with some phenolic tones in there as well. Stings the nose just a little bit. I do find the more I smell it that some very sweet malt base is also present.

T - Starts off a bit sweet, but not extremely malt forward. Amazingly quick build of hops and bitterness. A stronger hop edge builds, but not where it overtakes the malt sweetness. Finishes with a caramel sweetness that quickly transitions to a bitter aftertaste.

M - Moderate body - amazingly light considering how much fermentable sugar had to go into this beer. Leaves a strong film on the tongue from all the alpha acids and the clinging sugars.

D - Considering this is a BW, its hard to call this very drinkable. The ABV is over the top of course, and the flavors are very potent. Not filling, which at least lends itself to be matched with a good session beer.

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Photo of webmanspidey
4.68/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bomber poured into a chalice. Dark brown with the perfect amount of fizzy head. This looks perfect. Smell is a nice combination of sweet honey, hops, grain, molassses/syrup. Taste is bitingly bitter at first but heavy and malty. There is a strong alcohol content but it is very smooth and drinkable, not having any problem with it. Thick and creamy mouthfeel.

This is a really great beer. I'm going to seek it out again. It is actually not as bitter and extreme as others in the style I've had but it is probably one of the best.

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Photo of Kromes
4.2/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured a reddish amber with a nice thick head that laced the glass. Some good noticeable bubble action up the sides of the glass. Really nice, powerful aromas of sweet fruity caramel malts and citrus/pine hops with some alcohol. The initial taste is sweet caramel malt and alcohol, almost butterscotchy. Then the hops show up, grapefruit, woody, pine. And then the bitterness kicks in. But it's a good bitterness bite mixed with spicy warm alcohol. The bitterness lingered for quite a while. Lots of flavors going on, very nice. The feel is not too heavy, just right, as is the carbonation. It is strong, in alcohol and flavor, so I would recommend sharing this with someone.

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Photo of jeffthecheff
3.43/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

Nice dark copper color, very cloudy. Great sticky lacing.

Smell is very caramelly, thick hops and strong fruits.

Bitter taste comes through the most, along with syrupy like toffee and caramel.

Mouthfeel on this is great. Swirl this over your tongue for a bit and it literally nubs your tongue. Very thick all around from body to resiny hop bitterness.

Drinkability on this is tough. I'd imagine finishing a bomber by yourself would be pretty difficult. It's certainly a sipper.

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Photo of hoppymcgee
4.37/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bomber poured into imperial pint glass, shared with homebrewing roomies.

A: Dark brown, coppertone, cloudy. Beige head, fluffy and thick off the pour, sustained nicely for a short bit.

S: Malty, caramel, syrupy sweet. The smell of the hops comes through beautifully.

T: Hoppy and bitter! Toffee flavors at first turn into a bready finish. Has a leafy, nutty character.

M: Ultra hoppiness, heavy body. Moderate carbonation complements this beer well.

D: Moderate drinkability - much moreso than other American barleywines.

I was very pleased with this beer. I would compare it to Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale, but much less bitter and more drinkable.

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

22 oz. Rusty amber pour, good cream colored head. Malt, caramel, piney hop aroma. Taste is caramel, raisin, citrus/red fruits balanced with quite a bit of floral hops. Sticky, but could be stickier. Would prefer more biscuit and less citrus. Nice and clean finishing with the bitterness lingering. Definetely a west coast style barleywine. Drinkability is ok. Good example, lends itself well too aging I'm guessing. I bet the oak and barrel aged versions of this are even better. I just tend to enjoy the malt inclined versions a little more. I will say this improves nicely as it warms though, some of the edge is taken off.

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Photo of CHSLBrew
4.03/5  rDev -4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. bomber poured into stemless wine glasses, shared with a friend after work on a rainy afternoon.

A- Dark copper-brown beer, opaque and dull, murky. Tan head, fluffy and thick off the pour, sustained nicely for a short bit.

S-Semi-sweet malts, toffees and a breadiness. An assertive resiny hop aroma takes center stage.

T-Thick with hoppiness! Bitterness comes through prominent and doesn't want to let go. Malts are semi-sweet with a nutty, bready character. Hop character is earthy, herbal. Some slight fruitiness. Finishes bitter, resiny.

M-I can feel the immense hoppiness, thick and viscous in the full, chewey body. Carbonation is medium-low.

D-Moderate drinkability. An appropriate American barleywine, with a strong hop emphasis. Good, but not the best.

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

My first barleywine, and it was one that will make me look forward to reviewing more.

Pours a murky brown with a thick eggshell crown of head. Great lacing throughout the drink, even on my second glass, which was a full 24 hours after the bottle was opened.

Smells of malty goodness, reminds me of old viscosity. Toffee is the most prominent scent.

A very balanced flavor in spite of the hop fowrward claim on the label. Now this is a big beer i could sink my teeth into; toffee and caramel over an earthy and nice hop background.

Mouthfeel is thick bodied with medium carbonation.

A very great drink, and I will absolutely seek it out again.

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Photo of BarrelO
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
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 -1.2%
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 +7.1%
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 +4.3%
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 -10.7%
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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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.2 out of 5 with 2,479 ratings