Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
2,464 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: 2,464 |  Reviews: 1,111
Photo of Slatetank
4.68/5  rDev +11.4%
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%
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 -0.7%
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%
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 +0.5%
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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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 received from Redwood21 in the LNBA BIF... Thanks David... This bottle has been refrigerated ever since so I could drink it as fresh as possible. Poured into my New Belgium snifter.

3 finger head towered probably 1/2" out of the glass and left behind tons of lace... the brew is a very pretty reddish amber.

Very "American" in the nose... huge C-hops... citrus and resiny piney hops... enough caramel to be noticed but it's blown out of the water by the tidal wave of hoppiness.

Flavor is also very assertive big American... quite a bit of bitterness even for the style.. great maltiness and quite a bit of caramel.. lower fruity esters melt into a bunch of piney hops and back into long estery and fruity/bitter finish.

The body is on the full side... lush though with smooth carbonation.. very rich from front to back.

Really an epitome of what any brewery should really shoot for.

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

Poured from a 22 oz. bomber into a snifter. Not sure of the date but it's the old style bottle.

Appearance is a bright and clear reddish copper color with a one inch off-white head.

Aroma is very malty with lots of caramel and toffee but there's also a heavy dose of hops, though they seem to have faded most likely. Their character is quite piney with a healthy dose of citrus as well.

The taste is quite sweet up front with lots of caramel and it's quickly hit by an onslaught of hops. The character is very citrusy, much more than the aroma suggested. The pine character goes to the back, though it's definitely still present. The finish is a long and hoppy, with a bit of sticky caramel sweetness in the back.

Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, very creamy and pretty slick.

Though I haven't had that many Barleywines, this is no doubt one of the best I've had so far. Second only to 3F Behemoth.

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Photo of angelmonster
3.63/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a great 2 finger tan head. Dark amber in color with medium carbonation. Lacing is thick and consistent throughout

Smells of sweet, bready,malt. Bit of alcohol, some fruit, and piny hops

First sip is an overload of flavors, sweetness at first, then the hops kick in. Very hoppy, malts were dominated in the taste department which is a shame

This ale is a bit over carbonated. A little on the light side, leaves a hoppy bitterness in the mouth, almost to the point of numbness

Wish there were more malts in this beer. Tasted more like a Double IPA than a barleywine. Sweetness of the malts came out in the smell but werent very much present in the taste. Over all drink ability was average, would not be my first choice for this style

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Photo of coldmeat23
4.32/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees

Very nice looking ruby tinted caramel color liquid. Almost two fingers of light tan foam. Great retention. Really good lacing.

Nice, big, sweet malty profile. A touch of earthy hop notes. Big caramel and brown sugar presence. Big nougat notes. Hints of creamy sweet milk chocolate. Hints of dark fruits and pine.
Complex and beautiful nose.

Man is this good.
Big caramel malts in front, with a nice piney hops bite, just below the surface. A nice, solid spice profile. A nice warming effect, but doesn't taste particularly 'hot'. Promises of fruit baskets, but no single fruit flavors are really distinguishable. Just a nice big 'fruitiness' blend. Notes of yeasty biscuits, broiled with butter and brown sugar on top of them.

Good medium, not quite full, but almost, body on this one. Pretty much what you'd expect in a barleywine stle brew. Nice and creamy smooth. No complaints, here.

Very drinkable, overall. The high alcohol content is quite concealed, though. Be careful, 'cause this one will slam you quick.

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Photo of buffettfan
4.23/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle to a snifter.

Appeared a very pretty, dark brown with reddish ruby highlights when held to the light.

Smell was wild. A ton of aroma, a lot of hops, and malt, with a strong presence of alcohol.

Taste is crazy! Its almost over load. Lots of hops, with a nice malt flavor, some spice comes out and well, especially in the finish. Hints of caramel, pine, and an almost fruity taste. Very enjoyable.

Drinkable in small amounts. Its got some kick!

Very good beer, will be getting some and cellering it to see what time does to it.

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Photo of budgood1
4.48/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

pours out of the 22 oz. bomber a semi transparent ruby and crimson colour with a big frothy light tan head which leaves plentiful and chunky lace. huge nose of toasted caramel, toffee and nougat with a resiny, pine leaning hop aroma. smells hot and decadent. taste is a tongue twisting and bitter, resinous, hop explosion only equally stood up to by some spicy alcohol notes and a meek caramel sweetness. it's unabashedly hot and unequivequally bitter in nature, and it really works over your palate. it's also delicious and warming. it's slightly out of balance, but i don't care. the body is round, lush and full of sugary sweetness. mouthfeel comes across a bit coarse from the alcohol and tongue numbing hop bitterness. drinkability is dangerous because of all the lovely boozy flavours this fantastic barleywine provides, not to mention the warming characteristics and the attitude adjustment one will have had after polishing off this bomber. definitely good stuff and a perfect way to start out the evening on an incredibly bitterly cold night in the rural minnesota hinterlands.

old ruffian probably could use some cellar time to smooth out the "ruff" edges. so buy a few bottles and lay them down for future imbibing.

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Photo of chinabeergeek
4.23/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber, purchased in late july/early august 2008. brought back with me to beijing. kept in the fridge ever since. no bottle dating to be found, although the glass has an imprint of "01 07" on the bottom, whatever that means. poured into tulip.

very dark, amber brown/copper. slight haze. dark to the point of being translucent. great frothy head, slowly reduces to thin, puffy layer. very nice lacing.

hoppy nose, with fruity notes of citrusy grapefruit and apple underneath. then moves to mildly piney tones. a faint but distinctly caramelized, toasted maltiness is consistent throughout. finishes with more fruity tones, and some grassiness and a metallic whiff. all this takes some forceful sniffing however - despite warming up, it is a bit on the subdued side.

anyway, the palate gets a blast of hops too. bold, piney and grapefruity, with a strongly bitter, resinous finish - but, there is definitely that flash of sweet, caramel maltiness and fruity esters right in the middle. it even manages to cling on, lingering gently in the background into the otherwise hoppy, bitter and resinous finish.

not too thin, definitely has a smoothness to it at first, and then the resinous hops and mildly astringent characters come through, plus a moderate carbonation that gives some additional life. just a little more body would help though. some alcohol can be perceived upon warming.

not mindblowingly spectacular, but still a decent hophead's brew.

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Photo of sevopie
4.53/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance - A medium-brown with shades of ruby, and a large rocky yellowish head. Laces pretty well.

Smell - Hops with a slight caramel malt smell, and strangely enough I smelled a little cinnamon.

Taste - The complexity really takes a while to sink in. You are bombarded in no particular order by: hops, caramel, slight sweet fruits, a couple lingering citrus flavors, brown sugar, some spices - namely the cinnamon again, and lastly some subtle vanilla. Intense.

Mouthfeel - Buttery smooth (the texture, not the flavor.) Light on the carbonation, but it works oh so very well.

Drinkability - There's a slight tinge of alcohol that leaves just a slight notification that this is such a high ABV beer, but other than that, this was fantastic. I've not had much experience with barleywines, only 2 or 3; and while the others I have had aren't bad, this made them look less impressive by a fair margin. This will probably be a staple beer for me in the future.

(First reviewed - 7-27)


Having this one a second time (12-30) it comes through as much more of a hop bomb. Still a fantastic brew, and I'm not knocking any points off of the score, but I'm thinking this would be a good candidate for aging, and that my first experience was a slightly aged version.

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Photo of Klgkenny
4.18/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a refridgerated bomber into a room temp pint glass:

A passive pour produces a light head which quickly dissipates leaving a creamy ring around the perimeter of the glass. The beer is a light honey color; translucent. Really beautiful.

Smells like...sweet malt with a hint of caramel and hops. Once again, beautiful.

Taste mirrors the smell. Something sweet, sweeter than malt, the sweet malt, followed by a hint of caramel before a well balanced wave of hops. Very tasty. No real taste of alcohol, especially for a %10.2 abv.

A medium thick mouthfeel washes around the mouth leaving a coating of hops lingering on the tongue.

This is dangerously drinkable for a barleywine. The only hint that it is high in alcohol is the delayed warming sensation in my belly. I really like this, and I will seek it out again.

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

Finally getting around to reviewing this. Have had it fresh. Have had it with 3 years on it. Even had it on tap once. This is from a year old bottle.

A:Poured into my Brooklyn snifter a dark brown with some ruby highlights. A half finger of white head. Looks more like an English barely wine in the glass until....

S: You get to the smell. Even after a year the hops are around but fading. Just a really pleasant sweet malt nose. Some hints of fruits are playing in the back. A little bit of a cardboard as well.

T: Starts off very sweet. Then goes into a little bit of bitterness from what is left from the hops. Finishes with some hints of fruit. Little bit of toffee and cigar smoke as well. Really big and malty throughout.

M: Sticky medium to heavy body. Low carbonation.

D: Really great beer than can get people into the style. My personal thing with this beer is to either drink it fresh and have it rip your throat out or wait a year and see where you stand. This bottle could stand a little more time though it is very enjoyable. A staple in the cellar of fridge of any beer geek.

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

A - Deep brownish amber color on the same order of dried out tobacco leaves. Tall light tan head the leaves a good amount of lacing.

S - Malt, namely caramel. Piney hops and tobacco are also detectable.

T - Very nice. Not overly sweet with a nice, clean bitter finish. All flavors noted in the nose are proportionally present in the flavor. I'm not big on barleywines, but this is a very good one.

M - Thick and creamy

D - A very well balanced beverage that I could drink for a long time. Complex enough to keep me drinking it throughout the night.

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

22oz bottle, poured in a big wine glass at 58 F/ 14 C.

Dark red-amber color, dense cream colored head, thick sticky lace.

Aroma of grain, caramel, citrus and pine hops, and some prunes and mild chocolate.

Deep sweet fruity malt flavor, soon joined by juicy citrus and pine and a wave of bitterness. Very long finish with some woodsy, earthy, herbal complexity, a bit of spice in the throat, and powerful bitterness deep in the jawbone.

Pleasant smooth texture. Quite drinkable, hard to put down.

Big and bittersweet, very tasty, I'm enjoying this.

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Photo of GilGarp
4.23/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've just start to try barleywine-style ales and this is one I have been looking forward to.

Many of the Great Divide beers have switched over to new labels but this one still has the old style (as pictured here).

Pours from the bomber into the center of a globe-shaped glass. It has a striking red color but almost no head. I don't know if it's the hops or the high ABV but usually beers like this don't have much head to speak of.

Aroma is sweet and fruity with a definately hoppiness.

Flavor is intense with sour cherries, tart apples, and lots of hoppy bitterness. There's nothing small about it.

Mouthfeel is good but the strength of alcohol and bitterness is taxing. Drinkability is hinered for the same reasons.

A great example of the style and I'm glad I got to try it. Next time I might seek out a fresher bottle to see how hoppy it is when new.

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Photo of jjboesen
4.4/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I look at Old Ruffian. A deep mahogany liquid in my stemmed glass. I drink it in and it is good. Another winter day made bearable by another fine barleywine. What a barleywine: an adventure in a glass.

The adventure begins with a heavy, spongy head that slips away into a thick lace blanket. This will eventually fade, leaving several splotches along the glass. It is a dark brew; it is impervious to but a few specks of light. It is so dark that the glass reflects the happy face of the drinker.

It tastes sweet - at first bite. There is a heavy blast of brown sugar mixed with malty heaviness. But there is a fine balance twixt the two; it is a fine mellowness that offers faint notes of banana ester with a few choice almonds strewn in for fun. Let it sit, and the taste changes. The sweetness fades and the mouthfeel blossoms into biscuity warmth. If you try, there are oranges and raisins. Not a whole scoop, but enough.

Old Ruffian is strong and potent. My reveiw is based on a bomber received at Christmas 2007. (See below for the date of this reveiw.) While I rarely drink barleywines, the ones I do excell. And this one does just that. But savor it. Sip it. Respect it. It goes down smooth - if you let it go down slow.

It is a potent weapon in anyone's beer arsenal.

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Photo of hoplover82
4.43/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow! The Aroma of this beer is amazing. Sweet caramel at first then it fades to a beautiful bouket of floral hops then that fades to toffee notes.

It pours a deep, hazy brownish dark red ale. The tan creamy head stays a little while and leaves in its trail lush lacing.

The flavor has lots of caramel notes and a nice in your face bitterness that lingers well. Dark fuits like prunes and also notes of bitter oranges.

It's a very smooth ale for the alcohol content. Not sting at all. It's hidden like a snake in its den.
A quite lovely Barleywine indeed. Thanks again Great Divide. The Lord bless the hop harvest.

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Photo of Cresant
3.73/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured this 22 oz. brown bottle into a Chimay glass. No date, but I have had this one about a year. The body was murky, brown/red leather. The head remained throughout.

Smell was sweet and fruity. grainy malts.

Taste was fruity with a mellow, subtle bitterness. Ultimately pretty balanced after some initial mood swings. Not my favorite style but I would like to try this one fresh too.

Mouthfeel was smooth and pretty full bodied. Medium carbonation.

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Photo of DrMalt
4.12/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz Bomber

Appearance: Color is deep amber with red hues. Good head that lasts & nice lacing.

Smell: Citrus, piney resin, floral.

Taste: Agressively hopped barleywine. Some malty sweetness.Slight metallic twinge.

Mouthfeel: Very full bodied.Creamy but full of bitterness.

Drinkability: Just what I was hoping for- a hopped up American Barleywine.This is an excellent rendition of the style with a bit more on the IBU's but that is what I like.

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Photo of Squelch
4.43/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Brown. Crystal clear. Huge head. Perfect lacing. Exceptional.

Smell: More hoppy than I expected. Still the complext malt aromas that you like with a Barleywine. Very nice.

Taste: Wow. Borderline IIPA. Excellent flavor. Hops balance nicely with the maltiness which is extreme.

Mouthfeel: not as thick as I expected for a 10+% Alcohol beer. Very smooth for a highly carbonated beer. Very nice.

Drinkability: Wonderful sipping beer. One of the best I've had, regardless of style.

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Photo of Fatduck
4.45/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ive been exploring the barley wine style for a while now. So I've been looking for this one for a while.

Pours a deep copper/amber color, with a fluffy tan head that fades quickly but leaves a sticky collar of bubbles. Tis a crisp and clean tasting barley wine, with a focus on the hops, lots of hops.

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Photo of mikecharley
4.07/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 22 oz Bomber into an oversized wine glass.

Pours a deep copper color, with a small 1 finger head. On the bottle it is described as a hop forward Barley Wine. They weren't lying. The hops explode out of the glass as soon as I begin to bring it up for a taste. Lots of bittering hops. Very sweet malt taste to balance nicely. Only downfall was that it really was a tongue bruiser, can only think of drinking one of these in a sitting. Other than that, a great brew.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.2 out of 5 with 2,464 ratings
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