Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

2,461 Ratings
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Old Ruffian is a hefty, hop-forward Barley Wine. Seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness, it quickly becomes aggressive with its bold hop flavors and huge hop bitterness. Ultimately, the big body, succulent sweetness and massive hop character come together to work wonders on your palate.

Added by gbontrag on 11-28-2004

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Ratings: 2,461 |  Reviews: 1,110
Photo of MSchae1017
4.85/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was tated in a snifter from a 650mL bottle.

It pours a deep burgandy in color with a huge frothy head that holds and laces fantastically. It smells hoppy surrounded by subtle fruity aromas. Hops are the first thing I notice on my tongue as I continue to drink I sense cherry and citrus flavors that blend well with the hops. This beer has a full thickness and fantastic carbonation. Overall, I would love to have this beer again.

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Photo of CabTiki
4.84/5  rDev +15%

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

Good lord what a great beer!

Old Ruffian rivals Duvel in terms of the pour: A voluminous, pockmarked, frothy head tops this rich amber brew. I am impressed right off the bat.

The nose and flavor follow suit, this almost resembles (to me) a really strong Wee Heavy. The malt character is similar. Hops balance it all out beautifully. The slightly syrupy mouthfeel and high alcohol detract little from the overall drinkability (and enjoyability) of this great beer. Thank you to all who have reviewed this beer (thus giving it the high rating that demanded my attention!). I've had other Great Divide bombers and really enjoyed the Yeti, but was underwhelmed by the Hercules. This takes the cake!

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

Poured into a snifter a nice brown with a great frothy head that left wonderful lacing. The aroma is of malts and dried fruits with just a slight bit of hops. The taste was very well balanced with the malts and hops dancing in great harmony, neither overpowering the other, very savorable and it only gets better as it warms. The beer is slightly heavy but the alcohol is well hidden. This is certainly my favorite Barley Wine, enjoyable in the Winter or Summer, it doesn't matter.

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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 UTCengOwl
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm a huge fan of this beer and I was glad to see bombers back on the shelf at my local Central Market. Served in a Great Divide balloon glass.

The look of this beer is probably its least impressive quality. It pours a mix of burnt orange and brown with surprising clarity for how dark it is. There is a muddled light tan head on top of the beer that starts at around a finger and dissipates quickly. The head does leave some nice laces on the side of my glass, though.

The smell is doubly sticky. The malt backbone calls forth similar depth as any barleywine. Sweet, bready and sticky malt. Good caramel depth. However, there is a significant American hop presence, too. Sticky, piney hops. These two kinds of stickiness come together to present a great unified front in my nose. However, the hops aren't quite dynamic enough to give this a perfect rating.

The taste has distinct layers that come forth. The initial taste has some aroma hop presence, but is dominated by the big malt backbone. However, this eventually blends and then gives way to the American hop taste. This, combined with the hit of booze at the back end gives it a distinct difference from the beginning and middle taste. The finish is strong, but ends clean. This invites me to keep imbibing and finish the 22 oz far too quickly. The weight of the beer in my mouth is significant, but not stickily overwhelming. This is exactly what I want from my barleywines.

I love Old Ruffian and it's not hard to see why as I work my way through the bottle. This is my favorite Barleywine and the standard upon which I judge all other barleywines that I consume.

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Photo of nlmartin
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a wide mouthed 20 ounce wine goblet.

Appearance: The beer pours a very lovely amber / rubyesques coloration. The head was a thick creamy off white ruby tinged beauty almost three fingers high. Loads and loads of lacing left behind on the glass.

Smell: The beer has a marvelous caramel / vanilla smell. This beer had alot of hop goodness about it. The beer has a good malt character about it.

Taste: This beer has a malty sweetness that gives way to a hop oilyness about it. There is a nice fruity cherry dipped in rum sort of taste. This combines with a piney hoppy goodness.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The beer has a full bodied mouthfeel. The beer has small tight carbonation. Just a well balanced barley wine. Dam this beer is good.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 22 ounce Bomber, my bottle looks exactly like the one in the BA Database. No strength or freshness listed, but it proudly states that this one is 85-90 IBU’s.

Appearance: Lovely soft luscious pour into the glass goblet. A rusty sunset red mixes with a dark russet brown body. Fabulous refraction when back lit reveals a rainbow of scarlet reds and rocky browns with some dark oranges on occasion. Thick resilient tan colored head leaves a vanilla lacing that sticks well to the glass sides. Light swirls exhibit the finely dissolved carbonation which supports the ½” head throughout. Top drawer sexy looks.

Nose: Lots of floral hops, toasted malts, caramel and soft Devon toffee set against a rather heavy alcohol soaked malt backdrop. Thick juicy hop odors as they travel up the nostrils, deeply inhaled, the alcohol vapors warm the nasal cavity…..oh this one is a beauty…..I could drink this just by inhaling it.

Taste: A little too sweet in the start for me, but this is short lived, a mere blip and well worth putting up with because what follows is a fantastic hop-burp inducing Barley Wine bomb. Scorching hop-laden caramel toasties fill the middle, whilst the finish has a middling anise skid-mark on the tongue and some mild liquorice teeth tingling astringently. Super hop bite, the acidic tones blend well with the caramel malts and balance nicely, but make no mistake, this one has a hoppy-jalopy character that is very attractive.

Mouthfeel: Big ass bold and punching at times! Deciduous green hop oils slide and coat the tongue whilst the acidic hope bite pulls the cheeks, all the while the large alcohol kick warms the gullet and leaves an anise trail down the throat.

Drinkability: I know it’s above 10% but I still don’t care, an alcoholic hop buzz simmers as the end of the Bomber, the whole bottle was utterly quaffable and dangerously addictive once the lingering hop kick decayed and the alcohol warmth rescinded to a cool finish. F**king Dangerous.

Overall: An utterly fine example of a “hop-forward Barley Wine Style Ale” (as the label describes this one). Actually, this is a bloody great example.

Superb and well worth seeking out if you get chance. Highly Recommended!

Thanks to the Old Ruffian for the Big Huge Barley Wine……erm, I mean, oh heck….I guess this is 10.20%!!

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Photo of GStone899
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of hero27
4.82/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber.

Possibly the best I've had in Great Divide's amazing bomber series.
90 IBUs..crazy, the bitterness seems much more subtle..the hops blend in so well with the massive malts that it tames the hop character down quite a bit. The enormity of this brew alone may be enough to intimidate even some BAs, but it's really one of the easiest drinking barleywines I've had. The flavors are full, rich, and complex without being overpowering. The piney & citrus hops are as present as ever, but they go in perfect harmony with the toffee & caramel malts.

Such a fantastic beer..and one of the best (if not THE best) barleywine I've had. Full bodied and very chewy mouthfeel..and still, the drinkability is insane....the bomber was gone before I knew it. If you're looking for the quintessential American Barleywine, look no further.

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Photo of Brenden
4.8/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A big, thick, fat tan head 2+ fingers tall sits heavily on a bright burnt orange brew and leaves lacing in sticky, heavy deposits pretty well down my glass.
Dark fruits pop from the aroma along with sweet and bready malts and a very American hops presence that provides mostly citrus and a bit of pine. I also detect a very interesting (but not bad) slightly metallic doppelbock-like molasses sweetness. It seems there's good complexity, and quite a lot comes out, but the powerful sweetness tames some of what's underneath.
The flavor opens up, offering a mix of dark fruits and citrus, sweet bready and caramel malts, and floral hops bitterness. The hops bouquet is powerful but exceptionally balanced with the malts and complemented by sweetness, a bit of softness, a light herbal dryness, a very tame spiciness, and a more orange than lemon citrus flavor. I imagine this is as hoppy as a barleywine could be without heavily sacrificing balance and crushing any other nuanaced flavors. This is phenomenally brewed and showcases the major difference between American and English barleywines. As Americans go, this is it. The alcohol somehow staved off unitl the finish for a big 10%+, where it comes out and manages to avoid an overly ethanolic taint.
This is a big, bold beer, nicely thick with a sharp crispness. Body, depth, smoothness and crispness are all here.
This is possibly the quintessential Barleywine in the American style.

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Photo of cokes
4.8/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Translucent rust under a fat stack of buttery foam.
Nose of burnt pink grapefruit, pineapples, pipe scrapings, wet tin, spruce, and old mufflers.
Begins with toasted brown sugar and maple maltiness that unfolds into blueberries and roasted hazelnuts smeared with mango jam over buttered, cinnamon-crusted rye bread. Equally grainy and fruity, turning now towards smoked pineapple as the hops hit. Gooey with resin balls, pine pitch, and grapefruit pulp, and drier with rusted metal and grass. That's all been done before. But what stands this apart is the bombastic cinnamon-sprinkled cedar explosion when it hits the entrance to the esophagus. It's a magnificent, memorable finish, and one that will have sensation-seekers downing bottle after bottle.
The mouthfeel too is divide with a thickness, coaxed out of a syrupy frumpiness by a finely beaded trickle that makes this daintily mouth-encompassing, but not overburdening. It's like 2% milk on a thirsty Sunday morning.

Grade A+ American Barleywine. No question. Give this a year's rest? Valedictorian.

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Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.8/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22 ounce bottle. Pale and murky off-brown, fused thick corral head. Sticky lacing, which included a sheet of sediment pasted to the bottom of the glass. Invigorating aroma of juicy hops, grapefruit, dark plums and tingly alcohol. Sweet lip numbing hops; loaded flavorings—oak and brown sugar combined with toffee and cherries noted up front; the palate is left with juicy grapefruit hops. The body is full and fulfilling; hop bitterness settles down nicely; sweet malts and anise, traces of alcohol are blended into the mixture. Massive flavoring that brings it's A game. A first class hopped-up Barley Wine that will put others to shame. Superb.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.8/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22 oz bomber, served in a pint glass.

A - clear, deep amber color with a light tan head that stayed for the entire glass (I didn't sip the first glass), leaving a clump of head and a whole bunch of lacing.

S - sweet malty aroma with a faint smell of hops, it is a very pleasant smell.

T - delicious tasting barley wine, extremely well balanced sweetness of malt along with a snappy hop finish. ABV is totally un-detecable in taste.

M - medium bodied, lightly carbonated, enjoyable treat for the palate.

D - kick back wherever you are and enjoy this barley wine, drink this brew slowly, the alcohol is in there, even if you can't taste it.

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Photo of Gusler
4.79/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beer disembarks the 22-ounce brown bottle a smoggy rusty-red with a Brobdingnagian light tan frothy head that after it deliquesces, the lace forms a sticky sheet that seals tightly to the glass. Nose is hop floral with hints of fusel alcohol, sweet malt backs it up, start is delightfully sweet and the malt profile significant and the top middling in feel to the palate. Finish is emphatic in its acidity and the hops robust in their spiciness, very dry aftertaste that lingers long on the taste buds, and the high ABV leaves a nice warming sensation, a top notch Barley Wine in my humble opinion.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle(room temp) a gorgeous ruby red-brown with a sizeable head that dissipated after about 10 minutes into a fine layer with lacing.

The smell that came from this brew is awesome! I note fruit, hops, and sweet caramel malt that has me spending more time with my nose in the glass than a person oughta shoulda. ;^)

And....the promise from the smell does NOT fail to tranfer itself to the taste in big bold fashion. The sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops just works so darn well together that I literally have to pinch myself to make sure that I'm not dreaming. Then, add the fruity tones(hard to say which is dominant. Grapefruit, plum, other?) to the mix and here, imho, is a Barley Wine Style Ale that sets the standard by which all others should be judged. And I'm a BIG fan of SN Bigfoot

Btw, the +10% abv doesn't even come into play as far as the taste goes and that's *another* testament to how great this brew really is.

Life is good. :^)

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

Poured from a 22oz with no dates into an imperial pint.

Deep ruby/amber with a two finger head of rocky tan that hangs around until it settles to a thick foam. Lots of lacing.

Smells of piney hops with some citric notes and some malt underneath. The aromas are strong, but a lot more balanced than others in this style.

The malts are much more apparant upon tasting. There's some nice exchanges between the malty backbone and strong hop highlights. Has a certain juiciness to it. Nice long finish that has no alcohol....is the abv really that high? Outstanding.

The medium carbonation lends itself to a mouthfeel that wakes up every nook and cranny of my mouth, yet its not an assault like other BWs. As far as drinkability, this one rivals some belgians with the same abv. In other words, this is downright dangerous. Tastes so damn good one could get too wasted too fast.

I've always claimed Bigfoot as my favorite BW. After tasting this fine brew, that is now in question.

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Photo of snarey32
4.78/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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

I was lucky enough to find this beer aged for 2 years (friend at the local liquor store hooked me up). Possibly the best beer I've ever had. Great balance, thick, cloudy, guy at the store said it has probably gained a # or 2 from aging. I can't decipher all the subtle flavors and put them to words like everyone else here, I'll just say that it tastes very good, very complex. I've only tried a couple barleywines, i've tried the sierra nevada Bigfoot, and Young's Old Nick. This beer makes them seem diluted and immature. I wish I could get all my "big" beers aged like this. I'll have to try it unaged to compare.

First review for me! (lurking for a long time though)

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

poured cold into a classic pint glass. Pours like whole milk. Wow.

The color is pure caramel that allows ruby red orange when held up to the light. Wow.

After allowing it to warm up a bit, I take a long whiff. Intitial notes are of intense bitter, fruity and spicy hops. Earthy, malty undertones follow and meld with the hop edge perfectly.

Each sip is wildly complex, showcasing spicy, zingy fruity hops. Very bitter but still approachable. Vegetal notes like carrots, radishes and celery are also present midpalate. The finish is long and warming.

Mouthfeel is, like orbitalr0x noted, spot on. Full and creamy, almost like oil. Delicious.

Drinkability is fantastic, but only for a barleywine. A definate buttkicker.

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

Popped the top and suds spilled all over. This bottle is as effervescent as I have ever seen a barley wine.

Easily one of the most gorgeous beers I have ever seen. In the glass it is a deep ruby, dark as a bloody night but with much clarity. The head is massive. I haven't gotten this much head from a girl, let alone another beer. I will be spoiled for life. A tan rocky head stays on this beer and lacing wholeheartedly all the way down. AMAZING.

Big aroma, but not too big. The big one here is the alcohol. Thick malt aroma with a fruit filled toffee kick. Very nice.

Can I get an AMEN!? The taste is completely complex and satisfying on all levels. Rich toffee and caramel. Fruity and alcoholic. And big as hell. For a beer this flavorful, it is very smooth. I usually don't like too much of an alcohol taste, but in this beer it works well. The hops definitely kicking, but this beer is not about the hops. They create a pefect balance to the malts. This is a supremely flavorful, balanced and delicious brew.

Mouthfeel? Thick, juicy, oily, smooth as baby's ass. The carbonation is just prickly enough.

This is too drinkable, meaning I am avoiding standing right now. For such a powerful beer, it slides down like velvet and begs the drinker to let loose.

I am a man who appreciates barley wine. I am a man who has tried over 30 in a single day. And this beer is a clear contender for top stop. Hell yes. Thanks for the bomber Monk, your taste is impeccable.

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Photo of EStreet20
4.78/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Label on the bottle describes this as an "aggresive, hop-forward barleywine." Sounds right up my alley.

22 ounce bomber poured into a snifter glass.

A - A simply gorgeous, nearly opaque red color crowned by a plentiful tan head that sits just over the top of the glass and stays. Laces nicely, a great looking brew.

S - The hops definitely do push forward but there is a beautifully sweet, butterscotch/caramel smell that I'm picking up. Very inviting.

T - A great, nearly perfect mix of sweetness and hop kick. Some excellent fruity flavors covered by some nice caramel sweetness to start with a hop rush shortly thereafter. Through the finish a great balance is struck.

M - An excellent, full mouth coating feel suits the style itself, and this particular interpretation, very well.

D - What an easy drinking barleywine. Complex and excellent flavors with the alcohol completely hidden. Amazingly drinkable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A- about a 1/4" cream tan head on a cloudy amber brown body. There is a bit of lacing covering the top and sticks to side of glass.
S- Big alcohol with caramel malts. Hops come in strong also. A light roasted aroma is behind it all. Bit of yeast too. Maybe a bit grassy mixed with citrus hops.
T- Toffee malts. Bit bigger on the caramel side. The hops kind of help balance it out but the malts are winning by just a bit. The bitterness cuts through it all though. The alcohol leaves a tingle on the tongue and very lightly warms up the back of your throat. There is a little bit of a bread to it also. The bitterness is pretty big and lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Also in the aftertaste there is a light caramel malt flavor and a bit of toffee too. It has a nice complexity to it. The more I drink of this the more I love it. I wish I could give it a 4.75-4.99 on the taste I just don't think it's a perfect 5.
M- Medium to full body but smooth with low carbonation. Not cloggy at all and I think just the perfect body. Not to big but not to thin. Has just a silky feel to it.
D- It is very good. I wouldn't say it's better than some of the Old Guardians but is better than some of the years. I would love to taste this after a few years. I think it would age very nicely.

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