Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,106 Reviews
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,106 | Ratings: 2,455
Photo of scruffwhor
3.5/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- A cognac and brandy amber/honey hue with sa few bubbles moving to the top when the barley wine is colder. Some mild head, about one finger of eggshell white. Solid ring of foam though.

Smell- A thick mix of Pacific Northwest hops and alcohol hit the nose. Some more spice Christmas spices like cinnamon hit the nostrils as well.

Taste- Plenty of mild malts fermented to bring out a strong alcocolic tang to give the drinker a feeling of Winter in the Summertime. This beer is perfect by a fire while Mother Nature unloads a foot of snow on your front lawn.

This tasted like a young barley wine. But I did by another bottle for aging and will review when I have aged one.

 694 characters

Photo of craytonic
3.5/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz Bomber

Appearance: Large ea foam head; takes a while to subside. Nice lacing. Color is hazy burnt-umber orange and brown.

Smell: Citrus, harsh (excessive) hops, pine resin.

Taste: Over-hopped beer. Probably could have used some age. Some sweetness, but it is completely overpowered. Slight metallic twinge.

Mouthfeel: Good full body. Finish is astringent and bitter.

Drinkability: Over-hopped and over-hyped. Not for me.

 430 characters

Photo of diamondc
3.51/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on Dec 5 2011

A: A clear shade of crimson, fluffy tan head, lots of lacing.

S: Spicy ... cinnamon, woodsy, dark chocolate, pine. Nothing really leaps out.

T: Heavy on the pine hop flavors, tastes almost dirt-y, bit of a cotton candy aftertaste.

M: A bit medicinal, reminds me of cherry flavored cough syrup. A sipper.

O: A decent barleywine, not the best on the shelf. Still enjoyed it though.

 410 characters

Photo of Retail1LO
3.51/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bomber into a 22 oz. CBS snifter. Pours a brilliant dark ruby red hue with a substantial two finger plus crown of foam. This is by FAR the most hop forward nose on any barleywine I've poured. If I'd been blindfolded on this, I'd have thought this a boozy IPA. The nose is riddled with hops and just the faintest hint of malt. It just doesn't have a nose that resembles what I've come to associate with a barleywine. The first sip and the hops jump right out at you. Some maltiness comes into the picture immediately after the hops depart. Again, there's a subtle woodiness to this, but it's not a mainstay. This is the most bizarre example of a barleywine I've had. At this point, nothing in either the nose or taste points to this being a barleywine. Granted, I don't mind it at all, and I find it enjoyable, but the grades are taking a bit of a hit as I'm grading this to style for a barleywine, and this thing is just...went rogue. The mouthfeel is boozy, with a high dose of bitterness. Again, I personally don't mind it, but I just don't expect this attribute from a barleywine. Overall, this is a solid beer, if it wasn't a barleywine. I feel it falls short of the style, however, and the experience is nothing like what I was looking forward to when I initially cracked the bottle. I can see myself coming back to this the next time I want a bold IPA.

 1,372 characters

Photo of ChrisPro
3.52/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle bottled on 12/22/09 tasted blind on 3/11/10.

Pours beautiful ruby with bubbly tan head and good lacing. Aroma of pine, caramel and licorice. Nice rich sweet flavor with a balanced bitterness. Medium body, good carbonation, a little oily, but a bit boozy. Would love to have this with a little age.

 312 characters

Photo of twiggamortis420
3.53/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz bomber of the 2008 vintage. Pours a crystal clear, ruby-copper color with a creamy, dark beige cap of head. Decent retention for the age and ABV, leaves an impressive sheet of lace on the glass. Doesn't get much better looking than this.

Nose is caramely and sugary oxidized malts, not quite to the malted milk ball stage though. Most of the hops are gone with just a bit of grassiness lingering on.

Taste still has a massive bitterness with a thinned-out malt backing. Tons of alcohol heat and some raisiny fruitiness. Carbonation is low and fits an aged barleywine well. Malts are smooth going down, but the biting bitterness and heavy alcohol make this a slow sipper. I think this is actually better when fresh, or is in an awkward middle phase of aging...hard to tell which. Needs some hop flavor in the middle palate and some varying malts throughout. I will be getting a fresh version of this and give it a re-review at some point.

 945 characters

Photo of PatronWizard
3.53/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Great minds drink alike. Bomber to glass...

Dark caramel, until you hold it up to the light, then it's medium dark caramel. Sports a decent head. Bubbles move oh so slow through the body. It's actually looking a little burgandy.

I smell apricots. Caramel. Is there another fruit similar to apricot, only darker? If so, I smell it too. Some other sweetness.

Wow, this ones got some hop bitterness right off the bat. Not huge but enough to make you say "wow, this ones got some hop bitterness right off the bat." I dare say the bitterness is prominent, with a little fruit flavor (black cherries?) way, way off to the side.

Rather thick stuff. Might be just a tad harsher than need be. Just a tad.

Definite sipper. 10.2% is all up in your mix.

Overall: I prefer Old Guardian, shoot me.

 789 characters

Photo of Fermenticusrex
3.54/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tasting note great divide old ruffian american barley wine
22oz bottle poured into pub pint glass
Aroma sweet malt, citrus, cut grass
Appearance beautiful ruby red nice fluffy white head, lacing clings all the way down
Flavor sweet malt, alcohol heat, tangerines and other citrus, very bitter almost astringent
Mouthfeel/Drinkability nicely carbed a little thin one or two of these a night
Overall a very good example of the style, have two more of these i'm going to cellar

 474 characters

Photo of monkeybeerbelly
3.54/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

could not really enjoy this one. very surprised. the bitterness did not seem to be balanced by the malt sweetness making this one bitter mess. very disapointed by this one. i love great divides other offerings but this one was definately not for me. ill stick to collette for now

 281 characters

Photo of StoneTSR
3.56/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a nice, homogeneous looking reddish brown with a thick white head on top.  It looks rich and sweet.

S: The nose is not terribly strong, but what is there tells the story of a malty and hoppy beverage to come.  

T: The Old Ruffian is surprisingly hoppy.  The malt is certainly there to balance it out, but the big, bitter hops push through and dominate.  I would almost prefer to classify this one as a triple IPA.  The malt, however, does push back one last time before the end of the sip, but as it heads down the hatch it gives way to a bitter aftertaste.  As the glass emptied and warmed the malt became more and more prominant, but this is still a hop show.

M: Unlike many other Barleywines I've had this is a nicely carbonated beer.  It is not oily, rather it has a little more sparkle to it.

O: As I mentioned above, the Old Ruffian seems more like a triple IPA than a Barleywine. Maybe there should be a small category in between the DIPA and the Barleywine for beer like this although I don't know what else would fit into it. Either way, this is a Barleywine for an IPA fan. I liked it, but I expect more bold flavor from the style.

 1,161 characters

Photo of zdk9
3.57/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours into my glass a dark copper color, with about a finger's worth of nice light foam and leaves some honeycomb lacing on sides of the glass.

S- Sweet candy smells permeate my nose and are accompanied by citrusy hops, with just a touch of juniper.

T- There is an incredible amount of both bitterness and sweetness in this beer. The bitterness is not suprising for the style but really took my taste buds for a jolt, as they couldn't detect it's strength from the smell. The hop flavor is also more agressive, lending some resiny tastes to the beer. But still candy, Twizzler, sweetness is what dominates.

M- Bitter, but syrupy. I'm not sure what could be better about this, but for some reason it leaves me wanting. Perhaps more carbonation would allow the bitterness to dissapate quicker and I could enjoy each sip anew.

D- Strong and good. Not a beer for warm weather, but one to sip in front of the fire after a long day.

 933 characters

Photo of kbutler1
3.57/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle. Poured into a tasting glass an amber orange color with a slight tan head. Swirling creates a nice little head and allows the aromas to waft a little more. Both citrus and pine emanate from this brew along with some sweet smelling notes. This, to me, is a very hop forward BW and the citrus and pine notes jump upfront followed by a transition to a malty backbone. Medium mouthfeel. Finishes with a lingering bitterness. As it warms I get some medical type notes in the flavor.

 484 characters

Photo of deapokid
3.57/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pouring an imposing blood red that more resembles a full-bodied vino than an ale, The Old Ruffian stings the nostril with the smell of alcoholic body and fermented fruit.
Toting a heavy booze bite with an oddly hoppy finish (it reminded a buddy of Weyerbacher's Simcoe), this barley wine's raspberry complexion nicely accompanied its flavor, which was rich with an aromatic blend of the tart tones of cranberries and the sweetness of a clementine.
Its only downside may be its profound strength, which juxtaposes its summery flavors. It's definitely a beer to drink in moderation, despite its "poundability."

 608 characters

Photo of vfgccp
3.58/5  rDev -15%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottled Nov 2010, opened Dec 2013

A - Gorgeous mahogany, burnt siena body. Creamy, off-white head has great retention and nice lace.

S - Caramel, cognac, raw wood, figs, tobacco, tart cherry, raisin.

T - White wood, booze, raisin, touch of cold coffee, bitter dandelion.

M - Surprisingly light, thin body. Way under par for a barley wine imho.

O - A little disappointing. The flavor could use a little more depth and complexity, and the body was surprisingly thin. It's possible the bottle didn't age well, so I will definitely be trying a fresh bottle of this beer as soon as I can.

 588 characters

Photo of Sean9689
3.6/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22oz bomber into Duvel tulip.

A - Rusty dark copper in color, tan head, a good amount of lacing left behind.

S - Sweet citrus, sugars, honey, and malt mixed with some alcohol.

T - More bitter then sweet. A good amount of hops in this one, that's for sure. A clean finish, I can feel some of the alcohol burn in my chest.

M - Medium bodied, good carbonation. As refreshing as an IPA, but still a sipper.

D - A good American Barleywine, but Behemoth is a better choice, in my opinion. Not a huge fan, so this will probably be my only experience with this beer.

 564 characters

Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.61/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

A - pours a hazy chocolate brown with half a finger of tan head, too dark to see through. Becuase of that, no sediment or carbonation visible, but it's not black, its weird, almost like it absorbs the light.

S - sinful dark fruits aroma, like figs, or dates, and molasses

T - dark sweetness, too sweet in my opinion, good flavor, i definitely taste the caramel, its just too sweet, the bitters kick in too late to balance it properly

M - thickness is nice, coating, full bodied

D - medium, great bodied, nice flavor, needs a bit more balance

 554 characters

Photo of hawksfan82
3.61/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is my first barleywine, so take that into consideration.

Poured from a bomber, good size head that dissapated into a ring, leaving some really good cloudly lacing on the glass. Beer is a gorgeous amber/ruby color. Very very nice beer to look at.

Smell got a little better as it warmed up. You get the floral hops and a little sweet alcohol alcohol, nothing to write home about.

Taste is definately on the hoppy side, but it goes back and forth with a hint of sweetness and a very noticeable alcohol in the middle and in the finish. It might be too much for some, but I like brews that don't try to completely hide the alcohol and let it just work with the beer. This does that pretty well.

Mouthfeel is a little on the heavier side. Not extremely heavy, but more than you would think with the color of the brew...I like it though.

Drinkability isn't too high right now, maybe cuz it's my first barleywine, and I'm just trying to figure it out right what it's trying to do. I imagine my opinion will change by the end of the bottle. I'll make sure to have some food with it next time. Either way, I think a bomber of this at a time will probably be my limit.

Thanks to Lukas Liqour for picking this out for me.

 1,232 characters

Photo of Jaycase
3.62/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a: light mahogany. one finger head, thick lacing

s: caramel, fruity, hops.

t: hops with a booziness aspect. strong alcohol presence.

m: medium body, low carbonation. tad thin

o: alcohol is quite strong, a tad too much in my opinion. I prefer bigfoot over this one.

 268 characters

Photo of Tropicalslip
3.62/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured with a nice big head,color is beautiful dark amber red, translucent and clean. Head is slightly off white and sticks to the glass. Carbonation bubbles went directly into the head when poured, minimal action afterwards. Maybe a little to cold probably about 40 when poured, letting it warm. Mild fruit notes in smell, mild sense of alcohol to come.

First mouthful warming fruits and sweetness coming through, definitive hoppiness lingering.
Second mouthful, richness lingers of malts and sweetness, bitternes hangs in the top of my mouth and doesn't let go. I like that the malty sweetness is not overwhelming and the hoppy finish sticks around.

Noticing that definitive hoppiness lingering and malty sweetness disapates fast.

Following taste refreshes fruits and with patience, before next sip bitterness returns and maintains at a pleasant level.

I like it when a barley wines sweet maltiness clings to my pallet a bit more, I like would like more of a stronger barley sweetness to linger, and cling to my buds.

Definitively good American Barley Wine style, but for me let's kick it into a higher gear.

 1,115 characters

Photo of srhoadsy
3.62/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served slightly chilled into snifter.

Pours a murky orange color with a quarter inch tan head that quickly recedes with a slight surface layer and light lacing.

Aromas of burnt sugar, vanilla, dried fruits and very mild dark coffee background.

Sweet flavors follow through from the aromas with a clinging bitternes that I didn't really care for.

Body is medium/heavy, sweet and sticky with mild carbonation.

A decent barleywine, but couldn't get by that lingering bitterness. This was a 2011 batch so I will age my other bottle and see what happens.

 556 characters

Photo of alleykatking
3.63/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

07' Vintage. Poured from 22oz bottle. Review from notes.

A- Pours a hazy almost mucky looking amberish brown color...almost looks light sludge. Off white one and a half finger head sticks around and stays a while. No real lacing on this per say...everything just slides back into the glass.

S- Big caramel malts come through with this. Light darker fruits as well with a touch of vanilla on this. Big alcohol smell when this warms up more and more. Not bad but nothing to make it stand out from other barleywines of this age.

T- Darker fruits with some caramel malts come blasting through this at first. Vanilla comes into play with some faded hops in the backing of this beer. Alcohol notes finish the beer off altogether. The flavor does a little more justice to this beer than what the aroma would make you think.

M- Medium-heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Very drying on the palate as I sip on this. Caramel malts and light fruits are left on the palate with each sip. Big alcohol flavor on the aftertaste with this beer. Sits heavy on the mouth when drinking.

D- This beer was alright with some age on it. I think it had already started to go downhill. If you keep this beer around for a couple years I would say drink it. If not you might be a little less surprised with the flavors.

 1,317 characters

Photo of angelmonster
3.63/5  rDev -13.8%
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

 745 characters

Photo of 100floods
3.63/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber copper with a cream white head. Smells of a typical hoppy, malty Barley Wine, similar to Gnarley Wine in aroma. Mild-Heavy hop flavors. A little bit of citrus and something else I can't put my finger on. I'm thinking orange... but what? Not much a noticeable malt flavor, not in comparison to the hops. Kinda tastes like hoppy orange peels. There's a tobacco flavor mixed in there, too. Definitely a few flavors I've tasted before, but not combined like this. The body is medium-thin, kinda throws me off a little. There's not enough carbonation to make up for it. I think they were using a california mindset for this beer but made an attempt at originality, so it wouldn't be copycat brew. I'd maybe drink this again, definitely not bad, just my loyalties lie elsewhere.

 792 characters

Photo of kojevergas
3.65/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served on-draught into a snifter at Great Divide's tap room in high altitude Denver, Colorado. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours a two finger head of good cream, fair thickness, and decent retention. Colour is a dark nontransparent ruby.

Sm: Toasted malts, caramel, pleasant cream, and light cherry fruit ester hops. A mild strength aroma.

T: Toasted caramelized malt comprises the backbone, with cream on the open and climax, alcohol (especially in the third act), and hints of cherry esters. Well balanced, with the alcohol generating a pleasant welcome warmth. Nicely built, with due complexity. Quite lovely all around, with depth and unobtrusive hops.

Mf: Smooth and wet. A bit too thick. Pleasant cream. Suits the flavours well.

Dr: Quite drinkable for the ABV, which is hidden well considering how high it is. I'd have this beer again. A nice barleywine from Great Divide.

This would likely age well. I'd like to try it with a few years on it out of a bottle.

 974 characters

Photo of alpinebryant
3.65/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark Caramel brown color with a small light tan head that quicklyi settles to just lacing.

Smell of sweet caramel, brown malts, bitter hops and some malty sweetness.

Taste very similar to aroma, planty of sweetness to go around, easily confounded with bittering hops and brown malt. There is a slight astringency there and a little too much bitterness for my liking. All around decent, not my favorite barleywine. Slightly light on the mouthfeel for a 10.2% abv, and good carbonation. Vanilla cookie flavors from sugar caramelization.

Worth a try

 559 characters

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,455 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.