Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,094 Reviews
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States | website

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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Reviews: 1,094 | Ratings: 2,406
Photo of PlaywrightSam
4.57/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

750 ml bomber picked up at Yellow Front Package Store in New London, CT. A: Very cloudy amber/brown, moderate to small amount of head that reduces to a caked on layer. Some lacing. S: Lots of dark fruit, toasted malts, caramel, toffee, earthy hops. T: Like the bottle says, it's got a wonderful fruity sweet character up front which is followed closely behind by a blast of hoppy, earthy bitterness. Pine and citrus notes toward the very long finish. M: Thick, moderate to carbonation, sticky. D: I've seen this one for a while now but have never picked it up--but I suspect I'll be buying it much more often now. Terrific balance for such a huge beer both in terms of it's malty sweetness and it's hoppy bitterness. Huge abv well hidden. Really fantastic.

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Photo of udubdawg
4.57/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

22 oz bottle

Pours a hazy orange/amber color. Sizeable head of off-white hue, nice retention after the initial reduction. Left excellent rings of lace around the middle third of the glass, little to speak of before or after.

Really full aroma. Plenty of citrus hops, but a seemingly equal amount of caramel. Pine too, and alcohol isn't exactly in hiding although I've had aged bottles where it was notably less strong.

Taste is excellent, a boozy sipper at least for me. Smooth, softly carbonated. Very full in the mouth, coating, oily bitterness lingering and alcohol warmth continues to expand over my palate, throat, stomach as I enjoy this beer. Plenty of toasty malt, sweet caramel, and citric hops galore in this flavor.
I could drink this all the time, but don't have a death wish. One bomber or better yet, a half a bomber, sipped over the course of an evening, is perfect for me to get my Old Ruffian "fix" for a month or two.

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

bottled on 12/12/13, purchased in late August 2015. kept in a 42 degree mini fridge until i consumed it just now.

pours a dark auburn with some orange/brown tones to it (which i guess is Auburn but it's an off color). it's dark but not completely brown, like a dark clay color. thick head as well.

smell is sweet, maybe some caramel malt and fruit hops.

taste is pretty good. some heavy malt caramel taste followed by hop bitterness. some earthy hops at that. has a boozy tinge to it as well. goes down easy, isn't too thick and certainly isn't thin.

overall i really like this. it's my first barleywine and i wasn't sure what to expect but i like this. it has nice hoppiness to it but is clearly not a dIPA. it's full of malt but is balanced by big sweetness and earthy hops. will certainly be trying more barleywines in the future.

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Photo of RedHaze
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brownish ruby color with a one finger dark tan head that slowly fades to a soapy cap and ring tht leaves behind nice webs of lacing.

Smell; dark cherries, vanilla, note of toffee and spicy hops. There's a nice malt presence in the aroma as well.

Taste; initially sweet caramel malts, toffee and vanilla, followed by slightly sour cherries and raisins. There's a good amount of piney hop bitterness present as well as bit of citrus. The alcohol makes an appearance in the finish, but is not overwhelming, especially considering the high abv. Mouthfeel is full bodied, and really creamy. This is my favorite barley that I've had so far.

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Photo of brentk56
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Beautiful specimen - pours a cloudy amber color with a robust head that persists exceptionally well and leaves sheets of lace as if it were a stout on nitro

Smell: Sweet caramel and golden delicious apples; could a toffee apple smell any better?

Taste: Starts with a sweet caramel flavor that tastes more and more like a toffee apple just before the hops arrive at mid-palate; after the swallow, a blast of piney bitterness balances out the sweetness that lingers on the tip of the tongue; grainy tobacco aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, almost syrupy, with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Among the very best examples of the American Barleywine style

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a tulip pint

A mildly aggressive pour yielded a hazy mohogany body beneath a big two finger off-white head. Great staying power and sticky lacing.

Piney/citrus hops hit you off the bat, then comes dark fruit and toasted caramel. There is a smokey, wood-like smell deep in there. It's kinda murky.

Hey now, this is my kind of barleywine. Layers of caramel, dark, ripe fruit, pine needles, caramel, grapefruit, and just a touch more caramel in the finish. There is a nice light warming effect that you would expect to be bigger and badder than it is.

This is one silky, velvety smooth beast. It's simply amazing how good this beer is. It drinks like a 10% barleywine is supposed to drink. A definite sipper. Your going to want the time in between to relish in its greatness.

UPDATE: I don't think I have ever seen this much lace from such a big beer. My glass is completely coated, earning a .5 boost in ratings.

Between this and the Oak Yeti, I am in awe of Great Divide. Two of the best that I have ever had. My hat's off to you guys!

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Photo of Tupperwolf
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pouring from an unmarked bomber into my new Stone Old Guardian barleywine glass - I maintain that this is one of the best looking glasses on the market, period. The shape is distinctive, unique, classy, and bold all at the same time. The presentation may be a key element, but damn if this beer doesn't look appealing.. It seems to sit there on the table and stare back at me with prying eyes, dark brown-amber with a thin sugar cookie wafer of yellowish head that leaves behind a clingy wall of lacing.

I go in expecting steamed-vegetable barleywine malts and am rewarded in kind, then splashed suddenly by an oily bath of hops. The overall scent is rich, honeyed, butterscotch tones on top of a bomb of sweet, citrusy hops and grassy, bittersweet apple malts. Smoke... hell, there's some smoke in there, too.

Each sip carries in a bittersweet cruise of smoky-fruity-citruisy-bitter-indescribable flavor. There's lots going on here, and I'd love to buy another bottle to age for the next 2-3 years, though it's amazing as is. There's a ton going on in the malts, with vegetables, oats, caramel, smoke... then it's backed up by the most hops I've encountered so far in a BW, a fantastic wrestling match of grapefruit hops that are pure OIL. I'd hate for those hops to fade in the aging process, though.... Damn.... I really enjoyed Great Divide's Hercules, and they took their awesome hopping to this beer, too. Yum yum.

The mouthfeel is awesome - it's carbonated extremely finely, so each sip is like a fluffy puff that swirls over your tongue, then simmers away in the swallow and becomes oily, oily with hops - you get the best of both worlds, soft, enjoyable carbonation and oily hop bomb.

I'm SO tempted to boost a lot of these ratings up to 5.0, but I just can't help but imagine that things will change and improve with age... Seriously, though, this is one of the best barleywines I've had so far, and easily the most enjoyable. If I had to rename this, it'd be Great Divide 'Atlas Triple IPA'.

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Photo of evantwomey
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber poured into a snifter.

Appearance is a deep amber, solid layer of foam on the pour which leaves spidery lacing all around the glass. A gentle swirl brings the head back with ease. So far so good. The aroma is a beautiful thing...a mix of earthy hops and candy-like malt. I'm picking up some other 'earthy' aromas- sort of reminds me of the way a damp cellar smells. Deep, smoky aromas in the background.

Taste up-front is sweet malt but instantly the hops rush into your mouth. These guys did a fantastic job getting tons of hop flavor into this beer, and just the right amount of bitterness to balance the malt. The finish is not overly bitter, rather, it's a clean, lingering bitterness that is darn refreshing.

Mouthfeel is perfect. Smooth, velvety, but lively with carbonation too.

For a Barleywine of >10% abv, this is a very drinkable beer. Neither the hops nor barley are cloying, perfectly balanced. Overall a righteous example of an American barleywine and this is instantly my new favorite of this style. Will definitely seek this out again.

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Photo of lostbearbrew
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep burgundy's and mahogany's in the pour, with a resemblance to nothing else I've seen. The hues of reds and scarlets in this brew are amazing under a halogen light.

The smell on this baby is quite fine - a rush of piney hops, malt, fruit (plums, I think, predominantly) and a little alchohol...

As you take your first sip - be aware - this is a complex beer. The layers seem to change on almost every sip, where you often taste something new each time you swallow. Although the overlaying tastes are the same as the smells, there is also a hint of roasted grains, and some chocolate, perhaps. As the glass warms, it seems to gain even more character, adding not flavors, but seemingly layers to the complexity.

Up until recently, I didn't really "get" barleywines, but I must admit this is one that I am fully latched on to and enjoy tremendously.

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Photo of markaberrant
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - carmel amber colour, brilliant clarity, puffy light tan head, good retention, small bits of lacing left behind.

S - rich caramel and fruitiness, citrus grapefruit hops are present, but integrated into the overall aroma

T - rich carmel and grapefruit pith dominate, very well rounded, tons of depth, solid bitterness in the finish, aftertaste is bitter grapefruit and alcohol

M - thick, but not syrupy, body really accentuates the malt, but the bitterness and alcohol in the finish really dry things up, lip smacking, alcohol is noticable, but very smooth

D - about as fine an example of the style I've ever come across

This bottle is from winter 08/09, so about 7-8 months old. The flavours are relatively simple, yet powerfully complex. I like that in a beer, I don't need 12 different malts and 12 different hops. This is everything a barleywine should be. Fantastic.

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Photo of SaCkErZ9
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This is a perfect looking Barley wine. A cloudy brown/maroon color with an extraordinary head; about 1 inch thick and stays for years it seems, leaving lacing all the way down the glass until the last sip. I can barely see through the glass.

Very fruity aroma. Raisins and pineapples with molasses and figs. Strong hop up front as well. A heavy yeast smell is also present. Terrific bouquet of fruits. Sweet and syrupy smell. Very complex.

There are a lot of hops in here but I absolutely love every last ounce of hops added to this baby. The hops dont overpower the wonderful fruity smell. The hops and malt are in perfect unison. The alcohol is present at first and warms as it goes down. Not too overpowering and quite good alcohol flavor. Molasses and brown sugar with caramel are the flavors up front. Citrus fruits, predominately grapefruit and a sweet syrupy flavor.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth and damn near perfect. Plenty of malt in the backbone that makes this a smooth drinker.

My favorite barleywine I have access to. A great winter warmer beer that would be terrific on a cold rainy day. Hell, I could drink this any day of the year.

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Photo of nickss
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a beautiful copper hue with a nice 1" creamy head... large chunks of lace.... exquisite.

Huge hoppy aroma, very musky and outdoorsy... almost grassy.... wonderful.... crisp.

The hops really make themselves aparent in the taste.... but with a pleasant sidekick: a distinct nutty flavour.... very toffee-esque. Some maltiness comes through in the end, providing a nice balance to this big tasting beer. The alcohol is very well hidden in this beauty.... wonderful.

Big creamy mouthfeel... hop bitterness on the tongue.... perfect for this style.

Scarily drinkable for a 10.2% brew... I have to make sure and stop myself after one bomber of this gorgeous brew.

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Photo of SawDog505
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a 20 Duvel tulip glass, bottled 12/02/2011. Pours a ruby red, with a two inch off white head that leaves an amazing coting of lace. Smell is big carmel, brown sugar, pine hops, and some dark fruit. Taste is all of that, but larger with more pine and grapefruit hops then the nose would have you expect. Body is large, wonderful amount of carbonation, more lush than dry, and very drinkable for its large body and ABV. This is my new favorite non barrel aged Barleywine, wow is this is special.

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Photo of flashablecards
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First review!

Barley Wines are a guilty pleasure of mine. I love all beer (there's even a place for Bud Light in this world), but I would pass on most beers for a chance to try something new in the BW realm. Tonight I did just that.

Appearance: Admittedly, I give my judgement with Thomas Hardy as a foundation. A lot clearer and brighter than I would expect.. has the color of a brown ale. Not that I really care though.

Smell: Yup, smells like BW. I was afraid there would be too much emphasis on hops after reading the description on the bottle, but it's definitely not noticeable here.

Taste: What I would expect from a BW; slightly sweet, with notes of age and wine. The hops in definitely noticeable, but not so overpowering that it takes away from anything else too much.

Mouthfeel: Never did understand this category. On a scale of 1 to 3, 1 being "what did i just put in my mouth" and 3 being "I feel fancy", I'll give it a solid 2.2.

I love BWs, and if you like Tom Hardy with a little bit of hops and a relatively high ABV (10.2%, I want wondering why I was feeling so fuzzy) you'll definitely enjoy this one.

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Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a dark brown with some orange and red highlights. A mag-lite to the side caused my tulip glass to light up like a giant red LED. Weird. The head didn’t stick around too long and collapsed into a slight film.

Smelled of candy brown sugar, caramel, tootsie roll and bits of chocolate all magnificently blended into a superb earthy hop character. Very nice.

Tasted of big sticky sweet caramel and molasses malts with a huge hop kicker. I also distinctly picked up some red liquorish. This one is a definite candidate for aging.

The mouth feel is medium bodied with a gentle big mouthful of carbonation.

Very tasty!

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Photo of taez555
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured a ruby/brown body with thick white/tan head.

Nose has intense sugary caramel smells, alcohol and this bright fruity citrus, earthy herb, pepper aroma. A very round sort of smell. Not as much a piercing sharpness as some other American Barley wines. Very nice

Body is VERY VERY thick. Starts very soft. Ends with a much brighter sting of Hop bitterness. Almost reminds me of good french Bordeaux as it flows over the palette. Rich caramel, toffee, dark chocolate, sugary malt with a very "chewy" sort of body. Bright alcohol with huge citrus peel, pepper, herbal and floral hops. A huge bitterness, but again mostly comes in the back end of this beer. Alcohol hits you hard after only a little bit of this . Definitely a sipper.

A really nice American Barleywine. It's a unique one at that as well. Big hoppy American with rich almost English like malt base, but at the same time the hops aren't your typical stinging hops. I like it, not my favorite, but up there.

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Photo of greg202stewart
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer is a dark coppery red the reveals a big head upon pouring. The smell is of roasted malts, caramel and really has a fantastic aroma that is out of this world and hard for me to pinpoint. The taste is strong and has an exceptional roasted flavor with a bite that is tempered by the caramel and sugar sweetness. Although this beer is strong it is very drinkable any time of the year. I just wish next time it makes a little longer than a week in my beer cellar to let it age.

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Photo of Morris729
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark and murky reddish brown color with a tall frothy tan head that sticks to the sides of the glass as it slowly recedes. Fresh pine and cedar dominate the nose with some fainter aromas of cocoa and freshly baked cinnamon cookies in the background. This is a very flavorful beer with candied sugar and sweet malt up front quickly followed by lots of dark fruit and chewy caramel. Next up are acidic bitter raw hop flavors, rum-soaked raisins, a rather pronounced spiciness (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and white pepper) and a bit of brandy towards the finish. A sticky hop resin aftertaste remains on the lips and tongue until the next sip. Very nice—a thoroughly enjoyable barley wine.

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Photo of BenwayPHD
4.59/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, dark red, almost brown. The aroma is very nice with this one. It's mostly sweet malt. Figs, caramel, toffee, a slight booze smell, with an earthy hop background like lavender and sagebrush. The flavor is much more bitter than the nose. The malty sweetness is present, but there is a very strong resiny bitterness that slowly takes over the flavor. The mouthfeel is nice but slightly thin for such a big beer. It's very good.

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Photo of humulus
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: reddish, chocolate with a beige head.

S: malt, chocolate, syrup, leather, red berries and dark fruits.

T: very well balanced. Dried fruit, chocolate, pomerans, orange zest, bit of oak, bitterness that is very well balanced against the fruity chocolate sweetness.

M: creamy, smooth, elegant.

O: World class. This is incredibly good. Just a shame I only got one bottle and it's out of stock in Sweden.

Drank from snifter.

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Photo of neonbrown82
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer even *looks* like it is going to be insane. The thick and sticky beer pours into the glass to a hazed nutty amber color with a nice thick collar of everlasting head. The lacing seems to stick fairly well.

The smell is great. Thick with sweet caramel malts with hints of earthy raisins and plums. A ton of hops dominate the aroma, however. The bouquet is heavy on the grapefruity and pine resiny hops.

The first sip provides a nice and big well-rounded bitterness accompanied by a very complex and seamless array of sweet malts. First the bitterness, then the sweet caramel, plum and fig, followed by some piney, grapefruity hop flavors with a bitter finish. Has lots of residual sugars that layer up in the mouth for added complexity as the glass finishes.

The body is huge! Thick and chewy, only a little bit syrupy and juicy. Very creamy with a light carbonation. As I said, the residuals coat the mouth for long after the last drink, and the overall taste perception seems to accumulate on the palate as you drink.

This is a perfect drinker for the barleywine season, even though it is starting to warm up a bit around here. It's one of the strongest barleywines I've had this season, but still one of the smoothest and most well rounded. Very similar to a DIPA, though the intense malt flavor tips it back to the barleywine side of the thin line.

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Photo of MiguelMandingo
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is the first beer in quite some time that left me speechless after the first sip. All I could say was "Damn". This beer is truly phenomenal.

Poured part of a 22oz. bomber into a pint glass.

Appearance - It poured out a cloudy deep ruby color and produced a solid 1 finger foamy head. The head dissipated into a thin foam coating across the top of the brew. There is a ton of lacing left behind the longer I drink. Over time, as it came to room temperature, the cloudiness disappeared and the brew became transparent.

Smell - I mainly smell caramel and toffee-like malts, and citrusy hops. I also detect notes of pineapple. The scent of alcohol becomes more apparent as the beer warms.

Taste - This beer starts off sweet. I initially taste buttery caramel, toffee-like malts that are slightly roasty, honey, and some fruit that I can't distinguish. Then, it has a HUGE, dry citrusy hop finish. I can detect the slightest amount of alcohol as it warms. The alcohol is hidden amazingly well for a beer this strong.

Mouthfeel - Medium thickness just shy of being syrupy. It has a very small warming sensation from the alcohol. Small carbonation level that is near perfect for a beer like this. Goes down amazingly smooth.

Drinkability - For a beer this strong, the drinkability is flawless. Period. I would happily have a second bomber. I would be pretty trashed, but I would be happy.

This beer is now a mainstay in my beer rotation, and it should be a part of your's. Try it.

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Photo of jaxon53
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

came across a couple of 22 oz. bottles for the first time yesterday. served in an Ommegang three philosophers chalice , slightly chilled. poured a nice darkish brown with a thick but short head. wonderful aroma of oak, hops, with a nice shot of alcohol. tasted of caramel with slight oak with a hoppy,and well hidden alcohol finish dispite the abv. this barley wine was surprisingly drinkable with no burn, and a very complex flavor.

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Photo of Sixpoint
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Phenomenal beer. Very nice appearance; appears to be filtered. A brilliant mahogany pour reveals a deep caramel indication... massive, pillowy head forms above.

Subtle fruit aromas hint at softness. Taste reveals otherwise. This beer has a massive hop whallop that punches your palate in the gut. You get the wind knocked out of you but you come back for more. It's some weird sort of sadist enterprise. I love it.

Mouthfeel is quite creamy for a barley wine. Quite unique. Overall, one of the most complex, subtle, and interesting American Barley Wines I've ever had. Bravo.

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Photo of BretSikkink
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tan head bubbling out of the snifter, topping a brown brew leaning strongly towards red. Retention and lacing turn out to be awesome.

The nose is great; strong and powerful, nice and clean. The caramel sweetness ramps up strongly the usual fruitiness, while the hops lay down a pine smack. Complex and attractive.

More of the same in the mouthfeel and flavor. Just about as good as it gets in the American barleywine category. Big bitter hopping, distinct malt backbone. Immovable object is the malt, unstoppable force is the hops. Creamy enough, absolutely beautiful once it hits the room temperature, minimal bitterness on the finish despite the huge hopping.

Still outstanding, I was excited to find it on tap. Keep this one in your rotation if you're A. into Barleywines and B. in G.D.B.C.'s distribution area.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 1,094 ratings.
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