Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

2,456 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: 2,456 |  Reviews: 1,106
Photo of damienblack
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours like an apple cider would, a pale mapley brown that turns to a light amber when all the beer is poured. Huge head, frothy, foamy, great lacing. The smell is what gets me, though. Huge hophead aroma, it smells like a DIPA, not a barleywine. Piney and soapy, little bit of malt but it really cant get through.

To my uncultured taste buds, this is closer to a malty DIPA than a barleywine. By far, on the hoppier side rather than the maltier side. The malty sweetness is there, just buried under a layer of pleasent hop bity. Very piny on the back palate, while the sweetness lingers a bit on the front palate. A little bit leathery. I'm not the biggest fan of hoppy beers, but this is working for me. I'd rather a hoppy barlywine than a malty DIPA, if that makes sense. Pretty creamy and smooth for something. A little bit boozey, but I think the hop bitterness also enhances the alcohol effect, if it weren't so hoppy it would hide it very well. This is definitely a sipper for me, but quite pleasant. I can see why it gets the respose it does.

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2005

Pours dark copper with a mohagany tinge. Barely hazy at cellar temperature, with a one-inch head of dense beige.
Sheets of clingy, fine lacework. Very nice.
Aromatics are still brash after three years. Massively malty with an aggressive high-alpha blast.
Oxidation is plenty apparent, with sherry and damp paper shining through.
The nose rounds out with citrus-rubbed cedar bark and some smoke-funk.
On the large side of medium bodied, plenty chewy and tacky.
The pallet has an assertive bitterness up front, drying malt and pine-bark midway, and lingering citrus pith and alcohol follow through.
Finishes with lingering bitterness, grapefruit zest, woody tannins, and a building warmth.

Three years has not mellowed this ruffian much, and the oxidation is detracting in the nose. Past prime.

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Photo of ManBearPat
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

an off-beat barleywine thats pretty good, but in my opinion overrated on BA. pours a mostly clear amber color with a good fluffy white head. smells like fruity wood, maybe cherry or apple wood. plenty of hops in the nose as well, more than the style usually presents. there is also the smell of red/amber malts in this one, caramel and toffee sweetness. flavor is a compliment to the nose, very similar profile. long long bitter finish here, and a shocking alcohol burn. the feel is good, if a bit too boozed up, but theres good carbonation and a medium body on it. overall, its complexity and strength make it a nice barleywine, but im not as blown away as some other reviewers.

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Photo of CHADMC3
4.12/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours murky amber to walnut brown with a creamy, tannish head that hangs around for a while before leaving a sticky lacing in its path.

Bold earthy hop aroma with sweet fruit and vinous notes and then reverting back to piney hops. Second approach reveals sweet caramel malt, and perhaps just a hint of toastyness.

Wow, this is quite a complex barley wine with big earthy hop flavors in the front and finish of the palate with sweet caramel malt in the middle, hints of dark fruit, and even wood notes.

Medium to full in body with medium carbonation and a nice dry finish.

The palate really packs a wide range of character, perfect blend of hard hitting hops and sweet malt, and a very pleasant abv presence.

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Photo of dogfishandi
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Vintage. 22oz foiled and capped bottle poured into a pint glass, fridge temp. bottled 12 5 11.

pours a dark reddish orange color, bordering on copper. the slightest bit of haze. a thick light tan colored head with some great retention and really nice looking sticky lace.

initially in the aroma i get lots of big resiny hops. perfumey, pine resin, slightly woody with a bit of alcohol heat as well. a light candied caramel as it warms, but this smells more hop forward.

similar to the aroma. resiny, piney, woody hops, some deep candied caramel malt (more than the aroma suggested), a slight prune like dark fruit, slight booze. finishes with a big resiny bitterness. almost like a really malt forward DIPA.

big sticky body, but really not that big for a barleywine. carbonation feels spot on.

overall, this is a really solid american barleywine. exactly what it claims on the bottle "hefty and hoppy". similar to say bigfoot, but not quite as complex as doggie claws. this would be a nice one to age, exspecially because its so readily available.

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Photo of r0nyn
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into my Dogfish Head snifter. Split with fellow BAs infi and NYManc. Bottled on date is Dec 22 2009.

Pours a dark amber hue the color of chestnuts. Lightly hazy with some bubbles running up from the bottom. Fluffs up a big whiteish head that leaves a ton of sticky lacing. Really a very pretty thing to behold. Smell is full of pine and a slight floral hoppiness. A bit of alcohol is detectable as the brew warms.

There's a lot of maltiness right up front, presenting a sweet flavor right off the bat. Some piney notes, but they're subdued, complementing the malt quite nicely. As the bottle states though, it quickly becomes aggressive with some hoppy nuances making themselves known. I think age has taken a bit of the bite off of it, but it's still plenty hoppy. It's just mellowed out to the point where the bitterness isn't overpowering. It's a very unique and complex flavor profile, one that I am quite enjoying. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a good bit of carbonation and a smooth, silky finish.

Drinkability is really quite good, thanks to the complexity of the taste and the great mouthfeel. My first barleywine, and I think I rolled a good one, since it was so malty and sweet. I wouldn't mind picking up another one of these and putting some age on it. Another excellent brew from Great Divide.

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Photo of kirkpjr
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a hazy caramel copper color with one and half fingers of head that fades to leave some nice lacing. A nice beige head lingers around the top of the glass.

S: Not sure of the vintage of this one, but I have sat on the bottle for a few months. Sweet malts and caramel dominate the smell. Very faint pine and grapefruit notes. Almost a chocolate smell here as well. A little alcohol detectable.

T: Sweet malts and some fruits - maybe apple. Caramel is fairly strong. Also some grapefruit here. I'm enjoying the taste more than the smell. There is a nice level of bitterness here - but the barleywine sweetness levels out the taste.

M: Medium to medium high in body. Moderate carbonation. Sweetness lingers on the palette.

D: A little sweet and boozy to be very drinkable. Great barleywine, but its tough to call this one drinkable. A sipper. Also would love to try this as fresh as possible to see what hop character is initially here.

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Photo of claspada
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated Jan 07 2010.

Pours a hazy tawny, rustic mahogany with a substantial creamy, fluffy off-white head that leaves some nice sticky/soapy lacing on the sides of the chalice.

Aromas begin quite heavy on the caramel and dark fruity malts, as you might anticipate from being aged for 2 years plus. Second pass I get a light citrus and pine hop presence which still remains, which makes me think this was a hop bomb fresh. As it warms I get more complex maltiness highlighted by brown sugar, toffee and figs/dates. A decent amount of toasted breadiness is present throughout with no real booze or heat to speak of.

The tastes directly follow the nose with big toffee, dark caramel and brown sugar maltiness. You then get a light but substantial enough bitterness on the back end, enough that I can pick out the pine and light blood orange hop flavors. Toasted bready and the dark fruit flavors are once again present, no alcohol whatsoever. More bitter than I expected still but not too much so for the style. Fresh this may have been too bitter for the style, but aged here it is at a perfect level.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a surprisingly medium level of carbonation. The slight extra bit of carbonation helps this from being too sweet, which is important because barleywines can become too sweet with this much age on them. Finish is lightly sweet but more so lightly bitter.

Overall this is one of the best American Barleywines out there. Not quite up to the level of the Alaskan Barleywine which I consider the top, but really close. Really nice flavor profile, pine/citrus bitterness to complement the sweet caramel/toffee maltiness. Just a great showing overall. (This beer once again helps to prove my theory that American Barleywines peak at 2 years of age, so I will continue to follow that practice of waiting until that maturity date to sample going forward and recommend all to do the same for maximum enjoyment.) Definitely a must try for fans of the style and another high quality brew from Great Divide.

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Photo of Griphon
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of Warren2621
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of scottfrie
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into Delirium Tremens glass.

A: Pours a dark hazy cranberry-brown with a soft thick light tan head that took its time to fade into a thick fuzzy film that lasted the whole beer through and left a solid wall of dense lacing down the glass. The amount of laceing this beer leaves is just epic.
S: Notes of caramel and candied fruit with hints of dried dark fruits and sweet fruity hops.
T: Holly freaking barleywine does this one pack a flavorful punch! Follows the nose with big flavors of caramel and bitter hops. Candied fruits and citrus dominate the sweetness and the aftertaste has a touch of dark fruits and tobacco. Very sweet yet fairly balanced by the bitterness.
M: Full bodied with a sticky viscous mouthfeel. Alcohol is present and warm but not overpowering.
D: This one has a crazy amount of flavor and yet is extremely drinkable. Deliciously sweet and bold flavors with the most lace I've seen left by any beer makes this a winner in my book.

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Photo of jhlosito75
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of MalibuKenny
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of antoines15
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of wolfsleepy
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber, clear with a finger of light tan foam. Great retention. High level of aroma. Caramel, molasses, spice. Slight whiff of hops and alcohol.

Tasted of dried fruit, quite bready and full bodied. Lingering and powerful bitterness that balances well and masks the high level of alcohol. Pretty good. I'm not crazy about barley wines that come across as syrupy and this one doesn't. Fairly complex and well balanced. We couldn't believe it was a purported 85-90 IBUs.

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Photo of ryanonline
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A nice cloudy orange red pour with a giant fluffy tan head. Good lacing.

Malty and hoppy. Caramel like malt and piney hops. Smells more like a dipa than a barleywine.

Still the same in the taste. Very sweet malt and a nice grapefruit like hop presence.

Very viscous mouthfeel. Light carbonation, dry lasting finish.

This is a big beer, I don't think I Could have morenthan a couple.

Good beer. I've been really into barleywines lately, and this is very tasty, though not necessarily an ideal example of the style.

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Photo of csurowiec
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle into a pint glass. Bottled on Dec. 20, 2012.

A: Pours a murky copper color. The head is a one finger off-white shade featuring decent retention and a soft, creamy texture. Some nice lacing is left on the glass. The haziness isn't exactly appealing visually, but will likely translate into a surprisingly easy drinking barleywine.

S: Upon first whiff, I get a lot of bready, vaguely caramel-forward malts, which is supplanted by some aged leafy hops. Of course, the trick here is to let it warm up - that way, the subtle fruit esters (like cherries and apricots) will come out and add a welcome dimension to the beer. I'm also getting some notes of chocolate, brown sugar, and tobacco. The more I let this sit, the more interesting it becomes. In other words, just like how a barleywine should be.

T: A wave of bitterness opens things up, and is quite fleeting off the palate. I'm getting a lot of tobacco flavor from this beer, which quickly develops into chocolaty, fruity, and caramel-y notes. These flavors are more whispered than shouted It has a somewhat dry, mineral water finish. There are really light hints of alcohol, slowly coming out the more it warms up - again, adding to the experience rather than detracting. Every flavor here is integrated and balanced to near perfection; I'll take that over something mindlessly complicated any day.

M: While it's not exactly light, it's shockingly crisp and dry on the finish. A lot of that has to do with how vibrant the carbonation is. I can tell it's a big, strong beer, but there's absolutely nothing to suggest it's 10.2%. It's definitely more drinkable than your run-of-the-mill DIPA, yet every bit as rich and decadent as a barleywine should be.

O: Oh man. This is a killer barleywine. Not only is it luxurious and complex, it's surprisingly drinkable and not overly sweet (which is a problem, even in good barleywines). Actually, I overstated it's drinkability...if only because I want to savor every last drop of it.

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Photo of bennetj17
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice mahogany brown, with a creamy off-yellow head of 1/2 inch, nice lacing, semi-cloudiness. Aroma of strong grassy hops and mild caramel malt. Strong alcohol in the nose. Flavor is a mix of caramel, dark fruit, and chocolate malt balanced with strong hoppy bitterness. The alcohol becomes quite effervescent in the finish. Mouthfeel is slightly thin, with decent subtle carbonation. Drinkablility seemed quite nice for a strong alcohol brew. I enjoyed it alot.

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Photo of spoony
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On tap at the Denver Bicycle Cafe into a snifter.

A-A nice-looking deep-tawny amber-hued beer sits beneath a thick cap of light tan head. The head is persistent and a thin layer of foam stays around for quite a while. The head leaves a heavy coating of lacing on the glass as I drink.

S-The aroma is pleasant and warming with a caramel sweetness that is mild for the style. I detect a fair amount of hoppy bitterness, but no one flavor stands out. Maybe some orange rind to go along with the vanilla-scented caramel? Alcohol is well-integrated.

T-The taste tracks the smell closely. It is subdued and very balanced with a nice dose of orange-rind hops to add some zest and spice on the finish. To be sure, the caramel, malty flavors are there, and I can feel the alcohol more than taste it, but this barleywine is easy on the palate.

M-The feel is medium body for the style with a fine, mellow, almost creamy carbonation. The carbonation is a nice change from ultra-heavy, syrupy beers of the style.

O-This is a good beer, but not a great one. The flavors tend toward simple and drinkable, instead of huge or complex or mind-blowing. Normally, a well-done beer like this would not be a problem, but in a barleywine that is 10-plus percent ABV, I want my mind to be a little blown. Simplicity notwithstanding, this is a good-looking example of the style and it drinks easy. A good fire-side, apres ski beer.

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Photo of ohmybock
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this one in the past, but for the most part it's been a year or more. However, I finally had this one again last month on tap at the Barley's in Greenville, SC and loved it. With that being said, this rating is from a new bottle.

This fresh bottle came unexpectedly from a friend. It pours a clear, dark-ish, amber color with a mild head. It certainly looks inviting. The aroma isn't great, but it's not bad either. I was expecting more hops in the aroma (which I seem to remember from the tap version), but this bottle leans a bit more toward the malty side in the aroma. The taste surprised me after first experiencing the aroma. The taste is malty, but with a nice blast of hop flavor and decent bitterness too...nice! This is way too drinkable for a beer of this strength. Actually, it got better and better as it warmed. I think I liked the draft version slightly better, but this is really good too. This bottle has completely restored my faith in the bottled version of this brew. The last bottle I had was a total disappointment. To be fair, thinking back now...I'm sure that last bottle had been aged...which I don't normally like in my hoppy, American-style brews. In my opinion, drink this brew fresh or not at all.

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Photo of JoeAmerican77
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Amber pours sexy one finger of small suds headroom...

My nose is picking up garden vegetable, especially tomato paste. Some sweet pickles in the background as well... interesting

Hit in the face with hops and alcohol, nothing subtle about it. A solid pick with some strawberry and pine syrups

A bit resinous, a big beer, medium bodied lightly carbonated

Overall a good beer, stay away from room temperature as it loses it flavor

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Photo of pweis909
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is my first American barley wine. Frankly, I approached this with trepidation, having seen one of the Brother's reviews for it. I knew I was in for a blast of bitter.

Immediately after cracking the bottle I thought I smelled piney hops, maybe Chinook? I poured the beer, which was brownish amber, and mostly opaque. It had a huge tan head, with considerable lasting power, that ultimately left plenty of lace as I drained the brew.

After that first whiff of hops, I really didn't notice more hop aroma. But there was lot's of fruit aromas: pineapple and coconut. Plus carmel and chocolate. No kidding. The smell left me with the impression that I was going to be drinking a pina colada carmel fudge shake.

And that's where the tropical fantasy came to an end, because when I first tasted it, it was ALL bitter. Kind of harsh. The bottle does say 80-90 ibus. But even as I swallowed, I could smell those fruity aromas calling me back for another sip. The big alcohol content may have contributed some to the harshness - I felt an alcohol burning sensation during the finish.

I nursed this 21 ouncer over a 2 hour period, and after about an hour, my tastebuds adjusted to the bitterness, and the carmelly malts became more prominent.

As for adjusting to the alcohol, well, let's just say this is one to enjoy in the comfort of your home. While I hogged this baby up for myself, I'd prefer to share it, because of the strength.

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Photo of Mooslerfitness
4.14/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled 12/15/13 this is my first one of this kind not my favorite kind of beer but this is good

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,456 ratings.
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