Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine
Liked This Beer
4.2 w/ 2,464 ratings
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Year-round

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

Added by gbontrag on 11-28-2004

User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,464 |  Reviews: 1,111
Photo of JoeAmerican77
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
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

 432 characters

Photo of pweis909
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

 1,436 characters

Photo of Mooslerfitness
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
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

96 characters

Photo of marksto
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark amber, and from this particular bottle has very high cloudiness. Thin, off-white head with medium retention. Big aroma displays an intermingling of fruity esters, alcohol, and big hop. Flavor starts with a big, juicy malt explosion - carmel, fruit, and raisins; followed by distinct hop bitterness and flavor. Overall flavor gains depth and intensity and it sits and warms.

A very good barleywine and excellent example of the american version of the style.

 470 characters

Photo of wapcap
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of brureview
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured a light tea color with a 1 finger head.

The aroma was a strong vanilla-toffee presence which lasted for much of the warming.

Mouth feel: moderately carbonated.

Taste: there was some vanilla and slight toffee which was masked by a strong alcoholic presence, distinct bitterness, and hops.

I would have preferred more fruit and balanced bitterness. The alcoholic presence overwhelmed the beer.

Overall, a good American Barley Wine, but unbalanced. Perhaps the December 2011 brew date was past its prime. I prefer the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, which has a more balanced taste profile.

 600 characters

Photo of psmith161
4.14/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Marklaker
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of cjgator3
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a tulip glass. Pours a dark brown color with a tan colored head. The aroma is absolutely loaded with malt, dark fruits, caramel and hops. The taste starts out smooth and malty, and the finish is dominated by a lingering hop bitterness that packs quite a bite and hangs around long after the sip is over. The predominately malty nose is deceiving, as the taste packs quite a punch from the hops. Overall, this is another solid American Barleywine that does not lack in flavor or character. "Extreme beer" at it's finest. Recommended.

 556 characters

Photo of bum732
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

S: Grape skins, rich toasty malt, herbal hoppiness, some bright citrus, slight apricot.

L: Orange crimson red, light tan creamy head with great lacing. Great retention.

T: Rich crusty bread with dark fruits up front. Then a medium citrus bitterness leading to some grape skins, some raisins and toffee. Finishes semi-dry with some herbal hoppiiness and some additional dark fruits. Some alcohol warmness.

M: Medium full body, medium low carbonation.

Pretty good, would like to try it fresh as the hops were definitely faded. Great nose, but a little harsh in the taste.

 573 characters

Photo of OldIronLungs
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Duvel tulip a rich reddish caramel color with a thick and fluffy off-white head that quickly cakes to the glass. It's not going anywhere fast.

Nose pulls sweet caramel, a dark berry/fig tone, and an earthy bitter citric hop presence along with some alcohol.

Wow this is aggressive - oily front plasters hoppy grapefruit and pine across the tongue. That is sort of countered by sweet caramel, bread, and very good carbonation that opens up the citric notes before crashing back to a rind bitterness at the end with warmth from the alcohol.

Overall this is a very drinkable barley wine considering how hoppy it is. The 10.2% is well covered, as well. It's big, it's aggressive, and as it warms it gets sweeter. I was considering cellaring this one for a while, but I pulled it and wasn't upset I did - it's both drinkable and challenging.

 853 characters

Photo of KYGunner
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The color was a tawny Dark copper with a cloudy body and a bit of thinness. The foam head was thick and dense.

The nose was filled with chocolate and fudge brownie sweetness. The malt was obvious barley but there was a wine like air, hence barleywine.

The flavor is clean and at first very simple. It tastes like barleywine but as you delve further strong caramel flavor comes on. Even further still I was catching sweet dried dark fruit like prune, raisin and crabapple. It finished with fudge and brownie.

The feel is smooth but a little thinner than I anticipated, with low carbonated feel and a bit of alcohol sensation.

This is a solid and quite delicious barleywine that starts simple but opens up to be a relatively complex experience.

 746 characters

Photo of kbuzz
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of CRJMellor
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours with a reallly "alive" red/amber color with some highlights of gold. Well-carbonated and a dense tan head appears after settling down on the pour. Tremendous sized bubbles in the head nad the ecru colored nectar forms an interesting ring around the glass.
Aroma of sweet caramel malt and a strangely earthy and sweet aroma, can't quite but my finger on it.
Falvors of caramel and toffee shine through a barrage of sweet and flowery bitterness. Pleasant if you like BW's but very aggressive. Sort of reminds me of Founder's Devil Dacer with just a little bit less going than that brew.
Mouthfeel is literally bittwersweet. Very sweet, almost orange like undertones on the list as the sweet fruits fade away into a new round of hop bittering.
Drikability is enormously high. Classic West Coast BW.
Sweet, toaste and roasted job is to bring Sak's up to the most fascinated by.

 884 characters

Photo of lou91
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

No Vintage. A great looking beer poured into a tulip glass. Dark brown/amber color with a big rich head. It also smelled great with hops and malt balanced in a big way. This tastes like a vintage Bigfoot BW – Rich and maple syrup sweet with hints of caramel apples. Long dry-hopped bitterness leaves you wanting more. This is an excellent example of a balanced BW – easy to drink despite the overdone sweetness.

 413 characters

Photo of zoso1967
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A very attractive amber mahogany color. The aroma is malty and sweet. I can detect a bit of alcohol and what smells like mandarin orange. I was quite taken aback by the flavor. Unlike other barley wines I have had, this one seems to have a bit more going on than just malt. It is a little boozy tasting with plenty of caramel and bready malt sweetness, but it also has a nice amount of citrus hop flavor. Full body for sure but it is so smooth. Definitely a sipper and not the kind of beer you would want to have more than one of in a sitting.

 543 characters

Photo of DavoleBomb
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

4.5 A: Clear dark amber color. Two fingers of super creamy beige head with good retention and tons of lacing.

4.5 S: Tons of caramel malts make a sweet toffee aroma. Candied fruits with plenty of plum, prune, raisin, and dates. Hops are citrusy with emphasis on orange and a touch of pine as well. Big, bold, and wonderful.

4.0 T: Surprisingly bitter, which I fully welcome. Many a barleywine are cloying messes, but not this one. Bitter backbone is accompanied by citrusy and piney hop flavor. Crystal malts are very present, but are dominated by the bitterness to an extent. Still, this is a very fine barleywine with dark fruits making an appearance.

4.0 M: Heavy medium body. Good carbonation. Pretty creamy and except for a touch too much of bitterness, pretty smooth.

4.0 D: A good American style barleywine. Definitely worth a occasional glass.

 879 characters

Photo of BuxMontBeerLover
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of AmorousAngel
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a very dark reddish brown with a small, fluffy tan head. Started out cloudy, but quickly became very clear. Persistent lacing left behind in the glass.

Distinct hoppy aroma. Alcohol very evident in the smell. Fruity undertones.

Taste is dominated by the hops and alcohol. Like the smell, the taste has an undercurrent of fruit. There is also an unexpected sweetness mingled with the hops.

Very smooth and medium-bodied. Noticeable alcohol after burn.

Very easy to drink. I am going to try aging the second bottle that I have for a few months to see if it gets even better.

 591 characters

Photo of Neehan
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle

Pours a thick and slightly hazy amber with a head that is thin but doesn't plan on leaving anytime soon. A delicious aroma of powerful citrusy fruits mixed with some caramel. The taste is sweet, but for only a brief moment before blasting you with bitter hops that will stay with you for quite some time. The mouthfeel is exceptional-- thick, chewy, syrupy, andincredibly smooth. A beer meant for sipping and not neccessarily in huge quantities. I'll be getting another to age.

 493 characters

Photo of zac16125
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bomber poured into a snifter
Bottled on date is blurry but looks like it may say Aug 08 2010

A: Pours a dark color that looks like a shade of brown as it sits on the table, but when held up to light is actually a very pretty dark amber with a reddish hue. There are two fingers width of light khaki colored head, which is bubbly but still manages to look dense, and dissipates at a moderate rate to leave a thin film, and some lacing, but not an impressive amount. Side note: I definitely recommend pouring this beer very aggressively straight into the middle of the glass. The first glass of this bomber I poured less aggressively and it gave a tiny amount of head with no retention and no lacing.

S: Lots of fruit sweetness on the nose, with aromas of cherry, plum, fig, and even raspberry. Also some caramel malts, and a not so subtle alcohol presence. Hints of a piney hop aroma, but mostly sweet dark fruits and alcohol.

T: Early on there are lots of flavors that are intermingling, but none that immediately stand out. After my taste buds get some time to collect themselves and get settled in,there is a roasted malt flavor with a big hop bitterness on the back end. The alcohol is present from the get go, and early on in on the verge of taking over, but never does. There are some roasted and caramel malt flavors, but the dominating flavor is a piney hop bitterness. This beer gets better as it warms, with the alcohol surprisingly subsiding as it warms. The sweet characters start to come out towards the end of the drink as well, but still not to the degree that was present on the nose and the dark fruits never really come out. I’m not sure if it was the alcohol presence or the heavy hop bitterness that mask some of the other flavors, but it certainly didn’t have the complexity that that was expected from the aroma.

M/D: This beer is on the higher end of carbonation, and for the first part of the drink is too much so in my opinion. However, about halfway through, as it starts to warm, the carbonation recedes and the beer becomes much smoother. Its medium bodied, and although there’s certainly no hiding the alcohol presence, it never dominates the drink. Even with the double digit ABV, heavy carbonation, and presence of alcohol throughout, it somehow manages to maintain a good drinkability. And it certainly warms the body.

O: Overall a pretty solid offering. I love hop heavy beers, but would have liked more of the sweetness that was present in the nose to come out in the taste. I also would have liked a more subdued alcohol character. Still a very good beer though, and worth checking out.

 2,640 characters

Photo of sweemzander
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into a snifter. No bottled date found.

(A)- Pours a cloudy brown, yet red mahogany color that produced a solid tan to off-yellow head with good retention. Left some bits of lacing behind as it dissipated.

(S)- Deep & rich fruits of figs, raisins, and cherries with toasted toffee, caramel, and honey. Bits of cinnamon biscuits. Finishes very dry & woody.

(T)- Wow! Ridiculously dry! It totally dried out my entire mouth with bittering woody hops, but immediately morphs into an array of complexities: Under-ripe cherries, figs, raisins, and toasted toffee, yet with a still constant underlying dryness throughout.

(M)- A great carbonation level with an overall good balance. Just massively dry. A relatively good alcohol integration with only a minor warmth as it went down.

(D)- This barleywine means serious buisness! Pretty massive on all levels, yet by no means overpowering. This is an excellent example of the style!
I would definitely share this with a friend though, because this bottle kicked my ass once I finished it! This beer could age for many many more years considering how it is at this stage. I just wish I knew how old this one actually is; its still got tons of power behind.

 1,226 characters

Photo of womencantsail
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Jeff for this vintage bottle (2008 or 2009, can't remember).

A: The beer pours a very hazy amber color with about a finger's worth of off-white/khaki colored head.

S: Quite heavy on the caramel, as you might anticipate, with a surprisingly strong citrus aroma. I get a lot of oranges out of the beer along with some brown sugar, toffee, and molasses. A decent amount of bread, and no real booze to speak of.

T: Really sweet and pleasant overall. Toffee, caramel, and brown sugar provide a really nice sweetness. Some candied orange peel flavor adds a bit of citrus and bitterness. A touch of bread on the back end and a little bit of bitterness lingers on the finish.

M: The body is medium to full with a low-medium level of carbonation.

D: Damn, that was good. I'm glad I can now go down to any decent beer store and buy this.

 842 characters

Photo of BMoney575
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled on 12-13-07

Pours a fantastic deep red color, with a huge, foamy tan head, that settles to a think, craggy layer.

Smell is very strong and fruity, big alcohol, and big hops.

Taste is huge. Tons of roasty malt, and gigantic fruity hops. Super smooth and bitter on the finish, with a definite hint of coffee.

Mouthfeel is very good, slick and creamy without building too much.

Drinkability is surprisingly good, super sweet, but well balanced.

Overall, a monster of a beer. Thicker and meatier than other barleywines, it coats you throat with bitterness and sets your mind at ease.

 594 characters

Photo of UA8
4.15/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours a translucent ruby hue with a huge pale toffee colored head.

S- Dried apricots, oranges, pineapple, mango, and sweet malts.

T- Lead with a touch of orange peel hops and pineapple, mid palate is of caramel malts, and finishes with a huge resinous kick of piney hops.

M- Medium carbonation with a semi slick body and fullness.

D- This is one huge barely wine. I really like it now but think that with a year of so of aging this would easily turn into one of my favorites. The pronouncement of the hops in the one is a bit overwhelming and with aging that would likely become more subdued with many other flavors coming to life.

 638 characters

Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
Beer rating: 90.8% out of 100 with 2,464 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

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