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

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Reviews: 1,106 | Ratings: 2,455
Photo of DrDemento456
4.09/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Been meaning to try this ever since they put it in 12 oz bottles still paid the premium at almost 4 bucks a single. Pours a very hazy amber brown with a 1/4 inch of opaque colored head that settles to a very smooth ring. Smell is excellent very malty with some brown sugar and toffee rounded with some dark fruits and some herbal hops twang. No ethanol in the nose. Taste is a bit more hoppier than I expected with some herbal cone bitterness in the front and finish. Some caramel and fig flavors but this is a bitter aggressive ale through and through that uses it to cover the ABV nicely. Drinks medium to heavy still more of a sipper but still an enjoyable ale.

Overall a Barleywine for hop heads this ale is good and I would like to try it again with age since Hibernation ale with 2-3 years on it is subline and that beer is full of hop cone!

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Photo of Soulbill
4.76/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Excellent barley wine. I love hops, but its not hop-forward, and the hoppiness of this one sneaks up on me. It starts kind of sweet and mellow, and then the alcohol content, complex but full flavor, and hop content start kicking in. I think it pours better into a mug than a pint bottle. Well-named beer and totally enjoyable from first to last taste. One is not enough, three is too many.

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Photo of Harrison8
4.08/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a murky rustic bronze color with a finger of khaki head on top. Lacing is strewn about tightly at the start of the glass, but disappears as the beer warms. Aroma is features barleywine-esque notes of raisins, fig, and caramel with an underlying hop profile that contorts the aroma and gives it a distinct American fingerprint. Hop notes include herbal and resin. Flavor profile opens with a smooth, sugary sweet induction of raisins, fig, and caramel before the hops take precedence in form of herbal and resin notes. The resin hop notes stick all the way to the toffee finish. Together the resin and toffee form a sort of bittersweet ending. Mouth feel has a medium thickness with a filling, sort of grainy texture. Overall, while certainly a barleywine style with all its malty goodness, the hop presence could make this a little polarizing for some. It keeps each sip interesting as the malts and hops work to reverse the work of each other.

Served in a 12oz snifter.

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Photo of Czequershuus
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

This beer pours a brownish ruby with an average head. The aroma is rich with pine and resin, brown sugar, nougat, and almonds. The flavor offers up loads of pine and resin, with caramel and brown sugar, and a huge dose of bitterness, with a finish of bitter citrus pith and chocolate. The mouthfeel is fairly thick and rich. Overall this is a superb beer - so rich in malt, yet so bitter and piney as well. A really great beer for my tastes.

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Photo of darktronica
4.07/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I've enjoyed several bottles over the years, though this one happens to be from December 2012. While Old Ruffian is known to age well, I'm trying to rate more according to how I would score a bottle around a year old, more like what someone is likely to encounter in the shop. For the record, I would recommend drinking around 2-3 years of age; at just over 4 years old, this bottle is starting to show more signs of oxidation that push around the smoothed-out hop character.

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Photo of mothmanscott
4.27/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours hazy dark orange but soon becomes clear amber. Produces a small, half finger, surprisingly lasting (though down to a ring & some floaters for much of its life), variously bubbled, beige head that leaves some patchy lacing. Alcohol prominent even for this high ABV style, but Oh, what nice barley wine it is! Aroma boozy, piney hops & sweet malt tones of toffee & caramel. Taste is big piney hops up front giving way to a middle that is heavy caramel malts & biscuity with maybe a touch of honey & a finish that brings back an overlay of the resinous hops with alcohol detectable throughout the sip. Big alcohol & bitter aftertaste that grows for a brief time & then lingers. Complex. Mouthfeel is medium-heavy bodied with low-moderate carbonation, warming, chewy, syrupy & sticky.

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.03/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Old Ruffian pours a dark purplish color with a big lacing head. Big dry fruity aroma, with hints of earthy. Very full flavors, dry fruit and lots of earth, with a kick of bitterness near the end. Good body and feel, with a big kick of flavors. Overall, a powerful and tasty barley wine.

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Photo of MinerBob
1.99/5  rDev -52.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.75

Nasty! Caviat: I'm not an IPA fan but if you are you will probably like this beer. Color is cloudy caramel the smell is a hop with a strong cactus smell AND taste witch is way to strong for my palette. Would not recommend.

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Photo of jp32
3.75/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a red amber color with a foamy, khaki-colored head atop of the beer. The head sticks around for the entire duration it takes to drink this one. This barleywine smells of caramel malts, apples, white grapes, and wood. It's flavor is sugary up front with earthy notes, followed by a resiny citrus/pine hop washout. Much hoppier than I was expecting. Medium-bodied. Perfect carbonation.

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Photo of SomethingClever
3.93/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

10 Oz pour on tap

A: huge nice creamy slightly khaki in color head. Body is a rich caramel with very little clarity.

S: resins floral piney malty. Some burnt sugars.

T: lots of resin, burnt sugars, malts, a little floral hints.

M: Slightly thin not super cloying but it does coat the tongue.

O: A fairly solid barleywine but not anything to write home about. Laces the glass beautifully though.

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Photo of Marraybay
3.15/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Look: Dark red-amber in color: cloudy; about a finger of foam.

Smell: dried fruit and citrus; booze

Taste: Begins with a bit of sweetness, which quickly transitions into all out citrusy hop
overload that lingers and then some. Booze also apparent.

Feel: Nondescript

Overall: Drinkable, but a tad harsh with some definite balance issues.
Likely would not revisit, given the availability of other BW's that I prefer/enjoy.
(Two recent surprises are "Devil's Milk" from DuClaw and "Anniversary" from Unita.)

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Photo of car2052
4.29/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle aged approx. 8 months into snifter.

A: Muddy red, plum. 1 in. Dark tan head.
S: Floral hops, pine resin, orange, Sweet dark malts, honey.
T: Initial hop bite followed by a sweet malt body. A little toasty, but not overwhelming. Alcohol helps bite through the sweetness. Hops linger on as the sweetness diminishes.
M: Medium/heavy.
O: Hops are still alive in this one, and a nice balance for the style.

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Photo of q33jeff
3.69/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle (2012) to glass
Aroma Is not strong for the style. Turpentine, tar, apple, pear. Look is creamy head, orange-ish brown. Cloudy. Legs. Taste is more apples, tar-ish aroma is woody in tasting it. Caramel. Alcohol well masked. Most completely hidden of course at almost 13%, ....actually the bottle says 10.2%; But still impressive. Liking it more as I drink (but isn’t that always the case). Smooth, sour aftertaste.
Bottle (01/28/15) to snifter.

I still agree with my comments from 2 years ago. Sampling this immediately following a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot of similar age. They are alike in many ways. The Bigfoot is a touch smoother and does not have the sourish aftertaste, which now I detect as more metallic.

Still a nice barleywine.


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Photo of Gobearswalter34
4.66/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled in January of 2015.
Pours a murky, maroon with a thin, creamy off-white head.
I can smell the wonderful mix of citrus hop and malt from a couple feet away. Candied mango and orange smell also.
Boy, the hop an malt combine very well for a wonderful mouth experience. The bitter hop is right up front, with many subtle fruits showing up along with citrus notes. This would include dark fruits of plum, cherry and dates. The malt bill in pleasant that expresses molasses as well. An alcohol bite lingers with slight resin. A wonderful Barleywine!

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Photo of barczar
3.98/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled January 2015. Got away from me in the cellar.

Aroma is boozy, with specialty malt fruitiness, deep notes of caramel, toffee, dark fruit in the form of prunes, plums, and dates, with plenty of floral hop notes.

Flavor is specialty malt fruity at the forefront. Hop flavoring has faded, with just a hint of citrus underlying a fairly sweet, caramelly malt character that becomes bitter, grassy, and earthy as it carries into the finish. The aftertaste is earthy and fairly bitter and lingers. Bitter bite overwhelms.

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Photo of chinchill
3.7/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle with a bottling date of 24 Feb. 2015.

Look: Cloudy brown-copper colored body. Some sediment in the bottle even after a full pour.

Aroma: Ripe and dried fruits, yeasty baked bread.

Flavor: Toffee, alcohol esters, ripe and dried fruits, hops, baked bread. Slightly boozy (low for style). Mildly bitter.

Overall: a good example of the style with relatively well hidden alcohol.

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Photo of mfnmbvp
4.05/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, bottled JAN 18, 2016 printed on the label. Acquired a single bottle of this stuff from a friend and have been holding it down. Finally getting around to reviewing this one.

Poured into a Central Waters snifter.

A - Pours a deep bright ruby body, semi-translucent with two fingers of frothy khaki-cream head that stays awhile and leaves excellent strands of scattered lacing throughout. Looks excellent.

S - Aroma is nice - the fruity hops & the bitterness is still there, with a touch of alcohol heat on the end. Notes of juicy stone fruit - grapefruit, mango, orange, pine. Slightly subtle, but a pleasant and inviting aroma.

T - The taste kicks it up a few notches from the nose: big hop bitterness still fresh, bitter, piney, & dank. Extremely prevalent hop presence, even after over 6 months in the bottle. Bitter citrus fruit rings, orange, grapefruit, mango, citrus pith. The malt is there, but has not even begun to creep forward. Not overly sticky or sugary, with subtle flavors of caramel, toffee, or brown sugar. Extremely bitter & resinous. Touch of smoke in there?

M - Feel is smooth, crisp, creamy, full-bodied, with good carbonation, and lots of lingering piney hop bitterness / resins, with a fair deal of lingering alcohol heat on the finish also. Goes down very smooth and easy for a 10.20% abv beer, though.

Overall, a nice barleywine from Great Divide, and a very likely contender for your cellar; i would love to see what some serious aging would do to some of these bottles. Highly recommended stuff.

Great Divide Old Ruffian -----4/5.

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Photo of colts9016
4.41/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This barleywine is at least 6 years old, heck it is so old I cannot read the the born on date. Poured into a tulip glass at 50 degrees. A very tall two finger light tan/ orange head that has good retention. The beer is orange and brown in color and is opaque. Some lacing is left on the glass from the head. The beer does present with some carbonation bubbles.

A rich hop note is still noticeable, with grapefruit, caramel, bread, floral, brown sugar, earthy, and floral.

A very big tasting beer, with earthy note, grapefruit, caramel, bread, floral, caramel, toffee, grapefruit, and some yeast.

The mouthfeel is carbonated slightly astringent, and chewy.

This is a good barleywine, rich flavorful, and really good. The age on it mellowed it out. I think fresh this would be a huge monster if fresh.

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Photo of mobrado
4.21/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I have to agree with what seems to be the consensus around hear: Old Ruffian is a fine barleywine, but not quite as good as Bigfoot. Had this fresh and at exactly 2.5 yrs old and thought the older was slightly better, but not anywhere near "aged." It didn't even show the first signs of mellowing out. Seems like this could last for many, many more years and I would love to have one at, say, 6-10 years old. (Have the BBA version around that's ~1yr old and think I'll sit on that for a while.)

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Photo of dleigh
4.33/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Nice amber color. A fair amount of head that recedes quickly with minimal lacing. Smell of flowery, citrusy hops, with some honey sweetness coming through. Taste follows the nose: bitter, hoppy, but also sweet with some nutty or bready aftertaste. The hops definitely dominate this one, but I'm drinking a relatively fresh bottle, so I wonder how that will change with some aging. Nice amount of carbonation, but the mouthfeel is a little thinner than many barleywines. Hides the alcohol pretty well with just a tinge of warming in the throat. Overall: a pretty dang good hoppy barleywine, but emphasis on the "hoppy" in that sentence. I think it could do with a little more balance and sweetness.

Bottle dated February 1, 2016.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Mike at the Barleywine tasting.
Deep copper color off white head. Rich caramel and toffee with light pitted fruits and hints of floral earthy hop. Pretty tasty and I'm surprised I haven't rated this before.

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Photo of BIll_Currie
4.21/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

outstanding barleywine. smell was really fresh when I opened the bottle. Color was perfect. Taste was good. Not the best barleywine I've had but a really good one

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Photo of dbl_delta
4.18/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle dated 1/29/15 into pint glass. Pours a hazy, translucent amber, with a light tan head. Initial impression is fairly innocuous: light caramel sweetness...but that quickly morphs into hoppy bitterness and a very dry finish. Medium-to-thick mouthfeel (just about perfect) and medium carbonation (perhaps a tad on the high side). Alcohol is pretty well hidden, but even at 14 months of age it's still noticeable and just a little ragged around the edges. Not what I'd call "smooth", but actually that adds to the character. This is quite a good barleywine - if you have to choose between this and SN Bigfoot, choose this.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a tulip glass.

A: A clear burnt amber with a one-finger eggshell white head that lingered. Nice thick lacing.

S: Caramel, toffee and bready malts combine with citrus-y hops to produce that perfect American barleywine nose. Nice.

T: The taste is classic, too. A rush of malts, brown sugar and caramel followed by citrus hops that give it a bitter burn on the end.

M: Medium with medium to heavy carbonation. A real sipper with good friends.

O: This one could go toe to toe with SN's Bigfoot. I'll seek it out in the future. If you like American barleywines, take the Great Divide.

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Photo of EMV
4.23/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had on-tap at Champs in State College, Poured into a goblet.

L: Pours a deep clear amber-reddish color. 2 fingers of thick creamy off-white head. Lovely lacing.

S: Caramel and sweets, newly baked bread, citrusy hops, and brown sugar.

T/F: Malty and rich up front.. caramel and brown sugar vie for prominence.. faint spiciness, and then the floral and citrus hops kick you in the other direction on the backswing. Sticky and thick... warming and complex. Just so much to think about with this on the tongue.

O: A delicious American style Barleywine.. hoppy, malty, boozy... it's like your crazy ex. Complicated and needy and will take you places you didn't quite know you could go.

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