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 cjgiant
4.38/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Found an odd-labeled bottle and looked it up, and apparently instead of being new, it's an old label. From my limited research the bottle is circa 2008 or so. I was going to try it anyhow, but became more intrigued by the age factor.

A: dark ruby and clear (as clear as a darker beer can be, I guess). Edge and lacing is decent, quite nice if it is aged as presumed
S: heavy on the dark fruit, raisin mainly, maybe some fig. Also grape notes as one might get from wine. Minor amount of alcohol noted
T: follows the nose pretty well, but adding in a hops dryness (it is listed at 85 IBU). There is also a woodiness present, even though it isn't touted as having to do with a barrel (aging). Stronger on the dark fruit, but not sweet at all. Taste also includes stronger hints of alcohol.
M: dry hops pervades the end, muting the dark fruit into a bourbon-like taste. Even though the carbonation was present in the head, it didn't make a presence in the feel

O: more hoppy and less sweet than I expected from a barley wine. The tastes did seem more mellow than I can imagine them being at one point (especially considering what I've seen from Great Divide). I'll have to have a newer batch to compare.

Review of Dec-2013 bottle:
A: little lighter than I saw from 2008, but I had that in a darker bar
S: maybe a little more bitter than previously noted
T/M/O: about online with my rating, although I think the hops is a little more forward. I kinda expected this in a fresher batch.

Updated with January 2015 bottle: little less hoppy, smoother and a little more full, adding to overall enjoyment, upped from 4.16 to 4.38.

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Photo of MakeMineADoubleJack
4.42/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled date: Dec. 20, 2012. Thanks, local liquor store.

A slight boozy smell to this one, which I'm sure has been balanced by the year and a half it's been aging on my local store's shelf. I love that I can taste the hops, almost as if there's an oak-aged IPA hiding in here. Delicious! I'm looking forward to killing this bomber!

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Photo of TheSixthRing
4.11/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled on date of 12/13/13

Appearance - Pours a dark, relatively clear ruby brown with a finger's worth of sandstone colored head. Fair retention, resulting in a thin layer of surface suds. Fair lacing around the glass, with good stick.

Smell - Huge caramel in the nose, offset by some earthy, woody and leafy tea-like aroma. Hints of citrus once it warms.

Taste - Caramel and burnt toffee make up the bulk of the malt base, while hints of wood and earth lurk below. A solid punch of grapefruit pith comes crashing in mid-taste to give this a beautiful, bittersweet finish. The bitterness builds, sip after sip, and a resultant ruby red grapefruit character becomes the predominant flavor, while caramel hangs around the edges.

Mouthfeel - Full in body with fair carbonation. Lightly syrupy. Smooth at first, but gets a little rougher with the passage of time.

Overall - One of those barleywines that might be best while fresh, because the hop profile is a thing of beauty, though I wouldn't mind scoring a bottle at some point in the future just to see how well it ages. Gets a bit sweeter as it warms, and frankly I better loved the layered complexity it showed when first opened, but it's a hell of a barelywine all the same.

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Photo of draheim
4.11/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

22oz bottle (bottled December 2011) into a tulip. Pours a murky amber w/ an eggshell head, sticky lacing.

Aroma is caramel malt, toffee, rum-soaked figs, nuts & raisins.

Taste follows nose. Rich buttery caramel malt, chewy dried fruit, brown sugar, toffee, warming alcohol. A floral, bitter hop bite on the finish.

Mouthfeel is sticky, chewy, full-bodied. Lingering finish.

Overall a nice American barleywine that has improved and mellowed with age. Rich, complex but not complicated; tasty.

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Photo of craftbeersweden
4.34/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Dark, mahognyred, clear beer with a two finger high, beige, creamy, flyffy head.

Nose: Caramel malt, toffee, dried fruit, black pepper, red berries, vanilla and orange.

Taste: Orange peel, sweet caramel, herbs, dark fruit, apricot, syrup, raisin and hops.

Mouthfeel: Complex body with small but tingling carbonation and a great bitterness from all the hops. Long after you swallow the beer you feel the bitternes growing in your mouth. Really good!

10.2 % ABV that's well hidden in the bitterness and hoppy taste.
This is absolutely one of my favorite barely wine.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.29/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Deep dark transparent amber with a brown tint to it. The off-white head that rose to maybe 1/4" at best settles nice and even after a sip....very good looking brew.

Smell: Honestly I have been going back and forth with this and it at the very least to me comes off bland. Could definitely be more potent, you smell the alcohol and like a wood note to it but drops before you place your glass down.

Taste: Complex, most barleywines in general dont have a such strong bitterness to it....this one is deep floral in taste but with wood undertones. Has almost a sweet feel to it, to the inexperienced might feel like a mellow DIPA. Malty as it gets, wow.

Mouth: Definitely feels medium to heavy with a gentle stickiness to it. It doesn't overwhelm you like some other brews to the point comes off easy and very well paired with food.

Overall: Great barleywine, I recently bought six bottles of one of my top three barlewyines and would have it tomorrow to compare. Drink up and enjoy, Salud!

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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 Sludgeman
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Receives on 03-04-16

Bottled on 12-13-13. Poured into a chalice.

A beautiful looking beer with an intense and complex aroma. A fairly balanced barley wine even though the nose may make you believe otherwise. 4.5

A – Poured a reddish brown to garnet with a one-finger tan head, nice lacing, alcohol legs evident. 4.25

S – Big malty sweetness, toffee, spicy, alcohol but not solventy, licorice. 5

T – Dark fruit, some herbal hoppiness, malty mild sweetness. 4.5

MF – Medium-heavy body, semi-dry finish with some bitterness lasting on the palate. Some slickness from the alcohol. 4.25

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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 HattedClassic
4.75/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The beer pours an off-white head that dissipates quickly and leaves some very noticeable lacing. The beer itself is a clear ruby with hints of purple. The beer is very clear and see through. The beer has a strong notes of barley with lighter dark fruit notes that resemble raisin with a slight hint of alcohol. The beer taste is slightly different. The barley notes are weaker than the dark fruit notes. Also, the beer has a slight strawberry tartiness. The dark fruit notes are raisin with a bit of plum. The beer is heavy-bodied with a smooth feel and biting carbonation. Overall, a fantastic barleywine and worth drinking.

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

A copper colored pour with a thin white head that leaves intricate lacing as I drink. The smell is very malty, but I get a significant busrt of hops on the nose as well. The taste mirrors the smell, with sweet caramel malt coming first followed by a bitter hoppy finish. Mouthfeel is good, almost silky, and the carbonation is just right. Overall I thought this beer was a success. I was interested when I heard hop forward barleywine, and Great Divide never ceases to impress. Bravo!

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Photo of PeterParker
4.18/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep, dark red with a formidable head. Tight bubbles with substantial lacing.

Woody, earthiness. A good amount of grapefruity hops accompany the malt. Actually smells like a cross between an IPA and a barleywine. Interesting.

Wow. Really surprising and nice. The bottle said it was a hoppy barleywine but I didn't believe it. But it's true. This is a first for me. Some malt is up front, still pretty woody, but not fruity as some other barleywines. Hops hit soon after, bitter grapefruit with other citrus notes. Very well balanced. Aftertaste is rich hops, like a fortified IPA. One of a kind in my eyes.

Lower carbonation and pretty smooth for the ABV.

Overall I really like this one. I didn't think hoppy barleywines existed until now. Definitely will seek this out for the future.

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Photo of spinrsx
4.17/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Bomber received in trade with iguenard - 2010 edition

Appearance - Hazy brown colour with a good size frothy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some really good lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, dark fruits, leather, anise, caramel/butterscotch

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, butterscotch/caramel, and raisins. There is also some anise, cherry, and a decent amount of hops.

Overall - Wow, holding up incredibly well. This tastes fantastic! Wish I had a few more bottles from 2010 (or from any year)

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Photo of joemetric
3.88/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A. Copper with ruby highlights, good clarity, and nice foamy lacing.

S. Malt sweetness with a touch of caramel, fruit, and hops.

T. An assault of rich malts in front and an herbal citrus rind and warming finish

M. Lush and smooth with a perfect amount of carbonation.

O. One of the more flavorful barleywines I've had without being overwhelmingly sweet or thick. The hop character is a little off for me, I'd like to try one with a bit of age on it.

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Photo of DenverHopHead
4.2/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle with a bottled on date of 12/12/13; into a pint glass.
Appearance - crimson in color with a thick, cream colored head! Nice mild carbonation and lacing is superb!
Smell - fruity hops in the nose, with some sweet cereal malts!
Taste - powerful beer with loads of flavor! Excellent arrangement of bitter hops, calming malts and warming alcohol!
Feel - complex, flavorful brew and not as heavy as I initially suspected!
Overall - I don't usually seek out barley wines, but this one will open my eyes to the style!

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Photo of dar482
4.47/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The beer comes in a deep dark copper crimson red with an light tan head.

The aroma has strong toffee, brown sugar, and caramel sweetness. There’s a deeply toasted malt aroma. The hops come through as dank resin, herbal, deep pine.

The flavor follows with bitterness in the front of herbal bitterness, tea, earthiness, and then onto a wonderful sweetness of caramel and toasted breadiness. The finish continues of earthiness, spicy hops, herbal bitterness, tea leaves, almost like vegetable kale bitterness.

Pairing this with stilton cheese is wonderful. The cheese cuts at the bitterness and accentuates the dark fruit and toffee sweetness.

A wonderful hoppy aggressive American barleywine that has sweetness to balance its big caramel sweetness.

(I had this at a share with over 5 years on it with the old, old label. The beer still drinks wonderfully as the dried fruits shine through along with the wonderful mouthfeel and toffee sweetness this beer has.)

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Photo of BierJager89
4/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Orangeish red/brown with a light brown ring of head.

S: Musk, malt, and a bit of orange in the nose, very pleasant, despite how that might sound.

T: More musk and malt, more orange, some funky Belgian fruitiness. Pretty good

M: Medium bodied, not very smooth.

O: Could have had a better mouthfeel and more fruit complexity. In a word, Overrated. Way overrated, but still good, and still worth a try. Recommended.

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Photo of titty_mcbitty
4.44/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A: Redish copper color and a tan head. If you pour down the center the head gets pretty large and creamy.

S: Hops and maple syrup with a touch of caramel and sugar.

T: The hops are definitely there, but it's not an IPA bitterness, more of a sweet bitterness. Very nice. Also, there's a lot caramel and brown sugar in here. A nice raisin and toffee taste to it, almost like an English bitter but way stronger. There's a nuttiness to this beer that just tops it off so perfectly.

M: Medium to thick. Creamy/buttery feel to it. Very slick and smooth.

O: Awesome beer and awesome style. Great Divide always makes some good stuff, and this is one of their best.

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Photo of gr0g
4.44/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Not quite mahogany, more like a burnt orange / dirty copper color. Sudsy foam leaves tattered and speckled lacing. Sticky sweet malt profile leads to a caramel apple aroma. Plenty of citric hops in here, too. Trademark pineapple aroma of very malty and hoppy ales.

Huge flavor with plenty of hops to stand up to the sweetness typical of a barleywine. Flavor is well balanced, just not in a subtle way. It starts out with strong sugary malt body, then hop bitterness sweeps in to keep it from becoming cloying. Traces of alcohol are appropriate given the high ABV, well short of being boozy. A bit sticky and syrupy in texture but still well carbonated, though that carbonation stings the tongue a bit much.

Old Ruffian is a great, no holds barred b-wine, a real treat for the senses. Don't pass it up.

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Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.69/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into tulip; deep orange/brown, with murky depths lurking within. Big, fluffy solid yellowish head that fades slowly leaving thick rings of lacing.
Smell is nutty caramel malt and sweet bread, with subdued notes of bitter citrus rind, earthy hops and some sort of slight sour yeast aroma that I can't identify.
Taste follows nose exactly; sweet, nutty, bready malt starts off and then a punch of earthy, bitter hops with hints of citrus rind breaks through for a time before sliding into a finish with all the flavors crashing down and leaving lingering bitterness after the nutty malt fades away, as well as a last puff of charismatic alcohol.
Mouthfeel is relatively full and smooth, well-carbonated.
Overall, a robust and unique barleywine that is very well-balanced. Great stuff.

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Photo of jaltland
3.85/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark hazel color with a finger of tan head with very little carbonation up the side of the glass. Although, head dissipates shortly after pouring. Substantial lacing with bits of alcohol legs here and there.

Caramel in the nose accompanied by a pleasant hop aroma. The smell of alcohol is present and almost masks a slight sweetness to the ale.

The nose leads to a different taste up front with roasts and caramel coming and then a subtle hop feel growing stronger with citrus through the mouth. Bitterness toward the back end.

Mouthfeel is medium to almost a very light syrup. Brings a minute warming to the back of your mouth.

Overall it comes together to forge an exceptional barley wine ale. The lower ABV gives it a bit more drinkability imo. Aftertaste is going to give you hops for days waiting for that next sip. Great beer. Glad to have found it finally.

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Photo of drpimento
4.56/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Fabulous beer! Opened with a blast of caramel to my nose. Poured at a good temperature with modest, thick, slightly slow to settle, cream/light tan colored head and some lace. Color is a brown, orange amber that's a tad hazy. With the pouring came some heady wafts of fresh hop. Flavor is outstanding, tang and bitter up front, tang drops off, very slightly sweet, lots of resin, a little citrus. Body is excellent and while carbonation is a touch soft, it doesn't seem to hurt. Finish is like flavor, lots of booze, and long. Great beer for sipping and/or sharing.

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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.

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Photo of gshak
4.44/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As I continue to wind down my cellar collection, this one caught my eye: a 2010 vintage of Old Ruffian. Was hoping to cellar it for another 2 years, but what the heck, it's been a while since I enjoyed a solid American barley wine. Let's see how this one has held up in all these years.

A - A non-vigorous pour into my Chimay chalice produced about a half-inch width of head that dissipated quickly leaving minimal lacing. Reddish amber in color. This may not be the prettiest pour, but for a beer at over 10% ABV, it is acceptable. 3.5/5

S - Oh yes, brings back memories of the first time I had this beer back in 2011. Loads and loads of sweet caramel, toffee with an earthy, citrusy, perfumey hop kick. Smells almost like a hoppy, imperial red ale. 4.5/5

T - I can already tell from the smell, that this one is going to be one heck of beer. And the taste doesn't disappoint. Taste follows the nose - it is like a concoction of sweet caramel blended in with orange/grapefruit rind. Initial blast of sweetness, immediately checked by the bitterness from the hops (oh yes, the hops haven't died down yet in this one). The sweetness hits the tip and sides of the tongue, while the bitterness holds center stage in the middle of the tongue. The after-taste of grapefruit zest lingers, bringing back the memories of summer 2011 when a buddy and I shared a bottle on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The taste has everything one would expect from a bold American barleywine. This one does not pull any punches back. 4.5/5

M - Oh so lush and full. The middling carbonation plays oh so perfectly with the beer. The flavors pop open on your palate. It is not sticky or chewy, but makes its presence felt every moment. 4.5/5

O - For reasons beyond a review, this beer to me remains a personal favorite. The folks at Great Divide sure know how to create a great, cellarable brew. Between this and their Yeti offerings, I may safely say, they have quenched this reviewer's cravings for a masterfully crafted american barleywine and imperial stout. 4.5/5

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Photo of Apellonious
4.16/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1 pt 6 fl oz from FMcD's poured into a tulip glass. Bottled on 12/20/2012.

A - cloudy brown with orange and amber highlights. One finger head that disapates quickly.

S - dark fruit, fig, plum

T - fig and dark fruits, malts, mild heat. Getting some back end hop bitterness.

M- carbonation is low, heft is solid. Mildly sticky.

O - I am drinking a fig newton soaked in booze. Excellent barley wine.

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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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