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Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,097 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: 1,097 | Ratings: 2,423
Photo of canucklehead
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer pretty well defines the American Barley Wine style as far as drinkability goes. Unlike Old Crusty or Guardian this beer tastes great and smooth within a year. But unlike some BW's this beer is huge and hoppy and full of flavour. Drinkable young yet complex is a rare quality so I relish this beer and hope to get another bottle in my travels.

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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 unclederby
4.08/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This old ruffian pours beautifully, a murky dark amber topped off by a creamy, frothy tan head. Lots of bubbles work their way up from the bottom of the pour. The head doesn't stay too long but bits of sticky lacing coat the glass.

Lots of good stuff on the nose: caramel, raisins, wood, chocolate.

Flavours of caramel, honey, raisins and chocolate present themselves upon sipping. Sweet up front, it all smooths out nicely in the middle and then the piney, sappy hops kick in and assert their presence on the finish. We're left with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Alcohol is noticeable more by it's warming effect than in the taste.

Mouthfeel is full and viscous: slick and oily with good carbonation. It lingers...

Well let me tell you i am torn on it's drinkabilty. I could sip a bomber say over a period of a couple of hours... but i think that's about it. With it's nice hop character this barleywine is a bit of a palate wrecker. Definitely screams "nightcap", and one to share too...

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Photo of sinistrsam
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Right off you can tell you're in for something special here; a beautiful red amber color and a HUGE foamy white head, which seems to last forever. It left amazing lacing on the snifter.
The nose was impressive; very flowery, hints of caramel, alcohol, yeasts, sweet malts and something akin to chocolate or coffee.
Alcohol is definitely present, but masked very well behind a wonderful almost burnt caramel taste, with a bombardment of hops and yeasts. Roasted malt in there as well. I need to emphasize a great stab at balance here. The only reason I give the drinkability a 4 is that if you drink a whole 1 pt 6 oz bottle you'll be three sheets to the wind without knowing it (all the while having a smile on your face) Definitely one of my favs from Great Divide, and one of the better Barleywines I've ever had.

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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 SupaCelt
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This sweet creation pours a madly deep orange tan. A huge beige coloured head erupted off the pour and sent my mouth into action sucking foam in an effort to preserve the sacred liquid I held in my hand. Damn, I should have known better than to test this one's abilities. The head I speak of is very resilient and is still holding itself aloft and displaying some chunky semi-solid features as I grovel for words to describe it. I visualize some random bubbles floating toward the surface, but overall it seems fairly light on effervescence. This is a truly great looking glass of beer.

The nose is rich in caramel and sweet dark fruit like features. I am completely unable to elaborate on what a dark fruit is because I never partake in their consumption, but I have an imaginary one that is grown only for brewing and it lives only in my own special world. That is what this momma is chock full of. It is not a fig, or a plumb, or raisin, or grape or anything else I can think of. I also see caramelized sugar glazed grains and alcohol floating about in my mind's eye as I whiff. A toasted quality presides over all scents. My nose is nearly clogged by the thickness of the aroma. This style usually provokes feelings of apple to my senses and this one follows suit for me. Cidery, fermented apple with a liquid caramel and the aforementioned dark fruits from another dimension.

The tastes all lie within the more delicious aspects of the elements that the nose has forecasted. There are no sour or off notes that would inspire a negative idea about this brew. It is absolutely phenomenal. By the way, as I look at what is left of my first pint I notice that it is casting off some serious lace. Another mark of greatness. This lace is three dimensional and comes very close to completely coating the periphery of the glass as I drop the level ever more. Brilliant caramel soaked flavourscapes flood my face and leave me reaching for the right words to appropriately describe them. This one defies words and must be swished about on the palate and swallowed to be truly understood. It is complexity at its finest.

The body is thick and round. It feels absolutely superb paired with the flavours it carries on its shoulders. This is as close to perfection as I have ever approached in my time.

I am truly enjoying this bottle. The drinkability is great even at the heavy level that this one tips in at. It is toying with dangerous in the realm of ease of consumption. This brew makes me reconsider things in regards to beer. I think I have found the one in a place I was not expecting to find it. Astounded am I.

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Photo of far333
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky dark orange, lightening up toward the bottom of the glass where more light can penetrate. A thick head of even orangey bubbles rises up a stiff inch high and slowly pulls back, but leaves a thin cap atop the liquid with thick oily looking lace riding up the sides of the glass.

Aroma is sweet malt, actually smells thick, with rich caramel and ripe fruit, some alcohol notes, and a hint of hops. Very inviting, my mouth's watering.

Flavor is rich and pungent, with thick caramel and toffee, a wisp of smoke, and a thick and juicy hop bite that complements the other flavors well. There is ripe pear and apple, rich candy, and cinnamon. The ABV definitely lets you know that it's in the room, but doesn't detract from the flavor. Lots going on here and it all works well together.

Mouthfeel is smooth and full with a sharp carbonation tingle as it rolls across the tongue, and is wrapped up in a crisp finish.

This one has a ton of character, great selection. Thanks to Brent for passing along a top beer.

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4.67/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Giant thick beautiful tan head erupts atop this deep rich perfect brown body. Leaves a lot of lace behind.

A very complex nose yields a variety of smells including rich fruit, honey, vanilla and cola like maltiness.

Bold zesty malt character enters the mouth. Slightly sweet long lasting burnt feel rounds out the palate. You get a hint of lichtly strong alchol at the finish. This is a king of barlywines. Great deep mouthfeel. A taste bud loveing experience. Yum!

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Photo of TheBungyo
4.88/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Worth every penny.
This beer reminds me of what someone might come up with if they took notes on what would make a perfect barley wine and then executed it.The head is perfect ... about an inch in hight. The body such a dark orange they call it brown around these parts. One whiff and you know it's gonna be bitter, even with such a syrupy malt sweetness that really does rival the hops. The taste will blow you away. Imagine cough syrup thickness and coating but only this tastes PERFECT. Malty sweetness beaten into submission by the hops, but not too bitter for the layman. The taste is so overwhelming that I know you'd gladly drink this all night, I know I would. This is the best barleywine on the market period.

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Photo of Derek
4.18/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Ruby brown, with plenty of head! Leaves a little lace.

S: Piney hops, caramel malts.

T: Piney hop flavour and bitterness is pleasant, and a little assertive, but it's not an assault on your taste buds like some of the hop bombs (Nothing like BigFoot or Old Crustacean, a nicer balance like Old Foghorn). Well rounded caramel malt flavour.

M: Not as heavy as one might expect. Nicely carbonated.

D: I think it's quite drinkable, and at this alcohol level, quite dangerous!

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Photo of cheers2beers
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a wiezen

Apearance: As I poured this brew lots of caramel looking cascadeing took place.The head is off-white and rocky with lots of staying power.Plenty of laceing to linger.The liquid is a deep burnt orange and hazelnut.

Aroma: The nose is piney,candied hops,and caramel. Minimal alcohol is present as this beast warms.

Taste: Huge burst of candied orange peel,caramel,brown sugar,pine needles,and a slight estery fruitiness. Like the nose, alcohol flavors bite my tongue and throat as the beer warms to room temperature.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy,silky and oily. Slighty tingley on the sides of my tongue ,probably due to the hops.

Drinkability: This brew is easily drinkable,but due to the high abv one bomber of this masterpiece makes this a non-session beer.But, I would for sure buy this again.One of my favorite barely wines.

Overall: Huge beer, huge aromas, huge flavors, huge mouthfeel,huge alcohol and a huge buzz!! Death by Barley Wine.YUUUUMMM!


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Photo of sacrelicio
4.78/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

poured cold into a classic pint glass. Pours like whole milk. Wow.

The color is pure caramel that allows ruby red orange when held up to the light. Wow.

After allowing it to warm up a bit, I take a long whiff. Intitial notes are of intense bitter, fruity and spicy hops. Earthy, malty undertones follow and meld with the hop edge perfectly.

Each sip is wildly complex, showcasing spicy, zingy fruity hops. Very bitter but still approachable. Vegetal notes like carrots, radishes and celery are also present midpalate. The finish is long and warming.

Mouthfeel is, like orbitalr0x noted, spot on. Full and creamy, almost like oil. Delicious.

Drinkability is fantastic, but only for a barleywine. A definate buttkicker.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle(room temp) a gorgeous ruby red-brown with a sizeable head that dissipated after about 10 minutes into a fine layer with lacing.

The smell that came from this brew is awesome! I note fruit, hops, and sweet caramel malt that has me spending more time with my nose in the glass than a person oughta shoulda. ;^)

And....the promise from the smell does NOT fail to tranfer itself to the taste in big bold fashion. The sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops just works so darn well together that I literally have to pinch myself to make sure that I'm not dreaming. Then, add the fruity tones(hard to say which is dominant. Grapefruit, plum, other?) to the mix and here, imho, is a Barley Wine Style Ale that sets the standard by which all others should be judged. And I'm a BIG fan of SN Bigfoot

Btw, the +10% abv doesn't even come into play as far as the taste goes and that's *another* testament to how great this brew really is.

Life is good. :^)

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Photo of etaggie09
4.85/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance was much better this time around. Looked the same, but had a larger head with greater retention. Much better lacing too. Aroma was wonderful, as usual. This time I noticed apple and a bit of cranberry in addition to the tangerine and spice. The flavor, mouthfeel, and drinkability remain flawless. This is my favorite beer- period.

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

Fresh, complex, with a lovely off-white head. Strong hops and I'm picking up hints of caramel malts. Beautifully balanced and no doubt this would cellar a couple of years with grace.

To quote the bottle (I read it after the tasting)..."hefty hop-forward barleywine style ale...seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness. 85-90 IBU's.

Superb job! Seek this ale out and share it with your best friends...

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Photo of hero27
4.82/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber.

Possibly the best I've had in Great Divide's amazing bomber series.
90 IBUs..crazy, the bitterness seems much more subtle..the hops blend in so well with the massive malts that it tames the hop character down quite a bit. The enormity of this brew alone may be enough to intimidate even some BAs, but it's really one of the easiest drinking barleywines I've had. The flavors are full, rich, and complex without being overpowering. The piney & citrus hops are as present as ever, but they go in perfect harmony with the toffee & caramel malts.

Such a fantastic beer..and one of the best (if not THE best) barleywine I've had. Full bodied and very chewy mouthfeel..and still, the drinkability is insane....the bomber was gone before I knew it. If you're looking for the quintessential American Barleywine, look no further.

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Photo of budsboy
4.37/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours brown, cloudy, with a thick tan head. Some floaties bobbing around in there.

Cotton candy sweet aroma mixed with a big dose of hops and wiffs of alcohol, dark fruit.

Mellow at first with a burst of sugary fruit. Then a rush of hops that leaves the finish brutally bitter that lasts until morning. Alcohol is hidden and warming.

Full and silky in the mouth, little bit of oil left on the lips.

Big beer. Very big beer. Meant ot be sipped. This one will knock you into last week if you're not smart about it.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The Old Ruffian pours from the bottle a wickedly thick and syrupy dark reddish brown with a nice sticky khaki head that lingers on nicely. Aromas smack you in the face from the minute the brew is poured. Incredibly rich, big caramel malts hit upfront with mixed fruity notes all over with a touch of raisin. Resinous, piney, somewhat citric hops are in full force as well as puffs of alcohol. Simply a wonderful attack on the senses here and a good sign of things to come.

First sip brings starts with a massive thick caramel fruity maltiness that is fairly sweet. However...as the brew reaches the back of the tongue you're assaulted by a shockwave of piney, resinous hop bitterness that lingers on after each gulp. Raisins and dark fruits are well integrated as well as a faint bready flavor. This is definetly a hoppy barleywine but it remains quite nicely balanced throughout. A tasty treat.

Mouthfeel is freakin spot on. So full, big and creamy..it grabs on and does not let go...all the while being extremely drinkable at the same time. So tasty that it's hard for me to set my glass down. I wouldn't mind have another bomber on hand to cellar. A very nice barleywine that I wish I had access to locally, as I get the rest of the Great Divide line. Picked this up on a trip down to Kentucky.

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Photo of Viggo
4.47/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear ruby red, medium off white head forms, lacing is nice. Smell is caramel, chocolate, floral and pine hops, alcohol, and some citrus, the hops are spectacular. Taste is toffee/chocolate/coffee malts with super piney and floral hop destruction, some alcohol is present. Mouthfeel is pretty thick, low carbonation, very excellent barleywine. Thanks DrJay!

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Photo of IrishRedRock
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a rusty amber into my designated barleywine chalice, a thick pillowy head of hopnose foam that slowly dies to a clingly, thick lace. I think I made up the word "hopnose." Aroma is extremely floral, dripping with oily green hops, peppermint and caramel. Yow. Alcohol mildly stings the nostrils.

Sticky, stickly sappy and sweet. Rich caramel maltiness underscores everything, as does a warming alcoholic bite. So pleasant. Cherry and sour apple flavors linger for a moment before the hops kick the imbiber square in the monacle. Finishes boozy and bitter, and the oily hop residue hangs on forever after each sip. Touches of carbonation throughout, the mild breakups of tingling yield a remarkably smooth bevvy. Yow again. A superb and superbly bitter (in a good, hops in your face!) kinda way. Hop-forward indeed. Thanks to BeerBeing for the hookup.

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Photo of GreenWBush
4.31/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Big ol' head for a barleywine. Impressive. Murky ambered ruby in color with one of the better laces i've seen, especially for style.

This beer is truly 'hop-forward' as the bottle proclaims with citrus (heavy on grapefruit and orange), cherries, grapes, and, oddly, catsup.

Taste is candy-sweet and politely smooth, with hop prickles here and there. Well balanced, and the sweet and bitter flavors complement each other so to make this extremely drinkable. Amazingly reminscent of Bigfoot.

I'd like to try this one super-duper fresh, as i'm not totally sure my bottle was just because of the subtlety and sheer drinkability of it. Valuewise, i'll have to stick with BF though, a barleywine I consider stronger in most every way.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.21/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: A gorgeously intense brown/amber color with a tremendously dense tan head that lasts and lasts and lasts.

Smell: Very intense piney hops blended with burnt caramel and punctuated by a spicy alcohol aroma.

Taste: Starts with an explosion of hoppiness, followed by a quick burst of sickly sweetness. Much of the maltiness is lost when the dryness and bitterness takes over. The level of hops is what I have a problem with. It seems overhopped and overbitter for a potentially smooth brew that you could just soak in for a while.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied, but a little too oily and syrupy for me.

Drinkability: Quite the Hop Monster, here, and one I lost the battle with. My senses are left singed. "Hop-forward" is an understatement. While others seem to really love this one, I'd prefer something a little more "malt-forward" without being so cloyingly sweet.

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Photo of orfeu
4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a beautiful clear, crimson-ruby with a slight head that quickly diminishes to a collar. the nose is caramely malts with piney hops, toffee and chocolate dipped cherries, and a buzzing alcohol scent at the end. sweet malts introduce the taste but the rest is all about the bittering hops with a very slight mineral twinge at the finish. this beer is incredibly balanced. the mouthfeel is full and chewy. decent amount of sticky lacing, by the way. as far as drinkability goes, i think i'd go for bigfoot on a more regular basis, but this is definitely a masterful creation. would go perfectly with some sharp aged cheddar. wish i had some of that right now....

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Photo of SkeeterHawk
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: A 22oz bottle of Barley Wine all to myself! Woo Hoo!!! It pours a hazy light orange color with a fourth inch of tan bubbles at first pour. The head manages to stick around for a while even though the beer is over 10%ABV. There is quite a bit of lacing left on the glass after drinking.

Aroma: Some citrusy hops noticeable at first pour. Some sweet and toasty malt are also detectable, but the hops rule the aroma while the beer is cold. Some spicy alcohol is noticeable as it warms a bit.

Taste: Assertive flavoring hops dominate the flavor at the onset of the profile. There are some plentiful malts in there also, but the hops pretty much dominate the flavor. While the malt is assertive, there is just enough reservation on the bittering hops to let the beer finish balanced. There is a bit of lingering bitterness from the hops, but the warmth and richness from the malt is a key player in the finish. There is a bit of a mineral taste to linger in the finish also.

Opinion: This is a great beer, and I really enjoy the reservation in the bittering hops. The beer is huge and flavorful, while having a very aggressive hop profile in the flavor. The finish is a bit closer to an English Barley Wine, but the flavor knocks it out of that style. The hops used are not my favorite, as there are some obvious high alpha American varieties used in here. This is still a very well crafted beer, and I imagine that it would benefit nicely from cellaring for a couple years.

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Photo of DrJay
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mostly clear, deep red/brown with a hint of orange highlights. Dense tan head with great lacing and retention. Malty aroma with intense hoppiness, some pine, orange citrus, and faint alcohol. Piney hop bitterness is way out front, but is balanced well by caramel and toffee. Juicy orange kicks in midway, and it ends with nuts and warm alcohol. The finish is dry and bitter with a caramel/orange combination. Moderately low carbonation, perfect in conjunction with the creamy texture. Overall it's a bit dry, but balanced well with malty sweetness. This is an awesome barleywine, highly recommended.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,423 ratings.
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