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Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,098 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: 1,098 | Ratings: 2,424
Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.13/5  rDev -2.1%
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 +12.6%
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 -2.4%
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 -0.9%
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 -1.2%
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 -8.1%
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 -0.5%
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 +5.9%
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 -5.2%
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 +5.2%
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 +5.2%
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 +11.1%
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 -8.8%
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 +8.1%
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 -15.2%
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 +5.2%
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 -1.4%
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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Photo of stooge
4.34/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on January 7, 2010. Served in a Kuhnhenn tulip glass.

A- Pours cloudy copper red with a nice two finger off-white head that took forever to settle. Foamy lacing lasts forever on the side of the glass.

S- Sweet, caramel and toffee, strong alcohol and hop aromas

T- Tastes as it smells, sweet with malt, caramel and spicy black pepper flavors and a piny resinous hop presence. Surprisingly smooth for the strength, well balanced and distinct hoppy finish.

M- Smooth as silk, nice carbonation level, well balanced.

O- Surprisingly smooth for a barley wine style ale, with a nice strong hop flavor that I would not expect for this style. Complex, very well balanced, and delightful to drink!

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Photo of wr3ck00n
4.64/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottled early December 2012, poured 11.30.13.

Poured a lovely rosey copper with a nice thick head. Very pretty lacing as I sip. Pleasantly sweet nose, malty with hints of caramel and maybe toffee. Taste follows right in line with the smell, just stronger. Nice and rich, bold even, but manages to do so without feeling the slightest bit heavy. Smooth and filling in the mouth, warms as it goes down. ..Everything I love about a barley wine, personally. I will note that I pulled it out to sit a good 30-40 minutes before I poured it, and I don't think it would have been nearly as good right out the fridge. Sipping slowly, it's only gotten better as it warms. Overall, this one is going straight to the top of my list. Great Divide has yet to disappoint me, and this is no exception. Wonderful brew.

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Photo of megahurts4
4.43/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Great Divide Old Ruffian

Appearance: deep red, small head, and good lacing.

Smell: fine barley wine and a malty yeast.

Taste: dense sweet barley, mild hops, and a faint toffee.

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy.

This is rich and dense. The flavors are quite robust and not overly heavy. It is fairly smooth and very pleasant. Great Divide has become one of my top breweries.

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Photo of Jimmys
3.12/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

bomber into tulip. bottled on: DEC 20 2012.

A: a very hazy deep ruby hued brew. head is frothy and slightly off-white. great retention and boatloads of lacing.

S: a good deal of oxidation hits me right off the bat. a little challenging for me to work around. halfway through the bottle im starting to work through the oxidation and get some caramel, malty aroma. sweet caramel apples.

T: similar to the nose, a lot of oxidation on this thing. bitterness is there, but there is enough sweetness to keep it in check and from being overwhelming. a little bit of booze, but pretty calm, which is what I would expect after almost a year of being in bottle. I don't know if I would say there is much hop flavor left in this thing. definitely some caramel graininess. lingers as well.

M: really creamy, smooth mouthfeel. I am enjoying the carb being so mellow on this big of a beer.

D: I bought this at my local Wegman's and figured it was pretty fresh when I saw them on the shelf. after I got home is when I realized how old it actually was. I thought to myself, "hey maybe I get a aged gem, some of these reviews seem to incline that way!" im afraid I was dead wrong as oxidation has really taken this down a notch for me. as oxidation can work with most barleywine's, this particular one just has too many hops (as most American's do) to come back from. however, I would love to try this fresh.

If you are only going to read one line of this review, buy and drink fresh. DO NOT AGE.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.39/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This bottle is from 2009.

The beer pours with a healthy head that is three fingers thick. The beer is a copper color with khaki colored head. The beer looks clean and with good carbonation given the years that have passed.

The smell offers a complex medley of sweet-smelling hops, spicy rye, and vanilla and caramel. These smells remain with the taste, but a slight boozy, bourbon-like taste joins the mix to further add some enjoyment to this beer.

Despite the slight booziness and high alcohol, the beer is smooth as silk and drinks pleasantly smooth. This is a great barleywine and one I must find more of.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.17/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle, late December 2012 production date, and another of this brewery's foil-ensconced offerings, one which I have had many opportunities in the past to purchase, but never at the beginning of a stateside trip, so, here we finally are, on a company venture to Denver.

This beer pours a hazy, dark bronzed amber hue, with a whole handful of puffy, rather bubbly off-white head, which leaves a decent array of cob-webbed lace around the glass as it slowly ebbs away.

It smells of semi-sweet caramel and toffee malts, black raisins, thin, astringent black cherries, a bit of hollow licorice, leafy, weedy hops, and more than a hint or two of warming, slightly metallic alcohol. The taste is heady caramel malt, but not so much as to not acknowledge the musty, dank basement character therein, pungently restrained drupe and mixed berry fruit, middling anise notes, equally blended citrus, leafy, and earthy hops, and a hard to ignore edgy booziness.

The bubbles are generally well sublimated, the body a more than sturdy medium-heavy weight, mostly smooth, and even a tad creamy, with a certain boozy uplift. It finishes rather off-dry, the bready, biscuity caramel malt still loud and very proud, as are the now piney, citrusy hop esters, all in deference to the rising, plundering heat of a bursting at the seams ABV.

A pretty heady and uncompromising instance of the style, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose. Big caramel variances, bludgeoned hops up the yin-yang, and boozy orchard fruit notes to match. Good stuff, overall, I cannot deny, as all that sturm und drang seems to wash out well enough, in a self-flagellating sense of the term.

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Photo of fourstringer
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Split a bomber into stemless wine glasses x 2 with moderate hand. Bottled 12/20/2012. Drinking the week of purchase. Very cool bottle label with what I perceive as some kind of hat-wearing, Sasquatch-esque character. Or an Old Ruffian. Whatever. I dig Great Divide labels.

A: This is a fine looking brew. Slightly cloudy with a beautiful amber brown body. Solid 1.5 fingers of offwhite/cream-colored head. Moderately slow dissipation with ample lacing. Hell yes.

S: Sweet with cherry, dark fruit highlights. Some mild maltiness and booze. Some indistinct hop presence.

T: Initial taste parallels the scent with cherry-type sweetness. Some pleasant nuttiness. An assertive bitterness develops gradually and lingers on a fairly dry finish. Notable alcohol presence, but pretty appropriate for 10.2% ABV.

M: Creamy, full on the palate. Well balanced carbonation. Superb.

O: Very tasty. Complex without being schizophrenic. Sweet, hoppy and exhibiting quite a bit of depth. As it warmed there was some loss of smoothness without a whole lot of change in smell/flavor nuances. Pretty minor gripe for what is otherwise a top notch barleywine.


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Photo of Dope
4.15/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12/02/2011 bottling date. Coming up on 2 years old.

A: Pours a nice dark mahogany. Big dense tan head. Head fades super slowly with fantastic retention. Thin but widespread walls of lacing. Great island of foam sticks around forever.

S: Sticky caramel and toffee. Pretty mellow, probably due to the age.

T: Yup, lots of sticky caramel and toffee just like the nose. Surprising decent bit of hoppiness sticking around. Mainly a piney, resinous hop. Hints of raisin and fig, mainly in the finish and the aftertaste oddly enough. Lingering resin in the aftertaste with just a hint of toffee.

M: Third time I'm going to use the term sticky. It truly does stick to your mouth like drinking caramel (not that I've ever tried that). Or maybe it's hop oils. Who knows. Nice heavy body to go with it.

O: Hmph, interesting. I wonder how hoppy this is when fresh. It's got plenty of hop flavor even after 2 years, which is saying something. Nice hoppy barleywine balanced with quite a malt wallop. Honestly reminds me of Bigfoot a lot. Big, belly warming and tasty. One of the best.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,424 ratings.
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