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Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

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1,096 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: 1,096 | Ratings: 2,416
Photo of Stinkypuss
3.93/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Great Divide : Old Ruffian

22oz bomber. 2012 Vintage
Pours a hazed dirty reddish shade. A few inches of dense creamy froth form, and it isn't going anywhere. Leaves behind a fair amount of lace.
Aroma of bread, caramel and over ripe cherry. Mild toasted aroma as well.
In the flavor, cherry like fruitiness , a bit of toast and strong clean alcohol. The hop presence is noteworthy; earth, citrus, roots and solidly bitter. Anise, caramel and toffee flavors work with the hop bitterness to counter the alcohol presence. Sweet flavors are big but then the hops dry the beer out in earthy fashion. The 10% abv is noticeable in the taste, but not a major distraction, actually it's quite nice.

Carbonation is low, hop bitterness does outlast the sticky sweetness, actually sticky in an earthy, resinous sense. Drying feel and has a elegant creamyness and very large indeed. This is a BBB big beautiful beer. A nice brew to sip upon, knowing full well I couldn't do it for long in public; bad things would happen. Definitely a classic American Barleywine.

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Photo of jngrizzaffi
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy amber/reddish color with a small head. Head retention and lacing are both mild. Has a malty, sweet, oaky aroma. Big malty, oaky, smooth taste. caramel with some hoppy bitterness. Alcohol content evident. Medium bodied with low carbonation. Silky smooth.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 650 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice. Bottled on December 20th, 2012.

Appearance: Pours a deep brownish amber orange with a moderate amount of bubbles. Solid three fingers of off white head with decent retention. Leaves a lot of creamy lacing along the glass.

Smell: A big and rich aroma of sweet caramel malts and earthy hops. Strong hop presence upfront with good hints of grassy, earthy, piney, and herbal hops. Big bready malt scent with hints of sweet caramel, toffee, toast, biscuit, grains, nuts, and yeast. Sweet hints of brown sugar as well as a slight hint of vanilla. Undertones of dark dried fruit with hints of dates, raisin, fig, and plum. A scent of booze as well. Pretty good Barleywine aroma.

Taste: As big as it smells, a rich combination of deep caramel malts with a big hop presence and notes of dried fruit. Bitter and hoppy upfront with good notes of earthy, grassy, piney, and herbal hops. Big bready and toasty malt taste with notes of sweet caramel, toffee, biscuit, grains, yeast, and nuts. Some brown sugar sweetness along with a subtle note of vanilla. In the background are some nice notes of dried dark fruit including some dates, fig, raisin, and plum. Somewhat boozy as expected. A very good taste.

Mouthfeel: Big full body with a moderate amount of carbonation. Fairly chewy and somewhat oily. Very drying on the finish. Alcohol presence is noticeable as expected for the style.

Overall: A very good Barleywine. One of the better American versions out there. Big and bold with both the malt and hops.

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Photo of humulus
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: reddish, chocolate with a beige head.

S: malt, chocolate, syrup, leather, red berries and dark fruits.

T: very well balanced. Dried fruit, chocolate, pomerans, orange zest, bit of oak, bitterness that is very well balanced against the fruity chocolate sweetness.

M: creamy, smooth, elegant.

O: World class. This is incredibly good. Just a shame I only got one bottle and it's out of stock in Sweden.

Drank from snifter.

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Photo of eduardolinhalis
4.2/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

660ml bottle served in a snifter glass.

A: Pous a deep amber color forming a medium to small thin bubbled and creamy yellow head. Medium to low retention and many small spotty lavings left in the glass

S: Sweet. Strong notes of caramel, caramel malts, brown sugar and flowery hops. Booze

T: Sweet upfront. Strong notes of caramel and caramel malts. The sweet taste switches to bitter quite quickly. Nice bitter hoppy kick, anyway. Great bittersweet balance

M: Heavy, creamy and molasses body. Medium carbonation. Lovely smooth bittersweet aftertaste

O: Great drinkability. Perfect barleywine. World classic

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Photo of mverity
4.54/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Nice creamy head, and gorgeous deep amber brown hue. Aroma is malty goodness and brown sugar. Taste also wonderful, sweet, fruity, toasty, hoppy, and a touch earthy. Smooth, it coats the tongue in a rich caramel feeling. This had about 6 months on it, which took down a bit of the holiness, in a very good way.

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Photo of cvm4
3.79/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled Date: December 2, 2011

A - Pours deep amber in color, hazy and has a one finger light tan head.

S - Vanilla, caramel, bready malts and light pine hops.

T - Starts off with a bit of a sweet tooth... Caramel, vanilla & toffee. The pine/earthy hops are there in the beginning and come on stronger through the end to leave a bitter taste. There's a lingering "off" taste that I can't figure out.

M - Medium bodied and carbonation. About the right body for the style.

O - This is a good barelywine but no where near a 94 or a 100, IMO.

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Photo of VeganUndead
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

First time trying it having a 2012, 6 months old, next to a 2010. A sipper with only a few months on it, still has a significant hop profile, but once the IBU's diminish over time this stuff goes down real easy. Grab a few bottles and hide them for a few years. Great brew, cheers!

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.91/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep red amber with a nice creamy looking beige head. Aroma of sweet toffee and caramel, with some hop citrus. Drinks easy for the style with big malt balanced out by bitter citrus. A lingering bitter left on the palate. Somehow both malt and hops really shine equally here. Lighter mouthfeel (not light, but more than expected) with adequate carbonation. Not a heavy super sweet barleywine but a nice warming brew.

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Photo of richj1970
4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 22 oz bomber into snifter glass.

A: Golden honey color tinted with auburn. Two to three finger fluffy white head with lots of lacing.

S: Sweet caramel and malts mixed with piney and earthy tones from the hops.

T: Slight sweetness with caramel, malts, dark fruits mixed with hoppy bitterness and floral notes.

M: Medium body and carbonation. Coats the palette nicely without being too thick.

O: Very nice. Perhaps a bit too hop forward for my taste, but a solid barley wine none the less.

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Photo of Jonada
3.96/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650ml bottled on 12/20/2012. Served in a DFH signature glass

Appearance: Pours hazy amber, brownish red color with 1 finger of a light tan head.

Smell: Caramel, dark fruit, vanilla, floral, pine, with some earthy and spicy hop character.

Taste: Sweet upfront with notes of caramel, toffee, toasted bready malt, and tropical fruit. Hop bitterness is minimal upfront, but builds throughout the sip eventually leading to a lingering bitter finish and aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, not quite syrupy mouthfeel, with medium levels of carbonation.

Overall: Lots of malt and hop character that you'd expect in an American Barleywine. If you're a fan of the style, this is worth try.

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Photo of brureview
4.14/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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

Mouth feel: moderately carbonated.

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

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

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

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Photo of DrewV
3.83/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow, 100?? Seriously? This is a decent barleywine for sure, but nowhere near a 100 rating. Appearance is reasonably attractive, but the wierd fruity breadiness is off-putting. Not enough hops to balance it out, and it ends up more sweet than anything. A strange flavor lingers from the first sip to the last, and I can't quite put my finger on it. The 10+% ABV is well hidden and the finish is clean, but it doesn't exactly leave me anxious to take another sip. Not a chore to drink, but no pleasure either. Just a slightly-above-average barleywine, nothing more. I'm giving this a B+.

Let me just say that this brew is absolutely nowhere near Bigfoot in terms of taste and true-to-style composition, and yet it's got a higher rating. WTF? My faith in BA ratings is diminishing.

PS. Not to pick on anyone in particular (these were cut-and-pasted from various reviews), but here are the flavors "supposedly" contained in this beer:

Dry fruit, black cherry, port wine, sherry and raisin. Bold and sweet caramel and toffee, brown sugar, bitter earthy hops, touch of cocoa, leather, slight licorice and wood characteristics. Mild pine, fruity esters. Tangy citrus, spicy herbal. Caramel apple notes, gala apple. Strawberries, cherries, and molasses. Nuts. Grainy bread. Dates and prunes. Grassy notes. Oak and vanilla flavors. Lots of lemon and orange. Butterscotch, liquorice. Hearty baked sourdough, bitter pecan shells and black licorice. Honeydew melons, grapefruit peel.

And that's from less than 50 reviews. That's over 35 different flavors. SERIOUSLY???? I'm sorry, but this is just craziness.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.52/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a 25oz snifter, pours deep amber-brown topped with a frothy, ivory head that leaves a little lacing on the glass as it fades to a foam. Aromas are rich caramel, toffee, grain, earth...as it warms, tons of cherry and juicy fruit notes. Bold flavors hit the palate with a heavy dose of rich caramely and bready malt, booze, toffee, earthy hops that linger with some mild pine, fruity esters come out as it warms. Body is full, creamy, smooth, and chewy while being lower on carbonation. Overall, awesome American Barleywine - it's about time I tried this one!

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Photo of IronLover
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Hazy ruby red in color. Poured with a thin off-white foam that quickly reduced to a thin wispy cap. Sugary sweet, caramel and bready malt aromas. Citrus and pine hoparomas are initially pungent but quickly mellow. Medium to full bodied with light carbonation and a pleasantly smooth feel. Sweet caramel and bready malt flavors up front followed by tangy citrus and pine hop flavors through the middle. Finishes with spicy herbal, citrus and pine hop bitterness with a malty sweetness beneath - not to mention the requisite, yet pleasantly mellow booziness. A wonderfully balanced barleywine. Very impressive.

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Photo of Friedmanandeggs
4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Apparently, this bottle was bottled in Dec 2011.

A -- A hazy (misty?) auburn/maroon. There was maybe half an inch of head, which is now a clump of small, off white froth (with bubbles) sitting like a skin on the top of the beer. Good lacing. Almost fuzzy.

S -- Smells pretty well balanced, with the hops leading and the malts underneath resulting in this kind of rich, fresh tree-bark, nature. It's like taking a walk in the woods. There's a little brandied alcohol in there, too.

T -- Again, really well balanced, smooth, more intense than complex. Forward malts and dark caramel sweet with easy transitions and a light, lingering, chlorophyllic bitterness (with some brightness coming through as it warms up) that builds over time and generally intensifies as you get closer to the bottom of the glass (i.e. more sloshed). Swishing it around with my tongue brings out more of the hops. There's almost a sour mash quality to it. Any fruitiness, I think, is more malty/apples than hoppy/citrus (and, regardless, reads as sweet).

M -- Not so much syrupy as it is thick. Like orange juice, except beer.

O -- A nice, relatively easy-drinking barley wine.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.53/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: into an oversize snifter, mahogany brown with orange highlights, tan finger of bubbly froth left behind specks of lace

S: malty caramel and a profusion of hoppy aromas

T: complex hops bring bitter earthy and herbal flavors to the rich malt character; meaty and chewy, slightly sweet, but very hoppy and hefty, bitter finishing

M: full and rich with some spark and some chew, semi-coating, easy drinking, great aftertaste

O: a fantastic barley wine, savory and only semi-sweet, hop-forward and bitter

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Photo of kagent777
4.67/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

22 oz bottle poured into my CCB snifter. This was bottled on Nov 8, 2010. I don't remember whether I traded for this one or got it while on my trip to Denver a year ago.

Appearance: A reddish brown that has a bit of haze and a wonderful whitish head that was one finger and settled to a film. Looks very nice. Gorgeous lacing all the way down.

Smell: Nothing smells better than a good barleywine. Rich malts with dried dark fruit, raisin and plum. I also get a bit of general bittering hops as well, subdued I am sure compared to what they were.

Taste: Really complex! I get rich nutty malts with those rich dark fruits, no sweetness goes into a long lasting bitter finish. I taste tobacco, leather notes, toffee, and caramel. The alcohol may be the bittering opposed to the residual hops, I am not sure. The alcohol is not solventy or hot, well hidden for such a big beer.

Mouthfeel: Not as thick as I was imagining. Huge flavors, my tongue cannot hide from them. Low carbonation, that gives a really velvety mouthfeel.

Overall: As awesome BW. This is why barleywines are probably my favorite style. I am jelous for the people that can get this regularly, especially on tap. I am sad to say that I do not have an un-aged bottle to compare to, at 2 1/4 years old, this one is amazing.

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

The beer pours a wonderful amber color with a tiny tan head that does not sit atop the beer very well.

The aroma is a kick in the face of hops and alcohol. I smell mostly pine and grassy hops, not very fruity.

The beers tastes of caramel, toffee, alcohol, and toasted bread. The finish is very bitter and resin like pine hops.

The beer is full bodied.

Overall the beer is warming, complex, and has an assertive hoppiness. My only criticism is that the hops do not play well with the malt background. They come off as harsh.

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

Poured into a snifter.

A: Clear red-brown with two-and-a-half, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes. Pretty good lacing.

S: Strong tropical, citrus hop aroma. Alcohol. Makes my nose hairs tingle.

T: Moderate sweetness and moderate hop bitterness. Caramel malt. Bitterness from the hops without much hop flavor. Alcoholic.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Smooth and warm going down. Slightly astringent.

O: Great looking Barleywine with a strong smell and a smooth mouthfeel. Quite alcoholic.

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Photo of Someguy1_8t
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012/2013 release bottled Dec. 20 2012. Served in a snifter.

Appearance - Light brown amber color, like whiskey. Small rapidly diminishing head.

Smell- It has a great aroma of tropical fruit scented hops followed by caramel malt.
Hint of sweetness is present. Pretty straight forward, just like what's written on the side of the bottle.

Taste - Great taste of hoppiness and malt. This reminds me more of a malty imperial IPA, like Green Flash Imperial IPA or Dog Fish Head 90 min. Like those beers there is a strong malty presence.

Mouthfeel - light - medium bodied with plenty of carbonation. Some amount of lingering hop bitterness.

Overall - I really enjoyed this beer. Not exactly what I had in mind when I read barley wine, but then again it also does say hoppy on the bottle. So I guess the bottles description is rite on. I would definitely recommend this one.

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Photo of popery
3.43/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From notes, 10/28/10. ~11 month old bottle. This beer could use some more time. Right now, it’s sticky, kinda boozy and harsh. There are some nice caramel notes lurking in there, but it’s just not all that enjoyable right now. Aroma is caramel malt and citric hops. Sweet sugar cane, apricots and an acetone/metal note also show up. The taste is sweet leading to harsh. Lots of caramel malt flavor is packed into this beer. Mouthfeel is fairly sticky. Appearance is a darkened amber with an off-white to beige head. At any rate, I imagine a vintage bottle would get higher marks. Also, I’m sorta down on barleywines, right now, so I’ll give this one another try in the future.

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Photo of AmitC
4.63/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This will probably taste much better right now than it probably is. Cause I am in the mood of celebrating. Ticking off one from the top 250 as well. This one a 2009 vintage - Dec 08 2009. At 8.99,i guess it is good. There was a 2011 sitting right next to it, but bought this instead.

Poured from the 22oz bomber into a large snifter. Freezer cooled for 30 minutes. Will pour half of it a bit later.

About one finger thick tan colored creamy head. Color is Brown with huge ruby highlights. Excellent lacing on the sides with each sip and the one left by the head. Surprised to see some bubbles rising up still, after over three years of bottling. There is tan colored layer that stays throughout. A bit dark and more cloudy and hazy. Almost opaque. Suspended hops or some white suspensions seen in the bottom.

Aroma is extremely boozy and malty for this old beer and at 10.2% it is not hiding it well. I will give it points for that. Hops have completely died out, I wasn't expecting either. Maltiness is fairly neutral and dominated more by alcohol. Smelled a lot like a boozy stout or American strong ale. Smelled some hops in the later stages, which is good. I guess i like the smell.

Taste is also full of booze. A good amount of bitterness as is expected. Probably a bit warm which is good as such, but i like it when drinks are colder. Hops are doing well to impart bitterness to the stuff that stays as an aftertaste. A very well constructed sweet bitter finish. Bitterness is what is lovely about this. I must try a fresher version of this. Alcohol is exceptional and in your face.

Mouth feel is more medium to very slightly full. Astringency - No - just a lot of booze. Smells as if it is 15%. Drinks rather well for me. No carbonation seen, but those bubbles might indicate a more stronger carbonation in the fresh ones.

Cold version drinks exceptionally well. I love this stuff.

Ticking off. And good luck to me.

Style rate: 4.5
Personal Rate: 4.5

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

Review from notes

Hazy, tawny copper with maple hues. Very light head. Beautiful aromas of lemon zest and grapefruit rind, but not overwhelming the delicate raisin and figs coming through the rich maltiness. Very well balanced, but expressive. Full bodied, rich, yet a bit of dryness in the finish.

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Photo of Moose90
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle into tulip
Bottled Dec 20 2012

A – Very deep dark copper, red hues to it. Small head, but sticks wonderfully.

S – Sweet and sugary here, pretty big hop character from this one. Pine, citrus and grapefruit.

T – Molasses, caramel and brown sugar. Balanced by a great hop profile, nice and strong on the flavors here. Biscuit malts and nice sticky piney hop notes. Caramel apple notes, gala apple, with fresh caramel. Simply amazing that these flavors can come from a beer.

M – This is very drinkable, it is thick, but the alcohol is very well hidden. Medium-full mouth feel, has a lingering finish.

O – Wonderful BW, will be looking forward to this with some more age on it. Wanted to try it fresh first, but have a few cellared for future consumption. If it is this wonderful now, I can't wait to see what it develops into.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,416 ratings.
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