Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,103 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: 1,103 | Ratings: 2,443
Photo of HopHead84
4.12/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


On tap at Churchill's.

A: Dark orange with a finger of beige foam. Lots of scattered lacing.

S: A big caramel malt presence with lighter notes of bread and a slight candied quality. This is pretty hoppy, with pronounced pine and grapefruit. I don't get any alcohol in the aroma.

T: Pine and grapefruit with an upper moderate bitterness. The hops are aggressive but fitting. Malt imparts strong caramel notes and a light sweetness. Alcohol is perceivable in the finish but not offensive.

M: Upper medium in body with medium carbonation.

Overall: A good American Barleywine.

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Photo of clayrock81
4/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a auburn brown body with decent head retention and lace ring on top of a thick, malty aroma: bready, dry, roasted, sweet, caramel - all in there. Hints of herbal hop bitterness as well. A filling heavy body that is balanced as I pick up a bready, dry malt base along with some caramel sweetness and there is also a decent patch of herbal hop bitterness. Minor sweet fruit flavors and a crisp finish thanks to a barely poking out ABV - a dangerous sipper as it is strong and boozy but real easy to drink and quite enjoyable.

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Photo of jdhilt
3.86/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours with a two-finger light tan head, that barely fades and leaves a ton of lace. Cloudy amber color. Light carbonation and medium bodied. Nose is a floral hop. Starts with a semi-sweet-slightly sour raisin flavor but smooth, finish is warming but some bitterness. $6.30 for a 22oz bottle from Colonial Spirits Acton, Ma.

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Photo of cjgator3
4.15/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a tulip glass. Pours a dark brown color with a tan colored head. The aroma is absolutely loaded with malt, dark fruits, caramel and hops. The taste starts out smooth and malty, and the finish is dominated by a lingering hop bitterness that packs quite a bite and hangs around long after the sip is over. The predominately malty nose is deceiving, as the taste packs quite a punch from the hops. Overall, this is another solid American Barleywine that does not lack in flavor or character. "Extreme beer" at it's finest. Recommended.

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

Purchased in CA, at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, the only store I've come across these brews. Brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.

Pours a gorgeous red-orange colour, burnished brightly and shining when held to light. Head forms in tiny cascades initially, but becomes large-bubbled froth as it settles, which is not that surprising for a beer of this gravity. Body looks heavy and thick. Overall, it's a very robust and intense looking brew. I'm looking forward to sampling it.

Ooh, yes. The nose is just right for an American Barleywine. Big on the hops, of course, but nicely balanced with a big sweetness of rich toffee malts, and a pleasant sweet/savoury nut character. Very faint hint of phenolic booze, but it merely mingles with the other big flavours. Pleasantly, it's not a beer that could be mistaken for an Imperial IPA, it's clearly meatier and sweeter. Lovely.

Oh yes, and the taste keeps this trend alive, Big American hop presence on the front, but mellowing beautifully into a rich, sumptuous and chewy body, full of malts and a whiff of fragrant boozy characters. Finish is long and languid, with some roasted characters coming through again with a slight drying hazelnut or almond character.

Feel is full and smooth and tremendously firm to support all the characteristics.

A damn fine Barleywine, surely one of the best there is. They've done a magnificent job making it big in every area, but keeping the balance right for the style. Big, boozy and sweet, with great body and bite.

Magnificent beer.

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Photo of beerthulhu
4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark cherry red color with a thin light beige head head.

S: Some citrus, dry pine on nose.

T: Nice sticky pine resin flavor, dry, with some oak cherry wood notes. Dry pine, alcohol is well hidden for 10.2 abv. Some floral bittering with citrus hints in the finish. Sweet caramel and toffee round out the mouthful for a creamy rich body. Good malt complexity and and woodiness.

M: Mouthful is sticky and dry with some caramel sweetness.

D: Very drinkable until you finish and alcohol hits you. Some alcohol bite upon warming.

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

A - Pours a deep raisin color, clear burgundy brown. Initially pours with a thick, caramel colored creamy head, then subsides to a creamy ring with foam sticking to the glass like glue. Carbonation is very light with tight, tiny bubbles.

S - Bread crust, mild raisin and some other dark fruit, light caramel, and some citric tang from the hops.

T - Starts out very creamy and unpretentious on the palette with a nice caramel backbone that's moderately mild in the background, and some fresh bread crust that stays around for about 3/4 of the way through before giving in to the malts and hops. Half way through some dark fruit enters in before finishing with a huge hop ending - pretty hoppy for a Barley Wine, and darn enjoyable too. Considering the massive 90 IBU's, it's not too aggressive, but yet very assertive for the style.

M - Mild prickly carbonation on the tongue and still creamy in character, big body, and a little chewy.

D - Very good, but given the ABV, most people (including me) are only good for one bomber.

Overall, a well brewed barley that really stands out in the crowd. Well balanced, non-cloying, just the right amount of hop bitterness, and extremely enjoyable. Worth checking out.

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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 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 barleywinefiend
3.95/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage.
Poured a cloudy orange color with with a small white head. Nose is big hops, smells bitter even on this 2007 vintage. Taste has big hops citrus, pine, caramel background and booze. Mouthfeel is sticky, super bitter, citrus and boozy but not as hot as a fresh batch. Good.

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Photo of sweemzander
4.15/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into a snifter. No bottled date found.

(A)- Pours a cloudy brown, yet red mahogany color that produced a solid tan to off-yellow head with good retention. Left some bits of lacing behind as it dissipated.

(S)- Deep & rich fruits of figs, raisins, and cherries with toasted toffee, caramel, and honey. Bits of cinnamon biscuits. Finishes very dry & woody.

(T)- Wow! Ridiculously dry! It totally dried out my entire mouth with bittering woody hops, but immediately morphs into an array of complexities: Under-ripe cherries, figs, raisins, and toasted toffee, yet with a still constant underlying dryness throughout.

(M)- A great carbonation level with an overall good balance. Just massively dry. A relatively good alcohol integration with only a minor warmth as it went down.

(D)- This barleywine means serious buisness! Pretty massive on all levels, yet by no means overpowering. This is an excellent example of the style!
I would definitely share this with a friend though, because this bottle kicked my ass once I finished it! This beer could age for many many more years considering how it is at this stage. I just wish I knew how old this one actually is; its still got tons of power behind.

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

A: Brown color with ruby highlights. Poured a 3 finger rocky yellowish head that dissipated fairly quickly. Inconsisnten lacing.

S: Very with citrus, grapefruit and apple. Piney hops follow along with caramel/roasted malts.

T: Very hoppy beginnings; pine and grapefruit. Sweet caramel malts and fruity esters come to bear in the middle that hoild on slightly to aq big bitter finsish. Warming alcohol.

M: Light body (almost thin). Ample carbonatrionouthfeel.

D: The abv's a bit high, but interesting enough drink. I've not had a lot of barley wines, but this ones the best I've had.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

(Served in a large snifter)

A- This beer has a copper-red color with a hint of brown. The clear body shows the very strong carbonation of bubbles and the head on top is a yellowish-white head that last and last through the beer.

S- The smell of grassy hops and a faint caramel malt note has a hint of dark toffee in the background.

T- the taste of all big green pine hops has a slight grassy note with a hop bitterness that sticks on the tongue for days. There is a sharp alcohol bite that really accentuates the hop bitterness. After my mouth gets numb from the hops there is a soft note of caramel malt in the background that starts to come through.

M- The mouthfeel is medium with a slight watery texture and an alcohol warmth in the finish.

D- This is a DIPA with some alcohol and sweet malt in the background. I like to see more complexity of malt flavors in barley wines regardless of how big the hops are. I don't think this would age well because once the hops settle down there isn't much complexity in the malt to shine, but only time will tell.

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Photo of akorsak
4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Revisiting an old favorite...

A: The ale is an amber orange color with a big 3-4 finger head that retains and laces nicely.

S: The ale is a well-balanced mix of malty sweetness and citrusy hops.

T: The ale has a strong hop character that hits up front. It is a citrusy grapefruit flavor that gives up hints of pineapple as well. The malts come in just after the bitterness, adding a bit of sweetness that mixes well with the hops. The overall taste is big and spicy.

M: Big spicy hops and strong malt sweetness. An excellent winter drink

D: A bomber or two is more than enough, but the flavor is strong with both hoppy bitterness and malty sweetness.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.9/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Cool red and light brown appearance, full inch of off white head to it. Aroma was a lot of caramel and alcohol.

Taste was a real rich and mellow but not mild flavor excursion with plenty of caramel. A little bit of hopping, straddles the American and English barleywine genre, but leans American. One of the more reliable, consistent types of top tier base barleywines out there.

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Photo of barczar
3.98/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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Photo of Immortale25
3.92/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Florida Beer Co. tapered glass. Label says Bottled on: DEC 02 2011.

A- Pours a medium copper color with a 1/2 inch light tan head that does a good job retention-wise before slowly declining to an 1/8 inch head and leaving a full ring of lacing behind it.

S- Sweet malt nose upfront with notes of caramel. Hops linger in the back and are more herbal than grassy. Slight whiff of alcohol.

T- Intimidating bitterness along with powerful pangs of booze. Things mellow out in the finish but every sip is a plunge back into a not-so-pleasant intensity of flavor. The malt is still there but not as sweet and balanced as in the aroma. Sipping will definitely be the best approach. Once the palate finally reaches an equilibrium, things start to make sense. While the hops still are over-the-top, the alcohol burn subsides and the malt can begin to express itself adequately bringing with it a cereal graininess. Hints of oak and bourbon

M- Somewhat creamy with a full-ish body and medium carbonation.

O-Could be a bit better if the flavors didn't clash so much initially. Probably just needs more age.

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Photo of bluejacket74
3.8/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle, unfortunately the date on the label is smudged but I think it says it was bottled sometime in November 2010. I've had the bottle for at least a year so I think that's the correct bottling date. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a dark reddish/amber color with about a half inch light tan head. Head retention and lacing are both good. The brew smells like dark fruit (prunes, raisins), brown sugar, pine hops, caramel malt and some sherry. For the most part it tastes just like the aroma, but there's also a slight bitter taste that I don't care for. It doesn't seem like a hoppy bitter flavor, there just seems something a little bit off about it. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a bit chewy and has good carbonation. Overall I think it's a good enough brew. I'll have to try this again in the future, maybe a fresher (or older) bottle will be better.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%

A lightly hopped nose with touches of spice and alcohol faintly suggestive of bourbon. Pours brilliant chestnut with a ½” foam cap that surprisingly provides intricate lace. The palate combines big malt, big alcohol and big hops with dried fruit, caramel, faint vanilla, alcohol and a balancing, sustaining bitterness that provides a lingering bitter aftertaste. A very creamy big beer just a shade less than chewy.

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Photo of avalon07
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a coppery color and a thick, cloudy consistency. There was about a half inch of foamy, long-lasting head and some good lacing.

S: Strong smell of hops, caramel and other elements. Very robust.

T: Like the smell, the flavor packs a punch. A large amount of hops, along with malt, caramel and a piney aspect. Very complex.

M: A large amount of carbonation and a smooth finish. Very full-bodied.

D: While I've found I can't drink that many barleywine beers in one sitting, this is a still a good example of one. It has an unusual (for the style) flavor, but is still eminently drinkable.

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Photo of ppoitras
3.68/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle obtained via trade with LuckySevens82. Thanks for the opportunity...

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed 1 1/4" of dense tan head over the deeply orangey amber brew. Head just sits there, and lacing is nice. Aroma is sweetly of malts, with tinges of fruit, hops, and alcohol. Taste begins with smooth sweet grains, then the hops, fruitiness, and alcohol all hit at once. Kind of overpowers the palate, and then departs with a strong alcohol flavor. Mouthfeel and drinkability are not bad for the style, but it is certainly an acquired taste, even compared to others in the style.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.32/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Had this yesterday at the map room in chicago.

Appearance: hazy bronze / redish amber color. White and fluffy head.

Smell: All hops, some maltiness hiding behind the hops. Smell a little boozey too.

Taste: rich carmel flavor inturuped immediately by the hops flavor. Hops tasting citrisy and herbal. Maybe even some grapefruit. Great balance between hop and malt here! Booze is hidden very well, practically non-existant in this brew. I love barleywines that taste this way!

Mouthfeel: Slick and carbonation is right on! Full body.

Drinkability: With the booze well hidden, this one will sneak up on you! So watch out!

Another fine example of why i love great divide Brewing CO! Solid American Barleywine!

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Photo of rfgetz
4.18/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage, poured Sept. '09

A- Dark coppery brown with ruby red highlights against the light. Excellent off white fluffy head, great retention and lacing.

S- Carmel, bread, raw sugar up front, floral and citrus hops trail

T- Sweet carmel hits first with a nice flowing floral hop bite. Mellows into a very nice malt/hop blend with a slightly boozy finish.

M- Medium bodied, good carbonation, slightly slick and oily from the hops, semi-dry finish, warming

D- Very smooth going down, the flavors are excellent and if it wasnt for the high ABVs i could have another.

On the aging... the alcohol mellowed slightly, the hops were still bitter but sweeter (which made this beer maybe a touch sweeter than i had hoped) and the dark fruit notes seemed to be lost in the sweetness. Would like to try a fresher one soon.

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Photo of scruffwhor
3.5/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- A cognac and brandy amber/honey hue with sa few bubbles moving to the top when the barley wine is colder. Some mild head, about one finger of eggshell white. Solid ring of foam though.

Smell- A thick mix of Pacific Northwest hops and alcohol hit the nose. Some more spice Christmas spices like cinnamon hit the nostrils as well.

Taste- Plenty of mild malts fermented to bring out a strong alcocolic tang to give the drinker a feeling of Winter in the Summertime. This beer is perfect by a fire while Mother Nature unloads a foot of snow on your front lawn.

This tasted like a young barley wine. But I did by another bottle for aging and will review when I have aged one.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a tulip pint

A mildly aggressive pour yielded a hazy mohogany body beneath a big two finger off-white head. Great staying power and sticky lacing.

Piney/citrus hops hit you off the bat, then comes dark fruit and toasted caramel. There is a smokey, wood-like smell deep in there. It's kinda murky.

Hey now, this is my kind of barleywine. Layers of caramel, dark, ripe fruit, pine needles, caramel, grapefruit, and just a touch more caramel in the finish. There is a nice light warming effect that you would expect to be bigger and badder than it is.

This is one silky, velvety smooth beast. It's simply amazing how good this beer is. It drinks like a 10% barleywine is supposed to drink. A definite sipper. Your going to want the time in between to relish in its greatness.

UPDATE: I don't think I have ever seen this much lace from such a big beer. My glass is completely coated, earning a .5 boost in ratings.

Between this and the Oak Yeti, I am in awe of Great Divide. Two of the best that I have ever had. My hat's off to you guys!

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.22 out of 5 based on 2,443 ratings.
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