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

I get pine hop berry
phenol grapefruit
caramel malt
sweet middle linger
bitter finish
quick to stop

pours a thick reddish brown

smells of sweet pine molasses

feels strong and surprisingly
very well balanced

drinks good and the
ABV is very well hidden
for a barleywine ale
this won is a winner

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

Holy crap! This is an excellent, "in your face" style of barleywine. Kudos to Great Divide for coming up with a brew that isn't as sweet as it's European counterparts. Definitely for anyone that's a fan of medium to strong bodied beer fans!

A: Poured into a 22 oz. plastic beverage mug (hey, it was clean). Poured a humongous head, at least 3" (and yes, I was careful in the pouring) and the lacing was tenacious. Clinged foam throughout drinking. OMG!

S: Smelled of hops and sweet barley notes. Very pungent and smacked of imminent enjoyment on the tasting. Pine, alcohol and magic.

T: Initially, very hopsy. Floral bouquet explodes on the pallete. Mid, nice hops semi-dry sweet with the alcohol curbing nicely on the tonge. Finish is semi-wet with definite hops aftertones and the alcohol content, while well balanced, kicks ass.

M: Very nice and luxurious on the tongue. Intitial hops on each draught fades into alcohol dryness with only a slight residual.

D: Because of the alcohol content, gets over on you very quickly. Be prepared, very prepared. You don't want more than two of these in any one sitting. Pair it with breads to absorb some of the alcohol. I'm completely "f'ed" up, be warned.

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Photo of Celt44
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass - my first Barley Wine ever - here goes..
Appearance - a cloudy brown/amber. Small head lasts throughout - minimal lacing. Nice looking beer.
Aroma - Overwhelming malt - probably the most maltiest aroma I've experienced. Hops and hints of fruit - plums maybe.
Taste - Strong hops - malt character jumps out. Plums are still coming to mind here.
Mouthfeel is smooth.
Overall an excellent beer. All kinds of taste burst forth from this excellent choice from Great Divide. Great brewery..

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Photo of bnuttz
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This barley wine pours a dark rusty copper color. It is somewhat cloudy and thick with a yellowish tan head about the size of a finger. The smell is somewhat of caramel, but mainly dominated by citric hops. This beer is aggresively hopped, but still well balanced. The fruity sweet malt backbone balances the 90 IBUs of PNW hops that occupy this brew. The alcohol makes sure to give you a little boot in the end. This beer is sticky sweet on the mouth but not at all cloying. Damn drinkable for a 10% which makes it very dangerous. If I want a hoppy barley wine I'll shoot for this. Bigfoot who?

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

2006 edition. 22 oz. bottle poured into snifter.

A - Light brown with a reddish hue, a little viscous in the appearance, but looks nice nonetheless. Big head leaves lacing all over the glass and hangs around on top very nicely for a barleywine.

S - Caramel, toffee, malt, and hops up front. A little bit of an earthy sweetness, maybe a very subdued pine or maple syrup.

T - Solid piney hop presence with a very nice balance of sweet malt. A touch of caramel and a little bit of a pastry-like goodness. Strong hops throughout, but never overpowering enough to take away from the great complexities of this beer.

M - Creamy, tingly and perfectly full. Finishes a tad dry allowing the hops to linger on a clean feeling palate. Nice.

D - A great sipper that is such a good sipper that it will become a drinker if you're not careful. I would certainly love to have more of these in the future.

Overall, this beer reminds me of Bigfoot, but a tad smoother. Exceptional American barley wine. On par with Yeti as one of Great Divide's best offerings.

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

1 Pint 6 Fl. Oz. poured into pint glass. Served 50-55 F.
A: Dirt red brown. No apparent CO2 bubbles. Pours 1/2 inch thick yellow slightly brown head, retains a good amount. Leaves thick bubbly lace.
S: Citrus filled fruity hops, caramel, and I can smell it from a far.
T: Bitterness is accompanied with by citrus and fruit. Toasted malts balance hop presence. Alcohol presence is welcoming.
M: Great on tongue, sweeping warmth, and it is complete from front to back.
D: Super hoppy, super malty, and appreciable alcohol content. Everything blends well and makes for a great Barleywine.

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Photo of texashammer
4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Red-orange color and hazy; appropriate for the style from what I know. Beautiful, fine head. Nose is sweet floral spicy hops, and honey. Very smooth mouthfeel, body, flavor, finish. Overwhelming smooth for being so hoppy. Bready, toasty, nutty malt flavors and huge hops! Finish is bready, yeasty, bitter. Drinkability is hurt by alcohol, but a really great beer.

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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 skizziks
3.82/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle into a Duvel tulip. The pour gives it a big 3" creamy tan head with thick lacing over a very hazy deep copper body.

Aroma is rich and complex. Spicy with caramel, toffee, cinnamon, some citric and floral hops along with some phenolics and rubbing alcohol.

Flavor is bitter right from the start quickly followed with loads of brown sugar and caramel. Herbal hops mix with the phenols to create a very Ricola cough drop flavor in the finish. A little odd, but not bad. The Ricola is accompanied by warming alcohol, more lingering spice, and plenty of hop bitter.

Mouthfeel is full and sticky, coating the mouth with just enough bitterness to keep it from being cloying.

A very hop forward barleywine, and a little heavy with the darker malts, but a very interesting and enjoyable beer none the less.

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Photo of BeenJammin
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Deep amber in color. I think this was the creamiest, most wonderful head that I have seen.

S - candy like barley aroma with a hint of spicy hops

T - This is so complex I can't even comprehend. A punch of spicy hop flavor blended with subtle fruit flavors and sweet malt flavor.

M - Medium-bodied and sticky

D - My overall impression is that this kicks ass! If you have not tried barleywine style ales, you should check this out.

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Photo of marksto
4.14/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark amber, and from this particular bottle has very high cloudiness. Thin, off-white head with medium retention. Big aroma displays an intermingling of fruity esters, alcohol, and big hop. Flavor starts with a big, juicy malt explosion - carmel, fruit, and raisins; followed by distinct hop bitterness and flavor. Overall flavor gains depth and intensity and it sits and warms.

A very good barleywine and excellent example of the american version of the style.

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Photo of car2052
4.29/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle aged approx. 8 months into snifter.

A: Muddy red, plum. 1 in. Dark tan head.
S: Floral hops, pine resin, orange, Sweet dark malts, honey.
T: Initial hop bite followed by a sweet malt body. A little toasty, but not overwhelming. Alcohol helps bite through the sweetness. Hops linger on as the sweetness diminishes.
M: Medium/heavy.
O: Hops are still alive in this one, and a nice balance for the style.

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Photo of brow1901
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Old Ruffian BW poured into a tulip glass. Nice brown redish color with off white head that lasts for ever. Smells good, not much exceptional smells but I like the alcohol as the beer warms. Tastes a bit too sweet compared to other BW's but I love the hops in this beer much more pronounced than other BW's. The alcohol is there in the taste but not overwhelming, just warming. The beer is fairly drinkable, as it warms the alcohols comes out and it became harder for me to finish but overall a pretty drinkable brew.

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Photo of hoffman
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Another impressive offering from Great Divide. This one dances around the fringes of the perfect beer for me. The ruby red/mahogany color with the frothy tan/beige head is very appealing the translucent color, when held up to light, lets you see some small bubbles rising to the surface. The smell is pronounced at a cool temp and unlocks even more as the beer warms. A very malty base covers up much of the hop aroma, a toasty molasses, sweet raisen and plum mixture fills the boquet. The taste is very nice. The malty base is well represented up front. That nice dark fruit flavor shines through. A nice middle points to some almost faint grassy notes and then you are hit with a semi-dry and bold hop finish. The finish is impecible. The alchohol in this one is completely masked untill it warms you all the way down. The mouhfeel on this one is impecible. Perfect in my mind. Very smooth and creamy, unbelievably balanced, my example of how beers should feel on the cheek. Ultimately a very very good beer drinkable through and through. Do these guys make anything that isn't great?

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Photo of njmoons
3.2/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Excellent base, hopping overwhelmed the beer for my taste

A: Deep dark red. Looked good

S: Sweet and heavy fruits plum cherry. Malty and hoppy

T: The initial taste was very complex sweet fruits and malty. Hop bitterness and citrus hop flavors take over quickly and overwhelm the complexity and flavor of the beer. Beer finishes clean and crisp for a big beer. I think of would be a great beer, if a bit more balanced.

M: Thick and heavy, but not cloying. Nice

D: The citrus hop character reduces the drinkability.

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Photo of johnniemarg
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber poured into a delerium tulip.

Pours with an engine oil thickness and cloudy copper color. The beer is visibly thick as it appears at first as if there won't be much head, but then the tiny bubbles slowly gather and slowly make their way to the top of the glass to create a nice 2-finger tan head. The side of the glass opposite the side I'm drinking from is almost a uniform sheet of shite tiny bubbles.

The smell of this is almost all malt to me. Tons of caramel malt and some spiciness that I can't quite tell if it's the alcohol or hops. I think it's alcohol.

The taste is great. The nice big caramel malt backbone is there throughout and a nice hop bitterness makes itself known quickly and lasting into the aftertaste. It never is too hoppy because there's just so much malt in there to balance it out. After I'm well into my first glass I begin to think that there is a taste in here that's something like burnt chocolate chip cookies.

Mouthfeel is full bodied and creamy with a spicy alcohol sensation. Carbonation is held down in the thickness of the brew, but it's not lightly carbonated. It's perfectly carbonated in my opinion.

One of the best barley wines I've had. I am really impressed by this brewery. They need to get distribution on the east coast. I got this from liquid solutions. Highly drinkable although you'll feel it.

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Photo of atrus138
4.4/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured this from a bottle with no freshness date (though I wasn't too concerned with this beast). Looks amazing. Bottom is an amber color while the top is straight-up red. Very unusual! Head is big and chunky and absolutely cakes lacing on the glass so that I can see nothing through it. One sniff and I know that this is a fine example of a barleywine. Huge malt presence, mainly of sweet bread and caramel, but with a punch of grapefruit and pine. Magnificent. Taste is chock full of the aforementioned aromas. Very satisfying, but heavy. Mouthfeel is thick, without being syrupy. Good carbonation. Definitely take your time with this one, both because alcohol is well-hidden and because it gets tastier as it warms.

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

Poured this bottle into my texas longhorn Pub glass. Forgot how hoppy the barleywines really were. The bitterness is not all that bad, but does stick out right at first. The overall citrus taste does stick out throught this beer. The mouth feel is light witha good head and constant lacing. I would drink this beer over and over agian. I really enjoy these barleywines.

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Photo of StrangeBrewer76
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 1-08-09

Into the glass the color is a reddish-brown as one may expect and with an overly rough pour the head is half the volume of a tulip glass. The head is a two parter that is creamy and lacy on top with larger, fading bubbles underneath. The lacing is spectacular due to the pour, closest analogy is a corral reef. Neat!

Smells of leather tanned with cascade hops very clearly. It may not be the ideal for the style but it smells really good. There is a flowery component like lilac or lavender that makes me want to drink it even more.

First few sips leave me wondering. I don't get it. I feel like I'm on a subway platform waiting for a train and it comes by as I sip but does not stop. I'm not sure where this one is going. I'll give it some time to warm. I served it directly from the back of the fridge; my mistake.

Ok so I get the woody sensation to the extreme. Like a family of Amish were raising a rough-hewn oak barn on the back of my tongue to support my tonsils. Yes, to get the full flavor here you must consume at cellar temperature. Any warmer and you might miss something.

Warmer taste is quite buttery and sweet to start and then fish-hooking a bourbon-oak bite with a hate-to-love pleasantry.

Barleywines done right are the cigarettes of beer as this one is. You will hate them until you love them then love them until you hate them but you will not stop until you admit that they are a force to be taken seriously.

I give this beer high marks for it's perfection of the style but I also caution you reader; beware the barleywines. They are to be treated with respect and caution.

If you value your life take caution with this and barleywines et al.

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Photo of soughtbygod
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a dark slightly hazy orange with a two finger off white head that dicipates rather quickly but leave great lacing.

The smell is sweet, malt, vanilla, and roasted caramel

The taste is very well balanced, no alcohol profile, hops and malt slightly sweet a little of the roast flavor pull through with the hops at the end

mouthfeel isnt as smooth as the beer looks, a little too carbonated for this style. but not bad

overall great beer.

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Photo of Blitzstyle
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a my new DFH glass. Color is a muddeled brownish color, with a small big bubble head and some good sticky lace.

Smelled of heavy citrus and pine hops but a big caramell sweetness that provides great balance in the scent. Alcohol is present but minor.

A great mixing of bitterness and sweetness. Cirtus hops that have a really strong front taste, but a pine like finish to them. Caramell sweetness dominates the finish of the beer. Alcohol is well hidden in here but is detectable.

Sweet aftertaste medium heavy body, thick and creamy. Has a bit of a warming feeling to it. Really nice balance to the beer alcohol is well hidden very drinkable barleywine.

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Photo of 1whiskey
3.13/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

22 oz bomber poured into a pint glass. Pours out a cloudy reddish-amber with a thick apricot colored head.

Aroma is a mix of sweet fruit and floral combination, caramel, grapefruit, and brown sugar. Oddly enough, I also smell tea (fuggles?).

Taste is...sweet. Really, really, sugary, syrupy sweet. If ever the phrase "malt bomb" applied to a beer, this is it. More fruit & floral notes are present, and again the tea-like bitterness it struggling to be found amongst all the sugar. Alcohol is clearly evident. In some respects, this reminds me of booze-soaked fruitcake.

Mouthfeel is syrupy thick, with some creamy carbonation present. Drinkabilty? I'm in no hurry to have a second one. I may not be able to finish the bottle. Way too much sugar for me. Those with a sweet tooth may love this, though.

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

Old Ruffian Barleywine:

Quite possibly the perfect barleywine…big-time hops, wicked-large bodied, and de-freakin’-liceous. Beautiful deep crystal-clear garnet pour under a head as thick a whipped cream. As hoppy as this is (85-90 IBU), somehow it manages to drive home a caramelly malt presence that is out of this world…possibly my favorite of the style to date, near perfection in an American Barelywine; maybe it’s my mood, but maybe, just maybe, this is the perfect nightcap…and at 22oz, good-night bro.


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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 ohmybock
4.14/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this one in the past, but for the most part it's been a year or more. However, I finally had this one again last month on tap at the Barley's in Greenville, SC and loved it. With that being said, this rating is from a new bottle.

This fresh bottle came unexpectedly from a friend. It pours a clear, dark-ish, amber color with a mild head. It certainly looks inviting. The aroma isn't great, but it's not bad either. I was expecting more hops in the aroma (which I seem to remember from the tap version), but this bottle leans a bit more toward the malty side in the aroma. The taste surprised me after first experiencing the aroma. The taste is malty, but with a nice blast of hop flavor and decent bitterness too...nice! This is way too drinkable for a beer of this strength. Actually, it got better and better as it warmed. I think I liked the draft version slightly better, but this is really good too. This bottle has completely restored my faith in the bottled version of this brew. The last bottle I had was a total disappointment. To be fair, thinking back now...I'm sure that last bottle had been aged...which I don't normally like in my hoppy, American-style brews. In my opinion, drink this brew fresh or not at all.

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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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