Great Divide Brewing Old Ruffian Barleywine: Unleash the Bully!

Remember Butch from the Little Rascals? He was the roughneck that always picked on Alfalfa and the rest of the “Our Gang” clan.  He was bigger, rougher, and much more bitter than the rest of them.  He was, in old timey language, a ruffian.  The kind of kid that used his size and attitude to make others bend to his will.  The kind of kid that took everything to the extreme and then took it a little farther.  The kind of kid that could bend nails with his teeth spit ’em out and go kiss your girlfriend..and she likes it!

Yeah, the old ruffian really gets around, oh you thought I was talking about Butch?  Naw he was just an insecure kid!  I’m talking about Old Ruffian Barleywine from Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Colorado! …

This is a barleywine with a punch!  The Old Ruffian is a 10.2% ABV barleywine that is intensely hopped.  So no sweet cloying flavors here.  It starts out hot with a hint of the raisiny barleywine flavor that is indicative of the style, and a lot of alcohol.  Midway through it begins to change and gives you a break before it kicks you in the face with a huge hop presence for a barleywine.  It is almost like a barleywine and an IPA put together.

This is a take no prisoners, damn the torpedos approach to a barleywine.  At the end just when you think you can’t take any more the ruffian lets up and lets you catch your breath just enough for you to say, that hurt…but it hurt so good…

Yes this is one that you will go to over and over again to get your dose of punishment, and be glad you did.  For those of you that don’t like being kicked in the teeth by your beer, you might prefer their barrel aged Old Ruffian.  I haven’t had it, but I can only imagine that the barrel would keep the ruffian from punching so hard…kinda like when a bully gets a nice girlfriend that tries to mellow the beast.

This was a really fun brew and one I think everyone should try when they get the chance.  If big flavors and in your face aren’t your thing look for the barrel aged variety.  That might smooth out those rough edges that hurt so much when they run over your taste buds like an NFL cornerback.


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25 Comments on “Great Divide Brewing Old Ruffian Barleywine: Unleash the Bully!”

  1. December 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Sounds a lot like the Vermonster from Rock Art. That too was a highly hopped barleywine that went right up to the edge and stopped just short of blowing your mind with bitterness.

    Here’s the review I did last year:

    You’ve got me in the mood now for that Avery Hog Heaven I have in the garage…

    • Don
      December 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

      Probably was. I haven’t tried that one yet, but its on the list!

    • Alex
      December 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

      Hog Heaven is still my favorite barley wine. I chatted with a biker dude at the Boulder Strong Ale Festival last year who had a Hog Heaven tattoo!

      I feel shame for not trying Old Ruffian yet. I will fix that soon.

      • Don
        December 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

        I too feel ashamed that I haven’t yet tried Hog Heaven, so this post has made us both hang our heads! Sorry for that. But, I will. It is on my radar, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I’ll make you a deal, you try the Old Ruffian, and I’ll try the Hog Heaven! 😉

      • Alex
        December 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm #


    • Greg K.
      December 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

      Yeah gonna have to agree with the crowd on Hog Heaven. Hands down my favorite barleywine. Old Ruffian is quite good as well though, reminds me a bit of this year’s Nemesis with how hoppy it is

      • Don
        December 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

        I gotta try that stuff!

  2. December 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Oh, I like this one. You’re right, it really surprises you, not exactly what you’d expect from a barleywine, but a great exploration of the style. I had the oak-aged version, but it’s been a while, can’t totally recall, but I don’t think it lost a lot of that ruffian character. Just added some oak barrel complexities.

    • Don
      December 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

      It isn’t what you would expect from a barleywine, but does push the limits…then steps over them without shame!

  3. December 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m gonna have to try this one as well. Grabed the Hecules instead. Now the question is with the weather at 15 degrees Hercules or Yeti? Both in the Fridge…Hmmm I think I hear the call of an Abominable snoman!

    • Don
      December 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      I believe…too.

  4. December 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    I haven’t had much luck with Great divide. I know they are very popular and come highly acclaimed. But I feel that everything I have had from them feels uncomfortable and unbalanced. Oaked Yeti specifically is the harshest Oaked beer I have ever had, and the only one I have ever dumped.

    Being that Barley Wines are also one of my favs I will have to give it a shot, because I also tend to like beers that aren’t supposed to be overly hopped, but have been.

    With that said I don’t think it can hold candle to Floyd’s Behemoth.

    • Alex
      December 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

      Gah! I think I feel the same way about a Yeti drain pour as most people feel about puppies being thrown into a blender. 🙂

      I had a taste of Behemoth once and I’m inclined to agree, I just need a full sample sometime.

      • Don
        December 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

        Yeah, the drain pour was extreme!

    • Don
      December 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

      Perhaps you are correct Adam about the Floyds, but I really enjoyed the ruffian. I can’t believe that anyone would drain pour a yeti! If I was there I’d have drank it, but I will just shed a tear silently instead. I really love Great Divide brews, and I think the entire yeti line can do no wrong, or at least they haven’t yet to me. I think you would like the ruffian if you like a big hop presence in beers where you don’t expect it.

      • Greg K.
        December 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

        Yeah all of the Yetis are fantastic. I’ve yet to be disappointed by one. Particularly love the Espresso!

        • Don
          December 16, 2010 at 9:53 am #

          I like the Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti. Although, I don’t think I have had the espresso one yet. The Chocolate oak Yeti uses a hint of Chipotle in it and as you drink it, it builds up to a great warming sensation. It is truly a very well crafted beer.

      • Greg K.
        December 16, 2010 at 10:34 am #

        If you like the Chocolate Aged Yeti, go find yourself some Rogue Double Chocolate. Probably the best Chocolate Imperial Stout I’ve had. So good.

      • Greg K.
        December 16, 2010 at 11:49 am #

        I’m actually right there with you on Rogue, I’m rarely impressed with many of their offerings, but I really do love the Double Chocolate

        • Don
          December 16, 2010 at 11:51 am #

          I’ll give it a try Greg, they surprised me pleasantly with their John John, so this might be a great one as well.

  5. December 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    +1 on the Hog Heaven Jim. I really liked that one so maybe this one from Great Divide is on order as well.

    I wonder if the Hog Heaven calls to Jim from the garage, and does it speak Pig Latin?

  6. Rachel
    December 16, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    This sounds a bit like Troegs Flying Mouflan, which I love. I wonder if this is available in PA?

    • Don
      December 16, 2010 at 11:59 am #

      Dunno, Rachel, but it is available in Jersey, so I would think it is in PA too, or perhaps they decided you were already well served by Victory, Troegs, Wierbacher, etc, etc…

      • Rachel
        December 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

        I checked around. It looks like you can get it here. Thanks for the tip!

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