Barleywines are big, bold creatures with enough amped up flavor (and alcohol!) to take your mind off things like slush and sub-zero temperatures. Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide is no exception. Hops-forward and seductively sweet, this is one you'll definitely want to check out.
Beer Details: Old Ruffian Barley Wine-Style Ale from Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado. (10.2% ABV)
Appearance: This one pours deep russet brown and clear enough to read a paper through. A thin cap of parchment-colored foam sticks around, leaving lovely lacing all down the glass.
Aroma: The aroma on this one is surprisingly light as compared to other barleywines we've had in the past. It smells fresh and perfumey, with a definite hops flower presence. A touch of honey sweetness adds warmth.
Flavor: Some beers, you get a mouthful of toasted malts and then a lingering hops bitterness in the finish. Others give a flash of hops that melt into caramel flavors. This one swirls everything together in one crazy mouthful. Just as you taste the hops, the malts take over. Then the hops again. Now the malts. The complimenting and competing flavors wash across the tongue together, completely intertwined.
The hops, for their part, are bright and bitter. We're reminded of lemon peel and pine resin, fading into bitter herbs toward the edges. A not-unpleasant metallic flavor sits in the middle of the tongue after swallowing, like holding a spoon in your mouth.
The malts are caramelly and luscious, like brown sugar melting over low heat. Some crusty bread flavors and notes of dark dried fruits, too. But the role of the malts in this beer really seems to be keeping the aggressive hops in check.
The whole beer is well-balanced and super complex. It has a thick and creamy mouthfeel without feeling at all cloying. The alcohol is warming and tends to sneak up on you after half a glass. Definitely a good beer for sipping over the course of an evening.
Food Pairings: Great Divide suggests serving this with a seared pork chop, and we couldn't agree more. Especially if that pork chop were paired with a sauce of stewed fruits and a side of braised cabbage.
Have you ever had this beer? What do you think of it?
Related: Quick and Dirty Guide to American Beer Styles
(Image: Emma Christensen)