Blue Collar Brew – 2016 Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine

Thought I’d climb back into the Brew Review saddle this evening and bang out a few words while drinking a new beer.

I was visiting the Route 6 Liquor store to see if they had any new beers for Beer Menus and as usual, I scanned the shelves for new beers, beers I’d missed during the last visit and I looked for trends. That’s hard to spot in a small establishment like Rte. 6. But I like the owners and the beer always gives me a good feeling even standing among the shelves.

I did a scan of the bombers on the top shelf and spotted something different. Something barrel aged by Great Divide. Now although I wouldn’t mind imbibing yet another Belgian dubbel or quad, I’m sure the readership may grow tired of the same style of beer being written about too often.

But I was in luck. The beer was a barleywine. 2016 Great Divide Old Ruffian  Barley Wine. The beer was aged for over a year in old oak whiskey barrels. I didn’t think that brewers would even consider whiskey barrels.

The beer was in a 750ml bottle at a rather steep price of 17 bucks. I had the cash but I wavered briefly. Whiskey barrels? I gotta try this. I grabbed one and one only.

An online visit to the brewery revealed that the whiskey barrel aging tempers Old Ruffian’s edges for a mellowed version with heady whiskey flavors and subtle oak notes.

I’d like to taste some for myself, thank you. In barrel aging, the common thread is the wood. It’s always oak. Nobody ages beer in pine barrels or teak barrels or balsa wood barrels. Someone should’ve aged some beer in my Aunt Edna’s attic. Man, there were some scents and odd air currents in that place. Unfortunately, Aunt Edna died of a Brettanomyces yeast infection.

The oak flavors that are gained from barrel aging are one thing, but the other big factor is what was in the barrel before the brewery got hold of it. Less common than bourbon (in barrel aged beers) is whiskey. At least that’s my take on the subject.

And just like usual, I’m yammerin’ at the mouth. Let’s get down to some serious beer drinking.

The beer poured out of the bottle with a brown color but was distinctively a ruby red when the glass was held up to the light. The foam wasn’t much more than light soap scum floating on top of the liquid. All micro-bubbles composed the carbonation. The aroma was that of malty flavors, reminiscent of beer with maybe a little sweetness.

The first sip was phenomenal! An unbelievable spectrum of malt flavors attacked my taste buds to party hearty and dance the night away. I could tell right away that this was a beer that will be remembered for its gigantic taste. Wow.

The beer had an extraordinarily full mouthfeel and all of the aspects that were mentioned on the label, were in my mouth. A slight sweetness on the intake. Then other flavors come out: a bit of cherry, some whiskey that’s muffled and adds a unique flavor and then the slightest bit of hops at the end that disappear.

I’m astounded at the characteristics of this beer. The brewer’s choice to age the concoction in whiskey barrels really made for a distinctively flavored brew that will be memorialized from the first sip. He should be awarded some sort of prize.

I’d venture to say that this beer has very few similarities to the “regular” non-barrel aged Ruffian that Great Divide makes. The whiskey flavorings of this one really make the beer stand out.

I’m really impressed with this beer and I’m glad my luck paid off with it. The name Old Ruffian Barrel Aged has been etched in my memory banks.

This is the perfect beer to bring to a party where beer will be served. Bring just one cold  750 bottle and dole out the contents sparingly, in small amounts spread over time. It should really set the mood.

Or save the bottle for yourself and sip at it every so often while spring cleaning the garage. It will make you very happy.

The SixPackTech summary for 2016 Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine-Style Ale:

Style: Barleywine
Taste: A taste like has never been tasted before. Unique and delicious.
Smoothness: This is relative to the drinker.
Bang for the buck: A bit pricey but worth the taste.
Amount paid: $16.99 for 750ml bottle.
Get it again? Yes. For storage for a future special occasion.
ABV: 12.8% according to the label.
Brewer’s website
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It looks like wine. (sniff) Little alcohol. (sniff) Caramel, almost citrus. (sip) Yukchh! It’s like a really bad wine. That’s gonna stay with me for a while. (Hey wait! I thought you liked caramel. And she’s brushing her tongue again.)

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