Free Will Brewing Co.

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Free Will Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States
Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #56
Ranked #855
4.36 | pDev: 6.65%
Nov 25, 2023
Oct 05, 2013
A rich full-bodied stout with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, caramel, and jammy dark fruit. This bourbon barrel aged blended behemoth has a complementary smooth finish with a lush velvety texture. Aged for eight months to two years in various spirit and wine barrels.

ABV varies by year.
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Photo of MacMalt
Reviewed by MacMalt from New Jersey

4.43/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
2023 release. Poured into a stemless stout glass at 64° It pours a dark mahogany-walnut color with a half finger of creamy, dark khaki/light mocha head and thin film of lacing. Great head retention. Lovely, fragrant nose with dark chocolate, burnt coffee, toffee, molasses, tobacco smoke, and nutty char. The taste follows, delightfully with bitter chocolate, acidic coffee, caramel/vanilla, leather, and earthy char. There are also notes of anise and a hint of black cherry and other dark fruits. It's boozy but not in a distracting way. The tastes blend beautifully. The mouthfeel is luxuriously viscous and creamy with low/moderate carbonation, and I can feel the 14.5% ABV. It's warming but not overpowering. Overall, I'm grateful to finally have a full bottle of Ralphius. It's big, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable This RIS deserves its World-Class reputation. I can't wait to drink some of this year's variants.
Nov 25, 2023
Photo of maximum12
Reviewed by maximum12 from Minnesota

3.97/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Thanks to DIM for this 12. 7 ounces bottle with a cute puppy on the label. My first run-in with Free Will.

Black pour with a solid head if you care about these things. Strong vanilla, moderate barrel, & plenty of sweetness in the nose.

Ralphius is charming. Booze is very evident, spawning a warmth in my belly. Barrel is simultaneously strong but the actual taste is subtle. Lots of vanilla cruising out of the depths, sweetness akin to honey, bitter wood, slight roast on the finish. Thick & oily. This could come in bigger servings. I’d be OK with that.

This dog hunts. Very good beer that kisses up to excellent.
Apr 21, 2023
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Reviewed by CarolinaCardinals from North Carolina

4.59/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Received a 2022 12.7 oz bottle in a trade with DIM 3-8-23. Consumed 4-5-23.

Beer poured black with a very nice tan head.

Nose is quite nice, full of the many barrel characteristics and i am primarily getting vanilla and leather on top of the bourbon.

Taste is near perfection! Medium to heavy roasted malt base sets up a great canvas for the barrels which give wonderful notes of vanilla, leather, dark fruit, and a touch of chocolate. Finishes perfectly balanced.

Mouthfeel is full bodied with each sip being silky smooth.

Overall this is neck and neck with the Firestone Walker top shelf beers i have had within the last year!
Apr 05, 2023
Photo of puck1225
Reviewed by puck1225 from Texas

4.46/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
Enjoying this beer with Christmas brunch. Poured into a jelly jar. Deep dark brown with a nice brown head and nice but brief curtain lacing. Smell and taste of good dark chocolate. Vanilla, licorice and dark berries. Hint of cinnamon. Excellent beer for a merry time!
Dec 25, 2022
Photo of kemoarps
Reviewed by kemoarps from New York

4.22/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
2020 can sent my direction way way back during NBS BIF #13 by @JayORear. Ninja strike box, even! Opened in honour of our dog Boo Radley, to whom we had to say goodbye today. You are a good boy, Boo.

This is a solid big boozy sweet stout. Alcohol spice is present and offers a nice counter to the vanilla sweetness. There's some espresso in there as well, it's very smoothe, but very boozy, and oh so spicy.

Thanks Jay for sending this my way and ensuring that we had something worthwhile to pay homage to an important member of our family!
Sep 15, 2022
Rated: 5 by Justincredble from Pennsylvania

Feb 26, 2022
Rated: 4.43 by tobelerone from New Jersey

Feb 20, 2022
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Reviewed by WunderLlama from Massachusetts

4.49/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
New beer, new brewery to me courtesy of a trade with @jayorear

Brewers Notes: A rich full-bodied stout with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, caramel, and jammy dark fruit. This bourbon barrel aged blended behemoth has a complementary smooth finish with a lush velvety texture. Aged for 1 year.

Chilled bottle poured into a snifter produces a one finger dense brown foam cap over a dark cola brown motor oil, foam recedes to a thin island and ring

Aroma is roast malts , dark fruits, dark chocolate, bourbon

Taste is bourbon , chocolate , sweet caramel , hint of vanilla

Velvety smooth , low sudsing

Delicious beer, thanks Jay!
Dec 31, 2021
Rated: 4.53 by TedStrosser from Pennsylvania

Dec 09, 2021
Photo of Hayesbro
Reviewed by Hayesbro from Pennsylvania

4.56/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
My last 2020 Ralphius, nearly a year later but didn't change that much. Pours black with a slight brownish head that disappears quickly. Aroma is boozy, this is not a stout that hides the barrel (not that it should at 14.1%), with some oaky notes. Booze on the taste as well, with deep chocolate and toasty notes, fairly sweet with a lasting pleasant bitterness. Complex. Very full mouthfeel and a thick syrupy body but a little less carbonation than is perfect for a beer like this. A very solid BA stout, recommended if you like them boozy.
Oct 22, 2021
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Reviewed by Beersnake1 from California

4.5/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
2020 can poured at fridge temp. Pours jet black with a small amount of brown head.

Nose: Intense right away. My first thoughts are bourbon, brown sugar, and blackberries. After a couple of minutes, the dark fruit starts to rise in significance, along with an intense chocolate milk smell. Marshmallow, almonds, and a hint of roasted malts. This should be a whopper on the taste!

Taste: Holy crap. A single sip sets off a cascade of quickly shifting flavors. Intense bourbon, vanilla, toffee, and brown sugar are first, followed by roasted malts and dark chocolate. My brain literally started screaming with the immense flavor. The aftertaste following a few sips spins toward a charred wood/coffee grounds taste. Dark fruits (blackberries, plums, and raspberries) start to appear, and everything becomes incredibly smooth and integrated after the initial (and great) shock to the palate. The ABV is apparent - the 14% comes through (but not in a negative way). Halfway through the can I start to pick up a coconut rum note, which is interesting. This is just a fun experience that is constantly evolving.

Mouthfeel and overall: As expected, the mouthfeel is robust and viscous. A proud imperial stout. Overall, this is a wonderful experience. Intense and well-rounded. I'm a huge fan - can't wait to try the variants.
Oct 22, 2021
Rated: 4.25 by Jdells09 from New Jersey

Aug 09, 2021
Photo of woemad
Reviewed by woemad from Washington

4.39/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
Wee little 8.4oz can. Small enough to be mistaken for a Red Bull. I find the notion of someone grabbing one by mistake and downing it, expecting an energy drink, hilarious. This is probably because I'm a misanthropic psychopath. 2020 vintage per the can label. Hopefully, the beer's 2020 was better than that of most of us.

Poured into a stemless wine glass, this was the color of evil, with virtually no head at all, just a vague skiff of tan foam about 1/20th of an inch high, which then promptly dropped away to a level almost invisible to the naked eye. A vigorous swirl of the glass produced only the tiniest of lace spots. At 14.1% abv (per the can), I wouldn't have expected much of a head, but, Damn!

When I popped the can's tab, a big aroma of booze filled my kitchen. After letting it sit and warm up a little, things became more complex in the aroma dept. Bourbon stands out, along with a vanillaish oakeyness, but also chocolate and molasses notes, and a bit of a charred, burnt aroma.

Whoa! This is some delicious stuff! Roasty, toasty dark malts up front, with some sweet, dark chocolatey notes. Midway through, the bourbon barrels make themselves fully felt. A low but unmistakable boozy, bourbon-y warmth steps up, like a laconic yet powerful hero calmly walking up to a villain in a movie. The tone is low key, almost friendly, but carries an unmistakable undertone of menace, saying "mess with me and I will fuck you up." Perfectly appropriate for a beer like this. Things also get kinda sugary in the middle. The booze gets hot at the swallow, which is also quite sugary. "I wasn't a diabetic until I started drinking this can of beer," I see myself telling a doctor in the near future.

Mouthfeel is a little thin for a beer like this, but not to the extent of being a deal breaker. It might be a blessing in disguise, actually.

Wow! This beer is YUGE! I've had three beers today, all from Free Will, and they couldn't have been more different from one another. While it's a little OTT, booze-wise, it's a small sin for the size of serving, and I really dig this beer. I'd love to have another to lay down for a couple years and compare notes to. Thanks, Jay!
May 08, 2021
Photo of micada
Reviewed by micada from New York

4.68/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75
2020 9.3 oz can. Color is super dark brown to black. Poured aggressively to the ol’ tulip, but forget about head other than a crisp ring that fades quickly. Tons of vanilla, oak, bourbon on the nose. First sips are all that plus a sweet stone fruit middle. I get a tiny bit of dark chocolate in the way back. Thick mouthfeel, very nice, nothing too heavy or cloying. Alcohol has a bourbon bite up front, not too much warming early on, though I’m sipping as I write notes. One big baller mouthful brings out the full array of complementary aromas and flavors. It’s a complex profile, very enjoyable, and easy to knock back. It’s a big ABV, which starts to show up early. As it warms, there’s a bit of roasty char in the sip, plus a hint of anise. Overall, excellent brew.

2021 12oz bottle update: wow. A lot more lively barrel and vanilla and a spiciness on the tongue. I had to upgrade the taste and overall based on that. Really superb!
Feb 11, 2021
Rated: 4.33 by TheEpeeist from Maryland

Jan 17, 2021
Photo of Roguer
Reviewed by Roguer from Connecticut

4.58/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
Good head production and retention for the style and ABV. Body is dark but clear around the edges.

Nose is reminiscent of Bourbon County: rich, dark, chocolatey, boozy. Chocolate, molasses, oak, bourbon, nuts, light char.

Quite sweet on the palate, much sweeter than expected. Red grape, syrup, chocolate, chewy caramel, brown sugar, plum, bourbon, honey, cherry. I don't know what barrels they chose for this beer, but they undoubtedly contribute to the sweetness. Mild char.

Smooth and easy drinking. Despite the massive ABV, it doesn't drink hot; it's smoother and easier than Bourbon County at roughly the same ABV. Could stand to be thicker, however.
Jan 09, 2021
Rated: 4.45 by tdm168 from Pennsylvania

Dec 27, 2020
Rated: 4.49 by odenbr12 from New Jersey

Dec 05, 2020
Rated: 4.83 by Guerrelli from Pennsylvania

Nov 28, 2020
Rated: 4.06 by MGibbons from Maryland

Oct 15, 2020
Ralphius from Free Will Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 204 ratings