Free Will Brewing Co.

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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #65
Ranked #1,041
4.34 | pDev: 6.68%
Free Will Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States
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.
Reviews: 45 | Ratings: 179 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Donco:
Photo of Donco
4.57/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

More User Reviews:
Photo of SHerninko
4.32/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

*UPDATE--had a growler from the brewery. My hunch was correct, this is world-class level.
Enjoyed a small pint pour from tap @ Blue Dog Chalfont. Thanks Chris--world class brews.

I was stoked to try since it's a local brew, a stout and aged in Pappy. The magic of Pappy barrels continues. Not having the base beer I can't compare but the smooth, velvety texture is there, the malty stout mixing with plenty of bourbon, oak, vanilla, not hot but just right.
Mouth is silky and low carbonation. The only small drawback is it's a bit sweet. The amount of aging time or power of the bourbon takes control a bit.
Not that the bourbon flavors are a bad thing. Far from it. This has characteristics of some world class beers like Dark Lord, Abyss, etc.-- mainly from the raisin flavors. Not as complex but this could be highly sought after with some more tinkering.

Great brew from this brewery. I'll look for more from them in the future!
Look for this!

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Photo of scottbrew4u
4.53/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Beer served from tap a jet black color, opaque and thick looking with a beautiful frothy tan head piled on top. Smell of vanilla, bourbon, light wood, dark cherries, burnt and complex barley malt profile. Taste was outstanding layers of lush malted barley, dark cherries and light not too boozy bourbon flavors and splashes of vanilla and wood with a full almost chewy body. A big beer indeed and it actually does not come off as a 14%+ alcohol beer but be warned it catches up with you. An awesome sipper!!

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Photo of SiepJones
4.41/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of jmdrpi
4.24/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

on draft at the brewery

black in color, tan colored head. aroma of bourbon and bitter cocoa. taste is a bit boozy, but not too much so. thicker bodied, coats the tongue.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.74/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle. Inky black with a small khaki head. Smells of chocolate, oak, and booze. Whiskey isn't that pronounced. The bourbon that was faint in the aroma is intense in the taste. Chocolate. Oak. Vanilla and a lot of sweetness. Heavy with low carbonation. It's just the right side of too boozy.

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Photo of BradC
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Notes: I first had this (hence my review below) in autumn 2014, when Ralphius was aged in Pappy van Winkle barrels. That was the favorite of all three variants I have tried to date.

2015 (Jack Daniel's barrels) was mighty disappointing, both fresh and after a year of cellaring. 2016 (also Jack Daniel's) drinks nice fresh, good barrel aromas, but still not as good as that original Ralphius I tasted.

Free Will Ralphius, on tap at Revolution House in Philadelphia PA.

Appearance: Served in a 10-oz glass and dead still. Reminds me of vintage BCBS on tap… no bubbles, no head, nothing. Just oil, freshly fracked in North Dakota and chilled. Super black, no foam or retention.

Smell: Chocolate, booze, barrel, sugar, whiskey, smoke, a tad of tartness, vinous.

Taste: Sweeter than the nose, plus tart apple. Almost brandy like. Port-soaked pear, cherry, sweet-and-sour. Charred oak, coal ambers, but not quite a West Virginia mine fire. Dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Could use more body and carbonation. Really flat, thick, heavy. Not too sweet, though- balanced enough within the craze.

Overall: And rightfully so. I had three glasses. This things drinks great, better than BCBS for sure. Not as boozy-sweet-brutal. A thing of beauty.

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Photo of stakem
3.6/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2015 12oz bottle stored in fridge since purchase. Poured into a cervoise appears black in color with a brown head that fades to a thin film.

Aroma of roasted grain, earth, coffee and anise. Raison-like fruitiness and minimal bourbon/oak but as it breathes the woodiness emerges nicely.

Taste is bitter with roasted earthen grain, some char, anise and molasses-like flavoring but without residual sweetness. The oak has a mild astringency and drying tannic feel with a raw woodiness moreso than bourbon feel. The aftertaste is a little green around the edges.

Medium in body with modest carbonation. A decent sipper but im gonna venture a guess here that the barrels they aged this in were either not fresh/wet or they did not age the beer in the barrels that long. The barrel contribution is harsh and disjointed rather than integrated with nuance. It also has a greenness about it that im just not a fan of. I paid entirely too much $ for this bottle because I heard nothing but great things and I was curious. I wouldnt buy it again.

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Photo of JamFuel
4.51/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours jet black with soapy, chocolate colored foam.

Smell is rich, sweet and oaky with notes of vanilla, bourbon, chocolate and fudge.

Taste is sweet with some charred oak notes upfront, leading into notes of vanilla, chocolate, coffee, fudge and caramel. A hint of warming booze and a slight bitterness brings the intensity up een further. Massive taste and a long, lingering aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is thick and sludgy, well carbonated.

Overall, a truly massive stout that manages to not be overwhelming. Looking forward to trying the maple version.

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Photo of seanchai
4.19/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of gafferjohn
4.33/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of bigfnjoe
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of calcnerd
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Knapp85
3.98/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of whatname
4.02/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of jp312
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of duceswild
3.59/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of zekeman17
3.78/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of IdrinkGas
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of SawDog505
4.91/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured at room temperature into a 16 oz snifter bottled on 12 / 10 / 15. Pours as black as midnight on a cloudy winter evening with a 1 plus finger light brown head that leaves behind some wisps of lace.

Smell is roasty expresso, vanilla, with hints of leather, tobacco, smoke, and big oaky bourbon .

Taste follows nicely if possible even better than the nose, huge roasty expresso, vanilla, leather, tobacco, smoke, oak all lend a tiny little hand, and a nice fairly dry balanced bourbon finish.

Mouthfeel is a little bigger than medium, creamy, moderate carbonation as you would expect, and incredible drinkability for its girth.

Overall thanks @Mcballz13 for this treasure one of the best I have had and I have many BA Imperial Stouts.

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Photo of rudzud
3.96/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

2015 vintage. Received as an extra in a trade.

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a nice deep brown almost black with a half finger mocha head that fades slowly to leave thin wisps. Very, very nice legs though.

S - Aromas of fudgy chocolate, roasted dark malts, little bit of black licorice and dark fruits. No discernible alcohol on the nose, however, no real barrel qualities either.

T - Taste is similar to the nose. Very nice dark fruits and big anise notes. Good dark malts, almost bitter finish. Chocolate notes are super light. I don't really get any bourbon notes at all. Super, super faint tannin. Alcohol hidden on the taste, lingering bitter roast.

M - Mouthfeel is almost brightly carbonated, really light on the tongue. Body is on the lighter side too. Alcohol is hidden phenomenally, but this some how drinks thin. Not really sure how that's possible.

O - Overall this had loads of potential. Pretty much no barrel notes anywhere though. It's a solid enough russian imperial, but the lack of bourbon and the surprisingly light mouthfeel really were unfortunate. Perhaps a bad vintage.

Serving Type: Bottle

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Photo of BuxMontBeerLover
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of LehighAce06
5/5  rDev +15.2%

Photo of incubusfriday
4.79/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Ralphius from Free Will Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 179 ratings