Ralphius | Free Will Brewing Co.

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Brewed by:
Free Will Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 16.60%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 40 | Ratings: 170
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 Troegman
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I am a bourbon barrel fan and this years Ralphius is one of the best bourbon barrel stouts I've ever tried. Did a side by side with KBS. No need to wait in lines anymore.

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Photo of Erikshegda1994
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2017 Ralphius on tap at brewery 16.7%

Dark motor oil, sticky appearance with a thin mocha colored head

Smell is a delicious blend of chocolate, caramel, coffee and bourbon that you could sniff all day long (would be an awesome candle scent)

Taste is sweet cocao and cararmel flavors with a nice bitter coffee/bourbon finish, excellent balance in this years batch and unlike last years all the booziness is completely hidden because I could keep sipping on this all day. It's unbelievable that its almost 17 percent!

Feel is full bodied, thick and a perfect balance of bitter and sweet that make this stout so drinkable. Mad props to free will because this beer has a big change from last year.

Overall a delicious world class beer I would put up with a parabola or a bourbon county status. So good I had to buy a bomber to go, it was really impressive after last years batch was extremely boozy.

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Photo of BigMike
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This beer surprised the hell out of me. I've had several free will brews and haven't been blow away by any until this one. A huge ass stout. Tons of barrel. Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, oak. Surprisingly the 14% is very subdued. It's an easier drinker than you'd expect. Great stuff!

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Photo of Wasatch
4.74/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Thanks goes out to thebeers for this brew, via NBS BIF#5

12 oz. Bottle
Bottle On: 11/09/16
2016 Vintage

Poured into a tulip a black color, very nice carbonation, with a very nice thick/creamy small tan head, which leaves minimal sticky lacing behind. The nose is really nice, malty, some roast, bourbon, oak, vanilla, dark fruits (cherries, figs, raisins), chocolate/toffee, licorice. The taste is really nice as well, malty, lots of chocolate/toffee, vanilla, dark fruits, bourbon/oak, licorice. Full Body, ABV hidden pretty well, what a complex brew, definitely a sipper. Overall, this is a BIG BREW! Awesome! Glad to have had a chance to try it. Thanks Arthur!

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Photo of jwilcox767
4.7/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Another fantastic BBS here. Like everyone said, pours like motor oil with a little carbonation. I really liked the vanilla, it's hard to high test find brews where this flavor comes out in any meaningful fashion. Definitely get it again.

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Photo of citizencane
4.69/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Looks solid dark with decent head for being poured in 1oz glass.

Smells ok though a bit rough and woody and boozy on the end.

Taste is where this thing gets going. Creamy sweet bourbon and oak notes along with dark chocolate and coffe cream stout notes.

Mouthfeel: exceptional here as well. No more of excessive booziness or dryness. Well-balanced.

Overall: I'm picky about barrel-aged beers. This is the second exceptional offering in this realm by Free Will, among other very good beers of theirs. Whatever they're doing, they need to keep doing it.

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Photo of lateralundertow
4.68/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Pizzeria Uno, Deptford, NJ.
A - Dark, dark beer with a quarter inch of creamy 1/4 inch head that settled to a fine layer as it warmed
S - Berries, cherry, vanilla, bourbon, dates, fig
T - Dried fruit, more cherry, vanilla, oaky
M - Terrific, thick, viscous but not oily. Great level of carbonation v viscosity.
O - Really surprised with the amount of fruit flavor this stout contains. It is not overly sweet, cloying, or sugary tasting or in its mouthfeel, how some adjunct barrel aged stouts can be. Ralphius can compete with some of the big names in the stout vein.

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Photo of dbl_delta
4.53/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Undated 2016 bottle into pint glass. Pours an absolutely opaque oily black with a thin tan head. Initial impression is your standard chocolate and coffee, complemented by oak, vanilla, and caramel and heavily reinforced by bourbon and booze. Not sweet, but certainly not bitter - hits a really nice midrange. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy. Surprisingly smooth for 15.4%. Light carbonation is just about perfect for this style. Finish is quite smooth and warming. Realy good winter sipper.
Update: fresh from a growler. Even better.

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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 57md
4.52/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a super dark brown, almost black, color with a half finger of head. The nose has solid bourbon notes. The mouthfeel is rich and sticky, The roasted bitterness is solid as is the bourbon notes in the flavor profile. There is a perfect touch of sweetness on the finish that rounds everything out.

One of the biggest and best BA Stouts that I have had the pleasure to sample.

March 2018 update: sampled the 2016 vintage (about 1.5 years of age). The bourbon really fell off. This was disappointing since the bold bourbon notes were so enjoyable when fresh.

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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 muchos
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L. Black, opaque, small tan head falls to a ring in a minute
S. Smells of dried cherries, sherry, Hershey bar, candied orange, molasses, a little rum and bourbon, plenty of booze. Crazy.
T. Big chocolate, sweet dried fruit, toasted vanilla, whiskey, wood, cigar. Boozy aftertaste with semi-sweet chocolate chips and booze soaked cherries.
F. Medium to full body, smooth, sticks to the entire inside of my mouth.
O. The fruitiness caught me off guard but works very well. These unique flavors were a pleasant surprise to me. Wow. I'll love to see how Ralphius does with a little time in the bottle. Cheers!

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Photo of Pencible
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled at SAVOR 2017. This was a wonderful barrel aged strong stout that was incredibly smooth and rich. It was sticky in the finish, but amazing overall.

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Photo of DIM
4.47/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled Dec. 10th 2015.

Black, viscous body and small cap of dark tan foam. Smells of deeply roasted malt, chocolate cake batter, faint, vinous fruit, plus mild barrel notes of quality bourbon and oak. Very appealing overall.

The flavor lives up to the aroma thankfully. The barrel does not dominate, plenty of hugely decadent stout shines through. Up front bourbon notes meld nicely with roasted, borderline charred malts, dark chocolate, and tangy, vinous fruit. The finish was lingering cocoa bitterness and light, oaky heat.

This is full bodied and robust, very satisfying.

Overall this was quite a treat. Maybe just a half a degree shy of being world class...make that a quarter degree. Free Will continues to impress and intrigue.

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Photo of sjones5045
4.45/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

1/27/17 home

Pours thick black like oil. Thin tan head but expected from such a big stout.

The smell is boubon with vanilla and a bit sweet malt with a bit tart cherry.

The taste is really impressive. All the flavor comes out at different stages. Chocolate, vanilla, hints of cherry. Not too sweet and very well balanced.

Very smooth and extremely easy to drink for a huge 15.1%. Not a huge burn but it there. Again a very impressive to be this smooth for a 15.1

Overall very impressed. Loved this stout. Great winter sipper after dinner.

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Photo of kalosjakar
4.44/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look: dark dark black with a dark mocha head.

Aroma: whisky, oak, vanilla, roasted, chocolate

Taste: whisky/bourbon kicking your ass, alcohol warmth/slight burn, oak, the barrel notes are more pronounced than any BA Stout Ive ever had. The roasted notes are deep underneath.

Feel: thick, chewy, slightly oily

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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 larryi86
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Thank you thebeers for this
12 oz can, dated 11/20/18, poured into a teku

A- Black with a two finger mocha head

S- Lots is bourbon, fudge, vanilla, some dark fruits.

T- Bourbon, charred oak, some vanilla, chocolate, some coffee, hints of caramel, some warming alcohol.

M- Smooth, thick, full body.

O- A great sipper of a stout. Definitely let’s you know it is over 16% ABV, but it is not too hot.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.39/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Free Will Brewing Co. "Ralphius"
on tap at the brewery, 9 April 2016

Notes: Typical Imperial stout appearance. Very good head retention, limited spotty lacing. Aroma of soft chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, soft roastiness, char, almost burnt sugar, oak. The flavor follows with more cocoa, nuttiness, hints of vanilla, passing notes of coconut, sweet roast, and more woody oak. It's a pretty solid beer, full bodied but with enough carbonation to liven it and keep it from becoming syrupy. It's sweetish, but also dry in the finish with alcohol, minor roastiness, and bitterness. Pretty impressive, it's so big that it holds me back, yet I want more - normally I might suggest this as a quite sipper before bed while reading but I honestly think it might be too distracting. Bombastic yet refined in some way, is that possible? Worth seeking out.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.34/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Looks like thick black motor oil on the pour, kicking off aromas of rich dark roasted chocolaty malts and bourbon barrels. Taste has an appropriate chocolate malt and bourbon character - some vanilla, some molasses, hints of oak, and suggestions of sweet black coffee. Doesn't go too far with the sweetness, which I appreciate. Feel is real nice - the body is not compromised by the barrel-aging, and has a smooth, full feel. A real nice bourbon barrel Russian imperial with a big 15.1% abv...

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Photo of MikeWard
4.34/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12oz can into a goblet. two canned on dates here, Oct 2018 on the label & 11/20/18 on the bottom of the can. . Take your pick.

Jet black body with initially a thick dark tan head looking like a well done pancake. Good lacing initially.

Molasses and dark fruit on the nose.

Lots of tastes and feels going on here. The BBA element is strong without being harsh. There is a nice vanilla presence taking the edge off a little. Abv is quite hot. There are faint hints of chocolate and dark fruit. The balance here is excellent, because although several elements are strong, nothing dominates.

The mouth is full, finish warm & sweet with a little molasses.

Overall, really tasty well made and balanced BBA RIS. Happy to have picked up a pair. Sorry I didn't pick up 4.

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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 Jlabs
4.31/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Seeved into a 10oz glass via draft
Color is straight up like a black hole..deep black
Smell is some bourbon and creamy vanilla with some dark fruit in the background..taste is about the same with the vanilla and dark fruit coming more to the forefront and the bourbon makes more of a guest appearance
That being said i thought this was a well balanced stout and nice after dinner sipper

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Photo of CanConPhilly
4.29/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L - 1-finger mocha head atop a pitch black body.

S - chocolate, vanilla, bourbon.

T - follows the nose. Tons of chocolate and bourbon, with caramel, molasses, wood. Moderate bitterness. Low sweetness. Moderate booziness.

F - medium-full body with average carb.

O - very tasty.

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Ralphius from Free Will Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.34 out of 5 with 170 ratings