Ralphius | Free Will Brewing Co.

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 

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
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50  | next → last
Reviews: 40 | Ratings: 170
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.

 856 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.17/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dark, dark brown where light shines through the edges of the glass. Good initial head but it leaves very little lace.

Strong brandy-like aroma with lots of berry and alcohol, semisweet.

This is a high alcohol beer. It's evident in the richness of the body and warmth from the finish. The aftertaste is warm and lasting in a semisweet, berry like way. This less a stout than an after-dinner drink reminiscent of a dark cherry brandy. Great body with a low level of effervescence. Still, it is deceptively easy to drink.

 522 characters

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.

 564 characters

Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.03/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap 2/28/2016 at Pour Farm Tavern in New Bedford, MA, served in a tulip glass.

A: The beer is a deep black color, with a large brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains chocolate, licorice, dark fruit and roasted malts.

T: The taste starts out with flavors of chocolate, licorice and dark fruit. Then a hearty roasted malt character comes in. There is some barrel-aging essence and some alcohol in the background. The hops presence is very mild but complementary and brings a decent balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: A little crisp and a little smooth, heavy body, light-to-medium carbonation, finish is sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down dangerously easy, slightly filling, very strong kick, good representation of style, this is a solid big stout to drink for a while.

 831 characters

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!

 282 characters

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!!

 507 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
3.77/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

On tap at EBF 2016
Big roast and chocolate notes with bits of bourbon vanilla light earth and oak. A touch on the thin side, but a tasty beer just the same.

 156 characters

Photo of Dolphinsmarlins1
4.19/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Tasted this at Extreme Beer Fest. Honestly this brewery was the biggest surprise of the day for me. Liked this one so much I tried three others from them.

 154 characters

Photo of Rizzy17
4.18/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on tap at The Fridge served in a tasting glass.

A: Super dark with a nice dark brown head.
S: Molasses and licorice on the nose.
T: Molasses and licorice comes through on the taste as well. Slightly roasty.
F: Smooth and creamy. Has some slight boozy heat that's not overbearing. Super drinkable for such high ABV!
O: Really impressed with this. I was not expecting such an enjoyable imperial stout out of this, but Free Will continually impresses me.

 460 characters

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.

 742 characters

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.

 172 characters

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.

 579 characters

Photo of hopflyer
4.22/5  rDev -2.8%

Big, deep roastiness and pretty heavy on the booze. Some sweetness, dark chocolate.

Viscous and low carbonation. Booziness and abv makes this a sipper.

 156 characters

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.

 1,244 characters

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!

 953 characters

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50  | next → last
Ralphius from Free Will Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.34 out of 5 with 170 ratings