Beer release alert! Free Will Brewing Co. in Perkasie, Pennsylvania released some heavy hitters this Thanksgiving weekend – the Ella, a Belgian-style quad ale aged in apple brandy barrels, and the Ralphius, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. Ella and Ralphius are named after two of the brewers adopted dogs (awww!), and both are high gravity, barrel-aged animals with a serious kick. We didn’t want to spend our Saturday night on the floor, so we went for Ella tonight and will spend some time with Ralphius tomorrow.
When I saw that Ella was a Belgian style quad I started to get excited. However, when I saw it was barrel aged for one year in apple brandy casks and weighed in at 14.9% ABV, time stood still. To be fair, I haven’t met a barrel-aged quad that I didn’t like, but I must say that this beer is truly impressive. I expected an overwhelmingly alcohol-forward character with that high of an ABV, but the Ella’s complex and rich flavors play out much smoother than expected.
Upon opening, the beer releases a very distinct nose of sweet Marsala wine and toffee. The first sip is smooth, decadent, and crisply carbonated. There is a hint of apple in the finish but mostly big roasty caramel flavors paired with sweet and earthy fig and raisin. This is a complex, well crafted beer that will go straight to your head. We can’t be alone in our assessment — this beer won gold in 2015 and bronze in 2016 at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (say what?! A trip to Chicago might be in order!).
Free Will is selling Ella and Ralphius in big 750ml bottles so get yours while you can (and find a friend to share it with….or not). Keep an eye out for our post tomorrow on the Ralphius. To see our other beer reviews, visit In Our Fridge.
Mike and Bethany