Vortex II - Pisgah Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Vortex IIVortex II

Educational use only; do not reuse.

262 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 262
Reviews: 149
rAvg: 4.01
pDev: 12.97%
Wants: 130
Gots: 30 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Pisgah Brewing Co. visit their website
North Carolina, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  11.70% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: mikesgroove on 06-25-2007

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 262 | Reviews: 149
Reviews by bcostner1:
More User Reviews:
Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer review from BA Mag Sep 2007.

Nice, an organic Imperial Stout. Not that we are in a frenzy to buy only organic products, but the option is good to have. This is Pisgah's strongest beer to date.
The carbonation flows slowly to the top of the glass, forming two fingers of tan head. Pitch black in color. Big roasty aroma of char, dark-chocolate-covered currants and a hint of malted milk balls. The mouthfeel is damn thick and creamy--superb.

The rolling smoothness from its deep crisp carbonation is unlike any beer we've ever had. More than enough maltiness to go around, sweetness reaches pretty high but is kept in check by the roasted character and a deeply-embedded hop bitterness. Fruity middle-to-end with notes of currants and black berries. Molasses peeks in for a bit. Alcohol is very deceiving for its ABV and starts to warm the palate only after several sips. Suggestions of Black Forest cake, sweetened iced coffee and chocolate push the envelope a little more. Finishes a little sweet with a balanced roasted flavor.

Hard to believe that beers like this were not allowed in North Carolina a few years ago. Seek this beer out and give it a try, cellar a few while you're at it.

Photo of mverity
3.66/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark brown, almost black; opaque at the center but transparent at the edges. Aroma is chocolatey and medium/deep malt. Touch of toffee as well. Taste is very chocolatey, nice bitter chocolate. Sweet malt towards the middle. Body is a bit thin for a stout, but carbonation is spot on.

Photo of olradetbalder
2.35/5  rDev -41.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Botteled 2009.
Probably the best infected beer I have ever had.

Look great, sparkning like hell and from there it is a sour treat with some raspberrys mixed with some cherries in coffee.
To bad this is not the what the beer is all about.

Photo of mondegreen
4.37/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap a the Pisgah brewery. 2009 vintage, the bartender says it's the last keg they'll tap of the 2009 until February 2011.

Poured into a Pisgah pint glass, a little on the cold side... Letting it warm...

Pitch black with nearly no head to speak of. No lacing either.

Smells of dark licorice, sweet chocolate, and hints of alcohol.

Taste is very smooth. Bitter chocolate and dark fruits collide with the subtle alcohol bite from the 11%+. Not nearly as over the top as some impy stouts. Dare I say balanced? I like it.

Mouthfeel is the big strong point here. Well carbonated and silky smooth. Like liquid velvet.

It's nearly 100 degrees, I am sweating, and I would gladly drink these all night. A good sign for sure...

Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A full pint served at the brewery.

Pours nearly black with a dark tan head.
Sweet aroma with only a hint of alcohol; the high ABV is also very well hidden in the flavor. Some dark fruit in the taste; more in the nose. Plenty of dark roasted malt but only mid-taste on. Good sweet-bitter balance.

M: medium-full body with medium, low carbonation.

O: recommended

(Revised and adjusted with tasting at brewery in June 2013)

Photo of rudylaw
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Huge thanks to TimmyP for providing this! Sampled seventh in a ten stout tasting. This also placed seventh.

Pours a deep brownish color with a small head.

We're getting a lot of roasted malt up front. Chocolate with dark fruits and hints of mocha.

Really rich chocolate and some pretty overwhemling brown sugar! This is a very unique tasting RIS. It's medium-bodied and very smooth. I liked this beer... didn't love it but still appreciate the interesting take on the style.

Photo of glid02
4.8/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had on-tap at the brewery, this beer is about 4-5 months old at this point.

Pours black with a brown head that recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving thick lacing.

Smells of chocolate covered cherries with good amounts of dark fruits - figs and plums, with roasted malt aromas lurking in the background.

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Dark chocolate and a myriad of fruit flavors up front are backed up by thick roasted malt flavors. The fruit flavors are very well integrated and done such that the roasted malt and chocolate flavors still serve as a robust backbone.

Mouthfeel is very good. It has a great thickness with moderate carbonation.

Drinkability is great. I could drink this all day, regardless of whether or not that's a good idea.

Overall I enjoyed this much more the second time around. The flavors are better melded and more developed and the alcohol is barely noticeable. Definitely worth a shot.

Photo of IntriqKen
4.7/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is an amazing RIS.
Poured black as used motor oil with that dark amber glow that used motor oil will have. Very, very thin head that disappears very quickly.

Aromas of dark roasted malt, dark bakers chocolate, dark vinous fruits with maybe some dark cherries. Alcohol isn't noticeable in the nose.

Flavor is intensely RIS. Dark sweetly roasted malts, deep, rich, Belgium chocolates, again, vinous fruits, black cherry and then finishing to black liquorice.

Aftertaste of liquorice and unsweetened chocolate with a definite chocolate warming as you swallow.

Absolutely delicious.

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.42/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to an amazingly generous dmeadows for this one.

Pours a deep jet black, impenetrable to light. A nice fizzy head forms, but reduces to about two fingers and turns into ice cream. Lacing is pretty good.

Nose is promising during the pre-game. Full of dark roasted malt, some slight coffee. Some defenite chocolate and a little dose of dark fruits. Roasted malt and chocolate are dominant though, and give hope to the fans.

Whoa! Pisgah has won another game. Huge roasted malt profile dominates right off the bat. A slight smidge of dark fruit hints just afterwards, but roasted malt quickly grabs possession of the ball again. Chocolate then throws the alley oop as the roasted malt dunks in your eye towards the finish. A little bit of alcohol drains a couple from the free throw line on right before the buzzer. A tiny bit of overcarbonation fouls on the reach but is nowhere near as bad as the abrasive carbonation they had in the Valdez game. Alcohol and roasted malt are carried of the court by chocolate during the aftertaste.

The game leaves pisgah fans with a viscous mouthfeel of victory. Very slight overcarbonation again, but he is lost as the fans rush the court. A bit of dryness on the finish.

This game goes down very nicely, as it should have for Vortex. 11.7% was the spread, but it was more like 8% by the time the game was over. Couldn't beleive it.

Overall, one of the better games of the year. Much better than the valdez game, but hopefully the second bottling will bring valdez up to the heels of vortex II. A very drinkable beer of this magnitude, and beautiful balance of chocolate and roasted malt flavors combine for a sick triple double, and leave the fans wanting more and more and more. You will want a replay of this one. Great Beer.

Photo of Sammy
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Fresh from Bruisin' Ales. Pours black and some white head. Aroma is pleasant roasty and malty. Taste is very sugary, this is like a milk stout, a sweet stout only somewhat better. I managed to drink the bomber, it is drinkable and pleasant enough. Some chocolate and one sip seemed coffee. This is sugar cup of coffee, and how many cups can I drink? Sorry Ashville, I have had thicker mouthfeel, creamier, more chocolate,less sweet to go gah gah on this local.Dramatically overrated.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 0z. bottle. Plain cap. Really nice label. Bottle-conditioned and organic.

Chocolate aromas rise out of the glass as you pour it, backed by notes of coffee. The body is about as black-opaque as you can get, and only a thin thread of deep mahogany brown slips out at the base of the glass. The head rises up to a two-finger thick head, and then slowly compacts. It's dark tan and frothy, with some big bubbles still showing. A short 'mountain range' of lace is formed as the head falls, but unfortunately that initial clinginess fails as it goes and you're left with a thick splashy ring that was formed at the outset and then nothing much else.

The aroma is quite "mocha java' - and quite pleasantly 'chocolate-with-a-sweet-edge', and softly coffee-ish and nutty.

The flavor follows suit, and it's also a caramelish and toffee-like with a drizzle of butter. A bit like fudge as well. Nice! The dark malt acidity keeps it from becoming a hint too sweet at the start of the mouth; and then it warms to reveal its nutty and coffee-like notes across the middle as the moderate, stiff bitterness rises. Grassy hops flitter to and fro here and there, and all of those things fall together in a kind of sloppy finish in the end that has both its sweet points and its dry points. What you're left with is lingering caramel and coffee, which is not bad, and a smattering of grassy hop flavors that give it a little bit more character and balance it a bit.

Nicely done. And organic!!! Worth trying!

Overall, I find it really interesting and enjoyable.

Photo of dirtylou
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bomber, no bs IV

review #1k

appearance: served in a snifter, big bold opaque body, creamy fizzy chocolate cap with full lacing. yum

smell: sweet and chewy aroma, rich caramel, sweet chocolate, tobacco, licorice, burnt sugars

taste: interesting RIS from the folks at pisgah - sweeter than maybe any imperial stout out there...blackberry, fig, plum, burnt sugar, molassess, cake-like chocolate. alcohol comes through a bit hot...solid beer but a little rough around the edges - overly sweet and a tad boozy

mouthfeel: creamy, medium body, lingering hop bitterness

drinkability: could be better

Photo of RocPorterFanatic
3.58/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Rich brown pour with thick, creamy, tan, head. Looks like carbonated molasses.
S - Dutch Cocoa, coffee and vanilla extract aromas. Pretty well rounded.
T - Nice roast coffee, almost espresso. Brown sugar and slight rasin sweetness. Alcohol warmth chases and blends it all together.
M - Very carbonated, keeps the beer from being cloying, cleansing the palate after every sip.

O - Good beer. Alcohol is very present, which I find to be a key to the style. This is the freshest I've had it. I prefer a little age on it to mellow the stronger flavors and let it blend together a little more.

Photo of prototypic
2.91/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Once again, I'm indebted to kkipple for this one. Thanks, Dan!

Bottle dated January, 2009

Vortex II pours a dark, chocolate fudge color. It's not far from opaque, but isn't quite there. Backlighting reveals a few garnet highlights at the outer edges. A dark mocha head caps it off. It stands roughly a finger and a half tall. It holds up pretty. Lacing was moderate.

The nose is rather average for the style. It starts out with a nice blend of roasted and chocolate malts. There's a light coffee presence that smells nice. Unfortunately, there's an off-putting dark fruit presence that's quite strong throughout. I'm not a fan of that aspect at all. For what it's worth, alcohol is blended pretty well. It's not a total disaster, but it doesn't exactly succeed.

The flavor is honestly a step below the nose. The malt base is far from bad. The chocolate and roasted malt flavors are pretty good. The blend pretty well with an appeasing coffee presence. Once again, the dark fruit creeps in and creates problems. It's rather tangy, distracting, and at odds with the stout flavors of the beer. It tastes a little sour even. Alcohol is masked pretty well. At this point, it's not nearly enough to redeem the flavor. Finishes tangy and a little sour.

Vortex II has a medium body. Carbonation is somewhat active, but isn't buzzy. It's not quite smooth, but doesn't have a bad feel. Drinkability is very average. That's probably generous. The flavor seems off and isn't very satisfying. On top that, it's a sizable beer. A bomber is way more than enough. A 12 oz. would've been better.

Pisgah Brewing Co. has the capability to brew excellent beer. Valdez is very impressive. I wasn't impressed with Vortex I or II though. This one is especially disappointing. The tangy, sour, dark fruit flavor really needs to be addressed. It's out of place and weird. Fixing that would dramatically improve it all around. Nonetheless, I appreciate the opportunity to try it. Thanks again, Dan!

Photo of mikey711
3.05/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A: Pours a nice dark brown with a minimal amount of head into a goblet as the bottle recommened.

S: Dark chocolate, brown sugar and some molasses. Also a good bit of roastiness is present as well.

T: It starts off like milk chocolate and some burnt coffee and caramel notes, but then there is this weird metallic note that was very off putting. It does seem like it is souring a bit which really was strange and beside that it did have a bit too much sweetness

M: The metallic aspect became even more present as it sat in my mouth. THe abv is detectable as well in this one and leave a warm feeling in my belly

D: Glad that I got to try it but dont know if i need to have it again. Also half a bomber is plenty

Photo of russpowell
4.6/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours mahogany with a a finger of peach/brown colored head. Nice viscosity to this; good head retention & average lacing

S: Some coffee & dark fruit, plus chocolate once warm. Nose gets better as it warms

T: Coffee, dark chocolate, much dryness & a whisper of boozey warmth up front. Mocha & dryness dominate as this warms along with cherry, a touch of raisin & figs& even a bit of grape jelly?? Finishes dry with much dark fruit, rich dark chocolate & a kiss of molasses, brown sugar, & iron

MF: Chewy with moderate carbonation, some stickyness

Drinks a tad slow, due the complexity & but only just a touch. Another good big beer from Pisgah! Sure wish I'd bought a few more bottles of this when I was back in NC. This one I would probably would drink at above cellar temp if I get another bottle

Photo of Kegatron
3.51/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle into a tulip glass. 2009 bottling, which I believe was supposed to be infected.

Pours black with a finger of rich dark mocha head. This maintains some thin creamy froth that dots the sides of the glass with robust swathes of lacing. The aroma has quite a bit of dark fruit going on, along with notes of roasted coffee, tangy caramel, cocoa, and light earthy citrus. This has got some flavor but they aren’t exactly blowing up in the nose.

The taste is more dark fruit and a flush of roast across the back. Chocolate sweetness hangs on the edges and I’m even getting a little bit of leftover citric fruit here, although the hops seem overall pretty faded at this point. That dark fruit flavor just dominates this and is what mostly hangs in the finish, with a tart pithiness that lingers. The mouthfeel is full bodied, with a firm creaminess that expands outward into the mouth. There is maybe just a touch of warmth to this but man; this is unbelievably smooth for an 11% beer. I guess the age has done this some good.

Well if this was infected, it was one of the better infections in a beer that I tasted. I find it hard to believe that an Imperial Stout could have THAT much dark fruit character, even if some age had exacerbated that particular characteristic. But anyway, the extra tart dark fruitiness of this actually didn’t really turn me off from this as much as I thought it would, as this overall came off to me like an Imperialized version of a Cherry Stout. I do have to give respect to the smooth drinking nature of this for the size though. Just crazy. Anyway, if you have any left in the cellar, I’d say that they are actually still drinkable to a point but I know that I’ll be seeking out another vintage of this down the line to get the full Vortex II experience.

Photo of thagr81us
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage! Served from tap into an imperial pint. Poured pitch black with a half finger light tan head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, dark chocolate, earthy notes, and alcohol. The flavor was of sweet malt, slight roasted malt, dark chocolate, earthy notes, and slight alcohol. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty nice brew. This one was quite complex which is a welcome change from the other things I've had from Pisgah. As usual, the earthy aspect found in all of their brews was present. This one really worked quite well especially on the flavor. A definite must try for sure!

Photo of Bung
4.13/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. while watching game 7 of NHL finals, Go Wings! Dark brown pour with black swirling around in there. It has that interesting layered head when looking at it from the side, going from a light tan to a brown. Really chocolatey aroma, some maltiness but not a lot of roast. Taste has slight roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla and a little caramel. A hint of sour, it fades into the sweet tones though. Almost feels and tastes like there are some oats in there. A bit creamy. Dry cocoa finish. A little biased to the sweet side, which I don't mind. Drinkability is not hurt and is pretty high considering the abv. I think this fits more into the Double Stout category, my fav., a bit better, with the less prevelent hopping.

Photo of akorsak
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 650 mL bottle graciously shared by Deuane.

A: The stout is oily black, dark and opaque. The head measured less than a finger with a tan color that recedes over the first third of the glass.

S: The nose is boozy, warm with alcohol, full of coffee and roasted grains. Intense without pushing the boundaries too far.

T: The imperial stout brings a lot of chocolate and roasted grains to the table. The flavors are acrid and burnt, bitter with a choclatey ssweetness. Coffee adds a sweet smoothness that never quite overtakes the stout profile but adds much needed flavor. We tried this side-by-side with Speedway and it blew AleSmith out of the water.

M: Full, filling with lots of chocolate, coffee and burnt toast. Complex but very approachable but just a hint of coffee (it could use a bit more).

D: Intense and strong, the boozy heat is unavoidable. If someone were to offer me a bottle of this tomorrow, I'd jump at it.

Photo of n2185
4.01/5  rDev 0%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a jet black with about a finger of tan head. It quickly recedes into a thin ring with no real lacing.

S: Roasted malt up front followed by dark, sweet fruits like dates, prunes, and figs. Just when you think it's going to be a sweet stout, the roasted characters kick back in with a nice aroma of smoke and dark chocolate.

T: An interesting mix of sweet and roasted in this beer. Many imperial stouts pick one or the other, but this baby lies somewhere in between. At first you get some sweet, dark fruits like plums and dates on the tongue. That's followed by a nice show from the roasted malts, providing some smoky and bitter coffee flavors. The aftertaste has a light coffee bitterness to it as well as some char flavors. There's also a very slight warming from the alcohol, but it other than that it goes surprisingly unnoticed for such a strong sout.

M: Heavy body with light carbonation. It's fairly creamy, though the carbonation is present enough to give a nice little bite at the end.

D: With the pretty creamy body and no real alcohol burn, this beer is quite drinkable. Especially for being nearly 12%.

4.65/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks go out to mikesgrooge for this fine brew.

Midnight black as this brew crawls out of the bottle settling in the glass letting absolutely no light through when held to light. Head is a quick fading inch and a half of carmel brown colored foam. Nose is wonderful with lots of rich coco, electric carmalixed malt and alchol soaked dark chocolate covered cherries. Smokey, creamy chocolate notes drinc the taste buds completely. As the beer warms more of a dark fruit complex develops. Along with the fruit a nice hop character is present on the backside of the palate adding balance to the smokey sweetness. Mouthfeel is rich, slightly thick and screams for the next mouthfull. This is an exceptional Imperial stout, well made all around. It is a shame more people cant try this one. A very sippable, drinkable brew.

Photo of charlesw
2.65/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Frickin' A beautiful. I shit you not. Dark and rich and black and medium dark head of tiny bubbles that lasts forever. I mean, shit. Perfection. There is no better, anywhere I've ever seen. Amazing. Astonishing. Not ridiculously thick and certainly not thin and they really must have worked at this. Beautiful.

Smells like beer. Oh, I'm just shitting you. It's a light fruit/malt blend of flavors. Maybe some cocoa powder and hints of apricots. Uh oh. I hope that doesn't mean what I think it means.

Alas, it means exactly what I thought it meant which is to say that there's a sour fruit tang to it. Total bummer. There are all kinds of interesting things going on in there, too. Chocolate, of course, and bits of coffee. Some caramel. A lot of plumb to it, too. Interesting. Whoa. Cross between an RIS and an English Barleywine? Alas, no. The problem is the sour note. Well, that and the low body. Either this has turned or it is intentionally a little tart and on the dry side. Either way, hey, it's not at all what I expect or seek out in an RIS. Bummer.

Photo of JohnGalt1
3.7/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

inflatablechair brought this bomber over some months ago.. reviewed from notes.. Thanks Sam!

1" brown head.. brew is black but hold deep highlites..

Nice roasty nose with abundant chocolate..

Flavor holds quite a bit of dark fruits.. cherries.. prunes.. dark raisins... bittersweet chocolate melts and moves fairly quickly into char territory.. a bit to black mid palate and into the finish.. even touches of smoke.

Good body.. but the carbonation seems too high.. no alcohol.

I remember liking this one and wish I had taken better notes... we both thought this was going to be infected, but I dismissed it as dark fruity esters... ehh.. pretty good..


Photo of jegross2
3.15/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewing the Vortex II from Pisgah Brewing Company. This bottle is two years old.

Score: 61

01/09 vintage bottle served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 01/19/12. You can see my roommate in the background!

Appearance: Mostly opaque dark brown, almost black, color with red/caramel highlights at the top of the glass when held up to light. Pours maybe one finger of bubbly/creamy dark tan head that settles into a decent lacing. 3.5/5

Smell: Lots of tart berries fruit here, which is not right because this is a Russian Imperial Stout. This one has to be infected. Interestingly, however, the infection makes the aroma interesting for a sour ale. The front of the nose is a little pungently sour, but then it mellows out into a pleasantly tart berries and fruit aroma with some light chocolate in the background. 3.5/5

Taste: Taste confirms infection. This is now a sour ale, and not a very bad one either. Not puckeringly sour. Flavor is mostly sour berries mixed with light amounts of semi-sweet chocolate. Some tart fruit in there too. Finish is lingering sour berries. Gag reflex is triggered at some point as it approached room temperature. 2/5

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied, high-medium carbonation. Sour, but not puckering, finish. 3/5

Overall: An infected Russian Imperial Stout turned into a decent sour ale while cold, but I did not like this warm.

Recommendation: I cannot say whether the beer is normally worth trying, as this is my first experience with Vortex II, but an infected bottle is not worth seeking out.

Pairings: Chocolate cake (the infected berries and chocolate flavor would pair well).

Cost: Unknown.

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Vortex II from Pisgah Brewing Co.
90 out of 100 based on 262 ratings.