Vortex II
Pisgah Brewing Co.

Vortex IIVortex II
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #332
Ranked #4,587
4.07 | pDev: 12.53%
Pisgah Brewing Co.
North Carolina, United States
Vortex IIVortex II
Notes: Treat yourself to the drink of choice for imperial czars & nobelmen of the old russian court. One of the darkest of pisgah beers, this stout will explore the boundaries of your pallet while subtly pounding the weaker links between your slower braincells. Enjoy w/ friends, & appropriate amounts of caution.

65 IBU
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Reviews: 151 | Ratings: 271
Photo of SLeffler27
4.59/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very dark brown highlights, otherwise jet black. A wisp of lace forms a ring, but no head. There appears to be no carbonation. A thick, syrupy film forms on the Stone highball glass without developing legs.

Rich malt sweetness opens against dark berries, dates and plums. Charred wood plays off a hint of cherries as it warms. There is a touch of licorice in the middle. Warmth reveals demitasse and Baker's chocolate.

The berries and other fruits take a back seat to the roasted malt and coffee. A light, bittersweet chocolate accentuates figs. The finish starts strong and is followed by a light, bitter progression towards sweetness, while adding charred wood as it fades.

The dense body is syrupy smooth in texture. Alcohol is very present and surprisingly well controlled. Carbonation is delicate.

When drinking this beer, do so with a deeply meaningful book and settle in a leather chair next to a good fire. This beer is an exquisite sipper and would pair well with black forest cake.

This bottle was dated January 2018 and aged a year+.

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Photo of zeff80
4.1/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle. Poured out an opaque, jet-black color with a small, tan head of pillowy foam. It smelled of coffee, chocolate, molasses and toffee. Big, bold roasty flavors with coffee, dark chocolate, toffee and piney bitterness.

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Photo of colts9016
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottled 2010. A hard pour produced dismal results. The beer is black as night, and the head is dark brown. I can hear the carbonation, but cannot see it.

Nose is dark chocolate, rich espresso, deep roasted malt, caramel, floral, vanilla, biscuits, earthy, and molasses.

Taste is a dark roasted coffee, dark milk chocolate, roasted malt, caramel, floral, vanilla, molasses, figs, cherries, earthy, and brown sugar.

The mouthfeel is chewy, rich, and slightly carbonated.

The beer is good, it has a lot of flavors with it, but not in a harmony. The better Imperial Stouts I have tried the flavor meld seamlessly together and get better with each sip. This beer is good, just missing the seamless part; nevertheless, I am enjoying it.

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Photo of maxcoinage
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

received this as an extra in a trade. almost 2 years from bottling date. Fantastic RIS. nose a bit weak but great tasting. bitersweet chocolate, berry, dark fruits, toffee. body is perfect for the style. Cheers!

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Photo of olradetbalder
2.35/5  rDev -42.3%
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.

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.52/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Solid dark pour, with a moderate tan head, serious legs on the edge, and definite lacing.

S - First big hit is brownie batter, followed by the strong burn of alcohol, and hints of both herbal hop notes and savory soy umami. Lovely.

T - Front is sweet and full of dark chocolate flavor. The middle brings roast flavors, which turn toward bitterness in the close.

M - Brisk carbonation and full, lush feeling. Mild drying in the close.

O - Great nose and flavor, excellent RIS with delicious chocolate core.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.93/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thanks to queens1130 for sharing this one at Retsinis' tasting.

Bottled 9/2012.

Pours an almost opaque super dark brown with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, char, and slight smoke aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa and slight smoke flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with nice subtle smoke qualities in the aroma and flavor.

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Photo of mverity
3.66/5  rDev -10.1%
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.

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Photo of Ivanhoes_Backpack
4.3/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle picked up in Asheville. Dated 5/13, so 6-7 months of age on it.

A - dark dark purple to black with a little rim of tan head

S - big dark fruit, I smell grapes, cherries, raisins and chocolate in there too

T - like drinking chocolate covered raisins, beautiful sweetness that's well-balanced by finishing bitterness. For being as big as it is, I can't taste too much of the alcohol, but can feel the warmth

M - this was the highlight for me, thick and creamy, the beer seems to coat the tongue and just cascade across my palate. Wow.

O - one of the best feeling RIS's I've tried. I had this beer side-by-side with the Valdez, which was also very good, but in the end I preferred this one. Very well balanced between sweet and bitter and all kinds of fruit and chocolates made this beer a great pick for a cold December night in Canada

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Photo of Ryan011235
2.78/5  rDev -31.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured into a Delirium tulip on 2/6/12

9/11 noted on the bottle

Procured for MbpBugeye with thanks to PDXHops

A) Dark brown; almost murky with a sandy brown head of nearly one finger. Thin, wispy retention. Some drippy lace, too.

S) Peanut and earthy backwoods aromas. Cooked grains - similar to oats. Notes of cracker and unsweetened cocoa, the latter being very mild. Some dark sugar overtones. Doesn't smell sweet though. This is really weird.

T) Decent showing of roasted coffee with dry layer of burnt chocolate. Plump grain notes which I like. Nearly charred with earthy overtones. Some booze peppers the back half.

M) Medium-full body. Soft viscosity with underpinnings of grittiness. Moderately low carbonation. A little alcohol tingle. I like the feel.

O) This would make a decent year-round offering. For a limited release? Not so much.

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Photo of joe1510
4.42/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

22oz Bomber

This long awaited RIS comes from the most generous jraycee, thanks again Justin! Vortex II is a black hole of a beer. No matter how far the glass tilts there's no light allowed through the jet black body. The mocha head crept up to one finger and gradually fell to a thin cap with a collar that stayed a bit higher. The little bit of foam covering the body has a crazy swirling effect to it that's mesmerizing.

The nose on this beer is insane! Each time I stick my nose in the glass all I can think of is roasted marshmallows. When I finally make it past the roasted marshmallows I get an array of aromas; molasses, cocoa, dark fruits and dark chocolate all in that order. I can't pull my nose from the glass. There's an anise note in the back that comes forward as this RIS warms. Smells delicious to me!

Every aspect of the aroma comes together flawlessly in the flavor. Roasty malts get things moving while all those components from the aroma mesh together like it was meant to be. Molasses, dark chocolate, rich fudge, cocoa powder and dark fruits all come along in one degree or the other. There's no way I can forget about the roasted marshmallow, they're in here too. This is a special RIS with an incredible depth of flavor.

Pisgah nailed the carbonation on this one. The body has a heavy feel to it and the carbonation is lively enough to keep it from being stagnant while still staying soft. The carbonation practically massages the tongue. I couldn't ask for much more.

Drinkability is off the charts. I could see the size of this beer getting me in serious trouble if I had more than a bomber available. This is one of those "dangerously drinkable" beers and that's not found often in huge RISs.

I simply can't get enough of Vortex II. This is a stout to be reckoned with and one not to miss. I would love to have a case of this sitting in my basement. Thanks for the hookup Justin!

Reviewed: 5/8/09

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Photo of Dope
4.04/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottled 5/13. Bottle 055 of 534. States 11.2% ABV.

A: Not quite pitch black pour. Good sized light brown head that fades slowly. Good retention, above-average lacing to boot. Not bad.

S: Strong whiskey. Heavy on the toffee and caramel and...is that toasted coconut? Nice. Think it's from the oak but it's definitely a nice toasted coconut aroma. This one's hot, not really getting any of the base beer. It's basically just sweet whiskey and oak with a hint of chocolate.

T: Lots of sharp whiskey up front. Biting alcohol along with toffee and caramel again. Lots of vanilla from the oak. Roasted malt is here but pretty mild. Just a sort of generic chocolate and maybe the lightest hint of coffee? Flavors are well integrated, it tastes more like a chocolate bourbon than anything (does chocolate bourbon even exist?). The finish is loaded with oak and is quite dry as a result.

M: Pretty heavy and thick. Dry in the finish.

O: Heavy barrel aging on this one. The bourbon is fairly tasty but I'm not getting a lot from the base beer. Seems weak despite the ABV. Strange since their Valdez was excellent I though. Oh well. A pretty good beer overall, it's just that the base beer can't keep up with the barrel elements and gets drowned out, leaving a bit of an unbalanced brew.

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Photo of farrago
4.48/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a thin but consistent head, maybe half a finger tops and that disappears swiftly, actually leaves behind more lacing than you’d expect, broad streaks which then slide off the glass. Following the script the liquid is blacker than coal, fully opaque and only near the surface can you discern the active bubbles, mild orange aura to it too. The nose is like getting smacked in the face with a German chocolate cake and then doused in coffee, caramel, butterscotch, and sweet nuts, some black licorice too and definitely on the boozy side of things, any cherry or plum fruit scents buried under the chocolate, the herbal hops must themselves be strong to be as noticeable as they are. Full-bodied, it would be suffocating were it not for the aggressive carbonation which pulls off quite the feat in lifting it and creating a sense of motion. More licorice, toffee, butterscotch, molasses, coconut, dark chocolate and Brazil nuts, its sweetness masks a lot of the underlying textural dryness. It does get clingy and sticks to the mouth pores, this in spite of the overall smokiness which is massive. The fruit remains mainly plum and cherry but also some date and fig too, not really prune. Packs some wallop and you feel the alcohol halfway through the bomber, more balanced when well chilled than closer to room temperature. Relentless. (I believe this was bottled December 2012 if I read the date above the bar code correctly.)

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Photo of pixieskid
2.95/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Given to me by my cousin as part of a wedding present; didn't have the chance to try it while stateside so I brought it back to France. Didn't know anything about it but was happy to try it, looks as if this one is fairly well known/of interest. Unfortunately, it seems I got a bad bottle...it was a drainpour.

Pours proper stout black with a decent tan/offwhite head.

Nose, roasty and cardboard like; uh oh.

Taste; muddled roasty and chocolate, cardboard and a hint of cherries.

Mouthfeel; a little syrupy and thin but at almost 12% that is understandable.

Overall; always a bummer when this happens, I hate lugging bottles that end up having problems. Took the proper precautions I always do when traveling with beer, so seems like I just got an oxidized bottle, bummer.

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Photo of blackie
4.35/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

cask serving upstairs at Thirsty Monk

a: served in a short chalice, sporting only a thin ring, pure black in color

s: first aromas are dark cocoa, espresso, molasses, deep caramel, and earthy roast, sweetly aromatic but not overdone, sugary dark fruits - fig, hop aromas tend towards pine and earth, very smooth and balanced

m: carbonation on the lower end, as expected with a cask serving of course, body medium-full, silky smooth

t: immediate flavors of dark chocolate covered espresso with sweet underpinnings of dark caramel and molasses, fig, nice dark roasted malt, malt forward but certainly not too sweet, lots of complex toasted and roasted character, hop flavors of earthy pine impart a mild bitterness to the long finish

o: a tasty RIS for sure, plenty going on, in great balance between roast and sugar, and the cask serving compliments the beer well, alcohol totally hidden

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.56/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

January 2009 release acquired from mikesgroove courtesy of the Little Guy 2 BIF, so a big “Thank You” goes out to him. Poured from a 22oz bottle into an imperial pint glass.

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

S: The aroma dark fruit, licorice, roasted malts, some chocolate, some coffee and a faint touch of hops.

T: The taste starts with a hearty roasted malt character followed by some flavors of licorice, dark fruit, chocolate and coffee. There’s a mild hops presence but not much balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp but not very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, deceptively strong kick, decent representation of style, there are definitely several other beers in the style that I would choose first.

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Photo of johnnnniee
2.58/5  rDev -36.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I’ve had this bottle in the basement for two years or so and tonight for Todd’s fortieth seemed like the prefect time to pop this one. She poured a solid black with a monstrous tan head that took forever to recede. From the first pop of the cap we are disappointed with the beer. There’s an earthy funky fruity aroma with a hint of roast that fills my nostrils. The flavor is tart and fruity with a bit of nasty funk. Medium to light body with an insane level of carbonation and a slick tart mouthfeel. Obviously there is something wrong with this bottle, and I’m quite disappointed I’ve held on to this so long. So my first Pisgah beer is infected, well that sucks.

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Photo of ThickNStout
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

32oz growler from Ale Yeah (Roswell, GA). 8.99. Served in a Red Brick snifter.

Pours cola rimed black with a quarter finger pale tan head.

Smells like dark chocolate raisin bread.

Taste is huge bitter chocolate and coffee charred malts. Molasses, dark fruit, leather and currants. A noticeable booze bite but not even close to what I expected for 11.7% abv.

Medium full body with moderate carbonation. Long burnt bitter cocoa finish.

I've had some pretty good beers from Pisgah but this is by far the best. A well done complex RIS. I hope to find this again sometime.

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Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev -4.2%
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)

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Photo of Kegatron
3.51/5  rDev -13.8%
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.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.23/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From 06/09/12 notes. A 2010 vintage bottle I got in February 2011, been wanting to crack this for a while. 22 oz. bottle into a tulip.

a - Pours an almost black brown color with one inch of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Looks like a big, great RIS.

s - Smells of roasted malts, choclate, bready malts, coffee, light dark fruits. Very nice and balanced nose; I like it a lot.

t - Tastes of roasted malts, sweet chocolate, coffee, vanilla, dark fruits, bitter chocolate, and cream. Again, everything is balanced and very nice.

m - Medium to full body and moderate carbonation. Body is very smooth and creamy; awesome body. No heat at all; very surprised the ABV is 11.7% ABV.

o - Overall I liked this beer a lot. It looks great, has a fantastic mouthfeel, no heat at all, and is just very balanced all around. Probably not the sexiest pick since it is not barrel aged or have crazy ingredients added, but it is a great balanced RIS. I have one more 2010 bottle I will most likely be opening in the early fall as it is drinking great right now.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle from a kind BIF soul whose name I seem to have misplaced, my apologies to you sir. Pours black, very black indeed with a moderate brown head. A few splotches of lace adorn the glass.

Nose is excellent! Mocha, molasses, plums, raisins and a bit of leafy greens.

Mmmm, this is my kind of imperial stout. Rich and sweet, creamy with a fair amount of dark fruit. The alcohol is quite evident, but manages to be smoothly integrated with a molasses/maple syrup boldness. I wouldn’t say it is overly complex, but it has enough going on to keep it interesting all the way through. Warming improves the beer and allows some of the roasty character to develop. Good beer, I am disappointed in myself for losing track of the sender of this fine brew.

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Photo of bamadog
4.37/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I managed to pick this little number up about a year and a half ago, and I'm feeling the need to crack into it. Review is from notes taken on 5/28/2012 and poured from the glass to a snifter.

Appearance: Pour looks a little viscous as it hits the glass with a glug, and of course, it is near black in color and entirely opaque; starts with a 1/2 finger dark brown head, but it fades just about immediately to nothing other than a thin ring and faint island of skim on the surface;

Smell: Potent, to say the least -- the smell wafts out of the bottle at the crack of the cap; plenty of big chocolate that comes across as syrupy and dark/bittersweet; bit of a ripe dark fruit aspect as well adds to the sweetness; there's a touch of roasted coffee-like malts in there, but wow, the chocolate scents really dominate.

Taste: Taste is solid and definitely a big chewy stout -- tons of the syrupy chocolate and a bit of a dry, bittersweet cocoa powder as well; the roastiness comes in better in the mouth than in the nose, and it definitely adds a roast and more bitter balance to the sweeter notes of the malts; some of the dark ripe fruits (perhaps cherry?) blend well, and interestingly enough, the alcohol is pretty well masked in my estimation, just shining through at the back of the throat.

Mouthfeel: Body is medium/heavy in terms of weight, and leaning towards the heavier side of things; body is thick and a little chewy; massively thick and sticky coating is left all over the mouth, leaving the teeth feeling gritty; belly is left warm from the size of the beer.

Overall: I wish there were a couple more of these in my closet, but I'm glad I cracked it when I did. Excellent scents and flavors, big and heavy mouthfeel, this would be an excellent accompaniment to a dessert, or simply serve as a dessert on its own. The only thing that would slow me down on it is indeed the weight and size, but for an RIS, drinkability is still solid.

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Photo of Gosox8787
4.42/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 22 oz. bomber bottle split and shared with a friend. Chilled and poured into two Sierra Nevada tulips. I have heard that bottles of this may be infected, so my fingers are definitely crossed.

Appearance: Dark brown to midnight black in color. Pours a nice one finger, brown head that sticks to the glass nicely.

Aroma: Roasted coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate dominate. Some nice backing of molasses and dark fruits. Very sweet and nice. No hints of sour cherry at all.

Taste: Big sweet chocolate really takes over. Lots of roasted coffee and molasses in there as well. Really sweet, borders on cloying, but just bitter enough. Caramel and dark fruit round out the flavor. Definitely appears tis bottle is just fine and drinking awesome.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied and very creamy. Carbonation is on the low side, but still extremely drinkable.

Overall, a really tasty, chocolately stout that definitely filled my expectations. Glad to see this bottle was not infected. Really delicious and complex. I would definitely give this a shot again.

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Photo of biglite351
2.78/5  rDev -31.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - Considerable red around the edges with a short tight light brown head.

S - Light scent overall; malt and sour prune

T - Candied chocolate, old prune, malt and something that I can not put my finger on.

M - Thick but only a medium coating and only a hint of tingle on front of tongue.

O - Not really up to snuff. Pass probably.

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Vortex II from Pisgah Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 271 ratings