Vortex II | Pisgah Brewing Co.

very good
268 Ratings
Vortex IIVortex II

Brewed by:
Pisgah Brewing Co.
North Carolina, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.70%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by mikesgroove on 06-25-2007

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 268 |  Reviews: 149
Photo of Bitterbill
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Brentk56. Thanks Brent!

My bottle says the abv is 11.2%.

The cap came off very easily...

Looks pitch black to me with a 2 finger hof that's tan. Good lacing.

The smell is roasty with notes of chocolate and toffee and a peculiar smell of something....fruity? Dark fruits, me thinks.

The taste has the roasted malt, espresso, chocolate, toffee, plenty of sweetness, then some dark fruits move in that are berry like and a touch of licorice also shows up. Whoa, this is quite the fruit Imperial Stout. I'll have to admit, the fruit threw me off though I mentioned it in the smell and it took a few sips before my palate adjusted to what is going on. I'm comfortable with it now.

Medium, close to full bodied with lightish carbonation, the mouthfeel is super smooth. One of the best for the style I've had, iirc.

Drinkability? The abv is up there but is hidden very well. The taste, after getting used to it, is fine. Heck, I'm enjoying this Imperial Stout muchly. A very good if different take on the style and it works for me.

Edit: I see a 1/09 right above the bar code so I'm guessing that's the bottling date? Also, I didn't realize that this is an organic brew. Cool.

 1,196 characters

Photo of mondegreen
4.37/5  rDev +9.8%
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...

 730 characters

Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
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.

 1,198 characters

Photo of jampics2
3.37/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle, this has been in the cellar for a little while. Seemed like a good afternoon to try something new.

Opened with a huge "pssst", and had some lively head into the snifter. But that died right away and now I'm left with something that looks like flat cola.

Smell is interesting. Dark roast (chocolate, coffee), some nuttiness, and a fruity component as well. Dark cherry? A touch of alcohol and some acidity as well.

Taste is OK. This may have a slight infection actually. Not a ruined beer, though, but the dark chocolate and coffee tastes are dominated by a cherry flavor that has some tartness and a slightly acrid note. But enjoyable, really not what I expected - this is similar to a dark Belgian ale actually in many regards. Huge sweetness and a touch of tartness closes this out.

Mouthfeel is sub standard for an RIS. Thin and very carbonated. Can't give credit where it's not due, this is a poor feel. Drinkability is OK, though. Like I said, there's something amiss in these bottles these days, but it's not a ruined beer. Just not the chocolate milkshake RIS I was looking for today. I would not buy or trade for again but would try fresh on tap.

 1,171 characters

Photo of SaCkErZ9
3.28/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a pint glass. Emerges pitch black and oily, thick and chewy looking. Not much in the way of foam on top of the beer, but what is there is a dark tan color.

Aroma is a bit missing. Slightly fruity with some chocolate present. Not much roastiness.

Flavor is sweet and chocolatey and filled with licorice and figs and plums, raisins even. More raw, bitter chocolate in the flavor.

Thick and chewy and very oily on the palate. Alcohol becomes noticeable as the beer warms but the abv is never buring or hot. Slighlty cloying towards the end. Not an easy drinker but a good sipper. Not sure I would have this one again; too sweet and sitcky and oily for my tastes.

 694 characters

Photo of mikeyv35
4.45/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Date: 06/11/2010
Type: 22oz. Bottle
Vintage: 2009
Glassware: Portsmouth Tulip

*Want to thank the generous BA TimmyP for hooking me up with this bottle in a trade. Timmy is the man!

Poured a midnight black in color w/ a 1 finger tan head, that left a decent amount of lacing on the glass. Nose was of espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malts, and a touch of smokiness. The taste was fabulous! Tasted roasted chocolate, molasses, and maple syrup up front, and a finish of espresso and mild hop bite. This brew was perfectly balanced between sweetness and bitter finish, which prevented it from becoming cloying. The mouthfeel was rich and pretty full bodied, but adequate carbonation prevented it from being too filling. Could not detect a hint of the 11.20% ABV, and finished the 22oz. bottle with ease and was left yearning for more.

Overall, I have to say this is one of the best non-BA brews I have had the pleasure of drinking this year! Timmy, where are you? I need more!

 977 characters

Photo of Walken
4.22/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pisgah: Vortex II (2009) (Tasted 06/06/10)
Tap @ Pisgah Brewery [Black Mountain, NC] : poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Black, thick, inky liquid fills the glass, with a teeny-tiny bubbly tan head.
Odor: A blend dark and milk chocolate, subtle whiffs of fruity alcohol and suggestions of rich caramel malt.
Consistency: Creamy, smooth beer. High end of medium bodied, pushing full. Low carbonation.
Flavor: Big, rich chocolate and fruit notes, complimented by a healthy, but small dose of light caramel malt sweetness. Roast is subdued for style and that is a-ok, it works for this beer. The combo of fruitiness from the malt and yeast gives this beer a flavor profile reminiscent of a Belgian style stout or strong dark ales. Finish is big, roast comes out a little bit, bittersweet chocolate and fruit linger. A few months of aging has mellowed the alcohol quite a bit in this beer, only a few hints of it, surprising for an 11% beer.

This is quite far off the track for style, but it tastes great, dangerously drinkable for a big stout.

 1,046 characters

Photo of cpetrone84
3.46/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-thinner bubbly head that is somewhat creamy and tan in color. the beer is pitch black in color.

S-light nose, roasted malts up front, hints of sweet fruit, plum and figs. notes of a musky earth and funk, mushroom like.

T-lightly roasted up front, dark chocolate lies in the middle, slightly bitter coffee, big sweetness takes over. lots of plums and cherries with notes of raisins.

M-medium to full body, extremely smooth but the carbonation is low and the back end falls off a little.

D-its a little sweet and the taste has a light funkiness that seems to be a little off. smooth but not heavy, decent but not great.

 623 characters

Photo of TK5150
4.1/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sent from TimmyP, thanks man.

A- Pours very dark brown/black with a one finger light brown head. Seems to have aggressive carbonation even though the head wasn't that large (it sounded like pouring a glass of soda).

S- The first thing I get is cherries and raisins. Then some spices like thyme and mint. Maybe a little pine mixed in. As it sits longer I get more molasses and some general maltiness.

T- Dark black cherry soda. Vanilla, molasses, and caramel as well. Hints of roasted malt and alcohol linger in the mouth after the swallow. Once again, a very sweet beer.

M- Smooth. Not as highly carbonated as I feared. I would probably call this a full bodied beer, but not very full compared to some other imperial stouts.

D- A pretty drinkable imperial stout.

Overall, a nice beer. The nose was quite interesting, and gets points for some originality. Not a typical imperial stout. Has a fruitness that makes this lean towards a belgian imperial stout in my mind. In the same category as black albert, IMO.

 1,018 characters

Photo of jsanford
3.57/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

On-tap at the Pisgah Brewery in Asheville on 5/29/10

A - Inky black with a thin & creamy tan head

S - Roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, cherry

T - Sweet. Roasted malt, coffee, lots of molasses, especially as it warm up. Boozy.

M - Medium bodied, really nice carbonation.

D - Not so hot. The molasses flavor got extremely cloying about 2/3 through my glass, definitely a sipper. Too bad, I was really looking forward to this one.

 432 characters

Photo of John_M
4.13/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the brewery the other day.

V2 pours a very dark brown color with good head retention and lacing. Nose is an attractive blend of burnt toast, coffee and dark chocolate. The beer is even more impressive on the palate, showing considerable coffee, vanilla and hazelnut on a moderately sweet frame. This beer is very nicely balanced, and despite the alcohol and full flavor, did not seem the least bit heavy or tiring on the palate. The finish was long and smooth, with a lightness I found remarkable. While I can't imagine drinking a lot of this, I thought overall that drinkability was very good in this beer.


 631 characters

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours inky black and fairly viscous, with a thin head that settles to a brown ring. Smells quite licoricy with some bitter chocolate and roasty notes in the background. Very nice flavor with lots of licorice and bitter chocolate and some vinous notes, all very nicely blended. The chocolate notes end up with some cocoa elements as the beer opens up. Very smooth, and a great pleasure to drink. I've sometimes found Pisgah hit or miss, with their bigger beers mostly being hits, and when they hit, they often hit it deep. This is no exception- a great beer.

 557 characters

Photo of Thorpe429
4.32/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to bmanning for opening this up at a recent tasting.

A: Pours a very dark brown with some mahogany hues to it. Nice off-white head.

S: Nice chocolate flavors really come through alongside a bit of coffee. Good notes of slightly-burnt caramel and roasted malts.

T: Much like the smell, with some dark dates and brown sugar coming through as well.

M: Medium body with good carbonation.

D: Very nice stout. I haven't had many things from Pisgah, but I'd love to get down and visit given their reputation and the overall beer scence in Asheville.

 560 characters

Photo of mullenite
3.97/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another thick black pour but with a cola like head. Very short to rise but falls just as quickly in to nothingness.

Smells strongly of dark chocolate, dark fruits (plum, raisins) and butterscotch. Very similar to Black Albert or Allagash Black. Really more of a Belgian Stout than a typical RIS.

Tastes kind of like a blend of a quad and a stout, which is actually really good but not for a beer that is billed as a RIS. The dark fruit flavors really over take the roasted character.

Thinner body but I enjoyed the carbonation and the thinner body kind of worked with the sweeter, fruitier, flavors.

Overall I really enjoyed the beer but it is not very RIS like. I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy Belgian stouts.

 734 characters

Photo of thegodfather2701
3.9/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-Pours nearly pitch black with a nice mocha colored head that leaves a nice layer of foam. There is some nice cascading on the glass.

S-Espresso, chocolate, brown sugar, a hint of dark fruits. It smells delicious. The chocolate stands out the most.

T-Very, very sweet I think from the high alcohol. Like the nose the chocolate really stands out. Coffee comes through mostly in the aftertaste. There is also some brown sugar and I'm picking up some grape flavors.

M-Somewhat syrupy.

D-This beer is a sipper, primarily for two reason: 1. Its high alcohol content and 2. its sweetness stemming from the high alcohol content. I think it would be a better RIS if it wasn't so sweet. It is hard to finish a bomber because of the sweetness.

Overall, this is a good RIS, but not quite a great RIS. I have had three of the top imperial stouts in NC; Sexual Chocolate, Olde Hickory Imperial Stout, and now Vortex II and I think it comes in third place of those three, with Olde Hickory's being the best. I think it is a good beer to try for lovers of the style, but don't expect to be blown away.

 1,093 characters

Photo of Tilley4
2.98/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Duvel tulip...

Pours an almost black with a noisy persistent head... Little lighter than most RIS...

A very sweet chocolatey smell right up front mixed with some sweet fruits... This isn't as pleasant as I was hoping... Sort of like Raisinets in a glass and not in a good way... There's also a healthy whiff of booze here as well...

Extremely sweet and chocolatey as the aroma would suggest. Huge dose of booziness mixes in as well and this quickly gets weird. Another sip brings more of the same with a strange finish of fruit and an unpleasant aftertaste...this one got rough quickly and it actually wound up a drain pour for me... Pretty disappointing...

 675 characters

Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.01/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Thanks Brian for sending this my way!

A-Body is pitch black and does not allow light to shine through. Pours with 1-2 finger dark tan, fizzy head which eventually fades to a thin collar. Traces of lacing are left behind in the glass.

S- Nose is very strange. Lots of ripe, dark fruit, such as raisin, plum, and dates come through as well as some sweet chocolate malt but there is a really big earthy barnyard component in the background.

T- Flavor is very sweet and fruity. As with the nose lots of dark fruit is there and seems to be the main character, with a sweet chocolate malt backbone. The finish adds a touch of earthiness but its mostly sweet fruit and chocolate going on.

M- Well done. Medium carbonation and relatively thick body.

D- I have been really looking forward to trying this one for awhile and its pretty much a let down. The fruity sweetness gets somewhat cloying and its hard to get through the glass. Seems to be a bit of a mess for the style.

 972 characters

Photo of tr4nc3d
3.1/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to WesPatrick for this one

1 Pint 6fl oz bottle poured into my snifter

Pours an opaque like color with no light being able to pass through this. Pour produced a one and a half inch mocha colored head. It had average head retention with a nice very thin layer on top but no lacing was left behind.

The Aroma is coming off with a nice malty sweetness of caramel, chocolate, plums, raisins, cherrys, oak, and sherry. Slight hint of vinegar, hopefully it is not a bad sign and is just how it is supposed to smell

Taste is slightly sweet upfront and coming off tasting very similar to that of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. I get taste of dark fruit with cherries, some notes of plums, hints of sherry, slight soy like taste that is not overbearing. Funky and Sourness taste is present in this beer and I know it is not something that should be present in this style, I would say this could definitely be classified as a Strong Dark Ale instead of a RIS.

Mouthfeel is leaning on full bodied with minimal carbonation. Smooth and not thick as most RIS.

Overall I would say this is the most interesting tasting RIS I have ever tasted, and I'm not saying that in a good way, something was off in this beer and looking from other reviews after I did mine, it looks like Pisgah has QC PROBLEMS!!!

 1,294 characters

Photo of AgentZero
4.12/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to marine1975 for hooking me up with this one in a trade.

A - Dark brown, quite brownish/red on the edges. Small tan head really didn't last very long and left no lacing.

S - Slightly roasted malts, bit of chocolate and coffee in there. Whiff of alcohol, but nothing to indicate this is a fairly high ABV beer.

T - I was shocked to find out this was an organic beer, as most of my experiences with organics have been pretty bad. Chocolate and carmel, the malts are hinted at. Nice roasty quality to it that appears for a second, and finishes with a bitter, but not overpowering coffee taste. Quite sweet, but not in a bad way.

M - I think this is probably due to the organic nature of the beer, but it was too thin, my one real complaint about this brew. Medium carbonation.

D - The thin/watery style of this RIS may actually make it easier to drink, dangers at 11.70%. Very good tasting and would definately drink this again if it were available.

 959 characters

Photo of jrallen34
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I drank this from a 22oz bottle into my Orval glass. Thanks agentzero.

The beer is dark brown, not really black, lots of brown in the light. The head has little carbonation only rising about a finger of light tan head that is gone quickly. Light lacing.

The aroma is medium mostly malts show with some light bitter coffee with some chocolate at the end, not a ton going on.

The taste has much more going on the the aroma, it has a little sweet vanilla and chocolate with a light bitter coffee finish. Its really nice.

The feel is the biggest downfall here, its really light, I think this is because its organic.

Overall, this is a good RIS, and great organic beer, I can't believe its organic.

 700 characters

Photo of CBlack85
4.08/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at a local restaurant, served in a pint glass.

Nearly pitch black in color with just the slightest hints of ruby highlights. The deep tan head is not quite as dense as I would expect, and does not last long. Very little lacing is present.

Lots of chocolate sweetness in the nose mixed with a fair amount of caramel and coffee. Not overwhelming but a very nice strong aroma. For the most part the smell is right on with the style, just slightly sweeter.

Like the nose the taste is a mixture of sweet chocolate, coffee, and caramel. There is also some raisin, and maybe a hint of licorice. The beer is very smooth, a bit thinner than I expected, but very pleasing nonetheless. The biggest surprise is how well they mask the 11.7% ABV. I expected alot more booziness, but they really hid it well.

Over all, this is a terrific beer.

 839 characters

Photo of GbVDave
4.03/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into multiple glasses. Special thanks to Ineedabeerhere for this from a trade of ours from a while ago!

A: Pours a dark and sludgy black. Thin, dark khaki colored head stays for a while and leaves considerable lace.

S: Nice aroma of dark chocolate and blackened malt...soaked in booze.

T: Tons of chocolate with the rest of the usual suspects; cherries, brownies, and fudge.

M: Suprisingly bitter (I suspect the abv may have something to do with that) but also with a creamy fascet for balance.

D: When Joe spied this bottle he said to prepare myself for some infection. Not so with this one. Very nice!

 634 characters

Photo of BTPete
3.68/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on 1/09, drank 1/12/10.

Bottle shared 3 ways.

Pisgah Vortex II 1/09

A: pitch black, think tan/dark head.

S: a liitle boozy, coffee, chocolate.

T: nice warming sensation, a slightly odd flavor at end, not overbearing but there.

M: smooth, boozy, nice carb for style, but a little thin bodied, mentioned that it seemed watery or not as chewy as you might hope for style.

D: good beer, my first pisgah but would like to try fresh. I was really looking forward this one and thought of it as a special bottle to open. I was a little underwhelmed but it wasn't a bad beer at all. I've had better recently.

 616 characters

Photo of DefenCorps
3.06/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A good friend was kind enough to hand-deliver a bottle of this last year, and even gave me a sample from a growler he had. Thank you, Mike, I really liked the pour, and am looking forward to this bottle. Jan 09, 11.2%ABV

The pour is brownish black, but in my snifter, it's all black. A dense, brown head caps the beer, hanging around quite a while before it recedes leaving some patchy foam.

Wow, I just lost a nose hair smelling this. Going back, I do notice a prominent alcohol bite right up front, along with a rich, fruity, chocolate-like character. Definite fusel character is present, and every once in a while, I also get a strange banana-like character. Mild burnt malt/acridity is present. This is nothing like what it was fresh. Mildly milky, the combination of chocolate and cream is quite appealing.

With an excessive yeasty fruitiness and a Splenda-like sweetness, there is a surprising lack of depth here. Once past the initial blast, the familiar flavors of cocoa, milky chocolate, coffee and again, the fruitiness, quite berry-like with cherries. A touch of char appears towards the finish that's dry and mildly astringent. Alcohol also appears on the finish.

Fairly light in body and definitely over-carbonated, this beer is OK on the palate. As I said, the finish is disappointing, mildly metallic in character. I am not particularly enjoying this.

 1,372 characters

Photo of mikey711
3.05/5  rDev -23.4%
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

 715 characters

Vortex II from Pisgah Brewing Co.
3.98 out of 5 based on 268 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.