Vortex II | Pisgah Brewing Co.

very good
149 Reviews
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:
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Reviews: 149 | Ratings: 268
Photo of jegross2
3.15/5  rDev -20.9%
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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Photo of ChadQuest
3.27/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Black with a thin brown collar, some browning around the edges, not super thick on appearance but some legs.
The aroma is pretty nice, the coffee blends in with the chocolate rather well, and a really dark pomegranate and currant note is here too.
On the palate there is the noted coffee, seems a bit over extracted in flavor, semi-sweet dark chocolate covered dark fruits, and added in new at this point is some clean alcohol to add another dimension.
Mouthfeel is pretty creamy and full bodied all around, with just some alcohol and coffee acidity cleaning it up.

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

A - pours a pitch black with a thin tan foam that quickly faded
S - chocolate, vanilla and caramel, there is a nice roasty aroma
T - nice roasty flavor, im picking up mainly chocolate and vanilla beans
M - smooth and creamy with a very mellow and calm carbonation.
D - very easy to drink and quite enjoyable. I hope to get another sometime.

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Photo of RocPorterFanatic
3.58/5  rDev -10.1%
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.

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Photo of robwestcott
4.17/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to thagr81us for this one. sent a few months ago, opened tonight.

poured cold from the bottle a dark cola black to a founders brewing goblet with a hint of a short lasting mocha head

aroma of sweet, creamy espresso roast and chocolate in the wayback.

wow. this is a good one. i can only guess that the coffee has settled down in the last few months its been on my shelf, but still. nice espresso balanced up alongside semi sweet hot chocolate. maybe a hint of dark fruits hiding in the back.

big bodied, low carbonation, smooth, sticky and slick. the abv is in there, but there's not much heat here.

overall - very enjoyable. good RIS, bordering on great RIS. nice balance of flavors.

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Photo of GeorgeAldi
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice dark hue with decently dark lacing. Dry cocoa and big malts on the nose, maybe some vanilla, but its faint. The stout was a bit drier than I thought, likening it more to other stouts, but with more of a full flavored palate. well balanced for the higher alc %. Probably just needed to age this one a bit more before tearing into it.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.41/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to alewatcher for hooking it up! Been looking forward to this one. Served in my Southampton oversized snifter.

a - poured a shiny dark brown but settled much darker in the glass with a crazy amount of fizzy looking bubbling all along the glass and the surface. The head was gone before the bubbling on the glass side. Lacing was also very slick and not RIS like.

s - as soon as the bottle opened the smell jumped from the bottle. Deep chocolate, dark fruit, and very nicely roasted malts. Big and bold. Very appealing.

t - wow, that is fantastically delicious. The chocolate is big and bold and dominates. The other flavors are there, but this beer should be called hershey since it is THAT chocolatey. Some dark fruit in the background.

m - super thick and rich without being sludgy or too much. Leaves a soft alc tingle and a chocolatey coating in my mouth. Silky.

o - overall this is a bit one dimensional by being a chocolate bomb, but it is so damn tasty. I am not a huge chocolate fan, but I love this beer. Really worth seeking out in my opinion. I absolutely loved this one. ISO more.

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Photo of OakedCanuck
3.92/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into tulip. From notes

This beer pours a common black with brown edging. Produces about 1/2" of light tan bubbly head that dissipated quickly. Minor lacing. Smell is a roasty chocolate, molasses and charcoal. The taste is a nice chocolate, coffee with dark fruits (figs, dates, raisins). I also pick up a good dose of green apples, interesting and good. Mouthfeel is medium heft with a creamy consistency. Overall a good beer. A lighter stout that isn't a sipper and the ABV is hidden very well.

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

A: Pours a very dark brown, near black with brown at the edges when held to light. Finger or two of brown head that recedes, leaving a slight film and next to no lacing.

S: Very faint at first, but once the smell opens up, it's quite nice with chocolate, coffee, caramel, dark fruit of some kind and there's something spicy here..cinnamon maybe.

T: This is a tasty beer. Roasted malts, coffee, chocolate, dark fruits of raisins or plums..figs? What I like most about this beer is that it's strikes a good balance between the sweet and roasted flavors. Also, the alcohol is nowhere to be found in the taste. Very well done here.

M: Good for the style. Rich, smooth and full.

O: Vortex II seems to have a mix of scores on this site for one reason or another, but this bottle did not dissapoint. It's a very well balanced and crafted beer and still amazes me that it's 11.70%ABV...not hot in the least.

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

Bomber into Dogfish Head signature glass. Big thanks to Titosupertramp for opening this guy with me. Review from notes.

A- Black. Completely black. Some head.

S- Chocolate. A big semi-sweet fruity smell. Like chocolate covered cherries? Or raspberries? Very unique, and very good.

T- Follows the smell. Big chocolate flavors, and the sort of sweetness next. Again, like chocolate covered fruit. Very, very unique. I've never had anything quite like this. Very good. I bumped the score a .5 due to this beer being so unique.

M- Nice, mouth coating stout. Not too big. Not too small.

O- Don't know that there is much to say that I haven't. This is a very good, extremely unique stout. My first Pisgah beer, and I would love to try more based on this. Thanks for the chance at this, Tim. Splitting each of a Darkness, Smoke, and Vortex II is one hell of a way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. In the words of the great 20th century philosopher O'Shea Jackson: "Today was a good day."

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Photo of beerenjoyer1
4.47/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I bought this beer at Peabody's in Boone, NC. The appearance is dark with little foam if any but that is ok. The smell is good and fresh and is full of Chocolate, Malts, Hops, & alittle spice. The taste was awesome, full of fresh robust flavor: hops,.chocolate, a little coffee, and a hint of.spice. The mouthfeel is excellent with full flavor and a hint of alcohol. It tool nearly and hour to finish the 22oz bottle. Overall this is a grear beer and I will be getting more of this beer when I get back to Boone in August.

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Photo of nhindian
3.7/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle poured into a Surly Darkness glass. Bottle generously provided by thagr81us in the 'Nice Piece of Glass CIF', thanks Calton!

A - Pours a dark, flat black color with brown cola-colored highlights. Even after a hard pour, there's still only about a half of finger to a finger's worth of tan head. Retention is moderate given the small head, but lacing is spotty at best. There's not much lingering around, just some small circles. I can see some carbonation swirling at the bottom, but the darkness is a bit much to see all the way through.

S - The smell of this beer is strangely different than most other Russian Imperial Stouts I've had. It's very earthy and almost gritty, full of dark fruits and chocolate. It's a little roasty but there's not a ton of coffee in here. The malts definitely are the showcase here, giving off some sugary sweetness that when combined with the fruits, is almost like a dubbel. The end if certainly boozy, almost like a brandy.

T - The taste brings in elements of a lot of chocolate at first and the sugar sweetness of the malts. This gives off flavors of brandy-soaked fruits, such as grapes and plums. The coffee leaves a roast that lingers well into the finish of the beer. Alcohol solvency floods the back-end of this beer, aiding to the brandy quality of the beer, but also making it a heavy sipper.

M - Mouthfeel is moderately heavy-bodied with good carbonation. After drinking, it's rather smokey and bitter, and the lasting impressions are this smoke and alcohol astringency.

D/O - Drinkability is moderate. This is a beer that really does creep up on you. I was drinking this while intently watching the Vancouver riots, and before I knew it I was almost dozing off (it didn't help that it was 2:30am my time...) Definitely heed the warning on the label that says to drink this with caution as it will definitely sneak up on you!

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Photo of brew3crew
3.06/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Par of the epic tasting at jackie o's with brad and crew

2008 vintage thanks to normyk

A-dark brown almost black with a thin tan head
S-very tangy smell. Little bit like its infected
T-this is infected. Very tangy and just a shell of a ris
m-medium body and smooth
O-decent beer but terrible for the style. Drink this now!

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Photo of Vdubb86
3.88/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a plastic cup

Thanks to dogbones for hooking me up with this awesome beer

I decided to warm myself up in line for DLD and crack out this bad boy. This pours a dark rich and sexy body topped by a beautiful brown foam. I could get used to looking at this eye-candy all day. The aroma is really rather fruity in nature. There is a lot of sweet chocolate, raspberries and cherries. The flavor unlocks some of the roasted barley flavor, but it still remains rather fruity from what I assume is the yeast and not added fruit, though I do not truly know. The mouthfeel is both cloying and thin. I'm not really sure how that works. There is an excessive sweetness to it while still remaining thinner and more acidic than I would like. Overall this is a good beer, but I feel that I cracked it too soon and it could have used some aging still. But I did still enjoy it.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.65/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a clear plastic cup.

Thanks to VDubb86 for sharing his bottle!

Gotta start the Dark Lord Day festivities sometime: might as well do it while in line. With this beer. Natch. It pours a deep black-brown topped by a finger of dark tan foam. The nose comprises roasted malts, molasses, dark barbecue sauce, and light smoke. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, molasses, burnt chocolate syrup, and toasted peanuts. It's not bad, but it is a step down from the smell. The body is a stolid medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a kinda dry finish. Overall, a pretty good impy stout, but the slightly meek flavors and even slightly-er weak feel hold it back from real greatness.

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Photo of Onenote81
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pulled this one out of the cellar for round 3 of "A Beer Observed," with my drinking buddy, CP.

Vintage 2010.

Poured my allotment into my Allagash chalice. Pours with a slight glug out of the bottle. Color is deep dark brown that turns to black in the center. Small beige head caps it off. The nose is rich with notes of chocolate, vinous grapes, alcohol, roasted coffee. Pleasant surprise that the aroma stood the test of time. I dig it.

The mouthfeel is slightly on the thin side, but not weak at all. This just doesn't sit heavy on the palate. No coating of the mouth as some of the style do. I'd like it a little thicker, but the "wetness" definitely helps in drinkability. This beer definitely errs on the sweet side of the spectrum. As another reviewer noted, this could be a hybrid Sweet Imperial Stout. Milk chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, finishes off with slightly acrid coffee and booze. Again, I dig it. This beer held its own for sure. I think this is the best beer I've had from the boys at Pisgah. I haven't been all that impressed to date, but this one may bring me around some. I want some more.

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

Poured from a 22oz brown bomber into a clear glass snifter. No freshness date. Purchased at Peabody's Wine and Beer Merchants (Boone, NC) for $10.49.

A: Standard black with 1-2 finger of beige head with good retention and a few scattered lace formations.

S: Aroma is pretty light with roasted barley, earthy hops, and some sweeter dark fruits like dates coming through.

T: This brew stands strongly as a sweet stout/RIS hybrid. The flavor is very sweet with a lot of unfermentables and a lactose note, but the sweetness aids the drinkability. The roasted barley and coffee notes combine with chocolate to make a complete beer, although not the most complex maltiness.

M; Smooth with low-medium carbonation and a sweet, lactose aftertaste.

D: Vortex II is a really nice brew with more sweetness in the category which stands to set it apart from others in the style. I wish I had picked up 1-2 more to cellar. A great beer all the way around.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.2/5  rDev +5.5%
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!

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Photo of babaracas
3.14/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

For the 2010 version in the bottle. Pours a reddish very dark brown with thin fizzy tan head. Insta-fade, no lace left on the glass. Smell: boozy, raisin, fig, cola. Sugary with a very slight roastiness. Taste: black plum, raisin, cola, caramelized sugar, pumpernickel note. Trademark earthy Pisgah hopping. Light but creamy carbonation, sweet with an earthy finish. 2.5, 3.5, 3.0, 3.5, 3.0. Actually enjoyable, but still not a particularly good RIS.

This is for the aged 2009 version on-tap at Pisgah recently. Opaque super-dark brown, thin khaki head, spotty lacing. Smell: sourish house yeast character, earthy, mild roast, sweet. Diacetyl as it warms. Taste: medium roast, apple, toffee, sweet. Lots of odd yeast flavor. A little booze in the nose but none in the taste, mellow drinker. Not a good RIS, better labeled as an Old Ale. Really quite odd and unexpected. 3.0, 2.5, 2.5, 3.5, 2.5.

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Photo of NittanyBeerFan
4.35/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A big thanks to my buddy Stephen (stoutfiend27) who hooked me up with this beer in one of the many outstanding boxes that he has sent my way. Cheers, man! Poured this into my TJ's 7th anniversary commemorative snifter.

The stream of beer cascading into my glass is ruby and garnet in colour, but as it collects in the glass, a jet-black and murky, opaque thick body forms. A milk-chocolate coloured head bubbles up to about 1/2 cm in depth before subsiding to a thin ring of bubbles that cling to the glass. Each sip produces a distinct ring of delicate lace that is gracefully connected to those above it.

The aroma is deep and complex, as age has allowed the components to blend very well. Nothing is overpowering, nor is the high alcohol content discernible in the bouquet. Dark fruits, dark chocolate, raisins, dates, roasted coffee notes, and a light residual sweetness is evident. It reminds me very much of Expedition Stout, one of my favorite RISs. The flavor continues to impress, even improving on the already solid aroma. The balance is truly striking, as the light flavors of roast combine with the sweet dark fruits and bitter dark chocolate that all are showcased phenomenally. There is a touch of warmth in the finish, but again, it is done in such a way that it enhances the overall flavour of the beer.

Thick and syrupy, with a medium level of carbonation, this feels awesome on the palate. The only thing that I can dock this for in terms of drinkability is the alcohol content. Otherwise, I had a hard time really savoring this, because I really just wanted to get to the next sip. A great representation of the style, I highly recommend it.

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Photo of n2185
4.01/5  rDev +0.8%
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%.

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

Got this in a trade with blkflg. Thanks again Ian. There is what appears to be a date about the barcode that stated 1/09 so if that is a date then this is two years old. Poured into Bruery tulip.

Pours out a nice black and settles midnight black into the glass. No light is getting through the body of this one. A dark tan head emerges from the liquid that is about half an inch high. It quickly recedes to a very thing ring around the glass. No lacing is produced on the glass as this one goes down.

This is a sweet one. Dark fruits explode out of the glass and followed up by some chocolate. Very sugary sweet smelling. Probably the sweetest smelling RIS I've ever smelled.

This is really fruity tasting. Perhaps it's plums or prunes. Really dominates the initial taste. Some roast starts to make its way though the fruits as it starts to warm up. Alcohol is well hidden on this one. I'm wondering how complex this one was when it was fresh or even with less age on it. The dark fruits really dominate now.

Very smooth with some noticeable carbonation. It doesn't coat the mouth as much as some other RIS's I've had but it has a very nice feel in the mouth. I would score this higher with a thicker feel.

This was a great tasting and drinking beer. Goes down really easy and I can't believe this is 11.7% because it doesn't taste like it at all. I would love to try this fresh to see how it compares to the aged version. I would seek this out again for sure.

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Photo of Gfunk720
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my brother Ben for hooking this up. A 2009 bottle shared with my roomate, out of my SN XXX glass.

A- Deep black, but not completely solid. Has a light khaki colored head that fades rather quickly. I can see little bubbles all over my glass

S- Smells like dark fruit and brown sugar. Dark malt, and cocoa. Also get some minor hop notes, and some booziness.

T- Actually very nice. A nice smooth balance of cocoa, brown sugar, and dark malt. Leaves a nice creamy chocolatey aftertaste.

M- Very nice and complex, and the aftertaste is delicious. My only complaint would be that it is it could use a little more body, and a little less carbonation.

D- I can tell it's strong, but it is very easy to drink. I'd definitely get another bottles if I could. A fine RIS stout, that I would recommend highly

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Photo of brstls4drmrs
3.7/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle as a dark opaque color with a thin caramel head. The smell of alcohol almost overpowers the chocolate and coffee scent. Some good caramel notes and a very small (and I mean really small) hint of licorice is there as well. Could be the dark fruit with a crisp scent.

The alcohol is evident on the taste buds along with chocolate, molasses along with a slight hint of tobacco. The roasty malts and carbonation pave the way for a fuzzy and tangy aftertaste. A tasty brew with some bitterness.

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Photo of prototypic
2.91/5  rDev -26.9%
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!

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