The Vanilla Porter is in!!


The Vanilla Porter is in, and MAN IS IT GOOD!!

The new system & Increased efficiency:

This was the inaugural batch on our new 10 gallon system, so a multitude of variables could have sent this beer into mediocrity. Instead, we have moved ahead with great excitement and brewed better beer. We enlisted our new grain mill, aptly named “The Barley Crusher“, for this batch. I think this is one of my favourite investments that we have made thus far. It is SO worth it. Now that we’ll be milling a greater amount of grain, trying to do that with our old Corona Mill just isn’t going to cut it. It was fine for starting out, but there’s no way I could go back to using it. If you’re at all debating about buying a grain mill, and you’re somewhat serious about brewing, just skip the beginner step and go straight for a good mill. Not only was The Barley Crusher pretty much ready to go out of the box, the platform sits perfectly atop a 5 gallon plastic bucket. It creates next to no mess when grinding, and ripped through 16lbs of malted grain in less time it took to just setup the Corona mill!

When we took our Original Gravity readings, we noticed that we had increased our efficiency by a whopping 13% ! A fellow home brewer named Russ, who I had been in contact with through the Bar Towel Forum, told me that buying a solid grain mill vastly improved his efficiency. I was kind of surprised when he said it brought him up into the 90-95% range, but I’m now a firm believer. Our system now stands at about 91%. When I shared this excitement with my wife, she of course couldn’t help but laugh out loud at my beer ‘geekiness’ (to use her words). Ahh the ignorance, this is serious! (and for the record, I’m not a geek, I never have been. I’m a Beer Enthusiast thank you very little!)

Now on to the beer:

By brewing 10 gallons we now have the ability to  experiment between each of the 6 gallon carboys we’ll be fermenting in. The obvious option is to try different yeast strains. I’ve read a huge amount of information on how large of an impact yeast has on beer. Up until now, we’ve just ended up with what we’ve ended up with and have really had nothing to compare it with. Our beers have been good, but I’d like to start learning about exactly what those impacts are. We chose to pitch 1 carboy with Safale S-04 dry English Ale yeast, and the other with Danstar Nottingham dry yeast. The S-04 was like a rocket and worked very well. The Nottingham, not so much. (I’ve heard there’s been some issues with the Nottingham Dry Yeast packs in the past) It was at least 8 hours behind the S-04, didn’t krausen as much and finished up before the S-04 did. I of course didn’t think to look at the package to see what the expiry date was, and when I did, yep, there it was, December 2011. Great, another lesson learned! (Thank you b.t.w. to my friend Richard Patmore of Brewtal Honesty and Intwine Design for the cool photo!)

I was very curious to see how much vanilla flavour we actually got from our Maui Vanilla bean as I had never used any in a beer before. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overpowering. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Subtle vanilla notes in between the roasty, slightly smokey taste. Perfect! As I mentioned in my original post, I can’t stand artificial or overpowering flavours of any kind in my beers, but porters, I’m finding, are a perfect base for subtle complimentary flavours, especially vanilla.

Our results:

Safale S-04 Dry English Ale Yeast

  • full, complete body (very happy with it)
  • roasty/chocolate notes come to the forefront
  • bitterness is apparent, but not overwhelming
  • vanilla is slight, almost a mysterious compliment

Danstar Nottingham Dry Yeast

  • body is thinner than the S-04
  • roasty/chocolate notes are more subdued
  • not as complex as the S-04

*** Now to be fair, the Nottingham was obviously past its prime. I’ll have to try another batch with some fresh healthy yeast to give a proper comparison. In order to compensate for the lesser character, and to experiment, we added 2 tsp of vanilla extract to the Nottingham batch. This brought up the vanilla notes and help balance out the beer more. After we had carbonated it, and now that it’s been in the bottles for a few weeks, it actually tastes much better and I’m torn between which version I prefer. They’re slightly different beers, but both are good in their own way.


This beer turned out fantastic.

Hoptomological Rating (out of 5) :


3 Responses to The Vanilla Porter is in!!

  1. Just had this beer two days ago and was equal parts impressed and intimidated. If I could describe it in one word the word would be professional. Note that I mean that in the best possible way. There wasn’t an off flavour to be found.

    Firstly, the nose was great: Strong, rich chocolate and roast notes making me think I was going to drink a malt bomb. The taste was surprisingly light, much more “sessionable”. The dominant flavours for me were: roast and grains but neither were overpowering they complimented each other very well. As for the vanilla it was present but not present enough for me to call this a vanilla porter. I’ve heard brewers say if you can taste a particular ingredient then you’ve added too much of it. I think the vanilla definitely added complexity to the beer but was not the star of the show. That being said I probably wouldn’t like it as much if the vanilla was the star of the show.

    My only knock would be that I found the carbonation a bit strong. I like my stouts and porters a bit more luxurious.

    All in all though a great beer. Thanks for sharing Jeff.


    • Thanks for such an honest and descriptive opinion Spencer. Honestly, it’s great to get detailed feedback like that!
      First off, THANK YOU. I’m glad you enjoyed it, I was pretty happy with it too. Having said that, I agree with you on all points. Actually, what you said was very close to my own thoughts. I completely agree on the carbonation level. I had it just right, but was persuaded by my wife & brewing partner to incraease it a bit, and I think it went a tad too high. We had tried a coconut porter in Maui that was fairly carbonated and it seemed to work, but perhaps not with this recipe. The vanilla aspect was a bit tricky. We had added the vanilla bean to the entire batch during the boil. When we tasted each separate carboy, we thought the vanilla was a bit low as well, but it tasted so good I didn’t want to mess it up by adding too much vanilla extract, so we left it as is, and added it the to second carboy which wasn’t as good to help it out. So I think you’re right about it not being a Vanilla Porter per se, even though it’s in there. Someone else had commented on that as well, so I’ll have to re think that name. Good thoughts on “I’ve heard brewers say if you can taste a particular ingredient then you’ve added too much of it”. I think that’s the art of it. Being able to create that complexity that makes you discover something new in each sip. A very elusive and tricky endeavour. I had help with the recipe from Jamil Zainasheff’s book “Brewing Classic Styles. (which if you haven’t got, I highly reccommend, all the recipes so far have been wonderful) so I can’t take full credit for it, but I guess someone still contributes something by making it. I thought, and continue to think, when I open one, that it’s going to be a blast of malt, but like you, once I try it, it settles in nicely to the roasty-ness. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a little much, but it doesn’t seem to go over the edge with it, but close.
      So thank you very much for your kind words! Secondly, don’t be itimidated! There’s a lot of great beers out there that we can both be intimidated by! haha. I think I’m finally getting past this sore throat and will be able to sample yours. I look forward to it and hope I can do it justice by giving you a detailed description as well. From your review, we seem to have a similar sense of observation, so I’d love to continue to trade brews if your up for it. It would be a good way to help each other out.
      I’ ll be in touch soon, Cheers!

  2. Pingback: Brewing a Vanilla Porter… | Hoptomology

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