Vanilla Voay Porter Update

My vanilla porter has gone through the first stage of fermentation, and after one week I have now transferred it into a glass carboy for secondary fermentation. At the time of transfer, the gravity was 1.024, down from the starting gravity of 1.056. I expect that the gravity will go down a little more over the next two weeks before bottling.

The beer is nicely flavored, with no off character that I can detect. Dark color (see photo at left), lighter body, and heading towards the direction of a very drinkable porter. Interestingly, the yeast strain I used (White Labs California V ale yeast) produced a mild sulfurous aroma in the early stages of fermentation. I have read elsewhere that this is a normal characteristic for that strain, so I didn’t worry about that too much. It’s not detectable on tasting, either.

I also started some vanilla beans in vodka, to make an extract for the porter. At the recommendation of my brewing colleague Greg, I split the pods, scraped the seeds into the vodka, and then cut the pods up and threw them in too. In one week, I plan to add them to the secondary along with the rest of the beer.

Vanilla Voay Porter, in the secondary fermenter

Vanilla Voay Porter

It is finally time for the first batch of the season! I’ve been wanting to do a vanilla porter for some time, because I have a bunch of vanilla beans from my last trip to Madagascar. My wife and I both like porters, too (and she loves vanilla porter), so the stars are in alignment for this attempt.

The base recipe is modified from one I found on-line; nothing too fancy, but that’s probably an OK thing. I had thought about riffing from the recipe for last year’s Schoolhouse Porter (which turned out awesome!), but the flavor for that would be just a little too big against vanilla. The hops are all whole hops from my dad’s vines in South Dakota, and I got all of the other ingredients at a new local homebrew shop (Vanguard Home Brewing Supply – much closer than the other options, and an excellent selection of malts, grains, and yeasts).

For those who are curious, “voay” (pronounced “voy”) is Malagasy for “crocodile.” The name was chosen because of the Malagasy origin of the vanilla, in honor of the various fossil crocs I’ve dug up over there, and because it has a nice ring to it!

Vanilla Voay Porter

  • 1/2 pound 40L caramel crystal malt
  • 1/2 pound chocolate malt
  • 1/2 pound cara-pils malt
  • 6 pounds light dry malt extract
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops (whole) for bittering
  • 1 oz. Sterling hops (whole) for bittering
  • 1 vial White Labs California V ale yeast (WLP051)


  • I heated 3 gallons of water to ~158°, and steeped the grains. After 30 minutes, I sparged them with 1 gallon of water, to fill the brew pot to 4 gallons.
  • I heated the water to boiling (gas stove now!), and turned off the flame. I added the dry malt extract, stirred it until it dissolved, and heated the pot to boiling.
  • Once the pot was boiling, I added the Cascade hops.
  • After 50 minutes, I added the Sterling hops.
  • After 60 minutes, I took out the hops, re-topped the kettle to ~4 gallons, and started cooling with my cooling coil.
  • Once the wort had cooled to around 70°, I put it in the fermenter, topped to 5.5 gallons, and pitched the yeast. The starting gravity is 1.056 – I had started at 5 gallons, but the gravity was just a little too high (1.070).