Amber Ale, Vanilla Porter, and Irish Stout Updates

A few updates condensed into one post. . .

Vanilla Voay Porter
This experimental brew (recipe, update, and update) was bottled on Saturday, December 10. This gave the vanilla extract/pods around two weeks in the secondary fermenter – the chopped and scraped pods floated on the surface, and many of the tiny seeds were everywhere in the fermenter.

Final gravity was 1.016, from a starting gravity of 1.056, giving 5.25% alcohol by volume. Final yield was just over 5 gallons of beer(!), with 30 12-oz. bottles, 12 1-pt. bottles, and 4 22-oz. bottles.

Four days after bottling, I was impatient and opened one of the small bottles. Carbonation was still very slight, but the flavor and aroma were delicious. A faint vanilla scent, but a rich vanilla flavor (not overpowering though, thankfully). I’m very excited to see how this is going to mature over the next few weeks!

Fake Tire Amber Ale
One week after brewing, I transferred my Fat Tire clone into the secondary fermenter. The aroma was very estery, with a strong banana component. I might have been a little worried, except the yeast strain is known to do this. The gravity was around 1.014 at this point, and hadn’t changed at all when I racked the beer into the bottling bucket today (December 17, 19 days after brewing). This gives 5% alcohol by volume, a little less than the 5.2% of real Fat Tire.

From this batch, I got 20 12-oz. bottles, 14 1-pt. bottles, and 1 22-oz. bottle. Next time I might try scaling the recipe up a bit.

When preparing to bottle, I’m very impressed by the absolute clarity of the beer. This bodes well for the final product (which I’ll probably test in a week’s time – Christmas Eve!).

Coopers Irish Stout
The Irish stout I made a few weeks ago has matured into a wonderfully drinkable brew. The head is a nice caramel-color, and isn’t overwhelming, but certainly sticks around the edges of the glass after pouring. The flavor has a hint of malt and is dominated by the roasted grains, and has a nice dry finish (as expected for the style). As I noted at the time of bottling, it’s not a very exciting beer (middle of the road flavor – good but no really unusual highlights), but it’s certainly a solid one.

This kit was cheap, fast, easy, and tasty – perfect for the beginning or end of the brew season when I just want to crank something out! I’ll admit that it’s not quite as much fun as doing everything from scratch, but then again that’s also a welcome break sometimes. I expect I’ll probably do this kit (or a similar one) again!

Irish stout, in the glass

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).