The craft beer movement has been gaining popularity over the last decade. My husband has been an avid home brewer for the past 15 years. It began for us in Seattle, continued on to Iowa, three years in beautiful So. California and, most recently, back home to Michigan. Each region has many independent craft brewing companies; Stone in So. Cali., Pyramid in Seattle, Cedar Brewing in Cedar Rapids and, of course, Founders in Grand Rapids are some of the small craft brewing companies that have gained popularity over the past few years.
Craft beers tend to be more flavorful. The hops, grains and wheat are typically more pronounced than mass produced domestic beers. Our most recent experience with craft beers, and the inspiration for our Java Vanilla Porter, was at Stone Brewery in Escondido, CA. Shortly after moving to Southern California we were introduced to the Stone Brewery and Bistro. We fell in love with the food, the atmosphere, the gardens and, more specifically, the beer. Smoked Porter, Chipotle Smoked Porter, Hoppy IPA’S and, my personal favorite, Vanilla Bean Porter. Sadly, the Vanilla Bean Porter was available for a very limited amount of time, and I have never seen it outside of the restaurant or brewery. We created our own version of Vanilla Porter that tastes smooth and delicious with the addition of coffee and Beanilla Madagascar vanilla beans.
Home brewing is a fun and creative way to create unique and taste specific craft beers in the comfort of your own home. The possibilities and flavor profiles are only limited by your creativity. A few simple tools can get you started. These include a five gallon stainless pot, fermenter bucket w/ lid, long plastic spoon, secondary carboy (optional), thermometer and keg or bottles to contain the beer. Visit your favorite home brewing supply store to gather your supplies. Many home brewing stores sell brewing kits that will help you get started and the owners are knowledgeable and excited to help you get started. We used a Java Porter kit, and brewed according to the directions in the kit. Once the fermentation process was completed, the beer was transferred to the carboy to clarify.
Three days prior to bottling, the Madagascar vanilla bean was split down the middle and cut into one inch pieces. The vanilla was steeped in 8 ounces of vodka for 24 hours to sterilize and strengthen the vanilla flavor of the bean.
Once 24 hours has elapsed, place the beans into cheesecloth and knot close. Do the same for the ground coffee. Insert the cheesecloth into the carboy, and let sit for three days to infuse the flavor of the coffee and Madagascar vanilla bean.
Once three days have passed, remove the cheesecloth and bottle or keg your beer per the kit instructions. Our beer was a successful creation with hints of Madagascar vanilla and coffee throughout. The finish was smooth and creamy, due in part to the vanilla. Once you have finished the process, chill and enjoy your creation.