Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter

Comfort Food, but Beer

Originally created by Denny Conn and spread around the various internet forums, this recipe for a rich, big, complex Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter (BVIP) has become quite a popular homebrew recipe. There are all sorts of things going on in this beer no matter where you turn. There is the roasty, coffee flavor of the porter that is tempered with the smoothness of whole vanilla bean. Then there is the toffe, caramel, warming, flavor of bourbon enveloped by the slightest hint of the oaky sweetness of the oak barrel chips.

A great beer for fall and winter. This one will take some aging too.

The Beer

A nice, big, over the top Robust Porter is created as the base for all of this goodness. Note that our gravity is pretty high, so make sure to use a big, healthy pitch of yeast in order to have a healthy, and complete fermentation.

Once fermentation has slowed down, it's time to add your extras (Bourbon, Vanilla, and Oak (if you want)). Denny's original recipe calls for you to split 2 fresh vanilla beans, scrape the insides, chop the pods into quarters, and add all this to the secondary fermenter (or just throw it in the primary if you do not use a secondary.) Then taste this periodically for between 7 and 14 days to get the right level of vanilla flavor you are looking for.

When the vanilla is right and it's bottling/kegging time, it's time to add the Bourbon. Denny's original recipe calls for 10ml. of Bourbon per pint of finished beer. He arrived at this by adding ml. samples to 4 oz. of beer and then scaled up. To some, this may be a bit too much bourbon, so I suggest you do the same calculations and figure out what suits your taste best. You can get more bourbon in, but you can never take it back out

For the sake of math, however, 10 ml. Bourbon/Pint of Beer = 400 ml. Bourbon/5 Gal. of Beer = 1.69 Cups Bourbon/5 Gal. Beer

Although the original recipe does not call for oak, I like it. Restraint, however, needs to be practiced here. Jamil Zainasheff on The Brewing Network recently recommended 1 - 2 oz. of Medium Toast Oak Cubes per 5 gallons of beer. If you are using oak chips, they have more surface area and will require less to get the same effect. Jamil also recommended boiling the chips or cubes in a bit of water for about 10 minutes to sanitize them. Alternately, you could also soak the chips in the bourbon for a bit then pour the whole thing into your secondary fermenter.

Notes From Denny

Denny recently contacted me to add a couple of notes to this recipe :

1.) He wanted to make it clear that he really doesn't care for oak in it. Others might, but he doesn't.
2.) In terms of yeast choice, his first preference is for WY1450. It gives the beer a silkiness that you can't get with any other yeast.

Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter ::: 1.079/1.017 (6 Gal)

Grain Bill (70% Efficiency assumed)

13 lb.- 2-Row Pale Malt
2.5 lb. - Munich Malt (15 L)
1.5 lb. - Brown Malt
1 lb. - Crystal Malt (120L)
1/2 lb. - Crystal Malt (40L)
1.25 lb. - Chocolate Malt (edited - Thanks Denny)
Extras :
Kentucky Bourbon (Jim Beam, Knob Creek, etc.)
Real, Whole Vanilla Beans (Extract just won't do)
Oak Chips or Cubes

Hop Schedule (37 IBU)

1 oz - Magnum Hops (60 min)
1/2 oz - E.K. Goldings (10 min)


White Labs Denny's Favorite 50 (WY1450) or
White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001) - 1800 ml starter


Mash at 153° for 60 min.
Sparge as usual
Cool and ferment at about 68° Add Vanilla Beans after primary - rack 7 to 14 days
Add Bourbon at bottling (1 to 1.75 cups - don't overdo this!)
Infuse Bourbon beforehand with Oak Chips/Cubes if you want.

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