Just to chime in a little here, I just brewed a batch of stout last night with a whole vanilla bean in the boil. I also used a chocolate malt and a small amount of cocoa nibs (very bitter, and work great in beer, IMO) to give an extra chocolate flavor, I think It will go well with the vanilla. To make sure this beer will not be too sweet I added ginger as well as bitter orange peel at the end of the boil. Some very fresh locally grown organic Cascade hops (I reduced hopping rates) I added to the boil should have lowered the sweetness as well.
The SG was 1.056 so hopefully, the sweetness/bitterness is the right balance that i'm trying to Achieve.
This was a recipe my aunt gave me, and it really jumped out at me, and has some unique ingredients, some of which might not have been completely necessary, such as a small pinch of each red pepper flakes ground black peppercorn (very small amounts). It also called for licorice root, orange blossom honey, molassas, coriander, cinnomon and Saaz hops. It is meant to be a very long-aging brew, to mellow out some of the otherwise upfront and out-there flavors. I hopefull will condition mine for 3-4 months If I can wait.
I know it sounds wacky, but I tried a pint of it before I decided to try to replicate. And truthfully was quite good, with long aging, my aunt assured me that the odd flavorings mellow out. She served it at about 47 degrees with a nitrogen/CO2 keg. It was GreaT!
Let me know if anybody sounds interested in the recipie