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How to make beer with maple and birch sap

Marika Josephson, co-owner and Scratch Brewing brewer in Ava, is well versed in the production of beer with ingredients that can grow literally in the backyard of the brewery. The maple and birch groves that are owned by this Illinois farmer’s brewery often go into business. When you hear “maple,” the obvious second word is “syrup,” but Scratch brewers have found that using juice makes beer even more interesting.

“We started indulging with the addition of juice when we were still homebrewers, and did not expect it to taste like syrup because it was very liquid; the juice is really watery, but sweet, with a mineral character, says Josephson. “We found that after fermentation, he dried the beer, gave it a mineral character and even esters characteristic of cherry beer.”

Brewers note that dark, malt beers, such as strong porters and stouts, are best suited to add tree sap to them. When they make beer with tree sap, they use it instead of water.

According to Josephson, making such a beer at home is not so difficult. There are a number of publications (including The Homebrewer’s Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch) and videos that show how to collect maple or birch sap. In many places, residents themselves collect juice and can sell it to you or show places where it can be collected.

For a batch of homemade beer, you will need about 10 gallons (37.8 liters) of juice collected on the eve of brewing. And if you need a maple flavor, remove a little bark from the tree, fry it in the oven, and then add the wort while boiling. The best time to collect juice is the end of winter, from the beginning to mid-February.

Maple syrup
What about maple syrup? It is thick, sweet and alluring. When you add it to hot pancakes, waffles or fried chicken, there is nothing tastier. Maple syrup – the real one, without the addition of sugar or artificial flavors – is amazing. But this is a moody ingredient – it needs to be used in a certain amount and added at the right time.

Sean Lawson, the founder and brewer of Lawson Finest Liquids from Vermont, gives the following tip: “The easiest way to use maple syrup in homemade beer is to simply add it at the end of the boil. The quantity varies greatly – from one or two glasses (250-500 ml) per 5 gallon (19 l) batch to two liters. Use a smaller amount for beer that has a lighter color and / or lower alcohol content and, accordingly, more syrup will be needed for dark and / or more alcoholic beer. ”

“Homebrewers who are willing to spend extra time and energy to achieve an even more pronounced maple taste in their beer can think about adding syrup during secondary fermentation (before the beer reaches its maximum attenuation). I have also successfully used maple syrup as a primer for carbonating beer in bottles and kegs. It should be added a little less than regular sugar, ”explains Sean Lawson.

Maple Porter Recipe
Recipe from The Homebrewer’s Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch by Aaron Claydon, Marika Josephson, and Ryan Tokstein, published by The Countryman Press.

Characteristics for 19 L: OG 1.067, FG 1.014, 28 IBU, 7.0% ABV


4.76 kg of light malt (Marris Otter)
567 g caramel malt (80 ° L)
567 g chocolate malt
28 g Chinook hops (60 minutes)
227 g of roasted maple bark (60 minutes)
british ale yeast

Mash the malt with 19 liters of maple juice (instead of water), heating the mash to 66 ° C. Rinse the mash with 26.5 liters of maple juice at 75 ° C. Boil the wort for 90 minutes, keeping to the schedule for adding hops and bark, and make a 15-minute whirlpool. After boiling, cool the wort, aerate it and add the yeast. Ferment at 20 ° C until the initial fermentation is almost complete, then raise the temperature to 21 ° C until fermentation is complete.

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