Are you ready for maple brewing?
Every spring, Canadians in Quebec province take a few days off to help a friend at their sugar shack.
It’s a fantastic experience to harvest maple sap and boil it on a wood fire.
Plus, you get home with gallons of sap water and maple syrup!
It’s not an easy task since maple sap/syrup is fully fermentable by brewing yeast.
But don’t worry; we’ll guide you through each step of the maple brewing process to make the most delicious beer on earth.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get brewing!
Maple Syrup 101
Are you a fan of maple syrup?
If so, you’ll want to know how it’s made.
You can make maple syrup when the temperature drops below freezing at night and above freezing during the daytime.
This causes sap to flow from the roots of maple trees to the top of the tree.
A notch is cut into the tree to collect the sap, which is transferred to the sugar shack by collecting buckets or through a network of tubing.
The sap is then boiled to concentrate its sugar content into syrup.
It takes about 40 liters (10.5 gal.) of sap to produce 1 L (0.26 gal.) of syrup.
To reduce the time and energy needed to convert the sap into syrup, reverse osmosis (RO) is used.
This can reduce the water volume that needs to be boiled by 80%.
After boiling, the syrup has a sugar content of 66–67.5 °Brix (1.329–1.342 SG).
The color and flavor of the syrup come from the caramelization and Maillard reaction that occur during the boiling process.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have identified more than 200 volatile molecules that contribute to the flavor of maple syrup.
These include vanilla, caramel, candy, coffee, and wood.
The molecule mainly responsible for the characteristic smell of maple syrup is maple furanone.
At the same time, the woodsy flavor comes from molecules of the pyrazine family.
Currently, the classification of maple syrup is based on color.
However, the names for the categories differ among countries and even states/provinces, making it difficult to explain.
Brewing with Maple
Brewing beer with maple syrup is a creative and delicious way to enjoy a cold one.
You’ll need to take a few more steps to ensure your beer turns out right.
- Start by brewing and fermenting your beer, then let it reach its final gravity.
- Cold crashing is a great way to ensure a clear beer, then transfer it to a secondary fermenter off the yeast cake.
- Next, add two crushed Campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite) and two grams of potassium sorbate per gallon.
- Swirl the fermenter to mix everything, then wait one day before adding the syrup.
- Allow the fermenter to sit around room temperature for about 1-2 weeks to ensure any remaining yeast cannot ferment the syrup.
Campden and sorbate don’t kill the yeast, but they do prevent it from multiplying.
This is why you may still get a little referral, but it won’t be enough to ruin your beer.
Brewing beer with maple syrup is a fun and unique way to enjoy a cold one.
With the right ingredients and a little patience, you can make a delicious beer that’s sure to be a hit with those close to you!
Related Reading: Maple Beers – Find Out Here.
First, taste the syrup you plan to use in the beer before you add it.
You can get some bottles of Guinness (or similar base stout) and test it by adding small amounts of maple syrup.
This way, you can ensure that your syrup adds much maple flavor.
Using good quality syrup is essential, and darker is usually better.
This process works well if you keg or keg and then bottle.
If you don’t have kegging setup, the process is a little different, so you should jump to the bottling procedure.
With this method, you can make a delicious beer with a great maple flavor.
Designing Your Recipe
Brewing a maple syrup beer is a great way to bring out the sweet flavor of the syrup.
Focus on the malt flavor rather than the hops to get the best results.
Start with a low to medium OG (1.030–1.040) before adding the syrup.
Include only one hop addition at the beginning of the boil, using a mild and pleasant hop with low alpha acid.
Aim for a maximum IBU/OG ratio of 0.35 before syrup addition.
For the yeast, choose a strain with low attenuation and high flocculation.
Finally, aim for a deep red-to-brown color to match the maple syrup.
With these tips, you can brew a delicious maple syrup beer!
- 0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) Maltodextrine
- 1 oz. (28 g) chocolate malt (500 °L)
- One lb. (0.45 kg) crystal malt (80 °L)
- 1.1 g Epsom salt
- 1.1 g calcium chloride
- 1.5 oz. (40 g) American oak chips
- 1 Whirlfloc® tablet
- 1⁄2 tsp. yeast nutrient
- 2⁄3 cup maple syrup (if priming)
- 3.4 AAU Willamette hops (60 min.) (0.7 oz./20 g at 4.8% alpha acids)
- 6.5 lbs. (2.95 kg) North American two-row malt
- 7.2 gallons (27.3 L) maple sap (gravity of 1.005)
- 18.3 oz. (540 mL) Maple syrup (darkest grade)
- Wyeast 1968 (London ESB) or White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) yeast
Brewing with maple sap is a unique experience! Start by:
- Milling the grains and dough in with all the sap water.
- Target a mash temperature of 160 °F (71 °C) and add the brewing salt before the mash.
- Hold the mash for 40 minutes, then raise the temperature to mash out at 171 °F (77 °C).
- Slowly drain the liquor to the boil kettle until the pre-boil volume is around 6.6 gallons (25.1 L) and a gravity of about 1.034.
- Boil for about 60 minutes, adding hops according to the ingredients schedule.
- With 10 minutes left, add Whirlfloc® and yeast nutrients.
- Meanwhile, make a “tea” with the oak chips by boiling them in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover them.
- Chill the wort at the end of the boil to 63 °F (17 °C) and pitch the yeast.
- Ferment at the same temperature until completion.
- Rack to a secondary fermenter and add the maple syrup.
- Wait for the end of the secondary fermentation, then target a carbonation level of 2.5 volumes using maple syrup as priming sugar.
- Add the oak tea at the bottling, and for a final adjustment, add a few drops of maple extract.
Enjoy your unique maple brew!
Related Reading: Fermenting Maple Syrup – Learn More Here.
If you want to carbonate your beer, you can’t use Campden or Sorbate.
Instead, looking into back-sweetening methods used by mead makers would be best.
Research is critical here.
Add more sugar than needed to carbonate your beer, then heat the bottles to 180F in water to neutralize the yeast once it’s carbonated.
Test your bottles regularly to make sure it’s reached the desired carbonation.