Well, it’s still officially 12 days until Spring but… my road has turned to mud, we are about to set the clocks ahead an hour, the maple sap is running, and there are Bocks and Spring Ales in the stores… and I just went out and found that 75% of my hopyard is now snow-free. Not that there are hops up yet, but at least there’s the possibility that the warming late-Winter/ early-Spring sun is beginning to awaken the rhizomes and soon I will see tiny purple-green shoots breaking ground… Last week, I tapped my maples. I have 6 taps with buckets in 4 trees – 3 in one healthy behemoth (about 12 feet around) and 1 each in three other lesser but still impressive trees. I have made a gallon or so of maple syrup each of the last few years, just enough for my household’s annual consumption. I usually also brew a couple batches with fresh sap, but I don’t overdo anything. Since it takes between 35 – 45 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, and one tap can produce about 1 gallon of sap on a good day, it is not an instant process. Right now, after one week of collecting sap, I have about 12 gallons in storage waiting for the Big Boil Day. But I have also just used 9 gallons of sap to make my annual (and much-anticipated) Maple Mead. Mead is, in many aspects, much easier than beer. Only a couple ingredients, less precise time requirements, generally a simpler beverage to make. The big factor for mead is patience – I’ll be lucky to be bottling today’s mead within 6 months, and may be able to begin drinking it around Thanksgiving. It’ll be worth the wait – and besides I have 30 bottles or so of last year’s still maturing in the cellar… My Maple Mead is meant to be fairly dry and bottled as a sparkling mead.
2010 Maple Mead
NOTE: requires a BIG kettle (or more than one)…
Boil 9 gallons of fresh maple sap down to 5.5 gallons. (This may take several hours!). Add 1 tablespoon Fermax yeast nutrient and 2 teaspoons winemaker’s acid blend. Stir well, add 12 lbs. honey. Stir very well to avoid sticking and burning. Rinse out honey containers with a couple quarts of water, add to kettle. Bring back to boil, add 1 quart (last year’s!) maple syrup. Boil approximately 45 minutes or until volume is about 6 gallons. Remove from heat, chill to 80°F, pour into sanitized fermenter, add a wine yeast that will produce a dry-ish wine (Red Star’s Première Cuvée works well…), seal and ferment for about a month. Rack to secondary, age cool (50- 55°F) for another 8 – 10 weeks. Test a sample, verify the water in the airlock, continue to age for another month or more… Prime with 1/3 cup corn sugar and 1/2 cup maple syrup. Bottle and condition 6 – 8 weeks minimum. There’s a good chance that no matter how long you wait, this mead will end up over-carbonated and will gush when opened. Be warned, I have yet to figure out how to avoid this…
2010 brewing notes:
OG of fresh sap: 1015
OG of condensed sap (before addition of honey) 1027
OG of mead: 1105 (which projects to better than 12% abv…)