Spring Rites

The maple sap started running late but in the end it was a pretty good season. I put up over a gallon of syrup (just enough for a year’s household use), gave away a few gallons of straight sap, and brewed 4 different batches with more sap.  One was a mead, one was the Oktoberfest in the last post. Today I present the latest pair, a Canadian-style Golden Ale and a Scotch Ale. Both are richer and more full-bodied because of the sap used in the mash. Both also have a smoky, woody flavor.

Maple Leaf Golden Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lbs. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1 pint maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 oz. whole Chinook hops (home grown)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cluster hops (home grown)
  • 1/8 oz. whole Hallertauer hops (home grown)
  • White Labs Australian Ale yeast (WLP009)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar and
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup for priming

Boil 5 gallons maple sap down to 12 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 165°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Add 1 pint maple syrup to kettle, bring to a boil. Add Chinook hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Cluster hops, boil 40 minutes. Add Hallertauer hops, boil 5 minutes and turn off heat. Remove hops, chill to 80°F and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast and seal fermenter. Ferment warmish (68 – 70°F) for ten days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (60°F) for ten to twelve days. Prime with corn sugar and maple syrup, bottle and condition for three to four weeks.

OG: 1080
IBU’s: 55 (a guess, as I don’t have alpha ratings for my own hops…)

Note on maple: if you don’t have maple sap, mash in water to which you you have added a cup of real maple syrup. Don’t use maple-flavored corn syrup!

Note on yeast: The Australian yeast is very similar to the basic neutral yeasts used in many American pale ales and Golden ales as well as one of the better known Canadian ale breweries. It produces a malty, clean-tasting beer and ferments equally well at warmer and cooler temperatures.

Vermont Highland Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 3-1/2 lbs. Weyermann Abbey malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 6 oz. Cara-Belge malt
  • 6 oz. British amber malt
  • 4 oz. dark Munich malt
  • 1 oz. peated malt
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (@4.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (@4% aa)
  • White Labs Edinburgh Ale Yeast (WLP028)
  • White Labs Kölsch yeast (WLP029)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Boil 7.5 gallons maple sap down to 16 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 167°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 155°F. Heat 15 quarts of water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 24 quarts sweet wort. Boil 30 minutes without any hops. Add Styrian Goldings, boil 30 minutes. Add Fuggles, boil another 30 minutes (60 total with hops, 90 overall). Remove from heat, chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeasts, seal and ferment cool (58 – 60°F) for two weeks. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (50°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age at 45 – 50°F for six weeks minimum.

OG: 1092
IBU’s: 28

Note on sap: Again, if you do not have sap you can mash with water to which you have added syrup – 1/2 to 3/4 cup for this brew.
Note on wort: I took the first 4 quarts of runoff and started it boiling immediately. The extra boiling time caramelizes the sugars and develops additional dextrines to help the beer become more full-bodied.

Note on yeast: The Edinburgh yeast imparts the classic malty/caramel notes of a Scotch Ale but does not always attenuate enough to dry this beer out. The Kölsch yeast will tolerate a little higher alcohol level so will help to finish this beer to a medium sweet profile instead of a cloying, heavy beer.

Note on bottle conditioning: I am brewing this beer in April to enter into a competition in July, but I am not sure if it will be ready – it will be finished and bottled, and certainly drinkable, but will probably be much better in November at St. Andrew’s Day… This is a strong beer that needs a long cool aging period to mature and smooth out.

The Real Deal

I grew up with those maple-flavored corn syrups with folksy names. That’s what we put on our pancakes, French toast, waffles, etc… I remember quite well the first time I tasted 100% real maple syrup. I didn’t like it, frankly, it was too smoky, too sweet, too intense… it just didn’t taste right. I don’t remember when I started using only real syrup, but it was before I moved to Vermont. Since I’ve lived here, which is going on 20 years, I have made my own syrup nearly every year. Since I have also been brewing for 20 years, I suspect that some do-it-yourself part of me must have switched on back then, and I am thankful it did.

I am fortunate to have a fair number of sugar maples on my property, a few of which are ancient, huge and easily accessible. This year I hung six buckets out for sap, and depending on the weather, I hope to get two gallons of syrup, in addition to three brews. Last week I brewed a maple mead, using 9 gallons of sap. Today I used another 6 gallons of sap, and plan on using another 6 next week. Which means that I need to collect about 100 gallons of sap total – 21 for brewing, 80 or more to boil down for syrup… Thus far, I have gathered about 40. Hmm, maybe I need to put in a couple more  taps…

Anyway, today’s brew was designed to showcase the wonders of maple. It’s a fairly light-colored, medium-bodied golden ale, roughly based on the classic Canadian Ale style. The use of fresh sap (although I boiled my down 50% to increase the sweetness and OG) gives the beer a maple base. The addition of syrup in the kettle brings the maple flavor to the fore. It will also be primed in part with maple syrup, just to make sure you know there’s maple in there…

Maple Golden Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 6-1/2 lbs. pale malt
  • 1 lb. cara-amber malt
  • 1 lb. toasted pale malt (375° for 15 minutes)
  • 1/2 lb. 20°L crystal malt
  • 1 pt. 100% real maple syrup
  • 1 oz. whole Cluster hops
  • 1/4 oz. whole Willamette hops
  • 3/4 oz. whole Cascade hops
  • White Labs California Ale yeast (WLP001)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (for priming)

Toast 1 lb. pale malt. Crush all grains. Heat 15 quarts water (or maple sap) to 165°F. Mash in crushed grains, hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat 13 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 24 quarts sweet wort. Heat to boiling, add maple syrup and Cluster hops. Boil 30 minutes, add Willamette and Cascade hops. Boil 30 more minutes, 60 total, and turn heat off. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal, ferment at 64°F for 7 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (55°F) for 10 – 14 days. Prime with corn sugar and maple syrup, bottle and condition 10 – 14 days.

OG: 1068
IBU’s: guessing around 42 (no idea what my own hops are at…)

Style notes: This is a little stronger than the typical Canadian golden ale, partly because I reduced the sap in half. If you use water or fresh sap instead, your gravity will probably be around 1053 or so.

Notes on sap & syrup: The rule of thumb among sugarmakers is that it takes between 30 and 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, depending on the weather and the length of the season. My fear is that the weather will get too nice too soon – once the trees start budding and the nights no longer go below freezing, sap flow stops.

If you end up buying syrup to use in this brew, don’t spend a ton on Grade A Fancy – this beer will actually be better with a Grade B Amber or even darker – and the lower the grade of the syrup, the cheaper…