That Time Of Year…

Cold nights, warming days, snowbanks shrinking and longer hours of daylight… Spring is coming, they say…

At my house, that also means sap – maple sap, with which I make a gallon or two of syrup for household use, and with which I also brew at least one maple-influenced beer…

My maple beers go in one of two ways – sometimes I brew something light in color and bitterness to showcase the maple; alternately, I use maple as the base of a rich dark beer. That is the case this year – my last lager of this season is a Baltic Porter, big, sweet, black as night, smooth and delicious.

Maple Baltic Porter, 3 gallons, all-grain


  • 4 gallons condensed maple sap (from 9 gallons fresh)
  • 5 lbs. brown malt (I had Crisp and Simpson’s on hand)
  • 1 lb. Carafa II
  • 1/4 lb. roasted barley
  • 1/4 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/2 lb. amber candi sugar
  • 1 oz Denali hop pellets (15.4% aa)
  • White Labs Copenhagen Lager yeast (WLP850)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup for priming


Reduce 9 gallons fresh sap to 4. Crush grains. Mash for 45 minutes at 154°F. Runoff sweet wort (no sparge) and bring to a boil. Add candi sugar. After 15 minutes, add 1/2 oz Denali pellets. Boil 25 more minutes and add remaining Denali pellets. Boil 5 minutes and turn off heat. Chill to 70°F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 65° for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager as close to 40°F as possible for three weeks. Prime with maple syrup and bottle. Condition cool (50 – 55°F) for three weeks.

OG: 1074

Optional: I am aging this brew on rum barrel oak chips in the secondary. Why not?

Best Laid Plans

My friend Mark was supposed to join me today to learn the art of all-grain brewing. While waiting for him, I went out and did the barn chores, and when I came back in there was a message on the answering machine. Mark’s upstairs neighbor had apparently left the water on all night and flooded the place, so Mark was going to have to move, sort, clean and dry all his furniture, rugs and stuff. No brew session for him today.

I brewed anyway.

I decided to go for it, on this beer, big and rich, intensely sweet but also highly hopped. A smorgasbord of beery flavors all in one. Freshly smoked pale malt, mashed in condensed maple sap, three different high-alpha hops… A barleywine style ale, meant to be aged for a long while and sipped slowly.

Vermont Breakfast Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 3 lbs. Maris Otter smoked over maple
  • 1 lb. 150°L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Biscuit malt
  • 1/2 lb. maple-smoked cara-foam malt
  • 1 oz. Chinook hop pellets (@11.8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (@12.2% aa)
  • 1 oz. whole Horizon hops (@11.9% aa)
  • White Labs Super High Gravity yeast (WLP099)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (for priming)


Condense 6 gallons of fresh maple sap down to 4 gallons (16 quarts) [Alternatively, add 1 pt. pure maple syrup to 16 quarts water]. Heat to 164°F. Crush grains. Dough in and hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat 14 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 22 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Chinook pellets. Boil 15 minutes, add Simcoe pellets. Boil 45 minutes (60 total), add Horizon hops and remove from heat. Steep the Horizon about 10 minutes then remove them. Chill wort to 75°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment two weeks in relative warmth (65 – 70°). Rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place (50°F) for eight weeks. Prime with maple syrup, bottle and store somewhere where you will forget about them for a year.

OG: 1078

IBU’s: 107

For more info on Barleywines, I highly recommend Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell’s volume in the AHA Classic Beer Style series, appropriately titled “Barley Wine“.

Lessons Learned

For the second year in a row, I donated a brewing session to a charity auction at the Vermont Law School, sponsored by the Women’s Law Group. This year’s winners, Susan and Kayvon, braved the muddy back roads and joined me this morning to brew a nicely-timed Smoked Maple Märzen, which I will be rolling out as my Oktoberfest in the fall. Susan has brewed before, at the extract and steeping grains level; Kayvon is new to brewing but I think he caught the bug this morning… Great conversation ranging from beer to politics to chickens and cats. It was a pleasure to have them on hand to brew. And I got a delicious chocolate-pecan pie out of the deal!

This was the second brew made with some of the grains I smoked a few weeks ago. Although I was using maple sap, the grains were actually smoked over oak, so I am mixing woods…. The weather has already turned too warm for much more sap to run, I fear, but I have enough sap in storage for the three beers and the mead I will brew with it. I may not be able to make any syrup this year, but I have my priorities!

Märzen/Oktoberfest 2012

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 6 gallons fresh raw maple sap, boiled down to 14 quarts
  • 2 lbs. oak-smoked Munich malt
  • 7-1/2 lbs. pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz. Perle hop pellets (@8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets (@3.5% aa)
  • White Labs German Bock yeast (WLP830)
  • 1 cup maple syrup (for priming)


Crush the grains. Heat condensed sap to 166°F. Dough in and hold mash at 155°F for 60 minutes. Heat 14 quarts water to 168°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 24 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add 1/2 oz. Perle hops. Boil 30 minutes, add Tettnanger hops. Boil 15 minutes, add remaining 1/2 oz. of Perle hops. Boil 15 minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 70°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager cool (45°F) for three months (!). Prime with maple syrup, bottle and condition cool for at least two months.


IBU’s: 30.4

Notes on maple: I have the luxury of being able to tap my own trees and get fresh sap. If you don’t you can approximate the sap for the mash by adding about a pint of maple syrup to 14 quarts of water. The warning I always repeat at this stage: use REAL maple syrup (preferably from Vermont, of course), not the 2% maple flavored corn syrup!

Notes on yeast: I reused the yeast culture from the Doppelbock I brewed in December, built up to a quart of slurry. This is reputed to be the yeast used by Ayinger, who make a fantastic Märzen…

Another note: You too can arrange a brewing session with the Guru – see the link on the home page for info about how to hire me to teach you to brew, or lead a beer tasting session!

More info on Oktoberfest-style beers: see the book “Oktoberfest, Vienna, Märzen” by George Fix – not the best book in the AHA style series, a little too technical and scientific for me, but contains a lot of interesting history and some good recipes…