I’d Tap That: Why Brewers Are Stuck on Maple

January 28, 2020

By Sarah Freeman, January 28, 2020

There are a few things that are just better in the Green Mountain State—namely, beer and maple syrup. If you grew up thinking the stuff that came in a log cabin bottle was the real deal, sorry to ruin your childhood: it is not. In fact, most people don’t know what real maple syrup tastes like because a) it’s expensive and b) it can be difficult to get you hands on. What better way to remedy this by getting your first dose of the good stuff in beer form?

At Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield, Vermont, Sean Lawson has been experimenting with sap beer—a brew made by Vermont farmers by adding hops and yeast to the last run of maple sap from sugaring operations—since 2007, according to NPR. By 2010, the Maple Tripple had won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup, even though the tiny brewery was operating on a one-barrel system at the time. Maple Tripple, brewed with 100-percent maple sap, is still available seasonally alongside several other maple infused brews: Maple Nipple amber ale, Fayston Maple imperial stout, as well as bourbon and brandy barrel-aged versions of Fayston Maple.

Meanwhile in Windsor, one brewery has built its reputation around a unique maple beer. Brew’s maple ale is a light lager that’s loaded with maple flavor. Co-owner Jordan Goure has been experimenting with the recipe since the brewery opened in 2014, eventually landing on an ale brewed with maple and ginger. “Ours is a true maple beer: maple syrup, light ale, cold-fermented so it’s smooth, palatable, and easy to drink like a lager,” he says. While the brewery sits on the Canadian side of Detroit River, many of Brew’s customers are Americans getting their first taste of maple syrup. 

“Fifty percent of our clientele are actually American’s coming over to try our maple beer, because they want to taste what real maple tastes like,” Goure says. “To keep it distinctly Canadian we only use Canadian maple syrup.” 

From Canada to Vermont and even California, these breweries and cideries are putting maple in the spotlight with some beers that pair perfectly with a little bit of snow and maybe some pancakes.

Lawson Finest Liquids’ Fayston Maple

As far as maple beers go, Lawson’s Fayston Maple is one of the most respected expressions of maple in beer. This imperial stout is made with roasted and black malts as well as pure Vermont maple syrup. Due to its success, the brewery offers several barrel-aged variants, including a Valentine’s Day riff with Montmorency tart cherry juice and cacao.

The Bruery’s Vermont Sticky Maple

The California brewery “scoured the countryside of the Green Mountain State to find the perfect maple syrup companion to this rich barrel-aged imperial stout.” Or so it claims on the can. It found its maple match at Butternut Mountain Farm and added its syrup to this pitch-black beer that combines the best of barrel-aging with slight syrupy sweetness in a tallboy.

Night Shift Brewing’s Bennington

Just outside of Boston, autumn means the return of Bennington. Night Shift Brewing’s cold weather seasonal is filled to the brim with Dutch-processed cocoa and Vermont maple syrup. Named after a town in Vermont famed for its maple production, this beer is a tribute to some of the best bits of New England.

Citizen Cider's Tree Tapper

Breweries aren’t the ones ones tapping into the Vermont maple craze. Citizen Cider in Burlington, Vermont recently released a collaboration with Runamok Maple. The cider is fermented with maple syrup and red wine yeast. Then, it’s aged on untoasted oak and infused with Belgian candi syrup, meaning there’s no missing the maple flavor in this cider.

Brew Maple Beer

Unlike many maple beers, it’s easy to get Brew’s Maple Beer year-round. The brewery launched an online delivery platform last year. You can purchase Maple Beer by the can or case, and Brew plants one maple tree on its 31-acre hop farm for every case sold. In order to keep the beer fresh and tasting like sweet maple syrup, the brewery employs a centrifuge to remove residual yeast, so the beer is shelf-stable and the yeast won’t ferment the residual sugars before it makes it to your door. 

Oxbow Brewing Company’s Sap Haus

Like Brew, Oxbow opted for a lighter beer to showcase the robust flavors of its Maine maple syrup. Sap Haus is a smoked dark lager loaded with all of the flavors of its namesake: smoke, toffee, maple, and a hint of earthiness.

Central Waters Brewing’s Maple Barrel Stout

For its maple stout, the Wisconsin brewery sends several spent bourbon barrels to nearby B&E's Trees, where they’re filled with maple syrup. Once the barrels are emptied, they make their way back to Central Waters, where they’re filled with imperial stout. After all that back and forth, the resulting beer is worthy of savoring—and at 10.2% ABV, it’s best to do so slowly.

Third Street Brewhouse’s Sugar Shack

For its maple syrup, the folks at Minnesota's Third Street Brewhouse didn’t have to look much further than down the road, which happens to be the home of Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum. In the backwoods of the abbey is a sugar shack operated by monks. The monks gave exclusive rights to the nearby brewery to use their syrup in a beer and thus, Sugar Shack Maple Stout was born.

Great Notion Brewing’s Double Stack

Oregon’s Great Notion Brewing has a habit of playing with food. As in, most of its beers are inspired by something you’re more likely to find on a plate than in a glass. Double Stack is no different. The pancake-flavored beer is fermented with maple syrup and aged on local coffee beans. The popular imperial stout has also sparked a spin-off made with smoked German malt called Smoke Stack.

Tree House Brewing Co.’s Moment of Clarity

While the Massachusetts brewery is known for its IPAs, it makes a mean stout too. Case in point is Moment of Clarity, a milk stout brewed and conditioned with coffee, chocolate, and dark amber maple syrup. They brewery says this beer is reminiscent of chocolate-covered maple cream candies and chocolate chip pancakes.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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