Spe­cial In­gre­di­ent: Sap

Brew­ing with maple or birch sap of­fers more com­plex­ity to a beer.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

MARIKA JOSEPHSON, the co-owner/brewer at Scratch Brew­ing in Ava, Illi­nois, knows a lot about brew­ing with in­gre­di­ents found right out­side the back door. So the grove of maple and birch trees that are on the prop­erty of the ru­ral Illi­nois brew­ery are rou­tinely put to work. When you hear maple, the ob­vi­ous sec­ond word is “syrup,” but in the case of Scratch, they found that us­ing sap of­fered more com­plex­ity to a beer.

“We started fool­ing around with sap when we were home­brew­ers, and we didn’t ex­pect it to taste like syrup be­cause it was so thin; it’s re­ally wa­tery, but it is sweet with a min­eral char­ac­ter,” Josephson says. “What we found was that af­ter fer­men­ta­tion, it re­ally dried out the beer, gave it a min­eral char­ac­ter— like min­eral water—and even cherry es­ters, too.”

The brew­ers have found that darker, maltier beers, such as strong porters and

stouts, work best for brew­ing with sap. With lighter-grain bills, the min­eral taste came off as medic­i­nal, Josephson says. When they make beers with sap, they use the sug­ary liq­uid in place of water.

To do the same at home isn’t too dif­fi­cult, Josephson says. There are books (in­clud­ing Scratch Brew­ing’s The Home­brewer’s Al­manac: A Sea­sonal Guide to Mak­ing Your Own Beer from Scratch) and videos that show you how to tap a sugar maple or a birch. De­pend­ing on where you live, there are also lo­cal groups that will take you into the woods for sap.

For home­brew­ing, you’ll need about 10 gal­lons (37.8 liters) or two trees’ worth of sap (col­lected over a day or so) to make a beer. And if you want the maple fla­vor, peel­ing off some bark from the tree and toast­ing it in the oven be­fore adding it to the boil works just fine. The best time to tap a tree is in late win­ter, early to mid-feb­ru­ary. —John Holl

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