Homebrewing has really taken off in the past few years. So much so, that you can now find instructions and recipes for beer all over the place. One of our favorite things to do is add maple syrup to the process. Brewing beer with maple syrup changes the process a bit, so here are some helpful hints to get you started.
Designing Your Maple Beer Recipe Using Maple Syrup
Full disclaimer: We get a bit sciencey because homebrewing does involve some chemistry, boiling points, and other technical things you need to be aware of. While the acronyms of beer’s vital stats ‒ ABV, IBU, SRM, and OG ‒ may seem like alphabet soup to the uninitiated, alcohol by volume, international bittering units, standard reference method, and original gravity are all integral to understanding beer. With so many options available for craft lovers, the easiest way to choose a brew is by style. However, knowing a beer’s vital stats can help your decision-making process ‒ specifically, a beer’s alcohol by volume (ABV), international bittering units (IBU), standard reference method (SRM), and, sometimes (but not always), original gravity (OG)
It is important to brew a style that will focus on the malt flavor instead of the hops since you want to emphasize the sweet flavor of the maple sugar. Aim for a low to medium OG (1.030–1.040 before your syrup addition), since any sap or syrup addition will quickly increase the gravity and ABV. Perform only one hop addition at the beginning of the boil using a mild and pleasant hop with low alpha acid-targeting a maximum IBU/OG ratio of 0.35 (before syrup addition). Aim for a deep red to brown color to mimic the maple syrup color.
It is recommended to replace your brewing water with regular maple sap. This can be obtained directly from the producer or if you have a maple tree, you can try to harvest some sap yourself from the old-fashioned way using a spigot and a bucket. The gravity value of regular sap can range between 1.003 to 1.007. Also, the sap can be obtained directly from the producer but be aware that the sugar concentration can vary widely. One thing to know about fresh sap is that it could start fermenting by itself in just a few days, so keep it frozen until usage. A regular 60-minute boil will be just fine to get rid of any native yeast and microorganisms that might be present.
For all-grain brewers, if you plan to mash with sap water, it is a good thing to know the chemistry of the batch of sap you plan to use for brewing. Some brewers suggest that you should not modify the ion content of your sap since the purpose of brewing with sap is to use it as it is, but we believe it is a good practice to get the most of your mash. We suggest adding about 0.15 g per gallon of brewing water (and not the batch size) of both Epsom salt (MgSO4) and calcium chloride (CaCl2) in order to achieve the minimum level of calcium and magnesium required for the enzymatic activity of the mash as well as for the yeast metabolic functions. This won’t directly improve the maple taste of your beer but will help achieve a better beer. If you are using RO sap, you don’t have to add any brewing salt since the ion concentration is expected to be sufficient.
Although maple syrup is obtained by boiling sap, you shouldn’t add maple syrup at the boiling step. Maple syrup flavor is made of subtle volatile molecules and the boiling process will get rid of it. Perform a gentle boiling to minimize this effect on your wort since it is made from sap.
While some brewers may suggest adding more than 20% of maple syrup for fermentation, no matter how much maple syrup you add, it will almost all convert into alcohol by fresh and active yeast, not to mention that it could also become very expensive. Instead, once the primary fermentation is completed, rack your beer into a secondary container (to get rid of most of the yeast) and then add the maple syrup. Start by adding 16 oz. of maple syrup at this stage and let the secondary fermentation start. This increases the alcohol content of the beer by 1.5%. At this point, there is still some yeast remaining in the solution, but they are not as effective at fermenting the sugar as they were at primary fermentation so there will be some residual sugars after fermentation.
Even though maple syrup is fully fermentable, it is recommended to use it as your priming sugar because it is another way to add extra maple flavor. This extra flavor will be trapped inside the bottle. Do not add a new yeast culture because there is a high probability that this fresh and active yeast will start to ferment the remaining sugar left by the secondary fermentation. The quantity of maple syrup to add to your bottling bucket is calculated by comparing it to the dextrose (corn sugar) quantity you will normally use.
Measuring your maple syrup by volume, you can convert it by using the density of the syrup which is 1.326 g/mL at 77 °F (25 °C). Simply divide your maple syrup weight (in g) by the density value and you’ll get the volume to measure (in mL). For example, a 5-gallon (19-L) batch with a carbonation level of 2.5 volumes of CO2, will be about 180 g of maple syrup or 136 mL.
Brewing beer can be quite an undertaking, but you can get started right away with these simple recipes:
Spread the pumpkin into a shallow pan and bake at 350°F for 60 minutes.
Tie the crystal 20L and chocolate malt in a small mesh hop bag. Place the bag in 5 1/2 gallons of water in a 7 1/2 gallon pot and immerse the grain.
Begin to heat, making sure the mesh bag isn’t sitting directly on the bottom of the pot. Remove the grain bag when the temperature reaches 170°F.
Bring wort to a vigorous boil. As water is heating, slowly add 4.8 pounds of light dry malt extract and the baked pumpkin, stirring constantly until completely dissolved. When the boil begins, add 1/2 ounce Northern Brewer hops in a mesh bag.
After a total of 55 minutes has passed, add the maple syrup and the pumpkin pie spice.
After a total of 60 minutes of boiling, remove from heat. Warning: After wort cools below 180°F everything that touches it should be sanitary, and exposure to open-air should be limited as much as possible.
Cool wort by placing the pot in an ice bath or by using a wort chiller until it is at 65°F. Transfer to sanitized fermentor (either a carboy or a fermentation bucket).
Use a sanitized auto-siphon racking cane to remove enough wort to take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. Make a note of this number, since you will be using it to calculate the actual alcohol content when it’s done fermenting. The reading should be around 1.057. Cover the fermentor with a sanitized stopper and airlock.
Agitate vigorously for at least 5 minutes or aerate using pure oxygen for 1 minute. Add 1 package of Safale US-05
Ferment for at least 14 days at 64-68°F
Bottle after conditioning is complete, using enough priming sugar for a medium level of carbonation.
Maple Ginger Beer
1-3 inches ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
Mince ginger and boil in a gallon of water with sugar and maple syrup until ginger aroma is very apparent and fills the area. Allow it to cool.
Add lime and ginger bug and pour into a gallon jug with an airlock.
Wait a week. After a week of brewing in the gallon jug, there should be some visible fermentation going on. You’ll be able to notice tiny bubbles traveling in your jug and bursting as they reach the top.
Bottle off into “Grolsch” style, flip-top, or other air-tight bottles/containers for carbonation.
Wait another week to two weeks depending on how warm the area is that you’re storing your bottles (I wait the full two weeks in my apartment in winter but have had bottles over carbonate in summer). I’d recommend popping open a tester bottle after a week and deciding if you’re happy with the flavor and level of fizz.
How to make and keep a ginger bug:
*Ginger contains natural yeast on its skin so avoid peeling and source organic when possible.
Add a tbsp minced ginger and a tbsp white sugar to one cup of water in a jar with a tightly fitted lid with extra room.
Add another tbsp of both minced ginger and white sugar until bubbles and pressure are clearly building up.
That’s it! You’ve nursed your own starter culture to health and it’s ready to use.
If you have more maple beer on your hands than you expected, baking can be a great way to use up some of that extra stock.
Preheat the oven to Bake at 375°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add the first 9 ingredients (through baking powder). Tip: Measure the oil in a 1/4 cup measuring cup, filling it halfway (there are 4 tbsp in 1/4-cup, so halfway is 2 tbsp). By adding the oil first, it coats the measuring cup so the subsequent sticky ingredients (molasses, honey, maple) will slide right out.
Slowly pour beer over the top. It will bubble and foam. Stir until combined. The batter is thick, gloppy, and dense.
Turn batter out into a prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is domed and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
Allow bread to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice using a serrated knife.