cranberries, pumpkins, or wild yeast - so I jumped at the chance of using maple sap. I told my friend that I would need approximately six gallons of sap to replace the water I would normally use for the 3.5-3.75 gallon batches I brew. Not a problem - the sap is flowing like crazy.
While he collected the sap, I put together a recipe and headed out to my LHBS to purchase the ingredients. I had decided to brew an English Mild - I figured something like this would have the best chance of allowing any possible maple flavor from the sap to come through (though I am fully aware that there isn't much maple flavor in the raw sap - it's just too dilute). Unfortunately, shortly after picking up the ingredients, the sap stopped flowing and my friend was only able to collect 3.5 gallons for me. I figured my choices were to either supplement water for the other 2.5 gallons...or just brew a smaller batch. I really didn't want to dilute the sap with water, so I opted to go with a smaller batch size. However, since the grains were already milled together, a smaller batch meant that I was now looking at a much higher starting gravity than originally intended. So, instead of a "regular" Mild, I brewed a Strong Mild - not quite the oxymoron you might think.
It took me a while to get to this beer, so I kept the sap frozen to avoid it spoiling. I used a few cups of sap instead of water to make a yeast starter - I figured that this would allow the yeast to acclimate to the sap and it would let me keep this beer 100% undiluted sap-based. The sap itself had a specific gravity of 1.006. Even though the sap looked, smelled, and pretty much tasted just like water (perhaps a tad sweet if you really looked for it), when it was boiled for the starter and even just heated for the mash it became obvious that it was not the same as water - it darkened slightly and had a noticeable maple syrup aroma. In the end I don't know if any flavor or aroma contribution from the sap will be identifiable in the beer, but I am certain that the sap will add some complexity. Since I didn't want to dilute this beer with any water, I only used the first runnings from the mash. I went with English hops - Bramling Cross, which I really like for its combination of fruity and earthy flavors. Not sure if it was the sap or the use of brown malt or the combination of the two, but this was one of the best smelling mashes and boils I've ever had. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this one turns out - though given it will probably end up around 8% ABV, it might need to age a little bit before it comes into its own.
Brewed on 5/19/13
Batch Size: 2.25 gal
Estimated Color: 19.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 62.00 %
5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 81.6%
8.0 oz Brown Malt - 8.2%
8.0 oz Crystal Malt (77°L; Crisp) - 8.2%
2.0 oz Acidulated malt - 2.0% (for mash pH)
~3.5 gallons of maple sap (SG = 1.006...I figure the amount of sugar from the sap would be the equivalent of ~5oz of sucrose)
9 g Bramling Cross [7.00 %] - 60.0 min
9 g Bramling Cross [7.00 %] - 30.0 min
9 g Bramling Cross [7.00 %] - 10.0 min
English Ale (White Labs #WLP002)
Single Infusion, 150°F, No Sparge