Tree sap might not sound like the most appetizing thing to stick in your craw, but a group of Vermonters are bringing back a little-known brewing technique that’s big on flavor. It’s called sap beer, and it tastes better than it sounds.
Using the strong-tasting sap from the last run of tapped maple trees, brewers create a boiled-down concentrate that forms the base of the mapley beer. The style of beer has been extinct for decades…until now. This summer, the beer will make a triumphant return in the form of Frog Run Sap Beer, a cooperative project of the Vermont Folklife Center and the Fiddlehead Brewing Company of Shelburne.
“Sap beer was very peculiar stuff,” explained one Vermont resident who recalled the old practice. “The same people would make sap beer to the best of their ability and sometimes it would turn out junk. Nobody could drink it … or you could have sap beer that was just as clear as any ale you ever saw, and I don’t think the man ever lived that could drink two eight-ounce glasses and walk 10 minutes later.”
The beer doesn’t have one particular recipe, making the job a tough one for brewers to undertake. According to brewer Matt Cohen, “We wanted it to be drinkable, medium-bodied, not strong maple but more malt-forward.” The recipe this time around involves crystal malt, malted barley from Canada, and a touch of hops.
Despite the preparation, no one, not even the brewers, knows what the final product will taste like when it is unveiled this summer. The sap beer’s grand unveiling will occur at an event at Fiddlehead’s brewery on May 31, with a reporter from New York Magazine in attendance. Even if you can’t make it to Vermont for the event, chances are that if the beer is a success, plenty of other breweries will hop on the bandwagon.