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How to get a subtle maple flavor?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Drucifer, Dec 28, 2012.

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  1. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Hello all!

    I have a big stout sitting in secondary at the moment on some bourbon soaked oak chips. I added 2 lb. of maple syrup once primary slowed to boost my numbers (Est. OG of 1.104 and FG of 1.026) and for a slight maple taste; however, the maple was almost non existent when I transferred to secondary.

    I am wondering if anyone has had experience priming with maple syrup or using maple extract? This is a relatively large beer at roughly 10.5% abv, which has me thinking priming with maple syrup (~5 ounces?) would not have much of an impact. I was thinking of using extract at bottling instead, but I am not sure how much I should use for a subtle maple flavor in a good sized stout.
  2. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

    Add the maple after you've racked to secondary. Lesser amounts of yeast means less flavor scrubbed away by release of CO2. I couldn't tell you how much to use though, haven't used maple before (yet...)
  3. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Yeah I thought about trying that, but I really don't want to boost my abv much more. Also, maple syrup is kind of pricy and I fear most of the flavor would settle out like it did when I added after primary slowed. I will probably try experimenting with maple syrup in secondary of another brew, but I am looking to either prime with it or use extract in this one.
  4. emyers

    emyers Devotee (484) Jan 11, 2009 Illinois

    Helped a friend brew a beer and we used maple syrup to prime once, and common sense along with everything I read told me that priming should contribute very little to no flavor to the beer. The maple flavor ended up very strong - so strong that it dominated the beer and I really wished I had just used table sugar. The beer was a mild, so I'm sure the flavors would be much more subtle in an imperial stout. It's also possible that the maple flavor was all in our heads...
    Drucifer likes this.
  5. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I disagree here. Like honey, or any other sugary substance, the yeast will chew this to death. It doesn't matter if it's in secondary or primary. Yeast will eat a high % of this syrup until they hit their alc tolerance. The best way to prevent this from happening is to keg the beer with potassium sorbate and add the maple at this point so no more fermentation will occur.
  6. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    I'm assuming you guys boiled the priming syrup with a couple cups of water and added to the bucket prior to bottling. Did it mix in pretty well or did you have to stir it due to its thickness compared to water?
  7. emyers

    emyers Devotee (484) Jan 11, 2009 Illinois

    Yep. We stirred it to be safe but it wasn't all that thick after mixing with the water.
  8. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Awesome, thanks for the feedback. I will most likely be priming with maple syrup to see if it helps. I'm a little scared to use maple extract as, like any extract, it can be overpowering.
  9. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

    As I said, I haven't used maple before - or honey for that matter - my experience is based on fruit, which is very sugary, and you can get full, rich fruit flavors from racking onto secondary. Would maple flavor dissipate faster than fruit flavor? If so, why?

    I suppose you could kill all the yeast and then add the fruit/maple/honey, but then you wouldn't just be adding flavor, you'd be adding actual sugars, which could make the beer significantly sweeter.

    Of course, there's no reason why you can't prime with it as well. I've primed with brown sugar before, and couldn't sense much - but again, maple may be a stronger, more intense flavor.
  10. 33nickadams

    33nickadams Disciple (310) Apr 12, 2010 Michigan

    Fenugreek is often used as a maple substitute. A little will do a lot.
  11. BigAB

    BigAB Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2008 Iowa

    Not that I have much experience with this, but I am just now enjoying the fruits of my labor on my Maple Pumpkin Porter (OG: 1.064, 3.5 gal). I added maple flavoring (proly similar to extract, but with fenugreek - more of an Aunt Jemima smell from the bottle): 1/4 TSP at FO, and then another 1/4 at bottling...the flavor is there, but it is what I would rate as 'quite subtle'. YMMV, but I think you could simply add at the time of bottling in increments until you get where you want. Keep in mind that my experience was also altered by the added pumpkin pie spice/extract. Good luck.
  12. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    In wine making around 15% of a grape is a simple sugar. Most of the sweetness, even in dry wines is upped by either pounds and pounds of grapes per gallon and/or by adding copious amounts of sugar. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugars_in_wine

    Simple sugars like honey and syrup are 60--100% fermentable, so you could imagine that you'd need a lot to get it to hang around in a beer or a way around it fermenting out. Reference: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Fermentable_adjuncts The best thing you can do, as the OP stated, is buy grade B syrup. It's not as refined and more of that flavor can hang out.

    I had a link on how fermentable fruit is--ballpark, of course--but I can't seem to find it. Some cooking website.
    Anyway, hope this helps give a little insight.
  13. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

    Fair enough, makes sense, thanks. Here is a link I use to calculate % sugars in fruits. Cheers!

  14. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,344) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The sugars in honey and the sugars in maple syrup are close enough to 100% fermentable to call it 100%. The stuff in honey and maple syrup that is not sugar is mostly water, plus extremely small amounts of many other compounds that account for honey/syrup flavors (other than sweetness) and aromas. In a typical honey, for example, the water and miscellaneous compounds might account for about 25% of the weight. None of the sweetness from sugar will survive (no matter how much honey or syrup you add), unless the yeast give up either voluntarily of forcibly. And preventing fermentation from finishing won't really increase the honey/syrup flavors/aromas other than sweetness.
  15. rvajohn

    rvajohn Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    I brewed a clone of Tommy Knockers Maple Brown Ale once and the maple flavoring was balanced perfectly. I'll see if I can find the one I used
  16. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    In my limited experience (brewing a couple of maple beers, maple priming one beer, drinking 5-10 commercial beers made with maple) I have found that a subtle maple flavor is all you will be lucky enough to get in the final product when using real maple syrup (vs. extracts and fenugreek) unless long term conditioning your beer in a barrel that used to house some sort of maple syrup (CBS) or maple liquor (Lawson's Maple Trippel 2011, Lawson's Maple Liquor Barrel Fayston's), or using something (ptassium sorbate) to kill the yeast before adding the maple syrup as suggested earlier in this thread.

    NOTE: The Lawson's Maple Trippel is also created with maple sap in lieu of brewing water :slight_smile:
  17. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    I wonder if you soak a few ounces of chips in a bourbon/maple syrup mixture for a few months and add that into secondary would it give a good flavor, or would it still ferment out?
  18. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    Heh, I wanted to say that fruit was between 5 and 15% fermentable, but couldn't find anything to back that up on. I don't use it that much in brewing, and when I make wine I tend to be more of a slave to the recipe than when I'm brewing. Thanks for the link.
  19. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,344) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I feel the need to repeat myself. The flavor compounds (other than sugar) in maple syrup are not fermentable.
    RobNewton likes this.
  20. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Sorry I misspoke. I am wondering if a bourbon/maple soaked oak chip mixture would leave a noticeable maple flavor similar to what Founders does with CBS/Better Half, or if it would just disappear. Maybe Founders kills off all the yeasties when transferring the base beer into the barrel?
  21. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    A long time ago in a thread far, far away.... someone suggested that I use maple sugar. I did buy some on my trek to Montpelier, VT at the farmers market. Maybe it has more of the maple flavors.
  22. dfernandez77

    dfernandez77 Initiate (107) Jul 29, 2005 California

    Maple sap is boiled down (reduced) to create maple syrup. Heating it or putting it in primary vs secondary will have negligible effect on the aromatic compounds in the final beer. We're used to all that aroma being backed up with sugar flavors, so maple aroma with little sweetness confuses our sensors. In addition, the nutrients in maple syrup are very kind to yeast, and the resulting beer is dryer than you would expect. Put this all together, and it's tough to get the character of maple syrup in a bottle conditioned beer - most of the character that will remain is aroma.

    So, how to get the character of maple syrup?
    1. Get the beer very cold in a keg, and back sweeten it with maple syrup. Don't let it get warm.
    2. Cold crashing, adding Potassium Sorbate, waiting for the yeast reproduction cycle to stop, then back sweetening, force carbonating, and beer gunning if you want it in bottles has a good chance of working.
    3. Bottle conditioning with maple syrup (calculate the amount needed correctly based on the SG of the syrup) could work pretty well, assuming you have some residual sweetness in the beer.
    4. Filtering and etc. as in 2 above would also do it.

    If you have a solid stout with good residual sweetness, try 3.

    Good luck,
    Drucifer and mattbk like this.
  23. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    This is very intriguing, but I don't see how this would be better. As Vike-de-Man has said you get maple flavors from inert flavors contained in the syrup. And the syrup is like a 30:1 reduction from the sap.

    I'm not saying that this isn't good info, just a bit confusing. Sounds like a fun experiment though.
  24. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (346) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

  25. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,609) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    I tried this once. It added something maple like but there was something else about the beer that I found distasteful. As always, with spices in beer, getting just the right amount may be critical.
    inchrisin likes this.
  26. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Oh I agree with that point. A vast majority of the sap is water and I believe that real maple syrup is made by SEVERAL boilings of the same sap, not just one reduction. I could be wrong about that, but if so it does suggest that using sap in lieu of water in your kettle and boiling it once shouldn't produce anything close to what the average person calls maple syrup. What I do know though is that the particular vintage of Maple Trippel I mentioned is by far the strongest maple flavored beer I've ever had. I'd like to chalk it up to the maple liquor barrel it aged in but since I've never brewed with maple sap in lieu of water I don't want to be too quick to rule that out from contributing despite it in theory not seeming like it does!
  27. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I'm not really sure. In theory, I don't think that maple barrel aging or maple chip aging would prevent the flavor from fermenting out. I just know I've drank a few beers that were aged in such barrels and could definitely taste the maple. For all I know, those breweries that made them could have filter the yeast out of the beer while transferring it into those barrels which also would prevent the maple from being fermented out.
    Drucifer likes this.
  28. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,344) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The flavor compounds (other than sugar) in maple syrup are not fermentable. There may be 101 reasons for maple flavor fading, but 'fermenting out' isn't one of them.
    dfernandez77 likes this.
  29. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Any comments I may have made with reference to maple flavor "fermenting out" are strictly about the sugar fermenting out and how that diminishes the "maple syrup" flavor in the final product. It's like cacao powder vs milk chocolate. Take the sugar out and you drastically change the flavor profile.

    With that being said, I'd imagine that maple syrup with its sugar "fermented out" might come across more maple syrup like in the final product if the base beer is of a sweeter style with a higher OG and plenty of caramel malts.
  30. kjyost

    kjyost Meyvn (1,175) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    Late to the game here: A Canadian brewer makes a nice Maple Stout (Cannery) and when I emailed them for ideas, they said they use a high quality extract. To get a good maple favour, you need lots of residual sugar that you won't get from lots of syrup...
    inchrisin likes this.
  31. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I think someone said that like three times above, but I can't remember who....
    scurvy311 likes this.
  32. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (717) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I think dark Agave syrup added late in the boil tastes like "subtle maple" when fermented out in a pale beer...which I really don't care for myself...just say'in
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