Birch Wine Discussion

I’ve been researching a lot of birch information this year, and birch wine is an interesting topic.  The 2021 birch sap season is three weeks past, but we’re trying to get together a group of people who have made birch wine or are interested in doing so next year.  If you’re interested, please call Karen at Wine Creations in Grand Rapids, (218) 326-9490 and get on her list so we can set up a meeting and a tasting.

Birch sap is interesting to work with, and the syrup has a unique taste.  There’s a post on the home page of this site covering some of the uses and methods.

But wine has a fairly high alcohol content, and birch sap is extremely low in sugar, with a gravity of about 1.003.  Even if you boil it down at a ratio of 50:1, you still can only get to a few percentage points of alcohol by volume, and it caramelizes the sugar, producing a darker-than-clear product. There are a couple of commercial varieties, over 11% alcohol that are colorless. I made two 5 gallon batches this spring, boiling and concentrating the sap to a “golden” level of color, and an “amber” level of color.  The first tastes a bit like candy and honey, the second a bit more like brown sugar / very light molasses.

So how do people make clear birch wine?  What’s the source of fermentables to get the alcohol levels up?  If you’ve made any or are interested in a discussion, give Karen a call and we’ll try to set up a meeting this summer and discuss methods, materials and other additions that people use.  I’ve got birch mead and birch beer to share.

Boiling birch sap.


Birch Beer Tasting

You are invited to a Birch Beer tasting at Klockow Brewing, 5 – 8 PM Thursday April 29th.  We will be serving examples of homebrewed Birch Ale and Braggot.  There are six ales and a Birch Braggot (part beer, part honey mead).  Three of the ales are aged, three are new.  We’ll also have a keg of fresh birch sap just so you can see what it tastes like.  Hint: have you tasted water?

We ask that you vote on the three new Birch Ales, with the goal of choosing a recipe for a full sized collaboration brew at Klockow later this year, when the birch sap season is over.

What does this stuff taste like?  If you search “birch beer,” you’re going to find a lot of examples of sweet birch soda, and descriptions of wintergreen flavor.  These are real Birch Ales, made by boiling birch sap down to the flavor intensity of birch syrup, then brewing beer around that flavor.  Birch syrup is difficult to describe – it’s very complex, with intense notes of caramel, molasses, dark fruit and horehound candy.  Try describing the flavor of maple syrup without using the word maple!

The three aged ales are the same beer recipe, but they have varying amounts of sap in them – 25, 35 and 45 gallons of sap boiled down to make 5 gallon batches of homebrew.

The three new ales each have the same amount of condensed birch sap, but the malt & hops recipes vary from light to dark, with hops kept low to bring malt and birch flavors to the front.  Come in, give them a try and cast a vote.  These homebrews are donated and are free, and will be served as ~2 oz. samples.  To read more about using birch sap, see the next post below.


Birch sap flows pretty fast from productive trees.


Making Syrup, Birch Beer and Birch Mead from Birch Sap

After a few years of brewing with birch sap, I’m publishing some notes.  There very little on the web about making actual birch beer, not birch soda, so publishing some information seems appropriate.

Making birch syrup, birch beer, birch mead

If you want to ask questions or make comments privately, use the “Contact Us” tab on this page.

Brew Guru Brew Discounts

Not too long ago, Rapids Brewing joined the Brew Guru Program of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA).  Our two brewpubs in Grand Rapids are now both in the program, and both offer discounts to members of the AHA.

Rapids Brewing offers $1 off per beer, and Klockow Brewing offers $1 off per pint.

Why would you care?  Well, a digital membership with the AHA is $43 per year, or $35 per year for 3 years.  If you buy one beer a week at either Klockow or Rapids, you’ve covered the cost of the membership.  How hard is that?  It’s like making money!  A print/digital membership with a copy of  Zymurgy magazine delivered every other month is $49/year or $40/year for 3 years.  Still saving money!

The Brew Guru phone app will guide you to over 2,500 member discounts around the country.  You can bring up an area on a map, or search from where you are and find participating business with discounts on beer, food and brewing supplies.  The app will show you every brewpub in any area, brew supply stores and whether or not they have discounts, which is great for trip planning.

Membership in the AHA gets you:

Access to the Brew Guru app

A stream of excellent information on brewing techniques, equipment, ingredients, historical investigations on beer styles, and a long list of brewing ideas.  Almost every article includes recipes for making the brew being discussed, from Cream Ale to Kveik.  AHA brings you an array of info for beginners, intermediates and experts.  And the annual Gadget Edition.

Access to hundreds of medal-winning recipes, and tons of recipes and brew info from your phone

Access to hundreds of recorded seminars from AHA national conferences

Access to 20 years of the archives of Zymurgy magazine.

Access to member discounts on books – including Brewing Classic Styles available as a free promo right now.

National advocacy for homebrewing.  When the Boreal Brewers took on the task of revising Minnesota’s homebrew laws to allow public homebrew sharing in 2014, the AHA was a huge supporting influence, mobilizing brew clubs and AHA members across Minnesota to contact legislators and be heard.

It’s worth joining.