1 gallon of maple syrup per 5 gallon batch of beer? Can anyone back this up?

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May 2, 2021
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Has anyone made a beer with 1 gallon of maple syrup?

I’d like to brew a doppelbock-type beer with noticeable maple flavor, but I don't want a cloying, syrupy liqueur either. I also want to avoid artificial flavorings or extracts. Searching forums, books, podcasts, etc, I’ve found that Charlie Papazian, John Palmer, and others recommend 1 gallon of maple syrup in a 5 gallon batch of beer, but I can’t seem to find any details to back this up. While highlighting the delicate, dry maple flavor likely requires large volumes of syrup (assuming most of the sugar is fermented out), maple wine isn’t my goal. The numbers aren’t adding up:

Take 1 gallon of syrup, which is 11 pounds syrup, and add 4 gallons water = OG 1.066. If all the sugar in this fermented, it would be a 10.8% ABV beverage without any malt. Add in a very conservative 7 pound all-grain malt bill and WLP-830, OG becomes 1.103 and FG around 1.030 with an ABV of 10% (assuming this is a reasonable alcohol tolerance for the yeast). Fermentables are coming in at 61% maple syrup and 39% malt. Will this still taste like beer?

With a more typical malt bill of 11 lbs, the FG for sure would be higher and likely approach a syrupy 1.050 if the alcohol tolerance is around 10%. Using yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance and the 7 pound malt bill yields a final gravity as low as 0.992 and an ABV as high as 15%! Or let’s say WLP-001 with 11 lbs malt and 11 lbs maple syrup: ~13% “beer” with a 1.030 FG! Yikes.

If the goal is to preserve the maple flavor by way of completely overpowering any normal beer yeast with alcohol to ensure incomplete fermentation and significant residual sweetness, I feel like there are other ways of doing this that don’t waste this precious stuff and avoid a sweet, highly boozy pseudobeer.

It seems like the solution is to use significantly less but still a considerable amount of maple syrup to preserve the “beer” character without being overly sweet or alcoholic. My thinking is to add a half gallon of the darkest, lowest grade syrup I can find during waning primary fermentation, taste once the yeast has had enough, and potentially add more syrup versus adding higher gravity yeast depending on my FG. I may also add a very small amount syrup to the keg after cold-crash for a quick jolt of maple.
Syrup. Per Papazian’s fourth edition of the complete joy of homebrewing and John Palmer’s How to brew. Even if you used 7 gallons of sap that’s equivalent to less than a quart of syrup in terms of sugar content.