Brewing birch sap

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Andres Falconer

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Oct 13, 2020
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As it happens, I now find myself with an ample supply of fresh birch water/sap. A tree snapped in half during a storm, thus we have been tapping it ruthlessly, with 12 spiles, since it's going to die anyway. The result is about 15l (3.3 gallons)/day. We drank all we could, gave away buckets to family and friends and even boiled a good amount down into syrup. Obviously, my interest has also turned into fermenting the stuff into something. There are recipes out there for birch "beers" and "wines". I wasn't too thrilled with any of the recipes I saw, but when the sap started coming out of my ears (and some of it soured - we don't have freezer space), it was time to get brewing... I found this online: Birch sap recipes – Woodland Ways Blog – Bushcraft and Survival and tried both recipes. I'm curious to know your thoughts on them.

Birch sap "wine"
4.5 liters Birch Sap
200g chopped raisins
1kg sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
General purpose yeast.

Boil the sap soon after collecting, add the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the raisins to a fermenting bucket and pour on the boiling sap/sugar mixture and lemon juice. Start the yeast in a cup with some sugar and warm water and add to the mixture. Cover the container and leave to ferment for 3 days then strain off into a demijohn and seal with an airlock. Leave in a warm room until the fermentation has stopped. Filter the wine to remove the sediment and bottle into clean, sterilized bottles. Cork and leave for at least a month but six months is even better.

Birch sap "beer"
5 litres birch sap
1.25 kg honey
2 litres of birch twigs
Activated Champagne yeast
Sugar for priming

Boil the sap for 10 minutes then stir in the honey. Cut the twigs up to 10cm lengths and add to the pot. Allow to cool to room temperature and then strain into fermentation bin. Pitch the champagne yeast and leave for 4-7 days until fully fermented. Prime 500ml bottles with half teaspoon of sugar and leave for two weeks before drinking.

My take: birch sap has close to no fermentable sugar, so of course it's the added cane sugar in the "wine" and the honey in the "beer" that will ferment. But what - if anything - does the birch sap add? For the wine recipe, I thought "that's a lot of raisins, and not little lemon juice for 4.5l". That's likely also for flavor, not just for nutrients and pH balance. Instead of general purpose yeast, I used my reliable harvested hornindal kveik. It's been bubbling away beautifully for the past 24 hours.

The birch "beer" recipe is more akin to a mead - though the proportion of honey to water is lower than what I usually see. I never saw any other "birch mead" recipe out there. Does anyone know if it's a thing, and what it's called (and by mead, I mean using actual honey, not birch syrup instead of honey)? I tripled the quantities in the recipe, used some good lime tree (linden) honey. My changes: I boiled the birch/honey with a pinch of Irish moss for a few minutes and skimmed the froth/scum before flameout and adding the twigs. I will also do a staggered yeast nutrient addition, as I usually do with mead. The yeast was Red Star Premier Cuvee, which works for my classic meads. The twigs (fresh, nearly sprouting at this time of the year) are the curious touch for me. I didn't boil them to avoid harsh flavors, but don't really know what to expect in terms of flavors. I have to say the honey-infused twigs smelled lovely when I fished them out of the kettle... So far, no noticeable airlock action after 24 hours. Will check what's going on in the fermenter when I open the lid tomorrow to add the nutrient.

What do you think these will taste like? Any recommendations/changes for these recipes? Do you have any other killer birch sap recipe?

Finally, does anyone have any knowledge or opinion on the books where these recipes came from (Booze for Free, by Andy Hamilton and Wild Food, by Roger Phillips)? I see they're from the world of foragers rather than the more technical homebrewing community, but you can often pick up interesting ideas from that community. Worth buying?

Apologies for the long post - I can keep you updated as these babies develop. And still have fresh sap for a few more days to try new things you might recommend!


Opinionated Newb
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Mar 10, 2021
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Seem to remember that Euell Gibbons had a lot to say about using birch trees for various things. Beer was one of them. Maybe in his book "Stalking the Wild Aspargus" if I remember the title correctly.