Last spring, I caused a near scandal in our small town when I tapped the birch tree in front of our new house. The locals scoffed, thinking I couldn’t tell the difference between a maple and a birch. My husband and I had to go down to the breakfast place to casually mention that I was brewing with it. Then all the oldtimers suddenly remembered their granddads used to make birch beer and birch wine, and suddenly everyone within many miles had heard about it. People I’d never met stopped by to ask how the wine was coming. It was crazy.
What was just as crazy is how successful the recipe was. While it takes 30-40 gallons of maple sap to make a single gallon of syrup, it can take as many as 70-100 gallons of birch sap to make a single gallon of birch syrup. After about 4 months of fermenting, the wine at the time of bottling was hopefully tasty. By Thanksgiving, a few months later, it was fantastic. Flavorful, with a curious citric kick. It’s a little cloudy, but with a beautiful honey color, at 6% ABV. I got about a gallon of wine from this first round, but will definitely tap a few more trees this spring. Although the original recipe called for a few spices, I opted for a plain version first, but look forward to trying both soon.
Update: I’ve made this wine again in spring of 2015, and I think it took me about 20 gallons to get enough sap for a 2 gallon batch of wine. A much better ratio than trying to make straight birch syrup!
Where in Fiction?
I suspect it’ll be up in the North of Westeros, where the forests are thick with trees, and anything that can be fermented, would be.
Birch Wine Recipe
Cook’s Notes: I can’t give you an exact figure for how much sap you’ll need for a gallon, but when I make this again this spring, I’ll update the recipe. In any case, you should aim for an Original Gravity of about 1.08.
“To every gallon whereof, add a pound of refined sugar, and boyl it about a quarter of an hour; then set it to cool, and add a very little yest to it, and it will ferment, and thereby purge it self from that little dross the Liquor and Sugar can yield: then put it in a barrel, and add thereto a small proportion of cinnamon and Mace bruised, about half an ounce of both to ten Gallons; then stop it very close, and about a month after bottle it, and in a few days you will have a most delicate brisk Wine of a Flavour like unto a Rhenish… Instead of every pound of sugar, if you add a quart of Honey and boyl it as before, and adding Spice, and fermenting it as you should do Metheglin, it makes an admired Drink, both pleasant and medicinable.” -Vinetum Britannicum, 1678
- Sufficient birch sap, gently boiled down to 1.06 gravity, to make about 1/2 gallon (see note above)
- 1 cup sultanas, chopped
- 1 lb. cane sugar
- water to top off
- ale yeast
Combine all ingredients, shaking occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Ferment until finished, then bottle. Yes, it was that simple.