When the snow begins to melt and the temps moderate in New England, beer on tap takes a back seat to maple syrup on tap, especially in New Hampshire and Vermont. This year’s sugaring season is expected to flow like the nectar of Gods, thanks to ideal conditions. Here are some sugarhouses where you can experience the sap-to-syrup process, dig into pancakes, and celebrate the season.
“Due to the relatively mild winter temperatures this year, New Hampshire maple season is off to an early start and many of the producers are already getting great sap flows,” says Sue Folsom, treasurer of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, sponsor of the 25th annual N.H. Maple Weekend on March 21 and 22. More than 70 sugarhouses across the state participate, and 90,000-plus gallons of syrup will be produced this year.
And the maple syrup party flows all month long. “No matter where you are in New Hampshire, the sugarhouses will be open on weekends during Maple Month, providing visitors a chance to enjoy the best maple syrup the region has to offer,” says Folsom. For a complete listing of the participating sugar houses, visit nhmapleproducers.com/maple-month/
The Sugar Shack at 100-Acre Wood in Intervale is popular, especially for kids. If there is steam flowing out of the shack, you’re welcome to stop in for a free up-close look at the sap-to-syrup process, and for samples, too. The best part: Believe in Books Literacy Foundation operates the Sugar Shack and supplies “Tap Your Own” tree kits, with buckets to borrow, and equipment for tapping, including drill bits and spiles. After you tap your sap, bring it to the Sugar Shack and trade it in for maple syrup. Open on weekends in March and April, or throw on your boots (this is also mud season in New England) and swing by to take a self-guided tour on the Maple Storybook Trail, located near the Sugar Shack, any day during the week. www.believeinbooks.org/maple-sugaring.html
Family-run Georgia Mountain Maples farm in Milton taps not only maple, but birch trees, too.
“The birch syrup usually begins to flow the first week in April and we will make our 2020 birch crop then,” says Shannon Harrison, owner. “We do have birch syrup for tasting and available for sale from our 2019 crop.”
Harrison says birch syrup, which is less sweet than maple, is gaining in popularity. “It is used in many restaurants and bars,” she says. “We were very excited that Eleven Madison Park in New York City used the birch syrup on their winter menu this year.” Harrison, who bartended through college, says she uses the syrup in cocktails — a good bourbon, a splash of birch syrup, and a squeeze of fresh lemon served on the rocks.
“We are in full swing around here,” says Harrison. “The maple sap is flowing, and we are making a beautiful maple crop this season.” The farm serves more than 1,000 visitors at weekend pancake breakfasts in March. And, weather permitting, you can stroll in the Sugar Woods to view the maple and birch trees that are tapped. The sugarhouse is also open to view the sugaring process from start to finish, with free tours, and warm samples, too. “It does not get any sweeter than to taste the fresh maple syrup as it draws off from the evaporator,” says Harrison. www.georgiamountainmaples.com
The sweet spot: In the heart of maple country in Rochester sits Liberty Hill Farm & Inn, a dairy lodging farm surrounded by sugarhouses, like Silloway Maple for hayrides and sugar on snow treats. Spend the night at the farm and dine on seasonal-inspired dishes, including maple chicken with maple garlic pepper and a maple apple custard torte. Rates begin at $142 per adult, $68 per child, per night, and includes family-style dinner at 6 p.m., full breakfast, and farm activities (like feeding the calves). www.libertyhillfarm.com
The 2,000 sugar maples at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe are flowing with sap and the Sugar Maple Snowshoe Tours are in full swing for the sugaring season. You can also walk or strap on your cross-country skis to get to the sugarhouse to watch the sap boil — the syrup is used in the resort’s four restaurants. Book the “March is for Maple” package, which includes snowshoe rentals daily, a guided Maple Sugaring Tour, and a bottle of syrup. The package starts at $285 per night. Or, go just for the day; the tours costs $15 per person. www.trappfamily.com
Culinary darling White Barn Inn Restaurant in Kennebunk celebrates spring’s maple syrup harvest with an authentic Quebecois community-tabled feast known as Cabane à Sucre.
The third annual dinner takes place March 29 in a partnership with Stickman Dialysis of Arundel — all ticket and auction proceeds will be donated to the American Kidney Fund. The menu features dishes like maple glazed ham with baked beans, maple and cheddar egg souffle, crepes with maple syrup, taffy on snow — the maple syrup is sourced from the Irish Maple Sugar House in Shapleigh. Tickets begin at $75 per person. You can also spend the night at the inn; room rates begin at $289 per night. aubergeresorts.com/whitebarninn/
Laurie Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.