Sap on Tap: Father and Son Duo Use Black Birch Sap As Key Ingredient in Noble Birch Beer

Offered at Rapscallion Brewery and
Restaurants Table & Tap and Kitchen & Bar

 Randy Noble taps a black birch tree.

Randy Noble taps a black birch tree.

Sturbridge, Mass. | Just as the maple syrup season comes to a close in early April, another underutilized and often overlooked tree begins its tapping season, the black birch tree. 

The black birch does not stand out in the woods like its more well-known sister, the white birch, but upon close examination of the bark one would easily recognize the same notches and tick marks ingrained on the tree. Need another telltale sign? Snap off a twig, bring it to your nose and breathe in its wintergreen aroma. 

It’s this subtly-sweet extract from the tree that makes the “Noble Birch” beer, now available on tap at Rapscallion brewery and its restaurants, so unique. 

This labor of love is a collaboration brewed by father and son duo, Randy and Jonas Noble. 

 Black birch twigs used for steeping. 

Black birch twigs used for steeping. 

Randy, 63, an avid outdoorsman, hunter and longtime home-cidermaker, stumbled upon the recipe for a beer made out of black birch sap in an outdoor adventure guide. His son, Jonas, 35, the head brewer at Rapscallion Brewery, toyed with the recipe to make it more pliable for commercial brewing. 

No water is used in the production of this beer. Instead,  approximately 150 gallons of black birch sap is tapped and extracted from the trees on the brewery property by Randy, and chilled in large steel gallon drums. It takes about a week to collect this amount. The black birch sap flows quickly from the tree and is more fluid compared to maple sap.

Then, Jonas has a short amount of time to start the brewing process before the sap begins to perish and turn bitter. The liquid is infused with local honey and malt, and steeped with twigs from the same tree during the boiling process to increase its wintergreen nose and aroma. The beer pours clear and is completely hop free. 

“Noble Birch has a distinct quality to it -- I really kick up the carbonation so it drinks more like a refreshing soda,” says Jonas.

The beer is meant to be sipped due to its high alcohol content ranging from 9 to 12% ABV. The 2018 batch comes in around 10.5% and is served in a small goblet to keep consumers on their feet. 

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This is the fifth year that Noble Birch has been brewed at Rapscallion Brewery and it has quite a following among its longtime customer base. The beer, which is served only on tap, typically sells out quickly due to the small quantity that the brewery can produce.  

“It’s not a beer that you’ll soon forget,” says Jonas. “Many like it as an aperitif or digestif, and we plan to work with our chef to experiment pairing it with some of our new desserts or even making some beer cocktails with it. It’s unlike any seasonal beer you’ll try.” 

Rapscallion plans to hold two releases of the Noble Birch, this summer and again in the winter of 2019. For more information, visit drinkrapscallion.com  

Want to try it? Get out there: 

Brewery & Tap Room
195 Arnold Road, Sturbridge, MA

Table & Tap
5 Strawberry Hill Road, Acton, MA

Kitchen & Bar
208 Fitchburg Turnpike, Concord, MA