Connecticut Magazine features a great local vendor who skillfully combines maple syrup and local distilleries. They were also voted “Best Maple Syrup in Connecticut.”
When people try Maple Craft Foods’ bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup for the first time and taste the all-natural sweetness of the Vermont syrup layered with subtle smoke and caramel flavors imparted by aging in bourbon barrels, their reactions are often visceral, Dave Ackert says.
Watching new fans “ooh” and “ah” their way through this tasting is the best part of the job for Ackert, who owns the Newtown-based company along with his wife Eve, father Paul, and friend Bill Begany, of Begany Design.
Bourbon barrel maple is the company’s flagship product, and though it does not contain alcohol, it is the offspring of the burgeoning craft beer and distilling industries in Connecticut.
To make it, Ackert buys spent bourbon barrels from Litchfield Distillery (bourbon must be made in a new charred oak barrel). Ackert can only use each barrel once or twice before the bourbon flavors he needs fade. He sells his used barrels to local breweries, who are eager to age beer in a maple-infused environment. Veracious Brewing Co. in Monroe has made beer from Ackert’s spent maple barrels, and Thimble Island Brewing Co. in Branford used his spent barrels for its barrel-aged pumpkin porter.
Breweries and distilleries routinely trade barrels, and Ackert is happy to be part of the craft world’s barrel-aging food chain. “I’m sort of here in the middle,” he says. “It’s the ultimate recycle-repurpose-reuse tool of the trade for anybody in this craft liquid business.”
In addition to the bourbon maple, Maple Craft offers blueberry and salted caramel flavors. All are made with organic, all-natural ingredients. In 2016 bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup took first place at the 2016 Connecticut Food Association Specialty Food Competition.