Drewry Farms Maple SyrupMiles to Market - 49 Located W5762 Winooski Road
It’s all dark browns and grays, the landscape now. Nature, in this small stand of trees an hour north of Milwaukee, seems fast asleep under the worn blanket of tired snow. Even on a crystalline-blue early March day, it’s whisper-quiet in the woods.
In this forest, farmed by the Drewry family for more than 160 years, it’s the dawn of a new season producing maple syrup. For the next five or six weeks, the family business will be crazy. You make syrup when the sap runs.
Barb Drewry-Zimmerman is the manager of the farm and, as much as anyone, runs the maple syrup operation here. On the day I visit, Barb is bright and cheery and spattered with paint specks from house painting. She matter-of-factly recounts her family’s proud history on the land. “I’ve seen old family photos of maple syrup production from the late 1800s, when they made just enough for the family,” she recalls. “For the past 100 or so years, we’ve been selling it commercially.”
You can find it at a few stores in the area, local farmers markets, and at all three Outpost locations, still with the gold label designed by Barb’s mother’s mother.
This is a small family business, and a tour of the facilities reveals a place built by necessity, frugality and ingenuity. An intricate network of tubing runs through the forest, collecting the sap. In some sections, a vacuum system helps coax the sap more quickly and increases yield.
At the steamhouse, sap collects in two large steel troughs, formerly used by cheesemakers. From there, it moves into a reverse osmosis (RO) machine which helps accelerate the separation of water from the syrup.
The RO speeds up the process so the liquid needs far less boiling time before it’s syrup. It creates a more lightly-hued syrup, and some confusion on the part of consumers, who might think a lighter syrup is less authentic or contains additives. “A lot of people look for darker syrup because they think it will have more flavor,” Barb notes. “But when you use a reverse osmosis machine to help remove water from the syrup, you just reduce the amount of boiling time needed.”
The vacuums and the RO machine help the Drewrys make more syrup, which they hope meets the rising demand they’ve seen over the past several years. Barb says sales have grown steadily in recent years.
“It’s a no brainer, to me,” she says of the sales growth. “There’s just so much interest in natural foods these days.” And sap, collected from a tree, boiled and bottled… you can’t get much more natural that that.