Spring at the Co-op is always an exciting time as we shift gears and start to prepare ourselves for summer’s bounty. As the temperatures rise, it’s time to head outside and what better way to do that than with a visit to our local vendors? Every other month, we host staff vendor tours where employees from different departments get a chance to head out to visit our farmers and vendors and tour their operations.
Last week, a group of us visited Purinton Maple in Huntington and Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield. Peter Purinton, our host at stop #1 has been tapping trees on the same land since 1979 and selling his syrup to the Co-op for just as long. He officially purchased the 350-acre farm in 1984 and transformed a 10,000 bucket operation into a tubing system, tapping 17,000 trees each season.
Our tour began outside where Peter explained the first step of the process of harvesting maple syrup and showed us how they choose where to drill into the tree. Peter explained, “A system of plastic tubing is hung throughout the sugarbush to carry the sap to the sugar bush. A 5/16″ hole is drilled into the maple tree and a spout is lightly hammered into the tree. The spout is connected to 5/16″ tubing and a lateral line. The lateral line connects to a mainline that is anywhere from 1/2″ to 2″. The sap travels through the system of tubes to the sugarhouse where is filtered and stored in stainless tanks.” Next in the process, the sap is filtered again before going through the reverse osmosis machine which helps to concentrate the sap before being boiled.
As we toured the facility, Peter explained the different grades of maple syrup and discussed some of the auditing and inspection processes for certified maple syrup. Check out the graph below for an overview of maple syrup grades.
Before heading off to our next stop, we tasted some of their delicious maple candies and learned that Purinton provides maple syrup to Lawson’s Finest Liquids for their maple brews—it’s always great to see how our local vendors work together to support our local economy.
After a short drive over the winding Appalachian Gap, we arrived at Lawson’s new brewery and taproom which opened in the fall of 2018. We met with Chuck, Lawson’s Brand Ambassador who welcomed us into their taproom, sharing all of the ways in which the construction of the building utilized local products from timber to light fixtures, and everything in between.
We were then able to tour the production area where Chuck shared the story of their transition from a 7 barrel brewhouse to a 30 barrel system with a state of the art canning line and lab to ensure no off-flavors are present in their brews.
Their commitment to craft and quality as well as their drive to support the Mad River Valley was evident throughout our visit and knowing they use Purinton Maple in their beers makes their Maple Nipple beer even more delicious!