WAUSAU — The Solin family has been making maple syrup in northern Wisconsin for more than 60 years. But it was through experimenting with that maple syrup that Jeremy and Abi Solin’s business, Tapped Maple Syrup, was formed.
Now, in addition to their regular maple syrup, Tapped Maple Syrup offers nine flavor-infused varieties and a whiskey barrel aged syrup.
“Maple syrup is for more than just pancakes,” Jeremy said June 5 at the Tapped Maple Syrup Release Party in Wausau. “We’re focused on expanding how people think about using maple syrup. It’s an amazing flavoring. It’s a great substitute for processed sugar from a health standpoint. It’s a fuel for endurance athletes because it has good electrolytes and sugar.”
The idea for Tapped Maple Syrup came from some experimenting Jeremy and Abi were doing in their Stevens Point kitchen.
“There are so many people out there doing interesting things with food. We’ve always appreciated good food, and we thought we should dabble in it,” Abi said. “Our kitchen became a big lab. We had all kinds of maple syrup bottles with different kinds of infusions in them.”
Abi said friends who sampled their experimental products were very complimentary.
“We thoughe, ‘Why don’t we just try it,’” Abi said. “Now every year, we want to try something different, try something new. This year the hibiscus is a trendy thing, so we tried that and really like it.
“It’s been fun to dabble and experiment.”
Tapped Maple Syrup’s 2019 lineup includes a whiskey barrel aged syrup made in partnership with Great Northern Distillers in Plover and hibiscus and hops craft-infused syrups. In addition to hibiscus and hops, Tapped’s craft-infused syrup collection includes cardamom, cinnamon, espresso, ginger, ginseng, red pepper and turmeric.
Tapped’s infused flavors are made by steeping the ingredients in their maple syrup. The syrup is then filtered before bottling.
Abi said her favorite is the ginger and it goes with just about anything, including oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, cocktails and grilled vegetables.
“There are all kinds of ways to use the syrups,” she said.
Hilton Garden Inn Wausau Executive Chef Mitch Below created a menu for the Tapped Maple Syrup Release Party including entrees, appetizers and desserts.
“The infusions sometimes lend themselves to things I wouldn’t have thought about if I was using just maple syrup by itself,” Below said. “Maple syrup lends itself to desserts very easily. There can be some challenges to get it worked into savory dishes. The barbecue sauce on the rib dish, I like a lot. It’s exactly what I want in a sauce for ribs.
“That’s what I like, it challenges you a little bit. That’s where cooking becomes cooking.”
Jeff Dixon, master bartender and beverage director at the Hilton Garden Inn Wausau, mixed drinks using Tapped Maple Syrup’s craft-infused syrups during the Tapped Maple Syrup Release Party. Dixon said the old-fashioned was popular among guests, who were trying several maple syrup flavors with the drink.
“Using maple syrup as a sweetener is one my favorite things to do with cocktails,” Dixon said. “It adds a lot of depth of flavor and nuance you don’t get with simple syrup or even honey.
“Jeremy is really pushing the boundaries on flavor profiles in what he’s making. I’m going to carry his products in the bar as long as I’m a bar manager.”
Tapped Maple Syrup products are currently available around Wisconsin, but the couple has plans to possibly expand.
“We’re taking a trip to Denver, so we’ll put the samples in the car and if we end up somewhere we think the products would work, we might suggest it,” Abi said. “Jeremy has been so great at taking it with us places and saying, ‘Try it.’ And once people try it, they’re hooked.”
Tapped Maple Syrup is owned by Jeremy and Abi, but Jeremy’s father, Dave, handles most of the production work, Jeremy said.
Dave’s grandparents settled on the family’s property north of Antigo in 1915, and they were the first generation of the family to make maple syrup on the farm. Dave and his brother took over the farm in 1971 and focused on logging while expanding the maple syrup operation to the point where they tapped 1,700 trees.
“We found out it was more work than fun, so we got out of it for a couple years,” Dave said. “After a few years, I started it back up with just 150-200 trees. Then Jeremy came along and said, ‘Maybe we should do a little bit more.’”
Jeremy and Abi’s three children are the fifth generation of the family to help make maple syrup on the farm.
“It’s always been part of what we’ve done and an important spring ritual for us,” Jeremy said.
After restarting the maple syrup operation, the Solins grew to 400 trees the following year and added another 200 each of the next two years.
“We had planned to do more, but there are plenty of farmers in the area who had sap to sell, so we decided to buy from them,” Dave said.
Jeremy said his experience growing up with his family in the logging industry showed him how difficult it would be to make the maple syrup business work on commodity-level production without being a large-scale producer. That led him into looking at value-added products.
“The vision of Tapped is that it is not only able to support our family and forestland but others who are interested in caring for their forestlands,” Jeremy said. “That expansion and working with other small maple-syrup producers is important.
“The focus is about caring for our forestlands and finding a way that we’re able to keep those lands in our family and generate some revenue so they can stay as forest.”
After a slow start to the maple-syrup season this year, Dave said he ended up making 422 gallons of syrup.
“We were kind of scared at the start,” Dave said. “It turned into a good year.”
Jeremy said he sees room for growth in the maple-syrup industry in Wisconsin and would eventually like to see the state compete with Vermont and New York as the top producers of the product.
“For us, it’s about caring for forests and sustaining rural economies,” he said. “Wisconsin has so much potential to grow maple syrup as an industry. Approaching it from the innovation standpoint is really important.”
Jeremy said he is excited to see Tapped Maple Syrup continue to grow, and he expects the company will sell about 750 gallons of syrup this year.
“There’s a lot of support in Wisconsin for people who are doing things locally,” Abi said. “I think that’s a huge thing right now, and so critical. People are making the connection that it’s advantageous to all of us to work together and support each other. It’s really nice to see.”