Food & Farming
Nature / Natural Resources

The Flavors of Maple Syrup Grades Explained

Posted by Holly Brough
Director of Communications

stacked sample bottles of maple syrup in a window
Sarah Webb

This year, our sugaring season started February 5th–the earliest day ever–and we're still going as of March 19th. As we soon turn to bottling the sweet syrup, here’s what you need to know to choose the perfect syrup for your taste.

Maple syrup grades reflect the liquid’s clarity, density, color, and flavor. Clarity and density are the same across all grades (density is a measure of sugar content). So it really comes down to color and flavor.

“Color” is a measure of how much light gets through the syrup. (Golden has a light transmission at or above 75%. Dark ranges between 25% and 50%). Flavor is, well, maple flavor! Loosely speaking, the darker the color, the stronger the maple flavor. 


Grade A | Golden Color, Delicate Taste

People love the golden color and the light maple taste of this grade. Although for some people, the flavor is not maple-y enough, for others, it’s just right! Think ice cream drizzle or cocktail amendment. We didn’t make any Golden in 2024.


Grade A | Amber Color, Rich Taste 

This is, generally speaking, a crowd favorite because of its classic “maple syrup” color and its smooth maple flavor, usually produced mid-season.


Grade A | Dark Color, Robust Taste

As sugaring days become warmer and longer, the syrup’s flavor shifts becoming stronger and more intense. Its color changes, too. Natural microorganisms build up in the lines and they break down the sap sugar into different types of sugar that caramelize more quickly during boiling, so the resulting syrup is darker. This strong maple flavor lends itself to meat glazes, baking recipes, or drizzled on waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal. 


Grade A | Very Dark, Strong Taste

The last of the grades, this syrup has a color almost like molasses, with a flavor that holds up well in cooking and in marinades, though you might not prefer it over ice cream. We don’t make Very Dark.

3 tall thin bottles of maple syrup of different grades
Carey Nershi

Why no Grade B? The international grading system that Vermont was the first to adopt in 2015 eliminated “Grade B” because people understandably assumed that Grade B syrup was lower quality. It wasn’t. It was produced with the same standards as Grade A syrup. It just tasted different. 

That’s the lowdown. Our friends at Butternut Mountain Farm have a great guide to the grades, too, but really, as you choose your syrup, just remember two things: 

1. To echo what our cheesemaker Andi Wandt recently said about cheddar: “Eat it with what you like, the way you like, and most importantly, have fun with it!” In particular, you may enjoy some of these recipes!

2. Thank the sugar maples that make the sap where it all begins.  

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