Alaska Birch Syrup Makes Worldwide Splash
Kahiltna Birchworks named “Manufacturer of the Year” by Alaska Department of Commerce
TALKEETNA - The “Made in Alaska” label is something to be proud of, and so is an Alaska product that is gaining worldwide attention. The Kahiltna Birchworks Syrup Company produces pure organic syrup from Alaska birch trees near Talkeetna and was recently named “Manufacturer of the Year” by the State Department of Commerce.
Michael and Dulce East started Kahiltna Birchworks 23 years ago at their homestead near the Kahiltna glacier. At the time it seemed a simple way to live off the land and generate a small income. But the company has continued to grow. Three years ago they moved the operation to a base in Talkeetna.
Today the Easts are tapping about 10,000 trees on land they lease for the purpose. They’ve hired a small band of college students to help with the three-week harvest that happens every spring. The workers, called “Sap Suckers,” are responsible for sucking up the sap that accumulates in thousands of buckets that hang from the tapped trees, then transporting that sap back to the cooking facility in Talkeetna.
Owner Dulce Ben-East says demand for the product has grown tremendously in just the last few months.
“There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about us in early March which generated an incredible amount of on-line sales,” says Ben-East. “We are filling them now because we were basically out of product from last year.”
The couple has no problem selling everything they make, because it’s difficult for them to make a lot. Unlike maple syrup, where 40 gallons of sap will yield a gallon of syrup, the high water content and low sugar in birch sap make for a different equation. It takes more than 100 gallons from Alaska trees to make a single gallon of birch syrup.
The syrup is sold as a pure organic product. The company also makes candies and other sauces where the birch syrup is a prime ingredient. In addition, many local companies are using Kahiltna birch syrup in their products, including a flavor of Matanuska Creamery ice cream as well as a beer produced by the Alaska Brewing Company.