Grade A sugarhouses: Syrups awarded in Heath & Conway

Nov 5 2015
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The Recorder, October 29, 2015 by Tom Relihan.

CONWAY — On the heels of a record-breaking sugaring season, two Franklin County sugarhouses have been awarded for their maple syrups by the North American Maple Syrup Council.

Girard Sugarhouse of Heath took first place in the organization’s annual competition for its Grade A Golden syrup, while Boyden Brothers’ Sugarhouse of Conway came in second with its Grade A Amber syrup. The contest saw over 120 entries from 12 U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Entries were judged based on flavor, color, clarity and density.

Howard Boyden, who runs the Conway sugarhouse with his wife, Jeanne, said they’ve entered the competition about six times, and this isn’t the first time they’ve been decorated for their product.

“We’ve always taken away at least one prize, sometimes more than one,” Boyden said. The couple took a first-place ribbon for their maple candy when Massachusetts hosted the council. He said they originally started competing so they could keep a pulse on how their product was doing relative to other sugarhouses’ and to get out and see different places.

The competition has taken them to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, among other locales.
“These competitions are where the big boys come out to play,” said Boyden. “We compete against the cream of the crop, but people are starting to recognize the Boydens!” he laughed.

Boyden said formulating the sugarhouse’s syrup to turn out an award-winning product requires good management practices, sanitary conditions, and attention to minute details.

“You’ve got to boil the sap when it’s fresh, and I’m convinced that the ‘terroir’ where the trees are grown has something to do with it. We’re in kind of a special spot here in western Massachusetts; we’ve got some minerals here that there aren’t in other places.”

Boyden said his wife does most of the taste-testing to decide which batch gets entered.

“Jeanne decides, so she gets most of the credit. She’ll set out each batch and taste them to see which is the best, she’s the one with the palate for it, for sure.”

“I’m extremely honored and quite proud,” said Boyden of the prize. He noted that the ribbons were the first thing Jeanne Boyden tore off the walls and whisked out the door when the sugarhouse caught fire and half-burned earlier this year.

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264 On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom

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