Maple syrup is a popular natural sweetener that comes from the sap of maple trees. It goes through a careful production process that includes tapping trees, collecting and filtering the sap, and finally boiling it down into syrup. Maple syrup is graded based on color and flavor – historically using grades A, B, and C. However, the grading system has recently changed, leading to some confusion around what used to be called Grade B maple syrup.
The Old Maple Syrup Grading System
Here is a quick overview of the old maple syrup grading system:
- Grade A – Light amber color and mild maple flavor
- Grade B – Dark amber color and robust maple flavor
- Grade C – Dark color and strong maple flavor
Grade A was considered the premium grade, while Grade C had the strongest maple flavors. Grade B fell somewhere in between – darker and richer than Grade A, but lighter than Grade C.
Under this system, Grade B maple syrup was known for its bolder, more pronounced maple taste. It had a darker color and was popular among maple syrup connoisseurs who enjoyed the complexity of flavor it added.
Changes to Maple Syrup Grading
In 2015, the maple syrup grading system used in the United States and Canada changed. The International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) and other industry groups updated the classifications to the following:
|New Grade||Flavor Description|
|Grade A Golden||Delicate taste|
|Grade A Amber||Rich taste|
|Grade A Dark||Robust taste|
|Grade A Very Dark||Strong taste|
As you can see, Grade B no longer exists under the new system. Instead, maple syrup is categorized into Grade A with four color/flavor variants – Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark.
What Happened to Grade B Maple Syrup?
When the grades changed, Grade B maple syrup essentially got renamed and split into two classifications:
- Grade A Dark – This new grade takes over the mid-range space that Grade B once occupied. It has a robust maple flavor profile.
- Grade A Very Dark – The darkest in color and richest in taste, this new grade is similar to what the old Grade C syrup provided. It has a stronger maple taste than what Grade B historically had.
Under the updated system, Grade A Dark is now considered the closest match to traditional Grade B maple syrup. When you see Grade A Dark maple syrup, you can expect a bolder, more complex maple flavor similar to Grade B, without being quite as strong as Grade C/Grade A Very Dark.
Why Was Maple Syrup Grading Changed?
There were a few key reasons the maple syrup grading standards were updated:
- More consistency – The old grades were loose and variable, making it difficult for consumers to know exactly what they were getting. The new grades create more defined flavor profiles.
- Remove stigma of Grade B – There was a misconception that Grade B was inferior, which it wasn’t. Removing Grade B eliminates this confusion.
- International alignment – The new grades align U.S. and Canadian maple syrup on the same classification system for easier international trade.
In the end, the new grading system allows for more clarity and precision around maple syrup flavors. While Grade B technically no longer exists, Grade A Dark captures its rich maple taste.
Buying Maple Syrup With a Grade B Flavor Profile
If you want maple syrup with deep maple notes like old Grade B, look for bottles marked Grade A Dark. This grade wasn’t always available since it essentially replaces Grade B under the new system. But most maple syrup producers now offer Grade A Dark syrup to meet demand from fans of the previous Grade B flavor.
You may also see labels like “Grade A – Formerly Grade B” or “Grade A Dark – Traditional Grade B” to help identify syrups with the familiar boldness of Grade B. Any reference to Grade B on new maple syrup is intended to indicate a full-bodied maple taste similar to what Grade B provided.
Beyond the grade, also pay attention to the maple syrup’s color. True Grade A Dark will be noticeably darker than light amber syrups. When in doubt, a quick taste test can confirm if a maple syrup packs the robust flavor you’re looking for.
Other Tips for Getting a Grade B-Like Maple Syrup
- Opt for syrup later in the season – Early season syrups tend to be lighter in color and flavor, while late season syrups take on richer maple notes.
- Look for syrup made via traditional methods – Syrup produced in wood-fired evaporators often develops deeper, more complex flavors.
- Search for dark, robust flavored syrups – Some producers label bottles specifically as “Dark, Robust Taste” rather than Grade A Dark, so check descriptions.
How to Use Grade A Dark Maple Syrup
Grade A Dark maple syrup can be used similarly to how Grade B syrup was traditionally used. Here are some tips:
- Use it wherever you want a pronounced maple flavor – On pancakes and waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, desserts, etc.
- Pair it with foods that can stand up to the robust maple notes – Strong cheeses, sausage, smoked ham, bacon, rich French toast.
- Blend it with lighter syrups to balance the taste – Mix with Grade A Golden or Amber for kids or those who find Grade A Dark too strong.
Grade A Dark maple syrup retains the same versatility as Grade B. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it in your cooking and baking to bring that pure maple taste forward.
While Grade B maple syrup is no longer a recognized grade, Grade A Dark captures the same rich maple flavor profile that makes Grade B popular. Look for Grade A Dark maple syrup to get that familiar robustness and complexity. Or search for bottles specifically described as “dark and robust” to find syrups reminiscent of the old Grade B. With the right selection, you can still enjoy maple syrup with the intense maple character that Grade B was known for.