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Mike Dodge, Nano-Batch Takes The Show

April 29, 2024
Mike Dodge, 2024 Phelps Maple Syrup Fest Winner, Best of Show
Mike Dodge, 2024 Phelps Maple Syrup Fest

High fives to Mike Dodge who won BEST OF SHOW at the 2024 Phelps Maple Fest Maple Syrup Contest.

When you hear “Best of Show Maple Syrup” do you picture that maple producer to have a long family heritage in maple syrup? Do you suppose that producer must tap thousands of trees and boil on a huge evaporator?

It is natural to paint a big, grand picture in your mind of what it must take to earn the highest achievements. Consequently, some maple producers may assume that such achievements are out of reach. But this is a story that flips all those stereotypes on their head. To earn the title of “Best In Show”, perhaps what’s most important is a passion for quality and a little ambition.

When I asked Mike Dodge, the 2024 Phelps Maple Fest Syrup Champion, if maple syrup was a long tradition in his family and he said:

I’m definitely a 1st generation sugar maker although I wish someone in my family was so that I knew how fantastic this maple process would be. I definitely would have started earlier.

Mike Dodge

Mike Dodge draws off syrup from a 16 x 30 StarCat Pan
Mike Dodge Maple Syrup
Mike Dodge, tapping big trees

Although Mike had used a larger, Corsair evaporator in past years, this year he decided to downsize. He tapped just 10 trees and boiled on a 16″ x 30″ StarCat Evaporator. The resulting nano-batch of syrup added up to just under a gallon of award-winning liquid gold.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had time to enjoy my syrup making hobby with work and life taking up so much time. This year was perfect! I think I spent maybe 20 hours enjoying the entire process…woods to pan…on my Smoky Lake Starcat making almost a full gallon of syrup on just 10 taps and just under a week of sugaring.

Mike Dodge,
2024 Phelps Maple Fest Best of Show
Winners and Judges of the 2024 Phelps Maple Syrup Fest, April 6, 2024

Mike Dodge, 2019 Phelps Maple Fest Winner
Angela Schumacher (Judge) and Mike Dodge (Best of Show) at the 2019 Phelps Maple Syrup Fest

Repeatable Success…

2024 was actually the second time that Mike claimed the title of Best of Show at the Phelps Maple Fest. The first was in 2019. At that time, he was boiling with a 2×6 Corsair with Divided Pan, and he was using his StarCat Pan for finishing. As he reminisced, Mike recalled:

I boiled outdoors in Richfield on Friess Lake then with your 2×6 divided pan on the Corsair arch. I had 200 year old maples to tap with one of them affectionately named ‘Big Bertha’. She was huge. I think I had 5 bags hanging from her trunk…she was a producer! I also used your StartCat pan to finish in. I did that outside as well on a large burner.

I used that very same pan this year on the StarCat Arch boiling just 39 gallons of sap and making just less than a gallon of finished syrup working 4 days with 10 taps.

Mike Dodge

2024 Phelps Maple Syrup Contest Results

2024 OVERALL Winner, Maple Syrup of the Year

  • Sticky Sweet Maple, Michael Dodge, Chilton, WI

Golden/Delicate

  • 1st – Slab City Happy Sappers, Jay Krull, Pulaski, WI
  • 2nd – C & S Sugar Bush, Steven Kramer, Weyawega, WI

Amber/Rich

  • 1st – Sticky Sweet Maple, Michael Dodge, Chilton, WI
  • 2nd – Anonymous, Hilbert, WI
  • 3rd – CVF Dairy LLC, Ed Staats, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Dark/Robust

  • 1st – Ten Point Sugarbush, Matt Buck, Merrill, WI
  • 2nd – Anonymous, Elkhart Lake, WI
  • 3rd – Inthewoods Sugar Bush, Jesse Wagner, Manitowoc, WI

Very Dark/Strong

  • 1st – 10 Acre Black Maple Syrup, Dean Swoboda, De Pere, WI
  • 2nd – Fritzo, Jimmy Fritz, Howards Grove, WI
  • 3rd – Milner Family Maple Farm, Chad Milner, Oconomowoc, WI

We hope you will join us at next year’s Phelps Maple Syrup Fest! Be sure to mark your calendar for the first weekend in April.

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