• At the Sucrerie Massicotte, Rene Germain is the “coachman”. They still collect the sap by hand and with horses. Everything is done the old way. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

The sugar bush is a Canadian institution. Especially so in Quebec, where about 70 per cent of the world’s maple syrup is made. Although the industry has grown and big commercial sap-sucking operations are more common, there remain a handful of smaller sugar shack owners who happily stick with the traditional spile-and-bucket method of gathering sap. In the portraits above, photographer Rodolphe Beaulieu-Poulin features a few of those people.

Each day of production Marcel Gagnon takes a sample of the syrup. Depending on many factors, such as weather or time of year, the colour can be different as well as the taste. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Marcel sits with his son Mathieu at Erabliere Marcel Gagnon in Quebec. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Mathieu controls the temperature of the maple water (the sap). This is certainly the most delicate part of the production. Even though they own sophisticated tools to control the degree of evaporation, Mathieu still likes to visually inspect the boiling sap. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Lucie (Marcel’s wife) prepares to serve one of their famous homemade meals to guests in a little house close to the sugar shack. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Gaetan Massicotte is the owner of Sucrerie Massicotte. He looks at the colour of the syrup produced every day to compare the colour over the course of the season. Every production will be classified from extra light to dark. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Sacha Kirouac sets the tables for the diner at La Belle Epoque. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Portrait of Michel Gagnon, owner of La Belle Epoque. Michel decided to open a sugar shack when he retired and has now been welcoming customers for 30 years. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Amelie Gagnon (Michel’s daughter) shows off her famous crepes at La Belle Epoque. Amelie spent much of her childhood in the sugar shack. She is in charge of the kitchen for now but is getting ready to take over the whole sugar shack. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

At La Goudrelle, waitresses Melissa Boisjoli and Emma Presseau smile as they serve hundreds of hungry patrons. La Goudrelle is one of the biggest sugar shacks in the region. In addition to the restaurant, there’s a big dance floor, games for children and a little farm. (Melissa Boisjoli and Emma Presseau). (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Servers Alex Harvey and Samuel Sirois take a break at La Goudrelle. Even if it’s a modern and commercial sugar shack, it still looks like a old and traditional cabin. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Marie Pier Charbonneau is the barmaid at commercial sugar shack La Goudrelle. Alcohol is not traditionally served in the sugar shack but the commercial ones offer beer and wine. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)

Benoit Ste-Marie mans the evaporator at La Goudrelle. (Photo: Rodolphe Poulin)