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Spirit Temple

New brew in Bay View

Apr. 23, 2008
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Some people have it, some people don’t—the magic touch that marks a business with undeniable success. When Bruno Johnson and his wife, Adrienne Pierluissi, opened the Palm Tavern in 2003, the Bay View bar became nothing short of a mecca for beer aficionados and scotch connoisseurs alike. And that was without a name-bearing sign displayed out front. With their newest endeavor, Sugar Maple, Johnson and Pierluissi focus their considerable talents for the bar business on American craft beers—60 draft beers and a lengthy bottle list, to be specific.

America “is the most exciting place for beer right now,” Johnson says. Most German breweries, for example, are very traditional. They make what they make and they’re not going to veer far from the path with recipes for chipotle stouts and triple coffee porters. “Here, it’s wide open,” Johnson adds. “There’s a huge market for great beers.”

Not to say that spirits get bottom-of-the-barrel status at Sugar Maple: With 35 different selections, the bourbon list alone fills an entire page on the drink menu.

With the help of contractor Mike Sherwood, the husband-and-wife team spent almost a year renovating the building that once housed the Sikh Temple, located just east of the busy intersection of KK, Lincoln and Howell avenues. The bar’s look is contemporary and minimal, with a muted but inviting color scheme accented with soft contours of blond wood. The long, curvaceous bar was meticulously assembled from small pieces of maple that, if placed end-to-end, would be a mile long. Behind the gleaming bar top, carved and painted handles emblematize the beers that are poured from each of Sugar Maple’s 60 state-of-the-art, gas-fed draft lines.

To rotate the inventory, Johnson will feature different breweries Sunday through Wednesday, as well as a half-price board. If firkin is being offered, have it. While most beers are configured to pour from gas-fed lines, firkin refers to a style of cask or barrel that pours using good ol’ gravity. Rather than putting the cask up on the bar, as would have been done traditionally, Johnson pulls the beer out of the barrel with the pump of a beer engine. The dense head of this style of beer is derived from the natural carbonation of the beer, not the carbonation that results from being pushed through a gas-fed line.

The appreciation of finely crafted brews and spirits is clearly the main focus and priority at Sugar Maple. Anything that might be considered a distraction—cigarette smoke, electronic dartboards, a little Journey on the jukebox—won’t be found at this Bay View bar. Not that the absence of these things has deterred customers or deadened the atmosphere. Far from it: The air—the wonderfully clear, smoke-free air— is layered with conversation and a great selection of tunes, including an eclectic collection of jazz, blues, rock and soul picked by Johnson himself.

Sugar Maple is located at 441 E. Lincoln Ave., (414)-481-2393.

Photo by Kate Engbring


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