By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 02, 2022 at 8:05 AM

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The Avril Fete brewing challenge is back as The Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave. in Bay View, celebrates its 14th anniversary in April.

The challenge, which began in 2017, but has been on hiatus recently, returns with seven breweries trying to meet Sugar Maple Owner Adrienne Pierluissi’s challenge to create, “a Table Beer with a bright, floral palette and champagne-like bubbles.”

The participating breweries are 1840 Brewing Company, Enlightened Brewing Company, Indeed Brewing Company, Low Daily Brewery, McFleshman’s Brewing Company, Radix Fermentation, Supermoon Beer Company.

Two of entrants will be collaborations: one by 1840 and Sugar Maple and the other by Indeed and Radix, the latter of which is also entering its own brew.

The anniversary kickoff event on Sunday, April 3, 3-6 p.m., will also be an Avril Fete event with samples of each of the beers available. Customers can taste and vote for their favorite.

In response to the glut of super-hoppy IPAs and booze-bomb BA beers, Pierluissi challenged brewers to make something different: a flavorful, low ABV beer that recalled Brassie Dupont’s Avril saison.

Five breweries took part the first year – Good City, Enlightened, Like Minds, Solemn Oath and Sierra Nevada – and the beers were so interesting that Pierluissi brought the competition back the following year with the intent of making it annual.

The Explorium, Fermentorium, Gathering Place and Raised Grain participated in 2018, but then it stopped.

“ I didn’t follow through in 2019, I don’t remember why” says Pierluissi. “I’m guessing the year flew by and didn’t make the time to contact the brewers with enough time for brewing.”

Then, of course, Covid arrived, killing any chance of Avril Fete returning in 2020 and, ultimately, 2021.

“Covid allowed us time to assess the narrow definition of craft beer, and expand it to include craft NA options, cocktails and host more art, music and community events,” she says.

In addition to Avril Fete, The Sugar Maple will celebrate its birthday all month long, with a full slate of events:

  • April 1: Donna Woodall Trio 9 p.m.
  • Aprl 9: 2 LIPS: Paintings by Adrienne Pierluissi 5 p.m.
  • April 10: Sugar Maple Cocktail Club Featuring Central Standard Distillery 3 p.m.
  • April 16: Steph Lippert Project 8 p.m.
  • April 17: Buy Cool Stuff : An Indoor Rummage Sale 1-5 p.m.
  • April 20: Trouble Makers’ Cocina Four Course Dinner w/Beer Pairings 6-8 p.m.
  • April 22: BackRoom Improv Jazz Series: Ballister 8 p.m.
  • April 24: Celebrity Roast: Tim Eichinger of Black Husky Brewing 4-6 p.m.
  • April 30: Peter Thomas and His Electric Cello 4-6 p.m.

Long one of the city’s best craft beer bars, The Sugar Maple, which opened on April 1, 2008, began focusing on craft beer in 2015. It has also been a haven for jazz, art openings, nonprofit fundraisers and more  in Bay View.

“I can’t believe it’s been 14 years,” says Pierluissi. “I think the concept of a pretty bar with no TVs is finally catching on.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.