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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com French
12 July, 2021



Brewing news USA, CT: Berlinetta Brewing Company becomes downtown Bridgeport’s second brewpub

Delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, downtown Bridgeport has a second brewpub — with its sibling proprietors opening the doors on the eve of the summer concert season at the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater, CT Post reported on July 10.

The venue, expected to be a regional draw for the city, sits just over a half mile away from Berlinetta Brewery, which opened in June at 90 Golden Hill St. under Chris and Rich Ruggiero.

The brothers offer golden beers like pilsners and lagers at $6 a glass. On trips to visit his wife’s family in the Czech Republic, Rich Ruggiero came to appreciate those varieties — his favorite to this day is Pilsner Urquell.

On a whim six years ago, Rich Ruggiero bought a home brewing kit after reading about herbal-infused beers used for medicinal purposes in some cultures.

He discovered before long it wasn’t easy getting his hands on the needed ingredients. With the brewing kit in hand otherwise, he decided to try a simple pale ale.

“I was like, ‘oh — this beer’s good’ ... (and) I never got around to herbal beers,” he said. “I told Chris, ‘I want to do this. I think there is room in the Connecticut beer scene for a brew pub that’s focused on lighter, classic beer styles.’”

Chris agreed, saying many brew masters today try to outdo each other with experimental beers highlighting exotic ingredients, rather than sticking to classic varieties that have stood the test of time.

Both have day jobs as freelancers, with Rich producing videos for fashion advertising and Chris a composer for the screen — his extensive portfolio of work includes the Oscar-nominated 2018 documentary “Minding the Gap” — while also having taught courses on film and audio engineering at the University of Bridgeport.

The brothers looked at about 80 potential sites between Stratford and Norwalk, before learning about the Golden Hill Street locale.

As it turns out, the pandemic delay may have worked to their advantage with the concert series in place for the new Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater, with this summer’s shows to include REO Speedwagon, Harry Connick Jr. and The Beach Boys. Stamford bars and restaurants have long gotten a boost from the Alive@Five summer concert series, which moves this year to Mill River Park.

“Berlinetta is one of a growing number of unique, experiential destination ... businesses that we are very excited to see popping up in downtown Bridgeport,” said Lauren Coakley Vincent, president of the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District.

With floor-to-ceiling windows on its corner across from the historic U.S. Post Office building, the new brewery is bright and airy with patrons getting a peek at the brewing floor with its three big fermentation tanks. The brewery can seat 40 people, not including any additional tables on the sidewalk outside.

Dominating one wall is a whimsical painting of Cliff Clavin, the “Cheers” patron and mail carrier played by Bridgeport native John Ratzenberger, perched on a Berlinetta Brewing keg.

Chris Ruggiero said he is already starting to learn the names of repeat visitors among the 1,000 or so people to have come through Berlinetta Brewery’s doors in its initial weeks in business. The brewery has a following of more than 1,500 people on Instagram.

The state has seen a mushrooming of microbreweries in the past decade, some with quixotic recipes.

The Connecticut Beer Guild lists about 125 state-wide today, including Athletic Brewing which on Tuesday announced $50 million in funding with plans to build a mass production facility for its non-alcohol beers.

In addition to Berlinetta Brewing and Brewport Brewing on Warren Street a few blocks from the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater, Aspetuck Brew Lab is located in the city’s Black Rock neighborhood near the Fairfield line.

More than a dozen other microbreweries and brew pubs are also in the works in the state, including Spacecat Brewing in Norwalk, Quirk Works Brewery and Blendery in Danbury and Stowe ‘n Sail Brewing in Clinton, promising “Vermont-inspired” beer brewed in Connecticut.

Berlinetta Brewery has a distinctive twist as well — it doubles as a retail outlet for vinyl records. Chris installed a pair of reclaimed radio station turntables for musical selections during business hours, with a reel-to-reel tape player on the wall. The amplifiers are of his design as well.

The brewery’s name was inspired by the Chevy Camaro Berlinetta car that was Chris Ruggiero’s first, with Berlinetta translating to “little saloon” in Italian.

Berlinetta Brewery has free parking across the street — look for its loping wolf logo on the pavement which stems from the Latin translation for humulus lupulus, the plant that produces hops.

If the pandemic set things back, it gave the brothers and their landlord extra time to build out the space to their liking. With startups ineligible for government financing through the Paycheck Protection Program and others, they bootstrapped the initial costs.

“Life is chancy — and honestly, in the middle of a pandemic and the uncertainty of it all I was just glad that people were getting along and [business] was more or less running,” Chris Ruggiero said. “We’re all in this together.”





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