New brewery in downtown Bridgeport

Delayed for a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, downtown Bridgeport has a second brewery – with its brother owners opening the doors on the eve of the summer concert season at the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater.

The venue, which should be a regional draw for the city, is just over half a mile from the 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 for $ 6 a glass. On trips to visit his wife’s family in the Czech Republic, Rich Ruggiero has come to appreciate these strains – his favorite to date is Pilsner Urquell.

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

He quickly discovered that it was not easy to get his hands on the necessary ingredients. With the brewing kit in hand otherwise, he decided to try a simple lager.

“I was like, ‘oh, this beer is good’ … (and) I’ve never had herbal beers,” he said. “I said to Chris, ‘I want to do this. I think there is room in the Connecticut beer scene for a brewery that focuses on lighter, more classic styles of beer. ‘”

Chris agreed, saying many master brewers today are trying to outdo themselves with experimental beers that showcase exotic ingredients, rather than sticking to classic varieties that have stood the test of time.

Both have daytime freelance jobs, with Rich producing videos for fashion advertising and Chris a screen composer – his vast portfolio of work includes the 2018 Oscar nominated documentary “Minding the Gap” – while also teaching film and audio engineering courses. at the University of Bridgeport.

The brothers examined around 80 potential sites between Stratford and Norwalk, before learning about the Golden Hill Street area.

Ultimately, the pandemic delay may have worked to their advantage with the concert series in place for Hartford Healthcare’s new amphitheater, with shows this summer to include REO Speedwagon, Harry Connick Jr. and The Beach Boys. . Stamford’s bars and restaurants have long been energized by the Alive @ Five summer concert series, who moves this year at Mill River Park.

“Berlinetta is one of a growing number of unique and experiential destination companies… which 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 opposite the historic U.S. Post Office building, the new brewery is light and airy with patrons peering down to the brewing floor with its three large fermentation vats. The brasserie can seat 40 people, not counting the additional tables on the outside pavement.

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

Chris Ruggiero said he was already starting to learn the names of regular visitors among the 1,000 or so people who walked through the doors of the Berlinetta Brewery in its first weeks of operation. The brewery has more than 1,500 people on Instagram.

The state has seen a proliferation of microbreweries over the past decade, some with chimerical recipes.

The Connecticut Beer Guild today lists around 125 statewide, including Athletic Brewing which announced on Tuesday. $ 50 million in funding with plans to build a mass production factory for its non-alcoholic 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 Black Rock neighborhood of the city, near the Fairfield Line.

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

The Berlinetta brewery also has a distinctive touch – it also serves as a retail outlet for vinyl records. Chris installed a pair of salvaged radio station decks for music selections during office hours, with a reel-to-reel player on the wall. Amplifiers are also of his design.

The name of the brewery was inspired by the Chevy Camaro Berlinetta car which was Chris Ruggiero’s first, with Berlinetta translating to “small sedan” in Italian.

The Berlinetta Brewery has free parking across the street. Look for its wolf logo on the sidewalk which comes from the Latin translation of humulus lupulus, the plant that produces hops.

If the pandemic set things back, it gave the brothers and their owner more time to arrange the space to their liking. Since startups were not eligible for government funding through the Paycheck Protection Program and others, they incurred the upfront costs.

“Life is hit and miss – and honestly, in the midst of a pandemic and the uncertainty of it all, I was just happy that people got along and [business] was more or less up and running, ”said Chris Ruggiero. “We are all in the same boat.”

Includes previous reporting by Verónica Del Valle, Leeanne Griffin, Julia Perkins and Luther Turmelle.

[email protected]; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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