Why Berlinetta Stays Deliberate in Being Unique & Traditional

Berlinetta Brewing didn’t want to be the typical brewery. So they didn’t. It just happens that the resurgence of Lagers in the craft beer landscape pretty much came to them. That has been a windfall, but don’t expect it to change the mindset of its owners.

“When we had the idea to open a brewery, the Lager revival had not really begun,” recalls co-founder Rich Ruggiero, who started the brewery with his brother Chris in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the summer of 2021. “But as you know it takes forever to open a brewery. So by the time we opened, the Lager revival was already in swing.”

This switch in the craft consumer mindset has offered some benefit to the brewery because Ruggiero said there are now a lot of people who are seeking out this kind of beer, some of whom are aging out of heavy IPAs.

The brewery is very Czech-focused. Rich’s wife is from there and as Head Brewer, he spent a lot of time there which has influenced his approach greatly. 

“When my brother and I decided to open a brewery we knew we wanted to make these kinds of beers because we loved them and because they were underrepresented in the US craft beer market — with everyone focused on IPAs,” he said. “Since we’ve stayed true to this it’s helped us get a reputation as brewers of these beers so we attract a lot of customers that are into that.”

The brewery’s flagship is called Velvet Pilsner and while they also make several other Czech beer styles, they are not exclusively Czech. 

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“All of our beer tends to be on the lighter and cleaner side,” he said.

The brewery doesn’t brew any IPAs or Sours, but he does brew some Ales, such as a west-coast style Pale and a Tropical Stout. 

“We believe that our approach does bridge the gap to Macro beer drinkers, within certain limits,” Rich said. “When a customer comes in who only drinks Bud or Heineken, we point them to our Pilsner, and they always love it, so in that sense, our approach has been successful.”

On the other hand, he did say some beer drinkers associate craft beer with overwhelming flavors so they’re hesitant to even go to a brewery because they just want a macro Lager. 

“In general though, if someone is a macro drinker, they will be convinced with one sip of our Pilsner,” he said. “The challenge is getting them to try it.

“The single biggest part of that has been showing people that Pilsner does not just mean US Macro Lager — that a quality Lager beer made with the best ingredients can have exceptional flavor and depth.”

The Ruggieros have been very deliberate in staying focused on two important aspects of their business. Along with brewing heritage-inspired, Czech-focused beers, they also offer a vintage take on music. 

The unique thing about Berlinetta is that also are a vinyl record shop. They sell curated vintage LPs and solely play music from vinyl and quarter-inch tape in the taproom.  

“Our vacuum-tube sound system itself was largely built by us by hand, and so there’s a combination of heritage and craftsmanship in our musical approach that relates closely to our brewing practices,” Rich explained. “We don’t do all the typical events breweries do, we just focus on good music and a relaxing environment, and that’s also helped attract customers that are looking for that.”  

Honing in on that quality means prices can move around quite a bit, being an American brewery importing from overseas.

“Our ordering is very consistent in terms of ingredients,” Rich said. “However, those prices fluctuate because I’m very specific about what I get. 

“I’ll only use Czech hops and only European malt. So while you can always get them you’re at the mercy of the market more since I’m unwilling to substitute.”

Photos courtesy Berlinetta Brewing/Ryan Scherb

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