Eduardo Pentagna: A Brazilian Brewmaster
By Mario A. Cortez
Eduardo Pentagna, CEO and Master Brewer at Novo Brazil Brewing Co., is no stranger to creating quality drinks.
Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Pentagna has been involved in craft spirits and brewing since he was 18 years old.
“My first job was making a spirit called cachaça which is very famous in Brazil, kind of like tequila in Mexico or rum in Cuba,” Pentagna said. “I worked at my family’s cachaça company, which we have owned for over 150 years.”
At the same time, Pentagna’s uncle Miguel was also making craft beer in Brazil along with a business partner. Pentagna joined them as a new partner, involving himself in the company’s day-to-day operations and making business decisions, though not yet involving himself in brewing.
When a financial crisis hit Brazil a couple of years ago, Miguel had two choices: to hold on to the craft brewing operation, and possibly go bankrupt, or to sell the company. He sold the brewing company in Brazil and invested all his money into what would become Chula Vista’s first major craft brewery.
From the start the company had set high goals for itself, so the team founding Novo Brazil Brewing Co. went big in starting up operations. Their headquarters, located at 901 Lane Ave. in Chula Vista, feature a large-scale brewing facility and a tasting room.
“Since the start, our plan was to make a good beer, conquer the local market, and after that start selling everywhere,” Pentagna stated.
“Our plans are not just local but global,” he continued. “We currently sell in Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, but our next step is to go to markets like Europe, China, Japan, Philippines, Australia, and South Asia and to be able to sell to those markets you need volume.”
Despite starting up with a strong capital investment, modern equipment, beer recipes proven in Brazil, and high hopes, Pentagna’s first year operating Novo Brazil was not easy. Pentagna and his team had to relearn everything they knew about beer.
“The learning process was very hard because grains and hops here are very different from what you get in Brazil. Even the water here is very different from the water in Brazil.” Pentagna said. “We began with recipes Miguel had brought but we had problems with fermentation and the malts so we literally had to recreate and relearn everything and start anew.”
The team also had to learn about the local beer scene and trends.
“San Diego makes beer trends for the beer world to follow, whereas Brazilian craft brewing was a bit outdated,” Pentagna explained. “So we did a lot of data mining, we sampled a lot of beers from many local breweries, and tried to understand what people here like and dislike.”
While adapting to the San Diegan ways of doing things helped the company catch up with the market and become a local favorite among craft beer fans, Pentagna and the rest of the Novo Brazil team held on to many of their preferences in perfecting their product.
“We as Brazilians still have the way we like things. Beers that are very bitter and brash we don’t really like,” Pentagna elaborated. “We like easy-to-drink beers. Even our hoppier beers are easy to drink without leaving a strong aftertaste, but still have a lot of flavor and complex aromas.”
After a year of refining Novo Brazil’s product and business practices, Pentagna took his current charge as CEO and Master Brewer in 2016. Since his takeover, business and recognition have boomed for Novo Brazil.
Through his team’s collective Brazilian flair and understanding of beer trends, Pentagna’s company has positioned itself as an award-winning brewery.
In 2016, Novo Brazil Brewing Co. earned a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in the British-Style Imperial Stout category for its Corvo Negro Imperial Stout.
The company also hauled off with six awards from the 2016 World Beer Awards, including best American IPA for its Otay IPA and World’s Best Strong Dark Beer for its Cookie Muncher.
Mulata Amber Ale, one of Novo Brazil’s newest beers, just earned a bronze medal at this year’s San Diego International Beer Festival, setting off a good start for the 2017 beer awards season for the Brazilian-owned brewery.
Despite these impressive industry awards for a two-year-old company, Pentagna prides himself most in being recognized by the his community.
Earlier this year the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce recognized Novo Brazil Brewing Co. as an outstanding local business, which was a huge surprise for him.
“I remember being in the back of the ceremony thinking ‘oh yeah, maybe in the future we will be awarded on stage’ and then suddenly they call our name,” Pentagna said laughing. “Nobody had told us about this before so this was amazing surprise.”
As a business owner and a resident, Pentagna says he feels very welcome in Chula Vista and is happy to call this South Bay city his home.
“I live like three minutes from the brewery so I come here ether by bike or walking so I don’t worry about DUIs,” Pentagna said jokingly.
“I can tell you for sure that we only survived thanks to the community,” Pentagna closed. “The people are so friendly. They really like us and we really like them too.”