There is something to be said about the collaborative spirit on Long Island—especially in the food and beverage realm. This tight-knit community always seems to rally around each other, whether it’s starting something new, celebrating a big success or rebuilding something lost. Since its opening in January 2020, Riverhead’s own Übergeek Brewing has embodied this principle to the core. Not only does it serve up brews, but it has become a community center—a place where educators can give lectures, musicians can play music and artists can display their art.
“We are a collection of misfits who fit together in this beautiful mosaic, collectively striving to foster a cathartic experience whether it be through our beer or wonderful events,” says Rob Raffa, head brewer and owner of Übergeek Brewing.
More than just any collection of misfits, however, Übergeek is a collection of misfits with a secret. The brewery has helped other aspiring brewers realize their dreams, acting as a sort of ghost-kitchen for ales and lagers all across Long Island. That’s right, Raffa and his team brew for about 10-percent of the breweries on Long Island. This was not, however, Raffa’s original vision for the business.
“We started out as wholesale, then signed the lease in March of 2021. I thought there was something here with our creativity and unique approach to making and sharing our beer to add to the local beer culture,” Raffa says. With a variety of styles offered, like IPAs, lagers, pilsners, porters and even a fruit sour, innovation is the name of the game at the brew house, drawing on eccentric ingredients to create beers that are exciting and inspiring. Intrigued by the arts and sciences, Raffa has seemed to find a way to combine the two and bring that inventiveness to each and every glass served.
Shortly after settling into the Übergeek space and finding his groove, Raffa began thinking of ways to help the next potential brewer in line. He quickly realized that providing these would-be brewers with the equipment to realize their dreams would be the perfect way to help grow a nomadic brand, or one who is just starting out. And so he dedicated space to make this happen. He started allowing other breweries to cook up their stuff in the Übergeek tanks at the beginning of 2022—an initiative that has been non-stop ever since.
The brewery, he explains, has eight tanks. Combine that with double brew days and a quick turn and Übergeek has the capacity to produce “an incredible amount of beer,” Raffa says. The brewery has been operating at this capacity for the last seven months, and with new breweries working into the fold, there is no sign of slowing down any time soon. Most brewers come to Raffa with a recipe, but he freely offers advice if asked, discussing ingredients, the brewery’s system specs and how a particular recipe would work out on the equipment. He is also happy to impart some experiential knowledge, too.
But, says Raffa, being able to help up-and-coming brewers isn’t without challenges. The biggest, he says, is making sure the brews come out the way that is intended. He says that there is a lot of work, patience and observation that goes into brewing in general, which is something that is magnified when working on a brew that isn’t actually yours.
“The most nerve-racking part is being the caretaker of someone’s metaphorical child. To have the honor and responsibility of shepherding someone else’s creation can be stressful, yet rewarding,” he says.
Nerve-racking or not, Raffa has seen success with this model and says it has sparked an earnest interest in third-party brewers and private labels across the island. It has also kept that collaborative spirit moving forward, as it has seemingly cultivated a wide and collaborative community of contracting partners for Übergeek Brewing—and the larger brewing community, too.
“[This has] strengthened our local community through involvement in events in which we may give back to the community such as our Geektalks [Educational Seminars with Beer], acting as a blood donation center, hosting puppy yoga or adoptions, concerts promoting local bands, or fundraising for local charities,” says Raffa.
Cheers to many more beers.