When Rob Raffa launched übergeek Brewing Company late last year, he didn’t unveil a new bar, or cut a ribbon in front of glass doors with a colorful logo painted across them. In fact, Raffa had no storefront, tasting room or bar to open. The brewery was all him.
Raffa is part of a new kind of brewer emerging on the market — the nomadic kind. He has no equipment or space for customers to try his beer. Instead, he moves around, with the possibility to brew at any brewery that will have him.
“It’s nomadic, because technically I don’t have a home,” he said. “I’m renting to use the equipment, and I’m actually the one physically brewing the beer. I’m not paying them to make it for me. I’m doing everything.”
Currently, he rents from North Fork Brewing Co. in Riverhead. He defines their relationship as an alternating proprietorship, meaning he brews his beer using Nork Fork’s equipment they rent out to him.
A beer industry veteran, Raffa started out as an intern at Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue and then a brewer at Moustache Brewing Company in Riverhead. He left his post as their head brewer in 2018 to start übergeek. He said without his many years in the industry, he wouldn’t be able to have his nomadic business.
“I’d be nowhere without my connections. I mean networking is everything, no matter what occupation you’re in, and in the beer world it’s no different,” he said. “It’s like one giant family.”
Something Raffa does do to distinguish himself from the many breweries on Long Island is brew beer that makes him “uncomfortable.”
“I feel like if I’m uncomfortable then I am pushing some sort of boundary with myself and with what the market is accustomed to,” he said. “I think that will then translate into progress. I don’t want to just be someone rehashing things that have already been done before. It’s not in my nature, and I don’t think that is in the spirit of the brand.”
And what makes Raffa uncomfortable? The unexpected, experimenting with ingredients he can’t Google and things he himself has yet to do.
“I’ve been brewing for about seven years now,” he said. “And there are a few things that I’ve never done before and that’s what I’d like to touch.”
One example of this is the way Raffa feels about beer styles, a term used to categorize beer (think pale ale, stout, porter…).
“I don’t really care for beer styles,” he said. “I appreciate them, but I don’t like working within the confines of them. I like the idea of using that as a framework to do something even more interesting.”
“If I’m saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna make a Pilsner,’” he continued. “Already in my head, there’s a whole list of ingredients that I cannot use. So, instead of making a Pilsner I’ll think ‘I’m going to start on a Pilsner base, but build something interesting after that.’”
One of Raffa’s recently released beers is a dessert sour with hibiscus and vanilla, a 10 percent beer that he said drinks like a 5 percent.
“That requires a little bit of skill, know-how and experimentation to figure out exactly what it takes to get to that point,” he said.
Besides creating beer with unique combinations of ingredients, Raffa has big plans in 2020 and the years to come. On top of being a “company of one,” as he puts it, Raffa is also the head distiller at Long Island Spirits. As far as übergeek is concerned, he likes the nomadic lifestyle for now, but hopes to settle down in the future.
“I can brew at other places if I wanted to, which is kind of cool and kind of liberating — to be able to just have that freeform,” he said. “But it would be nice eventually to have my own place and not be a nomadic brewer anymore.”
To find out what (and where) übergeek Brewing Company is making, follow them on Instagram @übergeekbrewing.