One short month after Moustache Brewing Company closed the doors of its Riverhead tasting room, the space is reopening anew as the home base of Long Island brew master Rob Raffa’s popular, nomadic brewing company übergeek. The grand opening is set for Friday, April 2 with festivities lasting through Thursday, April 11.
From home brewer to Moustache’s head brewer to founder of übergeek Brewing Company in under a decade, Raffa has quickly cemented himself in the Long Island beer scene, with a loyal fanbase and many connections both up-island and on the East End.
“We [übergeek] were able to build our entire network, so to speak, from word of mouth from selling wholesale,” Raffa says, noting that many of his customers hail from the Islip-Lindenhurst area. “I had a slight reputation myself before even starting just from making quality beer at Moustache, and I have a lot of friends, brewers and beer distributor owners, who were willing to try my product and push it out to market. And it kind of resonated with customers. I feel like I’ve got a good pulse on what the customer wants these days, with respect to craft, and I think that’s kind of being showcased by how quickly the brand has established itself.”
After a year and a half of brewing übergeek at local breweries such as North Fork Brewing Company, Raffa reached out to Matthew and Lauri Spitz, owners of Moustache Brewing Company, where he had worked for six years, in search of a more permanent physical space. With a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed last summer, the Spitzes jumped at the offer, deciding to have their beer crafted elsewhere moving forward, while Raffa takes over the Moustache tasting room.
“It’s a very unique situation, because it’s a turnkey coming in, which is a huge help,” Raffa explains. “But the main thing is that I’ve used that brewing system for years, so I was able to walk in and just immediately start brewing, knowing what I’m doing and not really having to deal with any test batches—with everything coming out the way that I fully expected it to. Not everybody has that—I’m totally cognizant of that—and I think that’s a huge advantage and why we’re able to flip and rebrand the space, get beer brewed and be open in a month.”
While Raffa was eager to redesign the space to fit his highly consistent branding, he acknowledges that it was somewhat difficult to say goodbye to the relics from his time at Moustache. “It’s definitely bittersweet. There were so many things on the wall—memories, since Moustache had a lot of photos up,” he says. “It was sad to see them go, but I’m excited to start a new chapter. The brand for what I’m trying to do in this space is to make it very evocative, very cathartic and feel like the space itself is moving and providing entertainment for everyone.”
As for the beer itself, Raffa has long had a passion for experimentation, and his new business model allows for much more of that than the wholesale market ever could.
“When we were doing wholesale, we kind of had to stick to higher ABV beers, since those tend to sell better out in the wholesale market, so we couldn’t just jump out there and give people a blonde or a pilsner because it’s a bit more risky. Now we get to stretch our legs a little bit and try less hypey styles and do them well, he says. “I find the most rewarding thing about brewing is the experimentation and also trying to find a way to bridge the gap between brewing something that is a full-on liquid and culinary, where you can actually sculpt on it and make it into a three-dimensional shape. So I tend to pull a lot of influence from food in order to give beer a little bit more depth of flavor and just to kind of break the mold a little bit. And brewing in this space definitely gives me a huge opportunity to experiment a lot more and get a little more eccentric. It’s fun—I wouldn’t want any other job!”
For the week-and-a-half-long grand opening of the übergeek tasting room, Raffa has prepared a new 4.1% pilsner, a new IPA, a new tart, and he’s working on his first Cohort of Eccentric Misfits members-only tap, an exclusive brew inspired by Moustache’s Society of Fine Liquid Provisions. The tasting room will offer a total of 10 beers on tap in its opening week, cans of the brewery’s popular portfolio, as well as mead, cider and wine from fellow Long Island businesses. The Eat Me, Drink Me Food Truck will also be on the premises every day except Easter, offering incredible food to be enjoyed in the indoor or outdoor seating areas.
Raffa expresses a great deal of excitement at the thought of connecting with his community in Riverhead—from the up-island übergeek fans of his nomadic days to the East Enders who remember his Moustache days fondly and to the new friends who are sure to fall in love with his unique, eccentric brews.
“What I like is that when we open, we’re probably going to have a mixing of communities,” he says. “I finally get to bring my beer to the locals who I’ve known for years, through Moustache, and a lot of them have already come behind me and are excited to call this their new home, so I think that it’s only going to strengthen the brand…. Even if you did go to Moustache back in the day, coming to the space is definitely going to be a new experience!”
To learn more about übergeek Brewing Company, visit ubergeekbrewing.com.