What could be better than beer for a good cause? With this in mind, Riverhead’s übergeek Brewing Co. has partnered with the New York Marine Rescue Center (NYMRC) to create “i never asked to be here,” a brand new, limited-run winter warmer ale that supports the non-profit organization’s mission, with a special focus on the plight of cold stunned sea turtles on the East End.
NYMRC, located at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, receives $1 for every pour of übergeek’s “i never asked to be here” brew, but the partnership doesn’t end there.
The beer, made with holiday spices and zested sour oranges, and available on-tap in 12 oz. pours ($7) or 32 oz. crowlers ($13.50), debuted on November 11 during übergeek’s final installment of “Geektalks,” a series of science- and nature-based lectures held at their Riverhead tasting room (400 Hallett Avenue). That last Geektalks lecture featured NYMRC director Maxine Montello presenting “Applying Citizen Science to Increase Survival Rate of Cold Stunned Turtles.”
Montello explains that her organization is training volunteers to patrol local north-facing beaches — Long Island Sound beaches on the North Fork and bay beaches in the Hamptons — during the winter months in order to locate, identify and save cold stunned sea turtles, which end up washing ashore after being rendered catatonic from a hypothermic reaction to frigid winter waters. Her Geektalk was an educational introductory training session, teaching attendees how to identify the turtles and what to do if they encounter one on the beach.
The East End is home to four species of sea turtle, including green sea turtles, loggerheads, huge leatherbacks (averaging at least 5–6 feet long and 550–1,500 lbs.), which are not affected by cold stunning, and the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley. The latter species accounts for more than 50% of NYMRC’s cold stun cases, Montello says, pointing out why saving them is so crucial. Only 7,000–9,000 nesting female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles remain alive worldwide, so every life matters.
It’s most important, Montello adds, that people learn to never put the turtles back in the water or attempt to warm them, as it can cause a dangerous shock to their system. Instead, she says, bring the turtle past the high-water mark, or wrack line (where the seaweed gathers), and call NYMRC for pickup. If possible, wait with the turtle because it’s very common to have other well-meaning beachgoers return the animals to the sea, which is what harmed them in the first place.
And now, thanks to this beer partnership, there’s an extra incentive to stick around. NYMRC rescue team members are giving a special übergeek business card, good for one pour of “i never asked to be here,” to anyone who calls in a cold stunned turtle. The card comes with a beautifully carved wooden sea turtle pin, which can also be purchased for $4 at the brewery, with proceeds benefiting NYMRC.
“übergeek so far has been a great partner to work with,” Montello says, noting that brewery owner and head brewer Rob Raffa proposed this idea to help NYMRC and it’s been going well. “It’s just a nice, generous donation,” she continues, adding, “I love the beer. … It turned out great.”
Raffa is also pleased with the program and the beer he made for it. He says “i never asked to be here” is quite popular and it aligns with their goals moving forward since opening übergeek last year. “We want to do a lot more community outreach—this is definitely in our wheelhouse,” Raffa says. “We’ll definitely do this again next year.”
Visit übergeek’s Riverhead tasting room to try a pour of “i never asked to be here” or pick up a crowler to enjoy at home. It will be available while supplies last. Learn more about übergeek at ubergeekbrewing.com.
If you’d like to volunteer with the New York Marine Rescue Center or learn more about cold stunned sea turtles and how to help them, visit nymarinerescue.org.