Beam Me Up, Brew-ski: How Trek Long Island Inspired Riverhead Brewery übergeek’s Red Shirt Ale

Red Shirt Ale ubergeek

Riverhead brewing company, übergeek, was given a mission to brew a special Star Trek-themed beer for the Trek Long Island con this year. Übergeek delivered but not before overcoming tragedy and an arduous voyage to victory.

Months before her second annual Trek Long Island convention kicked off, founder Stefanie Gagone opened ale-ing frequencies and received a message from Vern Raincock at the Federation of Beer, a Canadian brewery that specializes in Trek-themed brews. Raincock had heard about Trek Long Island and wanted to get a beer into the show. Gagone thought it was a logical idea so Raincock set out finding a distributor and tapped Rob Raffa, from none other than Riverhead-based übergeek Brewing Company.

Spoiler alert! The name might have made it a foregone conclusion that they would eventually brew a beer for a sci-fi convention.

Übergeek’s Brewer is an Uber Geek

Raffa is a Trek head from way back (he’s not much of a Star Wars fan – cue sad R2-D2 whine) and an all around geek for the sciences, science fiction, and fantasy. He even named his daughter Nova after his favorite astronomical phenomena.

“My original background wasn’t supposed to be brewing,” Raffa admitted in a recent phone interview with

In fact his voyage was full of side quests.

“I originally went to college for theater then I discovered science,” he explained. “Physics, atmospheric science, and math. In my free time I taught myself coding and created programs for things I needed for playing D&D.”

You know the old saying: always a DM, never a player character – Raffa taught himself Java and SQL to run his campaigns more efficiently.

When Raincock connected with him, Raffa took on the challenge to provide beer for Gagone’s Trek con and enlisted his brewer John Fraoili to help. Fraoili was perfect for the job.

“He watched the Wrath of Khan about once a month,” said Raffa.

Seeking Out a Star Trek Beer

Of course, Federation of Beer had a lot of experience making Trek-themed brews and had the right connections. 

“We chatted with Vern at the Federation of Beer to handle the proper protocols for the licensing process to use the Star Trek name,” Rob explained.

The Federation of Beer served as their liaison to Paramount and Viacom, facilitating the use of the Star Trek brand. They thought that the hard part was over and could warp right into making beer but the idea-generating phase took a lot longer than expected.

“John [Fraoili] and I spent months thinking about what we wanted to do,” he said.

Ideas included a beer based on specific episodes or films. They even dreamed up a series of beers based on the “Cause and Effect” episode of The Next Generation where the Enterprise gets caught in a temporal causality loop complete with labels animated in the Lower Decks style. Almost every one was rejected for one reason or another.

“We had a deadline and we ran out of time,” admitted Raffa.

Raincock from the Federation of Beer said there were some beers already approved and the one the brewers settled on was Red Shirt Ale. The label and name were already blessed by the powers-that-be so they went with it, devising their own original Amber Ale recipe for the can.

Then tragedy struck. Fraoili died suddenly of a heart attack.

A Fitting Tribute

Fraoili, who had always been Raffa’s friend, and co-brewer for a while at übergeek, had recently left to launch his own brewery called Nevermore right before he passed.

“It was very crushing for the beer community,” Raffa said.

In Fraoili, he had found a compariot in geek and beer culture. His assembled knowledge was taken away. 

“An investment in nerd culture was just gone with him,” Raffa said.

The irony of settling on the name Red Shirt Ale—it’s an accepted myth that redshirted starfleet officers are known to not make it back from away missions—wasn’t lost on Raffa who said it would have also humored Fraoili.

“He would find this all very ironic,” said Raffa. “He would have said, ‘of course!’”

Despite the challenges, Raffa and his team were determined to make Red Shirt Ale for the fans at Trek Long Island. They produced eight barrels, roughly 300 gallons, and split the batch into 45 cases of cans, with drafts available in their tasting rooms.

“We wanted this to be a really special project,” Raffa said.

A Red Shirt with a Red Shirt Ale at Trek Long Island. Photo: Trek Long Island Facebook page.

Red Shirt/Red Tape

Even after the name was decided on and the beer was on its way to becoming a reality, Gangone and Raffa both had to navigate a lot of red tape to get Red Shirt Ale into the con. It came down to the wire.

“We only got approved a day-and-a-half before the event,” Gangone said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen.”

Like many Federation missions, the entire crew came together to make the improbable possible. In the mess hall upstairs on con weekend, Red Shirt Ales were everywhere and Gangone says people were buying them just to take the can home.

Raffa said they sent eight cases of Red Shirt Ale to the con and the hotel reported that they sold almost all of them with less than a case left over on Monday.

Asked if she would have a Trek-themed beer at next year’s convention—Trek Long Island 3 is already planned for stardate May 30 – June 1,  2025—Gangone was unequivocal.

“I would love to,” she said.

Raffa said übergeek would also be up for another mission to create a Star Trek beer for Trek Long Island.

“We absolutely would like to do this again,” he said, adding that now that the kinks were worked out he expects next year to be much smoother sailing.

The Future of übergeek

The name of the brewer, übergeek, lends itself to speculation about what Raffa is trying to communicate that’s different from other beer makers but also inclusive of what everyone geeks out about.

“übergeek is the community as a whole,” he said. “Enjoy your own geekdom.”

His mission is to further art and science while fostering a bond in both Trek and beer.

“I always view The Next Generation as a guide to morality,” he said. “This opportunity is the marrying of everything I love.”

With six new tanks being added to übergeek’s brewing capabilities, Raffa is dedicated to expanding their projects and creating beers with other science fiction themes and artwork.

“I like to tell a story,” he said, and with Red Shirt Ale, he’s done just that—crafting a narrative that resonates with Star Trek fans and beer lovers alike.