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Women from nine North Fork breweries met at übergeek in Riverhead this week to brew this year’s Lady Brewsters release. (Credit: Connie Lynch photography)

To celebrate Women’s History Month, a new project is brewing from the Lady Brewsters of the North Fork.

Now in its third year, the collaborative group of women from nine local breweries are uniting once again to make a beer for a good cause.

This year’s beer is dubbed ‘Give me a Smile,’ a tongue-in-cheek twist on a phrase that usually elicits an eye roll or groan from women.

It’s a blackberry lime American IPA brewed with pink peppercorn. 

“It has a bright, enjoyable fruitiness with a back note of pink peppercorn for a subtle floral kick,” said Catie Callaghan, cellar woman at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., who worked with Michelle Demetillo and Sheila Malone to develop the recipe. Centennial, Cascade and Simcoe hops were also added to balance out the fruit, Callaghan said.

“We come from all these different facets of brewing and that’s the best part to me, having all of that collective knowledge and experience,” she said, adding that they’re hoping to expand to different beer styles — like a sour — in the future.

The group — from Eastern Front Brewing Co., Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Jamesport Farm Brewery, Long Ireland Beer Co., North Fork Brewing Co., Peconic County Brewing Co., Tradewinds Brewing Co., Twin Forks Beer Co. and übergeek Brewing Co. — gathered at übergeek on March 22 and 23 for a brew day facilitated by owner Rob Raffa.

This year, proceeds from beer sales at each of the participating breweries will benefit The Retreat, a domestic violence organization that provides services including a crisis hotline, shelter, legal advocacy, counseling and prevention education.  

It’s set for release on April 9, which coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Demetillo, who formed the group in late 2019, said she’s thrilled it’s become an annual event, especially given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s collaboration is sponsored by the Long Island Safer Bars initiative, which works to promote safety and prevent sexual violence in settings where alcohol is served.

“In a predominantly male industry, the Lady Brewsters are using their talent to further equity in this work, and mobilizing communities to raise awareness,” said Sarah Samson, project coordinator for Long Island Safer Bars.

As part of their collaboration, each brewery will also receive a harassment prevention training led by LISB.

“It’s really great to have that education for all the staff because it’s really important, unfortunately,” said Sheila Malone, tasting room and events manager at Long Ireland.

The training covers how to spot inappropriate behavior and red flags and how to respond to incidents if they occur.

This year’s can design was created by artist Meagan Rose Dowling. (Courtesy photo)

Malone said the Lady Brewsters event has become something she looks forward to all year.

“Not only is it a chance to flex our creativity and knowledge, but it also showcases new ideas and techniques that we’ve all picked up as a group from working in the beer industry,” she said. “We’re all immersed in our own breweries and personal lives, but this brings us together and highlights what we as women can bring to the table.”

Demetillo said the group was formed to empower women in an industry that’s still widely male-dominated. 

“We are lucky enough to be supported within our North Fork bubble, but it’s not always the case in the beer scene,” she said. “I’d love to see us change the preconceived notion of your normal beer drinker and your normal brewery employee. And I just really want us to be a force for good.”

Since forming the Lady Brewsters, Demetillo has stepped back from her role at North Fork Brewing to accept a production internship at Sloop Brewing Co. in East Fishkill. The internship program was formed through the brewery’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy that seeks to dismantle barriers that prevent women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized communities from entering the industry.

Demetillo said it fits right into the work she’s doing with The Lady Brewsters, who work in all facets of the beer industry from management and sales to marketing, hospitality and production. 

“Some women are scared to ask or even dabble [in production],” Demetillo said. “It’s nice to be able to open doors.”

Artwork for the can label was designed by Meagan Rose Dowling of the Wild Rose Shop & Studio, who brings bright colors and bold illustrations to highlight an important message.

“I was up for the challenge with this project by creating something that could be uplifting while still highlighting a serious issue,” Dowling said. “As someone who has experienced and knows many women who have experienced some sort of sexual abuse, assault or harassment, I am honored to be a part of something that will benefit women in need of help.”

“Give Me A Smile” will be released on Saturday, April 9 at all participating breweries with $2 donated to The Retreat with every draft pour. Packaged 4-packs will be sold for $17 with a $1 donation from each to-go sale. To find out about this collaboration and upcoming events, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @ladybrewsters.