Breweries, Distilleries Partner to Create Hand Sanitizer During COVID-19 Outbreak

Cody Morris is reincarnating out of code draft beer as hand sanitizer.

A professional brewer and the son of distillery owners, he knew that all the beer sitting idle in kegs could be distilled into hand sanitizer, which is needed for essential workers nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His parents own Hardware Distilling in Hoodsport, Washington, and they wanted to make sanitizer, which needs to be at least 60% ethanol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“One of the things that they were trying to figure out was what was what was the cheapest, fastest ferment, because all the solutions start out as a fermented product” Morris told Brewbound.

To start the process, Morris runs beer he’s collected through Hardware Distilling’s column still twice.

“That’ll let me create an alcohol solution that’s at 90%, then we’ll add glycerin to denature it,” he explained. “Then, we’ll be able to package it as hand sanitizer.”One keg can be distilled into one or two gallons of sanitizer, depending on its ABV.

Morris is donating sanitizer to first responders, filling up consumers’ own containers at the distillery and selling small bottles to the local grocery store at a low cost.

“I want to be able to actually help people because right now, this is a pretty paralzying moment,” he said. “It adds to the despair if you don’t feel like you have any agency. This can mitigate that feeling.”

Without using beer as a base, it would take two weeks longer to start making sanitizer from scratch. Morris began asking brewers in his social networks if they needed to discard draft beer, which they, of course, did. In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee forced bars and restaurants to close for on-premise service on March 16.

Brewers began chiming in from across Washington, some hours away from the Olympic Peninsula, so Morris connected them with distillers in their areas.

“I’m hoping more breweries and distilleries and cider makers are starting to make this connection,” he said.

Many are stepping up.

Elsewhere in Washington state, Columbia Distributing and Pursuit Distilling have teamed up for cross-tier collaboration to convert kegged beer into hand sanitizer for the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Department of Emergency Management.

“We’ve created a quick way to drain the beer kegs and then Pursuit distills the beer into neutral grain spirit liquid for use in denatured alcohol,” said Columbia senior director of spirits Devlin McGill in a press release.

Last month, the Brewers Association (BA) canceled the in-person version of its Craft Brewers Conference, which led to the stranding of entries to its biennial World Beer Cup at its warehouse in Colorado.

With the help of Denver-area distilleries Denver Distillery and Ballmer Peak Distillery, the BA converted the beer, which poured into Colorado from 2,700 craft breweries nationwide, into hand sanitizer.

The first round of entries were poured from cans and bottles into 275-gallon totes and the distilleries received 1,500 gallons of beer to distill. The BA estimates this will create 175 gallons of sanitizer, which will be donated to first responders.

In Saint Petersburg, Florida, 3 Daughters Brewing is donating hand sanitizer made in the company’s lab according to World Health Organization guidelines. Small bottles, however, are in short supply, so the company was able to source new, sterile urine sample cups after their inventory ran out. Similarly, Morris is using Hardware Distilling’s miniature 50 mL bottles.

“We’ve been giving it to local hospitals, healthcare facilities, police departments, ambulance drivers, pharmacies, checkout people at grocery stores — all donated,” 3 Daughters CEO Mike Harting said.

So far, 3 Daughters has produced 2,200 gallons of sanitizer using isopropyl alcohol as its base.

In Milton, Delaware, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which also distills spirits, used its gin as a base for sanitizer, co-founder Sam Calagione said in a video op-ed today for the New York Times. However, gin offered some unintended side effects for the hospital workers who received the first hand sanitizer donation.

“They were pretty much like, ‘We’d rather smell like nothing than smell like we just came out of a nightclub,’” Calagione said.

Dogfish Head employees removed all the aromatic properties from subsequent batches and used a new custom-built bottling line to fill growlers with sanitizer. The company is selling sanitizer to the state of Delaware at market value and donating all profits to a fund for service industry employees.

Greeley, Colorado-based WeldWerks has partnered with several distillers to create sanitizer: Pine Bluffs Distilling in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming; Tower 56 Distilling in Greeley; not-yet-opened Molly Brown Spirits in Denver. The companies have been using wash from the distilleries or ethanol from other sources.

The sanitizer created will be donated to hospitals, first responders and police departments.

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