With shortages of disinfectants throughout the region, breweries and distilleries are converting their operations to kick out a new product: sanitizer.
Ska Brewing Co.’s sister company, Peach Street Distillers, recently started repurposing a byproduct of distilling that is nearly pure alcohol and not suitable for consumption to make hand sanitizer, said co-owner Dave Thibodeau.
At Peach Street Distillers’ Grand Junction location and at Ska’s headquarters in Bodo Park, Thibodeau said the sanitizer is being given away free with all curbside orders. But with a lack of available medical supplies, the company is now looking at ways to put the cleaning agent in the hands of health care providers.
“Now, it’s becoming apparent there’s a big need for it,” he said.
In Farmington, Three Rivers Brewery began producing batches of hand sanitizer for first responders and local health care workers last week.
With an initial $500 donation from Perry Webb at Webb Chevrolet, the brewery’s distiller and head brewer Patrick Liessman started producing 30-gallon batches using the distillery equipment.
The first batch of 62% ethyl alcohol sanitizer went to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department on March 20. Since then, Three Rivers Brewery has donated sanitizer to the Farmington Fire Department, Farmington Police Department, Farmington Emergency Management, Basin Home Health, Southwestern Home Health and Farmington Municipal Schools, which is working to provide meals to students despite school closures.
“It’s very important to us to make sure all the health care professionals and first responders are taken care of before we open it up to the public,” Three Rivers Brewery said in a statement.
Because the brewery already had the right distillery equipment and quantities of ethanol present from producing vodka, whiskey and bourbon, it was a relatively easy transition to creating the first batch of sanitizer. Like other distilleries throughout New Mexico, Three Rivers Brewery said it used a recipe guideline provided by the World Health Organization.
The brewery said it was prioritizing donating the sanitizer to first responders, health care providers and frontline workers during this time, but it encouraged people interested in contributing to email the brewery at email@example.com.
The brewery – which also includes a pizzeria, restaurant and distillery – reduced its staff after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order but remains open to takeout and delivery via Grubhub.
“We love our community and want to take this time to remind the public to stay put, and when you are hungry to please support local businesses,” the brewery said in the release.