Craft brewers fight the coronavirus with canned sanitiser

Craft brewers in Canada are using spare capacity to fight the coronavirus by canning hand sanitiser.

While Farmery Estate Brewery continues to produce beer at Neepawa in Manitoba, its skills with alcohol are being utilised to pack the sanitiser in 12oz aluminium cans for use in hand washing.

Co-owner Lawrence Warwaruk told the local Brandon Sun newspaper that he hopes that hand sanitiser production will not prevent them from making beer, and said: “I think one is more important than the other right now. We’ll try to balance both.”

Large paper labels make it clear what the contents of the can are meant for, and that they are for refilling dispensers.

“I didn’t expect the demand to be so high,” Warwaruk said. “Within 15 minutes [of posting the products on its website], we had 300 likes and shares and it just kept going higher and higher.”

Ethyl alcohol and hops grown on Farmery’s own farm are being used to make hand sanitiser, which is then filled into the cans. The American Centre for Disease Control advises that hand sanitisers must be at least 60 per cent alcohol by volume to be strong enough to kill harmful pathogens but Farmery’s is at 70 per cent.

So far, the brewery has put only one employee on leave because of the pandemic. It is more important to support local businesses during the crisis, Warwaruk said.

“The depths of this economic downturn are going to be felt for a long time,” he said. “The more that people can support local breweries, it’s going to have a huge impact on our feasibility in years to come.”

At Calgary in Alberta, Annex Ales was forced to close its tap room for sales on 16 March and feared having to close completely.

Beer and soft drink sales dropped by 60 per cent, but after hearing from front-line workers that they were running out of hand sanitiser the brewery’s management contacted Raft Beer Labs to come up with the recipe for Crisis-Grade Hand Sanitiser.

The sanitiser recipe used by Annex follows the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organisation and contains 73.5 per cent ethyl alcohol, 1.83 per cent vegetable glycerine and 0.18 per cent hydrogen peroxide.

The recipe is filled into 16oz cans, and Annex recommends that it is transferred to resealable spray bottles.

“We are donating 10 per cent of all product made to charities and non-profits in the Calgary area. We are ensuring the front-line organisations that work with vulnerable and at-risk populations will be prioritised,” said Annex on its website.