CAMDEN – Distilleries and breweries in Maine have joined together with the state’s flagship university to help make sanitizer.
That includes the owners of a small-batch craft distillery in Camden who began thinking about how they could help early on.
“I’ve got a lot of family members who work in healthcare so really started talking about it the first week,” said Andrew Stewart of Blue Barren Distillery in Camden. “What can we do best to help our community and the wider community during the shutdown.”
The Maine Distilleries Guild, Maine Brewers’ Guild, University of Maine and Maine Emergency Management Agency are working together to get more hand sanitizer into the hands of hospital staff.
“We have local breweries that are donating beer, and we’re going to throw the beer in the still and distill that to get the ethanol out,” said Jeremy Howard, of Blue Barren Distillery in Camden. “We’re going to ship that bulk ethanol to larger distilleries who can take that ethanol level up to a higher standard … and that will be brought up to UMaine to make into sanitizer.”
The federal government issued an advisory on March 18 permitting distilleries to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizer.
“There were a lot of rules that needed to be changed before distilleries were legally allowed to do hand sanitizer and we’re a part of that process,” Stewart said
“Just to get the legislation passed alone was monumental,” Howard added.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, there are more than 588 distilleries and breweries making sanitizer to help with COVID-19.
“We know our contributions are pretty small contributions it’s great to be funneling stuff in and not pulling ethanol from other sources for this hand sanitizer project because, obviously, the whole country is looking for all these ingredients and you just can’t get them now.”
Blue Barren is not alone. Maine Craft Distilling in Portland is currently selling hand sanitizer to consumers curbside for $3. The Lewiston factory that makes the state’s top-selling alcohol – Fireball cinnamon whiskey — is converting its system to start making sanitizer.
“The breweries are donating the beer and … we’re donating our time and effort to help what’s being called the front line now – the people who are really dealing with this,” Stewart said of hospital staff.