COVID-19: British Columbia's craft breweries and distilleries join the battle by plunging into the world of hand sanitizers

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      One of the many amazing things about alcohol is its uses beyond making one forget about COVID-19, the seismic shifting of the world as we know it, and the fact that your thumbs are really started to hurt from playing Overwatch 17 hours per day.

      Alcohol is also a key ingredient in hand sanitizer, which is currently flying off the shelves at the same rate as 24-packs of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper and Robin Hood All-Purpose Unbleached flour. And luckily, it's something that you'll find at Vancouver's dozens and dozens of craft breweries and grassroots distilleries. 

      Already much-loved to the point where they are interwoven into the fabric of Vancouver, the craft liquor industry members have now been given the green light to step up big-time to help fight COVID-19. 

      British Columbia's Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has temporarily authorized brewers and distillers to manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Previously, discretionary authorization was required from the government to produce any such alternative products. 

      In a press release, B.C. Attorney General David Eby said: "Some distillers are donating the 'excess alcohol' from their distilling process to a third party that can produce hand sanitizer. Others are producing the hand sanitizer themselves, taking steps to ensure products contain the necessary level of alcohol content to make them effective. Distillers will be able to donate or sell the hand sanitizer they have manufactured, and the authorization will be reviewed on an ongoing basis as the provincial health context changes."

      Last week, the likes of East Vancouver's Parallel 49 and Odd Society Spirits had already started to branch out from a product you use during socializing to one you use as a major tool in reducing the after-effects of human contact.

      “Obviously this situation is unlike anything we’ve ever had to deal with,” Paralled 49 co-owner Anthony Frustagli told the Straight. “We’re trying our best to keep the lights on and protect jobs. At the same time we asked ourselves, ‘How can we help B.C. get through this?’ There’s a dire need for hand sanitizer and we have the equipment, people, and materials to produce it.

      “Our first batch is earmarked for charities, non-profits, and disadvantaged individuals in the community,” he continued. “Beyond that, we’re working on bulk product to supply essential services like public transit, first responders, and front-line health care workers.”

      East Van's Odd Society has also stepped up to give back. 

      General manager and co-owner Miriam Karp told the Straight: “We also want to be of service, and have produced a limited supply of hand sanitizer that we have designated for not-for-profit organizations within the community that are in need.”

      The distillery had already been making a limited amount of hand sanitizer. Now that it’s been given the green light by the government, it will begin on commercial production. Challenges moving forward include sourcing containers and other supplies needed to get the product out to the public.

      “We were fortunate that we had just made some gin so we had the first runnings in order to make 100 litres of sanitizer quickly,” Odd Society Spirits distiller Joel McNichol told the Straight. “But, it was and still is a challenge to source glycerin, peroxide and bottles so that we can make more.”