Michigan Brewer Turns Grain Alcohol to Sanitizer to Combat COVID-19

April 14, 2020

Birmingham craft brewer Griffin Claw Brewing Co. is using distillery operations to make hand sanitizer as COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues

Birmingham craft brewer Griffin Claw Brewing Co. has repurposed distillery operations to make hand sanitizer.

The brewer has bottled 2,000 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, with plans to bottle 5,000 more in the coming days, according to marketing director Chris Lasher.

The company is distributing the bottles to carryout and delivery customers. 

In order to do this, Griffin Claw uses old beer and distills it down to make a 160-proof to 180-proof grain neutral alcohol. It is then diluted with distilled water, becoming 70% alcohol hand sanitizer, reported Crain’s Detroit Business.

"We just saw the impact of COVID-19 and everyone running out of sanitizer. We operate a distillery, so we got creative and were able to make our own," said Lasher in a news release. "It started as a way to sanitize our own taproom and brewery without stressing the public supply. We also offered bottles for all of our guests to use and it really caught on. The people really appreciated it and it helped them feel a little safer in a time of uncertainty."

The brewery has enough sanitizer to fill more than the initial 7,000 bottles and is working with the Michigan State Police to donate extras. Sanitizers have been donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit.

Since the brewer’s entire bar and service staff is out of work during the government-mandated shutdown, it is also donating any tips from delivery and carryout services directly to the affected employees.

The state Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said it relaxed its regulations to allow beverage distillers to make denatured alcohol through the end of June or later as warranted, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

"This production is not normally permitted unless a distillery has an industrial manufacturing permit, which no Michigan distiller currently has," according to a statement issued by the Michigan Emergency Operations Center.

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Cristina Tuser