ST. LOUIS — Area breweries and distilleries are putting their alcohol expertise to a more pressing commodity these days: hand sanitizer.
“We had everything in-house outside of glycerin,” said Kevin Lemp, founder of 4 Hands Brewing.
A trip to a nearby candle shop that sold that essential ingredient and the brewery south of downtown was ready to start making the disinfectant that has flown off store shelves around the country as people stock up for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We quickly realized there was none in the market anymore,” Lemp said.
On Monday, he was at City Hall, delivering 144 gallons of donated sanitizer to the workers who must keep local government running. He figures 4 Hands has enough ingredients to make about 2,000 more gallons of sanitizer.
The brewery is still making beer, selling to grocery stores and allowing pickup from their tasting room. Customers who purchase beer from the showroom can even pick up free 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, though they were already out-of-stock by Monday afternoon.
The brewery plans to continue to give away hand sanitizer when it restocks. But Lemp said 4 Hands is also asking for donations to contribute to a fund set up by the St. Louis Community Foundation to provide relief to owners and employees of independent bars and restaurants in the region.
“It’s hurt us,” Lemp said. “But we know there’s a lot of people that are in a more dire state.”
On Wednesday, Lemp plans another hand sanitizer production run to make another 1,000 gallons. Some will be bottled for donation to customers, and he plans to sell some of the jugs to businesses that are on the front lines of the pandemic — doctors’ offices, grocery stores and QuikTrip.
Like nearly all bars and restaurants, 4 Hands has had to let some people go from its tasting room. But Lemp said the hand sanitizer production will let the business bring some of them back.
Other distilleries also have stepped up to make their own hand sanitizer, including Still 630 Distillery on the south edge of downtown, and newcomer Switchgrass Spirits in Wellston.
Switchgrass is using its distilling byproducts to produce hand sanitizer. The company partnered with local skin care product producer Bee Naturals to make and distribute the new hand sanitizer, and it has donated bottles to senior centers, food banks and fire stations.
Even Anheuser-Busch has jumped on the hand sanitizer bandwagon. It’s making and distributing hand sanitizer to its team first and plans to work with the American Red Cross to direct sanitizer to communities where it’s most needed, the company said.