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Koval Distillery Finds Solution for Unused Beer: Hand Sanitizer


Current social distancing and shelter-in-place orders across the country have left bar stools empty and taps dry. On-premises sales of draft beer have all but halted, leaving millions of gallons of beer undrank. Even worse, the lack of demand for future kegged beer has left thousands of breweries with untapped kegs, which will slowly go bad. This unfortunate consequence has led breweries across the nation to dump their beer. However, creative thinking has presented an alternative use: turn the unused beer into hand sanitizer. This was the case for Chicago’s Koval Distillery, which partnered with local breweries to create and donate 500 gallons of beer-made hand sanitizer to community organizations in need.

The ability to shift from producing spirits to sanitizer occurred thanks to a recent Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announcement that distilleries could begin to shift production to hand sanitizer. Koval quickly realized demand from both sides: the community groups that needed hand sanitizer and breweries that were hoping their beer wouldn’t go to waste. 

The move to creating hand sanitizer was made due to Koval’s experience in distilling beer to create a host of Bierbrand varieties over the years, which is a spirit made from distilled beer. Still, shifting an entire business from creating tasty whiskeys and gins to hand sanitizer is not an easy one.

“It has been a huge undertaking to transform our craft spirits distillery into a hand sanitizer manufacturing facility,” said marketing and communications manager, Abby Boler. “There are many new challenges presenting themselves every day, and our team has been working around-the-clock with a totally new set of systems and responsibilities.” 

Once Koval had the technical side down, now they just needed the supply. Thankfully, Chicago is home to a ton of breweries, and breweries across the city stepped up to help. To date, Begyle Brewing, Urban Renewal, Metropolitan Brewing, Great Central Brewing, Midwest Coast, Oak Park Brewing, Temperance Beer, Kinslahger, Goose Island and Lakeshore Beverage have donated over 15,000 gallons of beer, which has then been distilled into high-proof alcohol that can be used for hand sanitizer. They were even able to source growlers from Hamburger Mary’s to serve as containers for the sanitizer.

The partnership between Koval and these breweries has generated over 500 gallons of hand sanitizer to-date, which has been donated to community organizations in need, including Metropolitan Family Services, Clearbrook, TASC, El Valor, YMCA of Metro Chicago and Sinai Health System. Overall, Boler says that Koval has created and delivered over 3,000 gallons from their distillery to-date to medical centers, first responders and non-profits throughout the Chicagoland area. 

With the first brewery batch completed, Boler says Koval is already looking to do another batch with local breweries and has already been in touch with the likes of Band of Bohemia and Church Street Brewing. A feeling of community and camaraderie is felt between everyone in the beverage industry, from brewers big and small, distilleries and more. That sense of community has manifested in so many heart-warming ways throughout the past few weeks, and I’m sure the trend will only continue. “Everyone was so quick to jump in and contribute—it is really so amazing to see,” explains Boler. 

Feature image photo credit: Enjoy Illinois

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