During the coronavirus epidemic, Colorado drinkers will not go thirsty, nor will we have to worry too much about the lack of hand sanitizer. Distilleries around town have already been taking care of our booze needs, and now they're making sure we have clean hands, thanks to the recently relaxed FDA rules on how hand sanitizer is made.
"When we had to close our tasting room, we saw that distilleries in states with higher numbers of infected started making hand sanitizer, so we researched methods, learned how to make it, and then when the regulations were relaxed, we decided to start making some and giving it out to our community," says Austin Adamson, distiller and co-owner of Ballmer Peak Distillery, at 12347 West Alameda Parkway in Lakewood. "We are making as much as we can per day, so far about twenty liters a day."
And the distillery is selling out — or, more accurately, giving it all away for free. Last Saturday, says Adamson, hundreds of people stopped in for fill-your-own spray bottles (it's a liquid, not a gel) of the stuff. Many, he adds, also bought bottles of the distillery’s rum, gin and whiskey. The biggest challenge, he says, is running out of distilled product to make the high-proof ethanol, which comes from leftover whiskey and rum tails (the part you can't drink) that are mixed with glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and water. Visit the venue daily from about noon to 4 p.m., but check hours ahead of time to make sure the hand sanitizer is available and the distillery is open.
Ballmer Peak isn't the only producer making hand sanitizer. In LoHi, Mythology Distillery (3622 Tejon Street) is releasing 1,000 two-ounce bottles next week for free, though the owners hope the community will also support the company by purchasing a bottle of booze. To make the first batch, the distillery is following the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines, which involves combining high-proof ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol.
Ironton Distillery (3636 Chestnut Place) also has its own, dubbed Keep Clean!. Like the others, Ironton is following the official regulations and is offering up to a gallon (if you bring your own container) for free with a monetary donation, non-perishable food item or booze purchase. The distillery will have the sanitizer daily from 3 to 7 p.m., or until it's gone.
In Colorado Springs, Lee Spirits (110 East Boulder Street) has also gotten into the game. The distillery hasn't quite gotten production off the ground, but plans to finish the first batch this week. The goal is to make 1,000 bottles and donate it to medical providers, individuals and nonprofits in the community as a way to keep neighbors safe.
"We are deeply troubled not just by the rapid spread of this virus, but also by the scarcity of medical and hygiene products necessary for treating it," says co-owner Nick Lee. "Our distillery has the capacity to contribute to a solution, making it an easy decision for us to become a temporary manufacturer of hand sanitizer."
And for those social services looking to stock up on hand sanitizer, The Block Distilling Co. (2990 Larimer Street) is making and donating its homemade product to first responders. The distillery's effort is in conjunction with Root Shoot Malting in Loveland, which is donating all the grain that's first fermented and then distilled into alcohol.
As these distilleries do their part to help combat the spread of coronavirus, expect more to join in. Not only does this new line of "spirits" work for the community, but by buying local booze you're also supporting an industry hit by tasting-room shutdowns.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.