Dogfish Head is teaming up with the state of Delaware to use its Milton distillery to make hand sanitizer as the coronavirus epidemic escalates in the state.
Dogfish founder Sam Calagione said Dogfish’s hand sanitizer will be prioritized for state workers, Dogfish and Boston Beer Company workers and, as supplies allow, for private health entities such as Beebe Healthcare.
“I never thought Dogfish Head would be in the sanitizer business,” he said. “But this is a time of crisis, and necessity is the mother of invention. It is our duty to do what we can to keep as many people safe and healthy in our community.”
Dogfish was already in internal discussions about using its distillery to make hand sanitizer after Calagione had seen that distilleries in Europe were doing it, and the company had begun making test batches, when Gov. John Carney approached the brewery about making sanitizer in anticipation of shortages. Dogfish’s sanitizer will be sold to the state at market price, with profits to be donated to an emergency relief fund set up by the nonprofit Delaware Restaurant Association.
Dogfish is not the only Cape Region distiller getting into the hand sanitizer business. Beach Time Distilling in Lewes has made test batches for use by local postal workers, according to the company’s Facebook page.
Zachary King and Marissa Cordell, owners of EasySpeak Spirits in Milford, closed the restaurant and shifted gears to make hand sanitizer. “We’ve been blessed to make and supply hand sanitizer to our communities for the past two weeks. We plan to keep it up! Governor John Carney this is a real Delaware small business at work, we appreciate the order the state has placed with us at EasySpeak Spirits,” Cordell posted on her Facebook page.
For a gallon or more call 302-858-1875; for small 3-10-ounce bottles, customers can stop by 586 Milford Harrington Hwy., in Milford.
Distilleries across the country have begun using their facilities, which have largely been shut down by the pandemic, to make sanitizer. Distilleries are uniquely able to do so. Calagione said the same high-proof ethanol used to make gin and vodka can also be used to make hand sanitizer using hydrogen peroxide and reverse osmosis water, among other ingredients. Instead of making a drinkable liquid made of 40 percent alcohol, Calagione said, much of the same process can be used to make a topical solution consisting of 80 percent alcohol.
The World Health Organization has provided a step-by-step guide for making homemade sanitizer. Calagione credited Distillery Manager James Montero and distiller Darren Bobby for fine-tuning the WHO recipe, and the company’s employees for getting production going quickly. Calagione said the brewery is on pace to be able to produce 200 gallons of hand sanitizer, the equivalent of 50,000 hand washes, and is capable of ramping up production further if needed. Dogfish has closed its Dogfish Inn, Rehoboth Beach brewpub, its own tasting room and kitchen, and Chesapeake and Maine restaurant with only the brewery and distillery remaining open. Dogfish and parent company, Boston Beer Company, are continuing to pay workers throughout the crisis, Calagione said.
Dogfish’s 100 workers have their temperature checked every day before work, Calagione said, and the company has dedicated its own sanitizer inventory to the state for healthcare facilities and first responders. Hand sanitizer has been in short supply across the country as stores were wiped out after coronavirus became a public health emergency.
Carney said, “Dogfish Head is one of Delaware’s great small business success stories. It’s great to see this nationally known company, with its roots in Delaware, step up in a time of such significant need to provide this vital product and assist Delaware restaurant workers who’ve been affected so significantly by the coronavirus outbreak.”
On March 12, Carney issued a state of emergency declaration to mobilize state resources against the spread of the virus. That order has twice been updated, first to require bars, restaurants and taverns to move to delivery or take-out service only, and to close the state’s beaches until mid-May.
Delawareans with questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 or 711 for people who are hearing impaired from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or email DPHCall@delaware.gov. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.