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Local Distilleries Convert to Hand Sanitizer Production as Michigan Faces Shortages

From Detroit City Distillery to Griffin Claw Brewing Company, spirits makers are working to meet the needs of healthcare facilities and municipalities facing shortages due to the novel coronavirus

Clear jugs sit on the floor at Detroit City Distillery production facility.
Detroit City Distillery is one of several local spirits makers who’ve transitioned to producing hand sanitizer.
DCD [Courtesy photo]
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Metro Detroit’s distilleries are among a growing number of spirits makers around the country transitioning to hand sanitizer production to meet the needs of healthcare facilities and municipalities facing shortages due to the novel coronavirus.

Detroit City Distillery joined Griffin Claw Brewing Company and Valentine Distilling Co. last week in switching to sanitizer production after state officials loosened regulations for distilleries in response to the new coronavirus. According to new, temporary rules, licensed distilleries in the state are permitted to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers without the usual industrial manufacturing permit through June 30. There’s a chance that the rule allowance could be extended.

The state rules were accompanied by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s relaxed regulations, allowing distilleries to manufacture sanitizer products made from denatured or undenatured ethanol, glycerol (not less than 1.45 percent of the finished hand sanitizer product on a volume basis) and hydrogen peroxide (not less than 0.125 percent of the finished hand sanitizer product on a volume basis).

Christopher Lasher, marketing director for Griffin Claw, said in a statement on March 20 that the brewery had already bottled 3,000 2-ounce bottles of sanitizers with plans to produce around 5,000 more over the next several days. “We have a staff that’s more than willing to work around the clock to get this done,” Lasher said in a release.

The company is distributing bulk containers for the State of Michigan Emergency Operations Center, which distributes supplies to first responders and healthcare workers. The sanitizer is also being sold and donated to local organizations and agencies like food banks, police departments, and nursing homes. Working with Griffin Claw to expand operations and meet demand, Valentine Distilling Co. has voluntarily paused its spirits production and devoted its facility to producing sanitizer. Carryout customer receive a free spray bottle of sanitizer.

As of March 21, Detroit City Distillery had produced and sold 340 gallons of bulk sanitizer for the City of Detroit, Samaritas, Child and Family Services of Michigan, Rivergate Terrace, Medstar Ambulance, and Goodwill Industries, with plans to make 1,400 gallons this week.

Jugs of sanitizer in front of a copper still at DCD.
Detroit City Distillery aims to produce 1,400 gallons of sanitizer at its facility in Eastern Market during the week of March 23.
Detroit City Distillery [Courtesy photo]

Still, the distilleries face challenges. Valentine Distilling notes that it is experiencing a packaging materials shortage, which could make distributing sanitizer more complicated. The size of production facilities is also a limiting factor, according to Detroit City Distillery co-owner Michael Forsyth. “Healthcare services and municipalities, in particular, serve the highest number of people and are facing a critical deficit of this essential resource, which we can provide in bulk but in a limited way, due the fact that we are a small-batch distiller to begin with,” he said in a release.

“As supplies and our capacity increases, we certainly hope to make sanitizer available to the general public. However, right now, we need to do what we can to get it to our big institutions who can get it to the most people.”

Update: This story has been updated with additional information about Griffin Claw’s sanitizing distribution.

Michigan Distillers Cleared to Produce Hand Sanitizer to Help with COVID-19 Response [MI Gov]
Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19) [FDA]
With Sanitizing-Solution Shortage, Liquor Distilleries Are Stepping Up and Making Their Own [E]
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]

Valentine Vodka Distilling Co

161 Vester St, Ferndale, MI 48220 (248) 629-9951

Detroit City Distillery

2462 Riopelle Street, , MI 48207 (313) 338-3760 Visit Website

Griffin Claw Brewing Company

575 South Eton Street, , MI 48009 (248) 712-4050 Visit Website