Distiller Aaron Mayer shows the process of creating hand sanitizer Wednesday, March 25, 2020, inside Pine Bluffs Distilling in Pine Bluffs. The distillery started its first batch of sanitizer Friday, and can produce up to 30 gallons every two days. The batches of sanitizer will be donated locally by the distillery. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Local distillers are partnering across Wyoming to fill a vital need during the COVID-19 pandemic – hand sanitizers.

Nationwide, there have been shortages of personal protection equipment, toilet paper, hand sanitizers and more.

Because most distillers have had to shut down their regular operations, or at least adjust them, to comply with COVID-19 orders, they’ve stepped up to fill this disinfectant need.

Local distillers such as Chronicles Distilling and Pine Bluffs Distilling have started distilling alcohol for hand sanitizers.

Cameron Karajanis, assistant distiller and events manager with Pine Bluffs Distilling, has always been geared toward the local community with ordering grains and distributing. He added these efforts wouldn’t be possible without head brewer Aaron Mayer and co-owner Chad Brown working hard to make sure the hand sanitizer gets to the community.

Karajanis said the company will be donating the sanitizer free of charge to the community. This is made possible due to Imminent Threat Grants through the Community Development Block Grant Program, according to a news release from Gov. Mark Gordon.

“And once this pandemic became worse for everybody, we saw that articles were being written about other distilleries making hands sanitizer and shifting their production from whiskey to hand sanitizer,” Karajanis said.

“And we really wanted to gear (this) toward making sure that we can provide that hand sanitizer to those people that need it the most,” Karajanis said.

Chronicles and Pine Bluffs are partnering with other distillers statewide, such as Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby, Jackson Hole Still Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson.

Chronicles co-owner Chase Lesher said his distillery is also donating the sanitizer to emergency medical services to distribute. He said Jonah Bank is helping with the cost of supplies to make the hand sanitizer, as well as other local businesses that want to remain unidentified.

“We saw a bunch of other distilleries on social media doing it, and it made sense to make it for the local community. But then we get a phone call from emergency medical services, and they said they were running out of hand sanitizer for their hospitals, restaurants and first responders,” Lesher said. “So we said OK, we’ll try to help make a bunch of hand sanitizer for you. And then it evolved a little bit bigger and bigger.”

Karanjanis said Pine Bluffs is about 50% to 60% complete with producing hand sanitizer – the distiller is just waiting for ingredients such as glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. He added that his team is expecting to initially produce 300 gallons of hand sanitizer, with the possibility of making more as long as they get the supplies they need.

For the sanitizer, the distillers are making alcohol at an 80% proof and following the hand sanitizer guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization.

He said as they make hand sanitizer, they will distribute it locally, and then, as they make more, they’ll look at distributing it statewide and potentially to western Nebraska, if they need it.

Karanjanis added that Gordon’s support in the hand sanitizer production has been amazing, along with the support from the local community.

“We’ve had multiple people message us saying, ‘Awesome, thank you for, you know, stepping up and changing your production’ and stuff like that. Because it is gonna hurt us sales-wise because we’re not selling the hand sanitizer, we’re just giving it out to the community.”

To support Pine Bluffs Distilling during this time, Karanjanis said they’re still selling their liquor via pick-up only at the distillery and encouraging people to buy their labels if they see them at the store. He also asked people to make sure to buy from the other distillers, as well.

Isabella Alves is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at ialves@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @IsabellaAlves96.

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