Koval Distillery

Koval Distillery has been hard at work making hand sanitizer. 

The Brewers Association has reported a staggering statistic from its recent survey of craft breweries. Of the breweries that responded, 46 percent said they believe they will shut down in the next one to three months given current economic conditions that have resulted from the social distancing public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

I am starting with this statistic for a few reasons. First, it is the news, and it is real. I oftentimes do not like to cover stories such as this in this space because I would rather support our local craft beer community with columns that recommend their beers, their stories, their events and anything else essential to the story of craft beer. But these are different times.

Second, if you love a craft brewery in our area, please support them. Times are uncertain for them. Their product in the best of times is still a nonessential product, so when your flexible income might be threatened, craft beer is probably lower on the list of things to buy. If this statistic alarms you for a local brewery or bottle shop, then vote with your dollars to support a community you want to see still exist when we all come out of our homes.

Third, I want you to know despite what craft breweries are up against right now, they still are helping their communities during this time even though the normal reaction would be to hunker down and ride out the storm.

We all know how difficult it can be to find hand sanitizer, so a group of Chicago breweries teamed up with local craft distillery Koval to pitch in. A band of 15 local craft breweries donated more than 15,000 gallons of beer to Koval Distillery to turn into hand sanitizer. Breweries such as Goose Island Beer Company, Metropolitan Brewing, Temperance Brewing, Great Central Brewing, Kinslahger Brewing, Midwest Coast Brewing, Oak Park Brewing Company and Urban Renewal Brewing have contributed to the effort.

Based on very recently updated laws, distilleries now are able to make hand sanitizer. But this product is not available for consumer markets, so you will not be able to purchase Metropolitan Generator hand sanitizer from the beer I recommended last week. Koval Distillery has a GoFundMe for those wishing to donate to this venture: gofundme.com/f/help-koval-make-alcoholbased-sanitizer

Apparently, hand sanitizer is not very difficult to make. It requires a neutral grain alcohol, which is similar to vodka but with a much higher proof. Combine that with glycerin and hydrogen peroxid,e and you have what we commonly call hand sanitizer.

Alongside the Koval partnership, Two Brothers Artisan Spirits, a joint venture with Two Brothers Brewing, is producing hand sanitizer for first responders and nursing homes in the Aurora community. I have featured Two Brothers Brewing since the early days of this column, from Summerfest to Oktoberfest parties they throw. I bought my first homebrewing kit from their Brewers Coup at their Warrenville facility years ago. I am so proud of this outfit for stepping up and taking part in this crisis.

“We are happy to be able to help our communities during these difficult times,” said Two Brothers co-founder Jason Ebel. “We have been a part of this community for 23 years, and it’s great to have the ability to support it like they have supported us for all those years.”

Alongside hand sanitizer, Two Brothers also is producing disinfectant that can be used as a cleaning product for contaminated surfaces.

“Our first priority is meeting the initial needs for all the front-line workers and businesses that are helping those who really need it,” Ebel said. “The response so far has been very humbling. Not only does it feel great to be doing something that can help people, but it keeps us busy and keeps a good portion of our staff working, which is important to us.”

The folks at 18th Street Distillery, same as 18th Street Brewing, in Northwest Indiana also are pitching in and donating the hand sanitizer they are producing to their local area first responders. I featured 18th Street Brewing when I visited a number of months ago now. I never have had their spirits, but I definitely will check them out now. They have a GoFundMe page set up as well: gofundme.com/f/supplies-to-produce-free-hand-sanitizer.

Golden Barrel from Goose Island Beer Company

ABV: 6.6 percent


Style: Golden Ale

Brewery’s notes: “Golden ale aged in bourbon and wine barrels”

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in four pack of 16-ounce cans for $10.99.

In the Flesh Lime and Sea Salt from Two Brothers Brewing Company

ABV: 4.1 percent


Style: Sour — Fruited

Brewery’s notes: “Slightly tart American sour ale with lime and sea salt added.”

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in four packs of 12-ounce cans for $11.99 or at The Hoppy Pig in 32-ounce growlers for $13.

Chasing Paper from 18th Street Brewing

ABV: 6.2 percent


Style: Pale Ale — American

Brewery’s notes: “Coming in at 6.2 percent, this Citra packed Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale is just what you need to get the weekend started.”

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee in four packs of 16-ounce cans for $12.99.