Fighting COVID-19: unexpected alternatives could keep breweries running

There’s virtually no industry being left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Current mitigating measures mean consumers and businesses are functioning in very different ways, and with no clear end in sight, global economies face an uncertain future. 

Breweries are particularly vulnerable due to the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels as well as the cancellation of large public events. Many have shut down completely, while others are at very low capacity in order to continue serving the retail market.

A necessary shift brings creative solutions 

If there is any bright spot to this, it’s that challenging times often spark creativity and innovation, and the brewing industry is no exception. Witness the rise in beer home delivery services, craft beer ‘drive thru’ pick up options and some breweries pivoting to produce mineral and functional waters as a way to retain business. This ingenuity is often paired with a strong spark to do something to help amid this crisis. In this vein, small and mid-sized breweries might be interested to learn more about how to make hand sanitizer from the alcohol produced during the brewing process as another alternative solution. As a long-time partner to the brewing industry, we at DSM can share what we know about this process and also highlight a few important factors to consider.

One way to support the battle against coronavirus

The World Health Organization has developed a recipe and detailed guidelines for developing sanitizers, and this is a great starting point. The main ingredient of course is alcohol, and for brewers with unusable beer, there are a few methods that can be used to separate alcohol from beer in the brewing process and then use it for sanitizer, depending on the stage of production. Final products – kegs or tanks – can be fed to either a vacuum or traditional distillation process to concentrate and achieve this separation, while beer still in maturation can be treated with enzymes to increase alcohol content and then fed to the respective distillation process. 

Brewing specifically for the purpose of producing alcohol for hand sanitizers enables brewers to select their raw materials (maybe those of lower value or that can’t be stored long-term) and make a high-gravity, low-cost wort, without hops and flavorings. Adding enzymes here helps achieve the goal of producing a high quantity of fermentable sugars.

Consider these elements, and let us help

Fine-tuning the brewing process to produce (or support the production of) hand sanitizers will naturally vary from brewer to brewer, and DSM can share its deep technical expertise to facilitate this exploration. But there are some important factors for all brewers to keep in mind. Take the time to consider whether you and your manufacturing partners’ location are suitable for ethanol production. Also please consider checking local authorities with regards to legislation on excise duties.

Our team of experts can help you navigate these and other requirements in order to arrive at the best possible solution for your brewing ambitions.

Ensuring a bright future for all

At DSM we share your desire to find ways to help amid this global health crisis and maintain business vitality.  We are proud that, for example, DSM teams are already distributing immunity-boosting vitamins and nutrients to first responders and health care professionals, to support the well-being of those on the front line of this crisis. DSM has also produced 130,000 liters of disinfectants at the request of the Dutch government to prevent a shortage of supplies for healthcare workers. 

These are challenging times indeed, but history shows that adversity can spark creativity, especially when we work together. If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch with our expert team, or send me an email directly

Published Date

17 April 2020

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