ETNA, Calif. — In the small Siskiyou County community of Etna, a craft distillery is turning its talent for making spirits toward a new goal — the production of hand sanitizer.
The founders of Denny Bar Company bought up an 1880s-era brick building in Etna a few years ago — the former home of a long-defunct Denny Bar Company from which the distillery later took its name. The owners pride themselves in producing artisanal spirits and food at the historic building these days.
Last week, as California went on a stay-at-home order due to the growing threat of coronavirus, Denny Bar Company joined a movement of distilleries around the country to start making hand sanitizer instead.
"We’ve been hearing throughout the industry that other distilleries that have the same kind of capabilities that we do just really stepped up, and we wanted to make sure we were doing the same in our communities in local areas," said co-owner Sparrow Tang.
The company put its equipment toward making high-proof ethyl alcohol for use in hand sanitizer, giving its first batch of 400 two-ounce bottles away to members of the local community on Friday. They've since run out of that initial batch.
"We are handing it out in the community and just trying [to get it to] anybody that basically walks in our door, we’re handing it out to them on a case-by-case and need basis," said Tang.
Now, according to marketing manager Lance Banks, they're waiting for a shipment of bulk materials to start scaling up their operations — with the goal of producing enough for local and regional hospitals, medical professionals, first responders, law enforcement, and shipping carriers.
"So Oregon and Northern California . . . their resources are very thin as everybody is aware, so we’re doing our part to ramp that up," said Tang. "We’re actually making making ethanol right now . . . and we’re right now, production wise, hoping to be able to kind of do about 50 gallons of ethanol a day."
Denny Bar hopes to have one-gallon and five-gallon bottles of hand sanitizer available by the end of March or the beginning of April.
Meanwhile, Double Taps in Grants Pass says that it has also received the go-ahead from the federal government to begin making hand sanitizer through its Crescendo Spirits distillery. The tap room said that it would begin selling it soon at the Grants Pass location.