January 18th, 2021

Distillery adjusts production to address sanitizer shortage

By Jensen, Randy on April 13, 2020.

Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by Collin Gallant
Owners of the Grit City Distillery in Medicine Hat, Andy and Jen Schmunk, are using their facilities to produce a Òrough ethanolÓ that can be used as a hand-sanitizer or disinfecting alcohol.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


With a general shortage of products like rubbing alcohol and other hand-sanitizing products in communities across the province due to panic buying and hoarding surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, some local distilleries are stepping up to help their communities either for profit or out of a sense of community solidarity by making hand sanitizer locally.

Grit City Distillery co-owner Andy Schmunk of Medicine Hat says it’s a decision every local distiller has to make for themselves.

“We’re making this for people free of charge in our community,” he says, “and that’s important to be able to do that. I would recommend to people they do something similar because I know there are other companies who are charging an arm and a leg who are in the same position as us.”

Schmunk has prioritized delivery of his product to the families of local first responders who are at greatest risk during this outbreak, but has not excluded others in the community who might also be vulnerable when he gets a batch together.

“One of my first professions was as a firefighter,” he says, “and I have always had a desire to help people out and put my own situation on the line for others. I think in life there is nothing better than being able to stand up if you have something you can offer somebody at a time of need. We (my wife Jen and I) feel it is very honourable, and we are proud to do it for our community.”

Schmunk says for a distillery like his the recipe is relatively easy to follow to create ethanol, the base product for hand sanitizer, and he can make a batch in a day with the right combination of elements.

“What we are doing is creating the same recipe that the World Health Organization has approved and has been OK’d by Health Canada,” he explains. “The approval process with Health Canada has been expedited for places like us. So that has been really nice.”

“We have a process where it takes us about one day to distill when we have something ready to be distilled in terms of vodka or ethanol. Once we create a distillate of ethanol, we then have to blend the whole process over again in order to reach certain levels of our ethanol É To sanitize effectively it should be about 63 per cent (proof) as the minimum, but we’re producing a product with 75 per cent.”

Schmunk says Grit City will continue to do what it can to make life a little safer for vulnerable residents in his city, and he would encourage Lethbridge distillers to help if they can.

“I would just recommend helping out your community because the good vibes people are getting (are) very contagious, and I feel our society needs that right now,” he says.

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