Nowadays, no one wants to drink the latest recipe brewing at the Coastal Bend Distilling Co.

The Beeville distillery is one of hundreds nationwide that began shifting their business in March to make ethanol-based hand sanitizer after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced it would waive certain rules to allow distilleries that typically produce drinking alcohol to pivot production.

The move came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a shortage of hand sanitizer and other antiseptic products in stores across the country.

“This fulfills a crucial need for sanitizing products in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lindsay Horton, distillery marketing director, said in a statement.

Distillery owner Kenneth Bethune said he was grateful for a new business opportunity after the distillery’s tasting room was shut down.

“It’s definitely not something we intended to get into,” he said. “It’s been great that we could keep everybody on.”

Horton said production was slow at first because of difficulties finding supplies that are in high demand.

She said she’s been able to get ingredients from H-E-B, which has set aside part of its hydrogen peroxide supply for the distillery to use in its hand sanitizer supply.

Another barrier was finding bottles and appropriate labeling, which still must conform to government standards in spite of some rule waivers.

The supplies weren’t cheap, Bethune said, and the distillery paid above-market costs.

The distillery’s formula for hand sanitizer had to adhere to U.S. Department of Health and World Health Organization standards, said Craig Olson, interim distiller.

“The distillery is producing a liquid alcohol antiseptic topical solution that is 80% alcohol,” he said.

Horton said customers should expect the solution to be a liquid, rather than a gel.

“It’s actually a much more productive product, it just doesn’t feel as good,” she said.

The distillery has produced more than 1,000 bottles of various sizes and has begun distributing them to various essential industries such as health care and law enforcement. The company also plans to make the product available to the general public.

“This was a costly enterprise for us, but it was well worth the investment if it means doing our part to help keep the community safe,” Bethune said.

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Advocate photojournalist Yehyun Kim contributed to this story.

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Morgan covers business for the Victoria Advocate. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas and received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

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