How the craft alcohol industry is helping during the coronavirus outbreak |

How the craft alcohol industry is helping during the coronavirus outbreak

Like many distilleries across the nation, Breckenridge Distillery has started to produce hand sanitizer to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus. The sanitizer is free, but the distillery is accepting donation to the U.S. Bartender's Guild.
Jessie Unruh-Brossman / Breckenridge Distillery

FRISCO — Breweries and restaurants across the country have had to shift to to-go options after the coronavirus outbreak led to the shutdown of taprooms and dining rooms. In Summit County, that means the craft beverage community is offering beer and spirits in bottles, cans or growlers rather than on draft or in a cocktail at the bar, and the companies are coming up with meaningful ways to get customers in the door — such as donating to charity.

Breckenridge Distillery made the pivot to takeout with its food options, even giving meals to elementary school students, but it is also following in the footsteps of other distilleries in America by producing hand sanitizer. Made with ethanol — which the distillery has in abundance — along with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, the 1-ounce bottles are available for free at the distillery’s Airport Road location with a suggested donation to the U.S. Bartenders Guild.

According to distillery spokeswoman Jessie Unruh-Brossman, the first batch of about 1,000 went quickly, and production will begin again when they receive more bottles for the sanitizer Thursday, March 26. The distillery’s restaurant and tour employees have been assigned to mix the ingredients, but access to glycerol and vessels has been the limiting factor. To keep the facility and workers safe, the distillery is not accepting donations of bottles from the community.

Another hindrance has been the government, but Breckenridge Distillery is keeping pace with the changes.

“We’re constantly adapting to make sure we’re following the rules and regulations, and its tough,” Unruh-Brossman said, referencing the labeling and ingredient regulations set up by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as well as the Food and Drug Administration.

“We’ve answered the call and spent several thousand dollars on incoming supplies to provide hand sanitizer as fast as possible during an epidemic, but the only bottle size we’re able to get can’t even fit all the required legalese and disclaimers,” distillery founder Bryan Nolt wrote in an email. “We would love to see these agencies dramatically simplify the process and allow us to help our community.”

Once the distillery reaches the point where it can donate in bulk, it plans to give the product in larger quantities to those who need it, such as the fire departments, grocery store employees and food pantry workers at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.

“Our goal is to support the community the best that we can with limited resources,” Unruh-Brossman said.

Outer Range Brewing in Frisco is collecting non-perishable food to donate to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. Those who donate get 20% off to-go beer.
Liz Copan /

Knowing that the resource center’s food pantries are being hit hard, Outer Range Brewing Co. started a canned food drive last week. Patrons can bring one canned or nonperishable good to the brewery’s taproom and receive 20% off their order of to-go beer in return.

“We’ve never discounted our cans before, but we thought that in this case it would be a good cause to get people out there, donating the cans for those in need,” said Emily Cleghorn, co-owner and chief marketing officer.

So far the brewery has received more than 400 pounds of donated food and provided over $2,500 in discounts.

“A lot of people here are struggling, so we weren’t sure how it was going to go,” Cleghorn said. “So to see this overwhelming response in this time of uncertainty … a lot of people are trying to save these nonperishables for themselves, so to see so many people step up and give it to those who are in more need than themselves, even though we’re all in need, is pretty inspirational.”

Because canned beer is one of the only ways to stay in business right now, Outer Range is paying it forward and lending canning materials at cost to breweries like Angry James Brewing Co. in Silverthorne and Breckenridge’s Broken Compass Brewing. Outer Range staff packaged 17 cases of beer for Angry James and 55 cases for Broken Compass last week.

“It’s been a win-win because we’ve been able to help them get back out there and get their beers to people, and it helps us give shifts to our staff who lost quite a bit of shifts when we closed our taproom,” Cleghorn said.

Broken Compass is also in the generous spirit and donating 10% of all sales — canned, bottled or in a growler — to help suicide prevention efforts in Summit County. The brewery has been canning with Outer Range since last spring to make its Ginger Pale Ale portable for rafting season, and the relationship continued when co-owner Lee Cleghorn reached out to Jason Ford, owner of Broken Compass.

“Now that to-go sales are all there is, Lee didn’t have to reach out and work hard for us to be able to do this along with him,” Ford said. “He went above and beyond, and we really appreciate it.”

A specific charity hasn’t been decided on, but Ford said he has a few in mind and wants to spread the wealth to those that touch on suicide, such as the resource center.

“Suicide has been an issue for a while, and this is definitely not going to help that situation,” Ford said. “It’s tough to be up here. … It’s not easy, so we support each other. That’s just how life is up here. People are coming in to support us, and we want to give back just like they are.”

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