LENA — Two businesses are teaming up to fight COVID-19 by making hand sanitizer at Lena Brewing Company.
The company is among those affected by the statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses. However, President Ross Vehmeier quickly realized there is shortage of hand sanitizer for both first responders and the general public, and he knew his brewery could make sanitizer with some help.
He looked no further than across the road to Adkins Energy, which makes 190-proof ethanol from locally grown corn.
Vehmeier reconfigured the brewery for production of hand sanitizer, while also continuing to brew beer on a limited scale for outside sales.
“This is an opportunity not just to keep people working, but to make something that will hopefully help people in our community stay healthy,” Vehmeier said. “With Adkins’ help, we’re able to provide hand sanitizer free to first responders and at about our cost for everyone else.”
Vehmeier began the sanitizer sales on Friday. People lined up with their own containers, or purchased growlers filled with sanitizer. Minna Flock of Forreston was one of those who bought a growler.
“We have been getting by with soap and water, but when I heard about being able to buy it like this, I knew I had to do what I could to be extra safe,” Flock said. “This is great, and to be able to buy a growler filled means a lot, and it gives me extra peace of mind.”
Vehmeier uses a recipe from the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. The hand sanitizer is 83 percent ethanol (alcohol). Vehmeier said most hand sanitizer bought off the shelf is 65 percent alcohol. He also uses peroxide, distilled water and glycerol.
“Adkins and I worked together to get licensed, do the labeling and then we got to work,” Vehmeier said. “I found out that so many first responders were not able to get hand sanitizer, and that is not right. We have a distillers license, and I knew we had to do something.”
So far, Vehmeier and his team have made 400 gallons, with a goal to have 40,000 gallons made by Wednesday. He said the most difficult thing is getting enough containers, so he encourages people who want to buy some to bring their own sanitized containers.
Ray Baker, Adkins general manager, said he's pleased to collaborate with the brewing company.
“We’re proud to have two Lena-based companies working together to help the people in our community stay safe and healthy,” Baker said. “Everyone on our team is excited to be a part of this project that benefits our family, friends and neighbors.”
Growlers will be available at Lena Brewing Company’s taproom, 9416 W. Wagner Road in Lena, and can be filled with hand sanitizer. The company’s popular beers also will be available for growler fills and carry-out purchases. Sales will be made outside of the brewery from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 2 to 7 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit Lena Brewing Company on Facebook.
“These are some scary times,” Vehmeier said. “We are trying to make things right to protect our staff and make sure we take care of others.”
Jane Lethlean is a freelance correspondent: firstname.lastname@example.org; @DOGWMN2