Companies switch gears to manufacture hand sanitizer

  • Dan Kramer of Element Brewing and Distilling in Millers Falls waits on a customer. The business is open for takeout sales of beers and spirits, as well as hand sanitizer. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dan Kramer and Ben Anhalt of Element Brewing and Distilling in Millers Falls have started producing hand sanitizer with their distilled alcohol. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ben Anhalt and Dan Kramer of Element Brewing and Distilling in Millers Falls watch the flow of alcohol come out of the top of their distilling equipment. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • PHA Industries Inc., a specialty chemical manufacturer in Orange, recently donated bottles of hand sanitizer to the Orange Police Department. Police Chief James Sullivan said the bottles are being split among his department, the Orange Fire Department, the Orange Highway Department and Orange Town Hall. COURTESY PHOTO/ORANGE POLICE DEPARTMENT

Published: 4/23/2020 1:38:19 PM
Modified: 4/23/2020 3:16:44 PM

Though their tasting room is closed amid COVID-19 restrictions, staff members at Element Brewing and Distilling in Millers Falls aren’t sitting on their hands.

Instead, owners Dan Kramer and Ben Anhalt have started making hand sanitizer that they are providing to local emergency workers and selling to the public from their 16 Bridge St. location, which is still open for takeout sales of craft beers and spirits.

“When the hand sanitizer shortage was announced, we knew right away this was something we could help with,” Anhalt explained.

“There is a big need for it and it feels good to do something for the community,” Kramer added.

Kramer and Anhalf have already donated hand sanitizer to local police and fire departments, as well as to Community Action Pioneer Valley.

Similarly, in Orange, specialty chemical manufacturer PHA Industries Inc. recently dropped off bottles of hand sanitizer at the Orange Police Department. Police Chief James Sullivan said the bottles are divvied up between his officers, the Orange Fire Department, Orange Town Hall and the Orange Highway Department.

A photo of a box of hand sanitizer bottles was posted to the Police Department’s Facebook page, with the hashtag #smalltownbigheart.

“We truly appreciate it,” the post reads.

Sullivan said PHA Industries’ donation was very generous.

“All that stuff is very handy right now,” he said. “(The pandemic) is going to grind on for quite some time.”

At Element, switching gears to make hand sanitizer has been a team effort.

Kramer and Anhalt called Vermont Bread Co. to inquire about where the company got its large amounts of sugar. The Vermont Bread Co. hooked them up with a source and donated 2,500 pounds for the first batches.

Similarly, Peter Mitchell of Headwater Cider in Hawley donated some of his cider to be distilled, and Andler Bottle Co. of Springfield donated 1,000 bottles to package the first batch of hand sanitizer.

Alcohol is a key ingredient in hand sanitizer, along with xanthan gum and hydrogen peroxide. But instead of distilling grains for bourbon, molasses for rum or potatoes for vodka, Element is distilling whatever its staff members can get their hands on — such as the cider from Hawley — to make the alcohol because it doesn’t matter how it tastes.

Element is offering free two-ounce bottles with a taproom purchase, and has started including the small bottles with four-packs and spirits that are sent to retailers. Three sizes can be purchased at the tasting room.


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