Brewing up some help

By Matthew Berry

An Ohio college is partnering with local companies to help the community.

Hocking College’s Black Diamond Distillery is switching gears to make hand sanitizer. The college has teamed up with local Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery and other companies to help Southeast Ohio’s first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eric Hedin, a specialist and instructor in the Hocking College fermentation sciences program, reached out to area breweries and distributors for beer they weren’t going to sell.

Art Oestrike, president of Jackie O’s in Athens, responded with 4,800 cans of beer.

“Society needs this,” Oestrike said. “Southeast Ohio needs supplies. If I could make masks, I would. If I could make gloves, I would. If I could somehow find a bunch of ventilators, I would. Something I can do is provide an integral piece to provide hand sanitizer.”

“In a time of great need in our community, state, nation and world, this is something we can do easily to help,” Dean of Hocking College’s School of Workforce Development and Community Engagement Sean Terrell said. “We have the facilities, with Eric Hedin and Michelle Robinson we have the people and knowledge and with Jackie O’s, Watershed, Blue Label and Berlin Packaging we have the partners we need to make this product.”

Columbus-based Watershed Distillery provided time and expertise to assist in getting the college’s hand sanitizer recipe approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Blue Label Packaging in Lancaster provided the labels, and Chicago-based Berlin Packaging provided the packaging, bottles and caps from their New Albany facility.

Terrell said using those existing partnerships allowed the college to make the first run of hand sanitizer for free, aside from the cost of Hedin’s time.

“Now that we have the process in place, we hope to continue to make more runs of the sanitizer, faster,” Terrell said. “Future runs will go to local health departments, healthcare providers and be used on campus.”

Most of the first batch went to Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan. Terrell said some of the sanitizer will be given to businesses who donated to the production.

“The next batch will be ready at the end of the week,” Terrell said. He said there’s a big need for sanitizer among businesses, and that he’s talking to the Perry County Health Department about their needs.

Making hand sanitizer requires a base liquid with at least 91 percent alcohol by volume to be mixed with other ingredients.

Oestrike said the longest step of the process is getting that base liquid. Starting with something that already has a relatively high alcohol content speeds that up. Hedin said the beer Jackie O’s supplied has a 7.2 percent alcohol by volume content.

“Beer is an excellent feeder to create hand sanitizers,” Hedin said.

He’s distilling the beer more than four times to get the alcohol content high enough. He then mixes that distilled alcohol with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, following a World Health Organization guide for making hand sanitizer.

In the first few days of production, Hedin said he opened more than 2,000 cans of beer.

“I got a blister on my finger the first day,” he said with a laugh. Since then, he’s adapted to using a bottle opener to save his fingers.

Hedin expects the beer to make more than 10 gallons of sanitizer. The initial run was given to Hocking Valley Community Hospital.

There’s more to the story! Read the full article here.

Matthew Berry

is the digital marketing analyst at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio.