Demand ‘explodes’ as Bayou Teche Brewing makes sanitizer

Thursday, April 16, 2020

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When Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville began making hand sanitizer in response to shortages caused by the coronavirus, the plan was to provide about 20 gallons to a local nursing home, and to perhaps also make some for medical facilities, jails and other places where people are most at risk of getting and spreading the virus. 

The effort began when the brewery’s owners Stephanie and Karlos Knott heard about the critical shortage of sanitizer and found out that the federal agency that oversees breweries would allow them to make the high-alcohol product. 

They were able to pull together enough ingredients for a first batch of 55 gallons, but Karlos soon recognized that making the sanitizer is the easy part. Keeping up with demand and getting the stuff to make it is more challenging, and is getting more difficult every day. And more costly.

When word got out, their limited idea “exploded” according to Courtney Pitre, who heads Le Bon Voisin, the Arnaudville nonprofit that is helping to fund and distribute the sanitizer.

The organization had packaged and distributed more than a thousand gallons by the beginning of April, and was getting calls from medical facilities, police forces, and others, “from all over the state,” Pitre said. “We’re trying to keep it down to essential workers, but it is unreal how much demand there is. It’s crazy.”

The nonprofit cannot legally sell the sanitizer and the effort is being funded largely through donations, she said.  The needed ingredients are becoming more expensive as they become harder to find, and suppliers insist that “we put the money up front.”

Information on how to make a tax-deductible donation can be found on the Le Bon Voisin Facebook page, or checks can be sent to P. O. Box 280, Arnaudville LA 70512.

Making the sanitizer is “really pretty easy,” Karlos Knott said. “You are going to mix alcohol with two or three other chemicals and then you let it sit for a couple of days and then it is ready to go.” 

The brewery was founded in 2009 to craft beers that complement Cajun and Creole cuisine. Its sanitizer formula follows one promulgated by the World Health Organization.

The Knotts began by buying alcohol from another local distillery and chemicals from local suppliers. Karlos, who is president of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, also began reaching out to brewers and distillers across the state to find alcohol.

Those sources have been pretty much used up, and replacing them is becoming more and more difficult, Pitre said.

"The whole country is doing this kind of thing," Stephanie Knott said in an interview. "I think most of us are doing whatever we can to help others."

“We’re going to do it until the need is gone, or supplies run out, or we run out of money,” Pitre said. 

Three things to know about this story:

  • Bayou Teche Brewery has begun making hand sanitizer for medical and other facilities and distributing it for free through the nonprofit LeBon Voisin.
  • The nonprofit cannot legally sell the sanitizer and the effort is being funded largely through donations.
  • Information on how to make a tax-deductible donation can be found on the Le Bon Voisin Facebook page, or checks can be sent to P. O. Box 280, Arnaudville LA 70512.

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