Good beer and great times just go together, right?!

But with the COVID-19 Pandemic creating the very worst of times, a flagship craft brewery in Kitchener has shut down it’s Taphouse, beer store, and party facilities.

So…what’s a Brewer to do?

Well, challenging times stir up community spirit, propelling the best among us into action.

Enter the folks at Waterloo Brewing.

While still in operation producing their own brands for the market, they wanted to serve up some community assistance… 

“We were struggling with how are we gonna do this? … We really wanted to participate and do something to … support the frontline workers who are putting themselves at risk on our behalf.” (Russell Tabata/COO, Waterloo Brewing)


Russell Tabata COO of Waterloo Brewing in the brewery room

Then came the call to produce a vital need in constant use to curb the spread of disease – hand sanitizer.

But the brewer knew, that would require team work.

Limited by regulations that prevent a brewery from creating a product on premises with more than 25% alcohol, they knew there was still some role for them to play in producing the alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which must be 70% or higher to do the job. That high content requires a distillery, not a brewery.

“The challenge for distilleries is that they have to ferment the product first and that takes up to 14 days to create the alcohol. But we’ve got lots of beer that already has the alcohol in it. Ready to go immediately”

Russell Tabata, Waterloo Brewing

Stockpiled, they had 9% proof beer – and loads of it … like, ten thousand litres …to give away! 

The donated shipments have gone out to Craft Distilleries already in production on “Project Hand Sanitizer”, but struggling to keep their stills filled.

Liquid gold turns into something much more precious

Benjamin Murphy of Murphy’s Law in Elmira had spearheaded a campaign among small-scale makers of Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, etc. to get involved. Murphy’s Law received the very first shipment and fired up the stills.

Benjamin Murphy (in the middle) of Murphy’s Law distillery who spearheaded the hand sanitizer making the effort. (From left to right: Sullivan Murphy (co-owner/VP), Ben Murphy owner president, Randy Penney COO)

With an influx of pre-fermented products – the strong beer from Waterloo Brewing – the small distilleries were ready to turn liquid gold into the clear high alcohol content fuel needed to fill many, many empty hand-sanitizer containers.

Mark and Lisa Townsend opened Silver Fox Distillery, in Arthur just months ago with the intention that not only would it be their retirement project, but to also incorporate community giving into their business model. They have experience in this area – previously using a hobby to raise two hundred thousand dollars for Sick Kids Hospital over the years.

Then, barely a month into their new venture, local need reared its head. There was talk among a network of small distillers about using their skills and their stills to produce hand sanitizer for frontline folks during the COVID outbreak.

”We realized we had the unique ability to help in this very specific way.”

Mark Townsend/co-owner, Silver Fox Distillery

Connections were made and soon the free brew was flowing to Silver Fox – five thousand litres of it.


Mark Townsend – owner at Silver Fox Distillery with his Vodka stills

“That’s huge for us – we’re new, so when we got the beer, we went into full production.” (Mark Townsend)

Keeping the supply flowing

The first shipments of beer, combined with the distillers’ skills will produce up to about fourteen hundred liters of ethanol.  That’s the active ingredient in the transparent sanitizer jelly that goes to battle with germs on the very hands directly helping our neighbors, friends, and potentially those nearest and dearest to us; including – yup, any one of us.

Waterloo Brewing describes it as very satisfying to find its place in the process of churning out more of the product so vital on the frontlines of fighting the Pandemic. And – intends to keep it up.

“It’s not a one off thing for us – because we as an organization believe the worst is yet to come.”

Russell Tabata, Waterloo Brewing

More multi-thousand litre donations will be dispatched from Waterloo Brewing; the raw stock ready to be pumped in, stoking the stills of Craft Distillers, to keep the hand sanitizer flowing into the steady stream of need.

For their part, the Craft Distilleries are committed to return 100% of the hand sanitizer they create with donated beer to the stores of for distribution on the frontlines in local communities.

Written by: Janine Sharp