Pilot House Distilling Navigates Hand Sanitizer Production

First responders and essential workers in Clatsop County were the first recipients of Pilot House Distilling’s 160-proof hand sanitizer, made to the specifications of the World Health Organization. Owned by Tonkon Torp client Buoy Beer, the distillery jumped to meet the needs of local emergency responders, city governments, and caregivers when industrial supplies of hand sanitizer evaporated. Since the first shipment of 300 gallons in early March, production and delivery has reached a volume of 10,000 gallons.

David Kroening, the general manager of Buoy Beer and co-owner of Pilot House, connected with Clatsop County to get the Pilot House sanitizer into the right hands at local hospitals, emergency service providers, city government buildings, and care centers. With Astoria’s deep roots in Oregon’s shipping economy, it was also fitting that the Columbia River Steamship Operators' Association purchased a bulk amount of sanitizer to make a gallon available for no cost to each of its members to help keep commercial river traffic moving.

Federal and state authorities supported the critically needed national hand sanitizer response and provided relief to distillers through relaxed restrictions and excise tax exemption for hand sanitizer made with denatured alcohol.

The spirited response by distillers to meet public need was hampered when raw materials became challenging to source. “Everything needed to produce hand sanitizer was scarce: from ethanol to bottles, caps, and everything in between. It was insane,” said Christina Cary, a co-founder of Pilot House. “We did not end up needing to redistill our spirits, which was on the table at one point, but we purchased a whole tanker of ethanol to keep up with demand.”

After ensuring that emergency responders and other critical services were supplied at a discounted cost, the hand sanitizer is now available to the general public through Pilot’s online store and in their Astoria tasting room.

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