North Carolina breweries send millions in unused beer to be made into hand sanitizer

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some studies show that drinking at home may have increased during our time away from work, but Americans are not consuming anywhere near the amount beer they do when restaurants and bars are open.

Sumit Vohra is the CEO of Raleigh's Lonerider Brewing Company, one of many craft brewers in North Carolina.

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"For the beer industry, it has become extremely tough because we have a perishable product that has a limited shelf life," Vohra said.

Thanks to COVID-19, all is quiet at the brewery. But earlier this year, Lonerider, along with other breweries, ramped up production for March celebrations like St. Patrick's Day and the March Madness college basketball tournament. Brewers also stocked up for April which was supposed to be Beer Month in North Carolina.

And now it's all going bad.

"The kegs continue to increase from out-of-stock product in the market, out-of-date product in the market that we need to take back and/or beer that's here that we can't actually sell that was destined for bars," Vohra said.

The North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association estimates tens of millions of dollars in beer is going bad in our state. Nationwide it's many, many times that.

But it's not all being wasted. Vohra said, "We are giving our kegs, filling up the trucks, sending them to Top of the Hill."

Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill--like other local distillers--is turning the bad beer into ethanol, which is being turned into hand sanitizer.

But none of the businesses are selling the hand sanitizer to help their bottom line.

"Everybody is kind of partnering on the initiative and doing the right thing. Out of that, most of it is given to first responders for free," Vohra said.

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Vohra added that it's hard for him to talk about how all this is hurting his business when so many people are suffering more, especially those who have contracted the virus. But he said furloughing his workers is one of the hardest things he's ever had to do.

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And now he can only try to plan for the future with the few employees he has left.

"They're working extremely long hours and we have a plan to get through it on the other side of this," Vohra said.

Vohra said he also plans to do more public service projects once business is back on track.
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