- December 11, 2020
In late March, Big Storm Brewing in Clearwater had repurposed some of its beer-making resources to manufacture much-needed hand sanitizer — between 50 and 100 gallons per day — that it packaged in spray bottles and sold to the public.
The product proved to be popular, necessitating rationing and scheduled pickups, and with beer sales down because of the closure of so many bars and restaurants, Big Storm decided to go with the flow and vastly increase its production capacity for the sanitizer. Co-Owner L.J. Govoni says the brewery invested about $100,000 on a host of new equipment and materials, including a 9,000-gallon storage tank, additional dispensing tanks and raw ingredients that, in normal times, would be used to make vodka, gin and other liquors.
Not only has the investment — made possible by a SBA loan — allowed Big Storm to produce up to 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per day, but it has also the added benefit of giving Govoni a reason to bring back taproom staff who had been furloughed. He says the company is now back to nearly full employment, with only a few salespeople remaining out of work.
The decision to go all-in on hand sanitizer has also helped Big Storm accelerate its plans to add a line of distilled spirits — a diversification strategy in the works prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I would say within the next four to six months, we should have product that we'll feel comfortable with, as long as it meets certain standards,” Govoni says. “And if it doesn't, the good news is we just keep playing with it and distilling and blending and see where we end up.”
Big Storm sells the hand sanitizer for $70 per gallon — discounts are available for bulk orders. It's also been donating it to agencies including the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Police Department and Clearwater Police Department. The company has also partnered with Metropolitan Ministries, which will help get the brewery’s donated sanitizer to where it’s most needed, leaving the brewery to do what it does best.
“Everything we're selling," Govoni says, "is allowing us to do more and more donations.”