Doctor on the case making locally-produced hand sanitizer

As a Prince George emergency doctor who also runs a primary care medical clinic, Daryl Leiski saw a need for locally-produced hand sanitizer the day he went to order some for his clinic.

Worldwide demand and the need for alcohol-based sanitizer as means to kill the coronavirus  has drained supplies of known manufacturers and when Leiski couldn’t find a supplier that got him thinking about a plan to utilize his expertise as the owner of a downtown brewery/distillery to make his own disinfectant hand product.

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On Wednesday morning, the first bottles of made-in-Prince-George hand sanitizer will be poured at Trench Brewing, which has teamed up with Leiski’s CrossRoads Brewing in a joint venture to make the product.

“I didn’t go into the distilling business to make sanitizer, it’s just something that became necessary and we can do it,” said Leiski. “The government, both federal and provincial, made it possible for distilleries to manufacture hand sanitizer without going through the usual six- or eight-month or longer process to get a Health Canada-approved product.”

The brand name of the product will be called Salveo, the name of Leiski’s walk-in clinic, a Latin word which means, “In good health, to be well.”

The two local craft breweries have a history of working together in business which dates back three years ago when Trench introduced its beer products to the masses in the first year of AleFest under the licence obtained by CrossRoads. By teaming up on the hand sanitizer initiative they share the costs of manufacturing, bottling, labeling and distribution.

The product will be sold directly through each of the breweries’ websites – crossroadscraft.com and trenchbrewing.ca – and at the two breweries. The city’s Catholic schools have put in an order and it is available in bulk for wholesalers to market. Leiski is hoping local stores, restaurants, pubs, churches, dental and medical offices and other business or individuals will also buy it.

“We’re taking orders right now for hand sanitizer in anywhere from 60 (millilitre bottles) to 3.78-litre jugs,” said CrossRoads general manager Michael Temperley. “We will have the ability to ship in pretty substantial volume within about seven days.

“Businesses are looking for the 500ml pump jars, so a hair salon or insurance company could buy two of the pumps and one of the big jugs to fill them.”

Costs range from $12 for a 500ml jars to $20 for a 750ml bottle-shaped container. The 3.78-l jugs will sell for $65 or $70. The product is made from four ingredients – ethyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and water – the standard World Health Organization recipe.

CrossRoads, at 508 George St., is set up to produce spirits at its on-site distillery but is currently awaiting municipal and provincial inspection for a spirits manufacturing licence to make gin, vodka and alcoholic seltzers. That means the 80 per cent alcohol needed for sanitizer has to be outsourced. Once Leiski gains approval to produce the alcohol locally from malted barley used for the brewery that will reduce the cost of making the sanitizer. Bottling and hand-labeling the sanitizer is labour-intensive and that will be a limiting factor on how much can be produced in the initial stages.

Worldwide demand for supplies of empty containers has made them difficult to find but Leiski has enough 500ml pump containers to fill 2,000 in the first batch to be bottled on Wednesday at Trench Brewing’s headquarters at 399 Second Ave. Half of those will be distributed free of charge to local non-profit agencies.

Leiski foresees an ongoing need for the product after the pandemic ends. People have become conditioned to washing their hands frequently to minimize the risk of virus transmission and that is likely to become a permanent habit, especially in the cold-weather months, as way to combat cold and flu season.

Leiski, 56, grew up in Prince George and is a D.P. Todd Secondary School graduate. He’s been a medical doctor since 1996. He and Bjorn Butow, the other principal owner, opened CrossRoads Brewing in 2016.

“Before medicine, back in the early ‘90s, I wanted to open a brewery and then medical school got in the way – well I had no money,” Leiski chuckled.

CrossRoads plans to reopen its restaurant and outdoor patio next Monday, operating at 50 per cent capacity. The province, in its Phase 2 reopening plan, has restrictions in place which limit groups of no more than 10 people seated together. Some restaurants and pubs opened for the first time in two months last week but Leiski delayed it by a week to ensure his staff were familiar with the new provincial restrictions.

 

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