Charleston residents can now get 32-ounces of free hand sanitizer at fire stations, thanks to a community effort behind the scenes to turn beer into the much needed yet hard-to-find hand cleaner. Two stations — Number 8, Huger Street, and Number 14, Carolina Bay — are inviting residents to bring their own container to the station for a sanitizer share, all courtesy of Palmetto Brewing Co. and High Wire Distilling.
“We had a great January and February, and so this is all COVID-based,” says Billy Pyatt, CEO and owner of Catawba Valley Brewing Company, the parent company of Palmetto. “We didn’t have a ready made home for some product already in-tank and wanted to find a way to not waste it.”
So Palmetto looked to their new Huger Street next door neighbor, High Wire Distilling, whose expanded facility had the possibility to turn the low ABV product into sanitizer, and offered to donate 107 barrels of seltzer base. Sanitizer production was already something that High Wire was gearing up to do, so owners Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell decided to take on the Palmetto product to pass onto the community.
“We purchased 50,000 pounds of South Carolina corn from Orangeburg Milling to create our sanitizer product, but this was going to be different,” Blackwell explained. “We didn’t want to take their kind gesture and turn it into profits, and we had both talked about wanting to give back to the community.” So he contacted Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings to brainstorm how best to get the Palmetto sanitizer distributed. Seekings suggested the Charleston Fire Department, and thus a plan was formed.
But it took more than a “yes” from the two beverage producers to make it happen. High Wire’s construction contractor Jimmy Tupper helped out by transporting the 3,000 gallons of alcohol in multiple half-block flatbed truck runs from Palmetto to the distillery. Fire Chief Dan Curia assessed fire station sites and chose the aforementioned because “the logistics of parking and also because they are in walkable areas.” And High Wire used their knowledge from the TTB and FDA emergency approval for sanitizer creation to make the beer into 140 gallons of sanitizer that meets World Health Organization standards, then capped it in 55-gallon drums with pumps affixed to the top for easy filling of all types of household containers.
“The vision and generosity of Palmetto and High Wire show the strength of our business community, and the willingness of Chief Curia and his team to help in distribution is yet another example of the excellence of our Fire Department and city staff. Kudos to all who made this selfless project happen,” Seekings says.
For High Wire, it gave the distillery a chance to run their new equipment without the pressure of making something to their James-Beard finalist sipping standards. And as for Palmetto? They’re already eyeing another 3,000 gallons to provide for production, 3,000 gallons of South Carolina-made beer that is going stale without bars and restaurants to distribute it. To Pyatt, it just makes sense: “We’re happy to do this right now because this time all requires us to do something different.”
Editor’s Note: the author was employed part-time by High Wire Distilling before being laid off due to the pandemic on March 17.
• Palmetto Brewing Co. [Official]
• High Wire Distilling [Official]
• Jimmy Tupper [Official]
• World Health Organization [Official]
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