Last week was anything but easy for the people behind Bayou Teche Brewing in the wake of statewide restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Karlos and Stephanie Knott had to temporarily lay off seven people as they closed their Arnaudville taproom and significantly reduced production of their craft brews. With the closure of restaurant dining rooms and bars, they would only be brewing and bottling for grocers and other retailers in the coming weeks.
Instead of dwelling on the impact the new coronavirus, COVID-19, would have on their business, the Knotts focused how they might be able to help their community.
They heard about the critical shortage of hand sanitizer and learned the federal agency that oversees breweries was providing expedited authorization for brewers and distillers to make the high-alcohol product to help meet the demand.
The Knotts applied for the necessary permit on Saturday through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and they were cleared Sunday to begin making hand sanitizer.
They began purchasing ingredients and supplies, which are in high-demand across the globe. By Thursday, they were bottling dozens of gallons of hand sanitizer.
"We're just trying to make it available to our town," Stephanie Knott said. "We're just making as much as we can and providing it to a nonprofit to distribute it."
The Knotts are aiming to make about 700 gallons of hand sanitizer in the coming days for nursing homes, medical facilities, jails and other places where people are most at risk of getting and spreading the virus.
Le Bon Voisin, an Arnaudville nonprofit whose name translates to "the good neighbor," is helping to fund and distribute the hand sanitizer.
"This thing has blown up," said Courtney Pitre, an Arnaudville pharmacist and founder of the nonprofit. "We knew there was a need to be met, but we didn't realize just how much of a need there was. It's kind of amazing and also scary how much of a need there really is."
"I'm hearing from people in healthcare who can't get hand sanitizer. I knew it was bad. I didn't know it was that bad."
Karlos Knott, who serves as president of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, has been reaching out to brewers and distillers across the state to source alcohol and encourage others to consider making hand sanitizer.
Although breweries do not make alcohol used in hand sanitizer, they typically have the measuring equipment and most permits necessary to quickly produce the germ-killing alternative to soap and water.
The Knotts have been purchasing ethanol from small Acadiana distilleries, including Wildcat Brothers in Lafayette and J.T. Meleck in Branch.
"It's all about adaptability and survival," said David Meaux, distiller and founder of Wildcat Brothers. "People aren't buying rum right now, but there's a huge need for alcohol."
The Knotts are following the World Health Organization's formula for hand sanitizer production.
It's been a learning experience, but it's also been a rewarding one.
"The whole country is doing this kind of thing," Stephanie Knott said. "I think most of us are doing whatever we can to help others."