VANCOUVER -- Parallel 49 in East Vancouver has now produced 700,000 litres of hand sanitizer since adding the alcohol to its production list in March.

Like most hospitality businesses, the brewery saw a dramatic drop in sales and revenue when venues were ordered to close to stop the spread of COVID-19. With beer sales dropping, the owners decided to start making hand sanitizer, and the first 4,000 cans were donated to businesses and charities.

Since then, the brewery has signed a contract with the provincial government.

“They procured 660,000 litres from us that we put it into 200 litre barrels. But because we’re still making beer we didn’t have the capacity to bottle it,” co-owner Mike Sleeman said. “So the province also contracted AG Hair to put it into bottles for them so they could distribute it to frontline workers.”

The product is also selling in four litre bottles through the Parallel 49 tasting room and Canadian Tire in Burnaby.

But as production of hand sanitizer was picking up, so too was the demand for beer – both takeout and delivery.

“It’s crazy, we’re about two and a half times our sales at our peak last summer and it’s only May,” Sleeman said. “People are definitely drinking more.”

As the brewery begins to reopen to dine-in customers, production of hand sanitizer will be slowing down.

“We’re going to try catch up on the beer side because this is our business, we’re not in the sanitizer business,” Sleeman said.