ALBANY — With employees from throughout the Pretoria Fields Collective — including brewers, nurses, farm workers and med student volunteers — working around the clock, the downtown Albany Pretoria Fields Brewery has become ground zero for hand sanitizer production and distribution in the region.

Hundreds of gallon jugs and thousands of 8-ounce bottles have been filled with the industrial-grade sanitizer made at the brewery, labeled and sold to organizations and individuals in dire need of the product that is recognized as one of the prominent protective elements against the coronavirus.

“There were a lot of things that had to fall into place for this to happen,” brewery owner Dr. Tripp Morgan said as he watched ethanol being transferred from a tanker truck into a vat at the brewery. “A lot of people had to come through for us to finally get this going.”

One of those people who came through for the brewery was Gov. Brian Kemp, who paved the way with an order that allowed the brewery to receive a permit that would allow for a tanker of ethanol — the primary ingredient in the hand sanitizer mixed at the brewery — to be shipped to the downtown Albany facility.

Gainesville, Ga., trucker Brad Martin got the call to deliver the ethanol, and he drove his rig into town Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.

“Our work (delivering fuel) had been cut from six to four days a week because the use of gas is down across the state,” Martin said. “I’d been sitting at home four days straight, so when they called me and asked if I was interested in hauling the load to Albany, I immediately said yes. I had to pick up the ethanol in Cordele and bring it here.

“I’ve heard they may want another couple of loads, so I’m going to be in Albany for the next five days or so. When I heard what they were going to do with the ethanol, that made it even sweeter.”

As collective staff, many of whom had been furloughed with state and local regulations forcing many businesses to shut down, used a rental truck to pick up containers needed for the sanitizer and others affixed labels to containers through the night Tuesday, the brewery sold most of the supply it had ready by mid-afternoon Wednesday. And the orders kept coming in ... from health care facilities, post offices, first responders, private businesses and individuals anxious to get some of the sanitizer that is in short supply even on the internet and is being sold for as much as $400 a gallon and $40 for a 2-ounce tube.

Those were the going prices Wednesday when a Facebook post accused Pretoria Fields officials of charging too much for the sanitizer. Morgan pointed out that the cost to the brewery included sharply marked-up ethanol, materials used to package the sanitizer, salaries of workers toiling around the clock and the ancillary costs for making the product. A spokesperson for the brewery pointed out Wednesday: “We are not a hand sanitizer manufacturer. We are doing this to keep our company’s employees working and to provide a needed product to this community. For some people, no good deed goes unpunished.”

When the brewery re-opened for business Thursday morning, newly made and packaged sanitizer was again placed on sale, and the orders kept coming in.

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