You can make your own wine and beer, can’t you? – Moonshine Two Georgia men pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of operating a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest, One of the bootleggers faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes: making the brew, selling it, and not paying taxes on the proceeds.
- Back in college, the Explainer had friends who brewed their own beer, and that wasn’t against the law.
- So why is moonshine still illegal? Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine.
- Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer.
No one knows exactly how much money changes hands in the moonshine trade, but it’s certainly enough for the missing taxes to make a difference: In 2000, an ATF investigation busted one Virginia store that sold enough raw materials to moonshiners to make 1.4 million gallons of liquor, worth an estimated $19.6 million in lost government revenue.
In 2005, almost $5 billion of federal excise taxes on alcohol came from legally produced spirits. Until 1978, it was illegal to home-brew liquour or beer—and the rules on wine-making were somewhat ambiguous. * But a growing number of oenophiles and beer connoisseurs wanted to make their own, and they helped pressure Congress to decriminalize home-brews across the country.
Today, federal rules say a household with two adults can brew up to 200 gallons of wine and the same amount of beer each year. (A few states have their own laws prohibiting the practice.) The 1978 law didn’t legalize moonshining, though; you still can’t brew spirits for private consumption.
- It is kosher, however, to own a still and process alcohol—but only if you’re using the alcohol as fuel and you have a permit from the ATF.
- In some states, you can purchase a legal version of moonshine from commercial distillers.) Despite the Appalachian stereotypes, not everyone swigs moonshine just for fast, cheap intoxication.
Some folks are accustomed to the taste of unaged whiskey, and they prefer the buzz that comes with it. These days, moonshine is even going upscale, as a new breed of amateur distillers in California, New England, and the Northwest are taking an artisanal approach to the hobby.
Government prosecutors point out that moonshine poses serious health risks, including heavy-metal toxicity. So, how dangerous is it? There’s no inspection of the manufacturing process, so quality—and levels of contamination —vary. (There are some informal and imprecise ways to test the purity of hooch: You can light some on fire and check for a blue flame or shake the pint and look for clear liquid drops that dissipate quickly.) Aside from drinking too much and doing something dumb—oh, like attacking somebody with a chain saw and fire extinguisher — the biggest risk is lead poisoning, since a homemade still might consist of car radiators or pipes that were dangerously soldered together.
One study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in September 2003 found that more than half of moonshine drinkers have enough lead in their bloodstream to exceed what the CDC calls a “level of concern.” Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer,
Explainer thanks Michael Birdwell of Tennessee Technological University; Brent Morgan of the Georgia Poison Center; Art Resnick of the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau; and Matthew Rowley, author of Moonshine, Correction, Oct.26, 2007: The original version stated that it was illegal to brew any alcoholic beverage at home.
Before 1978, wine-making was effectively permitted by the government. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)
- 1 Why is distilling illegal in the US?
- 2 Is distilling alcohol illegal UK?
- 3 Is moonshine illegal everywhere in the US?
Why is it illegal to make moonshine in the US?
Federal Excise Tax – One reason that making your own hooch is illegal is that the federal government generally charges liquor producers $2.14 per 750 mL bottle of 80-proof liquor. Per gallon of 50% alcohol content liquor, the tax rounds out to about $13.50.
Why is distilling illegal in the US?
Is Moonshine Really Dangerous? – Although the prohibition on home distillation seems like a hindrance at a time when craft booze is booming, federal governments say that that is designed to protect the consumers. The government argues that the home distilling process is unsafe because of the potential to be contaminated with harmful heavy metal substances.
- These risks also include contaminating the product with methanol, which is said to cause blindness.
- Moreover, there’s the risk of the stills exploding.
- While it is easy to buy the equipment necessary to make moonshines, TBB agents often carry out crackdowns on moonshiners in possession of unregistered stills.
Suppliers often sell moonshine stills to beginners who are interested in making essential oils, perfumes or distilled water, which is perfectly within the law. See our blog and click here to get more information on apple pie moonshine recipes and other distilling relate information.
What is wrong with moonshine?
Methanol Risks – While the flammability of the moonshine distillation process is dangerous in and of itself, the health effects of moonshine-methanol consumption pose an even bigger threat. More people have died from drinking moonshine than by any explosions at stills, despite the few old and handmade stills that are left.
A major risk of drinking moonshine is methanol blindness. Detecting methanol upon the first step is impossible, and consuming more of it will simply get the person drunker. However, it’s eventually metabolized as its toxic metabolite, formic acid, in the body, which can have an extremely harmful effect.
Just 10 milliliters (ml) of methanol is all it takes to cause permanent optic and partial nerve damage, if not complete blindness. As little as 30 ml of methanol is lethal, and, for reference, a standard shot glass in the U.S. holds 40 ml. Old stills use car radiators during the distilling process, which often contain lead soldering and remnants of antifreeze glycol products that could contaminate and add toxins to the moonshine.
- Larger batches of moonshine are more likely to contain methanol.
- Because methanol is vaporized or evaporated at a lower temperature than alcohol, the first liquid produced by the distillation process usually contains methanol.
- While moonshiners have adopted new ways to discard methanol, some moonshiners will actually add it back into the batch to make the drink more potent.
However, because these processes aren’t regulated, there’s no way of knowing whether the illicit alcohol actually contains any methanol.
Why is making moonshine illegal UK?
MAKING SPIRITS AND LIQUEURS AT HOME – OVERVIEW Home made are as easy to produce as any other home brewed drink. Using similar to wine making you can produce high quality, high alcohol drinks which are almost indistinguishable from their and at a fraction of the price.
- The first hurdle to get over is the question of legitimacy.
- In the UK it is not legal to distil alcohol without a licence from Revenue and Customs and this includes alcohol for your own consumption.
- You are free to make naturally fermented alcohol for your own use and the development of special alcohol tolerant yeasts has made the production of ‘spirit and liqueur’ drinks from high alcohol washes (typically 20% abv), a practical proposition.
It is not unknown for some people prepared to take the risk, to make their own stills from information available on the internet. There are also some who make use of equipment intended for the purification of water or essential oils, but it must be stressed that this is illegal in the UK.
- There are four stages in the production of spirits and liqueurs The fermentation process is similar to making 5 gallon and uses the same fermenting equipment together with a specialised mix to convert glucose or to a high strength alcohol and water mix known as a ‘Wash’.
- It’s important to realise that all fermentations produce unwanted by-products known as ‘congeners’ which add unpleasant flavours to the product.
These can be exacerbated by the use of high temperatures to speed the fermentation, or the wrong mix of nutrients and even the wrong types of yeast. It is therefore important to use a yeast and nutrient mix which minimizes the production of these congeners and to take time to make a quality wash suitable for further processing.
- High speed fermentation and high alcohol yeasts often require further special treatment to reduce impurities and the consequential unpleasant tastes.
- In fermenting spirits and liqueurs an ordinary beer/wine hydrometer is useful.
- After distillation a special spirit hydrometer is necessary.
- Brew2Bottle Fermentation Bucket Bundle From £8.95 Alla Wine & Beer Hydrometer £3.25 In many countries other than the UK this is the stage where distillation of the spirit wash is carried out.
Distillation is a refining process designed to remove water and other by products from the wash so leaving the desired product (ethanol) in higher concentrations. This obviously reduces the quantity of liquid available by a considerable amount, but does leave a high quality spirit for,
- In some countries the use of economically priced, low temperature, low volume ‘air’ stills intended for water or essential oil purification, can produce alcohol levels of around 60% abv.
- As mentioned above it is possible to strip out the colours and flavours from commercially available spirits, particularly the cheaper brands, using a two stage ceramic/carbon filter and then add flavouring to make genuine full strength spirits and liqueurs.
The main difference from making wine is carbon treatment which uses activated carbon to remove the impurities in the wash. Specially developed activated carbon contains pores designed to trap particles of specific sizes. Activated carbons are made with different sized pores for different applications so it is therefore very important to use activated carbon specifically designed for treating alcohol.
- Spirit wash kits require the addition of carbon which can be either during fermentation or after stabilising the brew but before fining as a way to remove these impurities.
- This carbon is in the form of a liquid containing the activated carbon particles which is stirred into the wash to absorb the unwanted by-products.
In countries where distillation is legal, the passing of untreated washes through a still, will result in the concentration of the impurities to leave very noticeable and unpleasant tastes, so it is advisable to use carbon in the wash this stage. Carbon treatment is also necessary after distillation but it needs to be borne in mind that concentrated alcohol is a strong chemical solvent and can attack certain types of plastics unless it has been ‘cut’ to around 40% abv, before passing through a suitable purification filter.
- This type of filter is sometimes used to remove flavours and colours from commercial spirits prior to their re-use with spirit and liqueur flavourings.
- Making spirits simply involves adding a to the alcohol.
- Most flavours are made in countries where distillation for home brewers is legal so they are formulated to dissolve best in high levels of alcohol.
They are however perfectly suitable for use in Britain if more time is allowed for them to diffuse in our weaker ‘non-distilled’ alcohol mixes. There is a wide range of flavours available, some of which are intended to and do so quite successfully. Some and have to be mixed with glucose and/or cream solutions or with a pre-mixed ‘liqueur bases’ to truly capture the essence of your favourite drinks.
Why did the US make alcohol illegal?
National prohibition of alcohol (1920–33) — the “noble experiment” — was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts.
The evidence affirms sound economic theory, which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchanges is doomed to failure. The lessons of Prohibition remain important today. They apply not only to the debate over the war on drugs but also to the mounting efforts to drastically reduce access to alcohol and tobacco and to such issues as censorship and bans on insider trading, abortion, and gambling.1 Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased.
Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism.
- Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending.
- It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.
- Those results are documented from a variety of sources, most of which, ironically, are the work of supporters of Prohibition — most economists and social scientists supported it.
Their findings make the case against Prohibition that much stronger.2
Is distilling alcohol illegal UK?
Licensing and approval – To produce spirits in the UK by distilling alcoholic liquids or by any other process, such as cracking ethylene gas, you’ll need:
- a distiller’s licence
- approval for your plant and process
- to account for and pay Spirits Duty to HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC )
How lethal is moonshine?
Consuming Methanol In Moonshine – Upon first sip, the dangerous potential of methanol is undetectable. It will simply get people drunker. However, after it is metabolized, the methanol can have an extremely harmful effect in someone’s body.10 milliliters (ml) of methanol is all it takes to permanently damage the optic nerve and cause partial, if not complete, blindness.30 ml of methanol is lethal.
For reference, and standard shot glass in the United States holds 40 ml. If less than 10 ml of methanol is consumed then the worst someone will experience is a hangover, (albeit, quite possibly the worst hangover of their life). However, if someone consumes 10 ml or more of methanol, even split up among drinks, that can be enough to cause permanent damage or kill them.
While there are processes today to discard the toxic alcohol that is visually indistinguishable from water, some illegal Moonshiners will add methanol back in to provide a stronger potency. Obviously, without regulation, there is no way to know if illicit alcohol contains methanol.
Is Moonshining still illegal in USA?
Legality – Manufacturing of spirits through distilling, fractional crystallization, etc., outside a registered distillery is illegal in many countries. Currently in the United States, there are 4 states that allow the production of moonshine for personal consumption ( Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Missouri ).
|Alaska||Personal use only|
|Arizona||Must have a permit for personal use/register still|
|Massachusetts||Personal use on own property only|
|Missouri||Personal use up to 200 gal/year|
|North Dakota||Only up to federal allowed level(0)|
Is moonshine illegal everywhere in the US?
Where is Moonshine Legal? – Even though there is a federal law against moonshine, there are several states that still allow it. it. In Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Missouri, you can produce moonshine for personal consumption only. Arizona requires a permit to produce your own moonshine.
Massachusetts mandates that moonshine is consumed on your own property only. Any transporting will be seen as an attempt to sell, which will result in steep fines. Missouri puts a 200 gallon per year on the amount of moonshine that can be produced. North Dakota has an interesting law regarding the production and consumption of moonshine.
State law makes it legal to produce personal-use moonshine with one limitation; people can only produce up to the federally allowed number of gallons. Since the federal law bans moonshine production, this means people could produce zero gallons.
When did moonshine become legal in America?
4. America’s first legal moonshine distillery was launched in 2005. – Piedmont Distillers, located in Madison, North Carolina, holds the title of being the first legal moonshine operation in the United States and their state’s first legal distillery since Prohibition.
- In addition to being a part of moonshine’s history itself, Piedmont’s entire business celebrates the unique story of moonshine.
- Using recipes passed down from legendary moonshiner and NASCAR hall of famer Junior Johnson, their Midnight Moon moonshine is tripled distilled (remember those three Xs?) and special batches are infused with real fruit — from watermelon and strawberry to raspberry and peach.
Since 2005, more legal moonshine operations have popped up around the US, including the likes of Sugarlands (TN) and Call Family Distillers, which is also based in North Carolina.