Moonshiners, An Illegal Alcohol
Moonshiners, An Illegal Alcohol
Moonshine is an illegal alcohol that is produced from cereals and yeast combined together then fermented. The trade of making moonshine began in Europe after Saint Patrick brought this alchemy from Egypt (Dabney, 33) during the seventeenth century where it was used as a substitute for making wine during winter. Both the Spanish and English government demanded a lot of tax regarding any drink that had a higher percentage of alcohol preferably more than three percent (Institute of Man) from wine makers. Most of the European immigrants who moved to America during this time brought their knowledge about distillation to America. While in America, the moon shinning business continued being brewed especially in states such as Tennessee (Dabney, 134), Appalachia (Dabney, 76) and during this era, it was legal.
During the revolutionary war, the American government found it expensive financing its troops therefore the decision to place a tax on each and every liquor that was produced and consumed (Dabney, 53). As most of the pioneers of making moonshine originated from Europe and fled because of taxation, the majority of them continued making the liquor illegally without paying taxes. Farmers who acquired these skills discovered making moonshine from corn was more profitable as compared to selling their corn for other purposes (History of Moonshine). People discovered a new way of making moonshine and transporting it to the market (Institute of Man). During the United States Civil War, the government under the federal revenuers again looked for other means of getting money thus their attempts to crack down on the large number of illegal moonshine brewers and in the process, the whiskey rebellion began (Dabney, 67; Howell, 121). In the process many vehicles began transporting the liquor in petrol tanks to avoid being stalked by police thus brought about the rise of race companies including Nascar, which is a multibillion dollar company today (Howell, 8).
By definition of moonshine, it is unregulated and contains impurities (Smith, 394). One major side effect of drinking moonshine is the fact that it causes lead poisoning which can result in death or blindness (Smith, 394). Because of the soldering of the stills, the amount of lead deposited is great, when one consumes the alcohol the levels of lead salts build up in one’s body (Dabney, 223) and in the process cause poisoning. Methanol is an impure alcohol that triggers blindness among alcoholic consumers (Institute of Man). This compound is found in large quantities especially in the improper distilled moonshine.
Moonshine being an illegal brew, is made in the confines of the brewer’s residence but a good number of the brewers would hide their distilleries in forests or in deserted places (Dabney, 23) because of the stringent laws related to moon shinning brewers without licenses. The stills used are made of metal most probably copper (Dabney, 162). These stills also consist of a furnace, worm box with a tap, filter bucket, and a thump keg (History of Moonshine). Because most of the items can be found easily, most brewers come up with their recipe and brew the moonshine at home or in a secluded place and place traps in case of intrusion by the authorities (Dabney, 185). These stills can be contaminated because they use dangerous coolants like glycol, which is used as antifreeze in car engines (Institute of Man).
Moonshine is made by mixing corn, which is grounded in hot water. Sugar and yeast are later added to help in the fermentation process (Dabney, 1). The yeast being the main ingredient in making moonshine is the determining factor in the kind of alcohol produced (Institute of Man). Yeast feeds on sugars and gives alcohol as the byproduct together with carbon (V) oxide (Smith, 70). When put under good conditions the yeast can produce around twenty percent pure alcohol but this process of brewing can result in an increase in toxicity levels because of the presence of natural yeast (Institute of Man).
After addition of the mixture of corn, sugars and yeast in the still, it is heated thus making the alcohol evaporate. The evaporated alcohol is directed to the thump keg by means of a pipe (History of Moonshine). In the thump keg, the liquid alcohol is again reheated to get rid of any solid impurities from the first heating process (Dabney, xxv) then the gaseous alcohol is taken to the worm box in a coil inside the box (History of Moonshine). There is cool water in the worm Box used to condense the pure alcohol vapor into liquid (Dabney, xxii). The condensed liquid is then redirected to a filter bucket via the tap in the worm box. Due to the fact that this alcohol produced is illegal, as soon as they are produced, the brewers cannot keep them for long therefore the need to dispose off as soon as possible (History of Moonshine).
Brewers making the moonshine earn a lot of money (Dabney, 23). For them, the amount of money made was enough to bring up their children and live a healthy lifestyle (Dabney, 29). The majority of the materials used to make the alcohol can be found locally, are recyclable, and at a fairly cheap price (Institute of Man). Once the liquor is produced, it is sold fairly cheap (Dabney, 23) thereby attracting a huge number of followers and the profit margin obtained is great. The American government is responsible for collecting billions of shillings annually (Tsai) because liquor alone is worth to the American government as compared to beer or wine (Tsai).
In most states in America, it is legal to brew liquor at home but selling alcohol is prohibited without a permit. The Volstead Act, which was passed by the congress in 1919 (Dabney, 106) was enacted and enforced the subsequent year. This law was initially enforced to make alcohol expensive for the normal American and in the process, stress out the importance of living in an alcohol free environment (Cohen, 41) and prohibit consumption of illegal alcoholic beverages by the American society (History of Moonshine). Although it was met by a negative response by the majority especially the poor (Dabney, 106), the Volstead law made sure that alcoholic beverages produced were of the right alcohol content to be consumed by citizens.
The Blaine Act, which was passed during the late twentieth century. This law ended the prohibition of making spirits (History of Moonshine). A majority of legal brewers began making alcohol that is relatively cheaper to the American citizen therefore most of the moonshine brewers nearly ran out of business (History of Moonshine).
Consumption of alcohol is good because a large number of brewing companies have a legal permit with the required facilities used in making such beverages. Consumption of moonshine in most cases can be detrimental. There are health risks involved in consumption of such spirits. Due to the fact that these drinks are brewed in secrecy, the brewer might forget to consider the right conditions necessary to brew alcohol thus the yeast may end up building large doses of impurities. Another thing that should prevent people from consuming moonshine is the fact that the chambers used to heat the alcoholic mixtures are made from compounds of lead, which can cause serious health implications.
Cohen, Daniel. Prohibition. Minnesota: Millbrook Press, 1995
Dabney, Joseph Earl. Mountain spirits: a chronicle of corn whiskey from King James’ Ulster plantation to America’s Appalachians and the moonshine life. New York: Scribner, 1974.
Dabney, Joseph Earl. More mountain spirits: the continuing chronicle of moonshine life and corn whiskey, wines, ciders & beers in America’s Appalachians. North Carolina: Bright Mountain Books, 1980.
Howell, Mark D. From Moonshine to Madison Avenue: A Cultural History of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. New Hampshire: Popular Press, 1997.
Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
“The History of Moonshine”. < HYPERLINK “http://habee.hubpages.com/hub/The-History-of-Moonshine” http://habee.hubpages.com/hub/The-History-of-Moonshine> December 03, 2012. The Institute of Man. “The Science and History of Moonshine”. 24 August 2011 < HYPERLINK “http://www.instituteofman.com/2011/08/24/the-science-and-history-of-moonshine/” http://www.instituteofman.com/2011/08/24/the-science-and-history-of-moonshine/> December 03, 2012.