Under The Light of the Moon: A Quick, Down-and-Dirty History of Moonshine

As you work at your home still, your mind may wander from one thought to the next, daydreaming while your still continues to leak nectar of the gods. If you are like many of us, you probably enjoy a good story as you sip your brew too. Well, you are in luck today, because making moonshine has an amazing history of its own.

Feeling Patriotic?

Well, you should be – before the American Revolution, the English tried their darnedest to tax anything and everything, without giving the colonists a say in their own government. Along with that tea thrown into Boston Harbor, they also taxed liquor and fermented beverages and required all brewers to buy a permit. This greatly perturbed many colonists who brewed for their own tables, as well as tavern keepers who brewed and sold their liquor to make a living (some of them were widows and crippled war veterans who had no other way to support themselves). Thomas Jefferson and George Washington also kept their own stills, and George Washington actually ran one of the largest distilleries in the country!

The phrase “Moonshining” was originally used by British colonists in reference to any act done late into the night, and it more often referred to those who were night owls and worked long after dark than to those who made illegal booze. However, as the collection of taxes and distribution of permits were more strictly enforced, the phrase came to apply to the brewing and distilling of spirits and liquor by those who defied the British regulations. Bootlegging referred to the runners who kept bottles of the rebellious liquid in their tall riding boots as they went on their way to divvy it out among their thirsty customers.

1920 and Prohibition

While some of the founding fathers probably would have groaned at the prospect of an alcohol ban after their hard fought victory against the English, more than 150 years later the US Congress passed a constitutional amendment banning the sale and distribution of alcohol by both corporations and individuals. As you can imagine, this went over like a lead balloon with much of the American population, and a black market boomed both during and after the 13 abysmal years of Prohibition, which ended in 1933.

The hillsides of the American South and Appalachia teemed with hidden stills, and rum-running operations of all shapes and sizes sprang up. This is how NASCAR got its start, with men and women alike hard at working bringing thirsty Americans their favorite beverages.

Today’s moonshine drink is most often made of cornmeal, yeast, sugar, and water, but it was originally a more loosely defined term referring to any illegally-made or distributed alcoholic beverage. Unregulated brewing and distilling is still illegal under federal law (so we certainly don’t recommend you do so!), but moonshining has become more mainstream in recent years, with law enforcement officials focusing mostly on the illegal sale and distribution of liquor to minors. We are proud to help you distil your own alcohol and to continue our country’s rich history of moonshine..

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