January 9, 2012
Max Watman, in closing of Chasing the White Dog, basically swears off being a distiller/moonshiner, even if he was only doing a pint at a time. He struggles with the “moral ambiguity” of being a hobbyist distiller, equating to something like a person who grows marijuana for himself and friends, which is different than someone who sets up a marijuana farm business. He did acquire some moonshine, the stuff made for pure profit, and said it was awful and needed to be regulated for health and safety. The stuff a hobbyist would make isn’t for profit, and he argues that it should be legalized. He says that with the way current laws are written, where one household can make not sellable 300 gallons of beer or wine a year (I was lead to believe it was 200 gallons, but maybe the laws changed), if you took all 300 of those gallons and distilled them at 10% conversion rate, you would have 30 gallons of spirit. He then alludes to the suggested idea that spirit sales would not decrease because people would want to test it out against store bought stuff (I have heard this to be a myth in New Zealand, where home distilling is legal, and supposedly spirit sales did not decrease). Watman thinks that if the government is really that scared about losing its tax money, hobbyists should have the option of paying $150 licensing fee a year without the ability to sell their spirits.
I have to say, I like this thinking. I recently poured five gallons of cider down the drain because it had a yeast film infection I couldn’t seem to get rid of. If I had bottled it, the infection would have come back. I could have pasteurized it, but I’m not set up to do that many bottles. Not that I’m set up to do distilling, either, but it would have been something new. And five gallons would have ended up as half a gallon of apple brandy, if that. Not only that, but in 2010, I made about 50 gallons of cider and wine, and I only did 40 gallons in 2011. I think, maybe if I could distill, I would ramp up production to make maybe a gallon of spirits (10 gallons more of cider?) a year, because I honestly don’t drink spirits that much. I sip cider and wine, but I down a cocktail. So the way I drink is faster, and my body just can’t handle the higher alcohol. However, I would be making pommeau.
Thing is, I’ve seen stove top stills in stores, and it wouldn’t be that hard with the internet to either buy one online or find plans to build one, which is what Watman did. I also do not think I would be caught by any authority. I know that sounds cocky, which is exactly why I can’t just be a moonshiner. There is a chance that I would be caught, and then I could never open my cider house, and who knows what other issues that would create with my career, and even that of my husband’s.
Oh, but I wish I could!