‘Urban Moonshine’ Is a Thing Now

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Bourbon, not Moonshine, from Kings County Distillery. Photo: Courtesy Kings County Distillery

We bet this would go great with some urban barbecue: If corncob pipes, knee-less overalls, haggard dogs, and long tangles of unkempt mountaineer hair are not already trending in the hipper precincts of our city, at least inventive pot stills and homemade moonshine have made it, says Lauren Shockey in the Village Voice. Shockey talks to several distillers, running the gamut from studio-apartment renegades who cool their hooch with bodega ice as it's being made to perfectly legal outfits like Kings County Distillery, who've built their business large enough after a year and a half that they've outgrown their production digs.

"It's been very difficult," the distillery's David Haskell (a New York Magazine editor) tells the Voice. Kings County Distillery, which started as a hobby, is now producing a staggering 17,500 bottles a year (each bottle is 200 ml). The distillery has now added bourbon to its portfolio. While noting that Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May's BBQ has also launched a line of house moonshine, Shockey zeroes in on the long-term potential growth for the industry. "It is a little bit of a calculated marketing thing or, rather, a calculated marketing thing that we discovered we had," Spoelman tells her. "When I got started doing it on my porch, there wasn't the plan to become this. ... I was interested in the intellectual challenge of learning how to do something that no one else knew how to do."

Fork in the Road also has posted a companion piece that walks you through the steps of stovetop distilling, illustrated with photos taken in the kitchen of a guy named Lance, the Batman-esque moonshiner also featured in the article. Turns out it's pretty easy to make your own with some modified kitchen equipment and a few trips to Home Depot.

But still (no pun intended), all this talk of the little guys tinkering in kitchens and under cover of night invariably conjures up images of large-scale growth. Craft distilling, after all, has been boosted in a major way by bigger, older companies that have more money to throw around and love the idea of small, home-grown brands. Saying that homemade moonshine is on the rise is sort of redundant; traditionally, large and small economic forces at work blur the lines between hobby and enterprise, so who knows, maybe in ten years Lance's stove-top moonshine will be poured in swanky bars all over the world.

After all, home-brewing of beer was for the most part illegal in the United States until 1978. At least that's what it says in the pages of our own New York in an article from 1989, which also quotes the president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, a man named Garrett Oliver, who says "good beer is an important part of life." True words indeed. At the time, it was estimated that 1,000 people in the greater metropolitan area were brewing their own beer. We may not know what happened to all those experimental bottles, but we do know what became of Mr. Oliver.

Tracking Down The City's Moonshiners [VV]
Earlier:So Lets Talk About Craft Distilling