Fast & FREE Shipping!

This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

October 31, 2012
Last updated

Moonshiners - A Price to Pay - Season 1, Episode 5

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Moonshining is a serious business that can make some serious money. However, big operations (and small!) are also highly illegal, and it can mean jail time for anyone that's caught involved in the making of it.

The show "Moonshiners" is a suspenseful look into the world of illegal distillation. Times have not changed in rural Southwest Virginia where moonshiners talk with a southern drawl about the business that has been a part of their heritage for decades. The show takes place at the end of Fall- the end of the moonshining season for many. This is because the leaves will soon fall and the camouflage of the stills will be gone. Also, it can take up to a month for just one pot of mash to ferment due to low temperatures. If the yeast drops below a certain temperature, it will be become inactive, and the only way to avoid that is to keep an active flame going around the clock to heat the pot. Thus, it is very important for the moonshiners to be done with their distilling before the winter begins.

10 Gallon Moonshine Still Kit

However, the moonshiners are shown side by side with a parallel story: the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) of Virginia. The ABC is working to shut down any outfits of stills that may be in production.

The opening scenes show moonshiners JT, Tim, and Tickle trying to expand Tim's distillation site. Tim is trying to make enough money in a week to pay for a $200,000 bond that could make him legitimate. His son is helping him, and that is one of the main reasons he does not want to be an illegal moonshiner for another season. Thus, if he can expand his business, then he can get a large amount of that money in under a week's time.

They are building a shed for another pot when Tickle falls off the roof. Tickle tries to look all right, but he is clearly in pain. At home, Tickle explains in a drunken haze that he bandaged up his broken ribs himself and that Moonshine is his medicine of choice. This is just the first of many great one liners from a man who loves his poison.

Meanwhile, ABC agent, Jesse, is on the lookout for a distilling location that may be in plain sight. He has heard word from solid resources and an undercover agent that there is one in the area.

The show then explains a little more about the history of distilling moonshine. At one time, moonshiners explain that this was a cash crop and not illegal. However, the Prohibition changed everything and forced moonshiners to go underground. Ever since then, it has become a lucrative and dangerous business for anyone involved.

Each moonshining operation has a special pot. Each pot indicates where the moonshine is from. For example, Tim's outfit has a submarine pot that is common for this area of Virginia. In Kentucky and Tennessee, they use pots that look more like turnips. Moonshiners in the Ozarks have their own style, and so on.  

Meanwhile, the ABC agent is hot on the trail of a bootlegger. Jesse and fellow agents Tanya and Jim explore the areas around one supposed hot spot. As they climb a steep hill to get closer, they realize there are people in the area. Unable to get any closer without being detected, they decide to return at night in order to catch people in the process of actually making and distilling the moonshine.

Back in Tim's storyline, he is struggling to get everything up and running. Due to Tickle's accident, he is unable to help. Tim therefore seeks the help of a good friend named Bill. 

Meanwhile, another moonshiner is shown pouring out the last of his batch. Popcorn is a moonshiner who has been in this business for years. He is getting out of the game though, and this will be his last season. He says he "hates to pour this good stuff out, but the animals get to drink it now" as he pours the bucket of moonshine into the forest. He then gathers up his mason jars of moonshine, and walks off into the distance.

Back at Tim's operation, the moonshiners continue to finish the distillation process. They work day and night to finish the job. Tickle shouts at one point: "Look at those two beautiful pots! The moon's shining... the moon's shinning on the moonshing! Beautiful!" A deep insight from a man not in complete control of his slurred speech.

Despite their setbacks, the moonshine operation is almost complete. Tim sends Bill and Tickle out to get the last and most important part of the process: the worm. The worm is what condenses the mash and turns it into moonshine. One moonshiner explains that if you want to make moonshine, you need this large metal coil in order to do it properly. If not, then you will not be able to make it. In fact, whenever the ABC bust up an operation, they will always take the coil to keep others from using it in the future.

On the way back to the location of the still, Tickle sits in the back of a pickup truck with the box and coil. However, as the truck rounds a corner, the box slips out onto the road. The coil is now seen in broad daylight! Tim and Bill hurry to place it back into the truck as fast as they can. Unfortunately, the coil's box is broken, and the team must build a new one.

Once a new one is made, the team fire up the burner and begin the stilling process. Somebody will need to be on watch 24/7 in order to keep the process active. The show closes with the moonshiners beginning the process and the ABC agents closing in on someone else.

Remember, distilling alcohol at home for consumption is illegal. Do not do this.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • how can Tim not get caught with his pictures all over the tv?

    Posted by Big Charlie on January 29, 2013
  • naw….you only heat the kettle up first to about 160 degrees. The heat on the bottom isn;t where you solder it together. And actually you’ll see them use a ‘paste’ or goop on the seams. all that is is flour and water, to make sure the joints are sealed and not leaking so it won’t go boom.
    the first run you do it hard and fast, get rid of the first bit, as its poison. as shiners say, you ditch the tail and head. then comes out the decent stuff. but when you run, you keep the run in order as it comes out, before re-running it through the still again, and yet again again sometimes. often, you’ll give the crap to your friends to drink, mix the middle together in a blend and sell that, as it’s worth the most usually. People equate the old crock jugs, with the XXX on the side with shine….what many do not know is the X’s were often used to mark how many times it was run through the worm, or distilled.

    Posted by joe dirt on December 19, 2012
  • For some reason it looks like if you use a propane heater on the bottom of the still the lead will melt making the pot to leal

    Posted by Gary DiBenedetto on December 10, 2012

Leave a comment

Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don't answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!

Enter your email address below and we'll send you a free eBook on how to get started with brewing or distilling!