Appalachian Trail Histories


A Brief History of Moonshine in Appalachia

When thinking of moonshine and illegal alcohol, many may think back to the Prohibition era and the notorious gangster activity of Chicago and New York in the 1920's and early '30's. As this image from Harper's Weekly demonstrates, Americans were making thier own liquor even when its production, distribution and sale was legal.

Homemade liquor is frequently called "moonshine" because it was commonly made at night, under the cover of darkeness and by the light of the moon. This subterfuge helped to keep this illegal activity under wraps and away from the notice of law enforcement. 

Many of the residents of Appalachia have Scots-Irish ancesty. Moving to a new country did not make these new Americans forget their tradtional recipies for homebrewed whiskey, and the relative isolation of Appalachia and longstanding political unrest protected families from state and local governments enforcing laws agaisnt moonshining. 

Outside of maintaining tradition, moonshiners in Appalachia also made moonshine to sell for cash which was hard to come by in a subsistance economy.

Some states have recently considered allowing the production of legal "moonshine" by allowing microdistileries to operate. This would allow for the legal and regulated continuation of whisky making and perserve centuries-old recipies while allowing the state to collect taxes. However, because of the association with criminatility and the "hillbilly" sterotype, some are hesitant to welcome microdistilleries.