Recession penny-pinching and the homemade food fad are driving more Americans — from hobbyists to trendy hipster kids — to make homemade liquor, or moonshine, the BBC reported July 18.
As many as a million Americans make their own distilled liquor, experts believe, even though it’s a felony crime that carries with it a $15,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Private distillers are much less likely to get caught than those hocking their homebrew on the market. Plus, the idea of making your own liquor has become cool in some circles — in part because of its very illegality.
Moonshining prosecutions tend to come at the state rather than the federal level. Last month alone, moonshiners were convicted in Kentucky, Georgia, and Arkansas.
The biggest illegal alcohol bust in U.S. history happened in 2001. “Operation Lightning Strike” netted 26 moonshiners from North Carolina to Philadelphia running an operation that had distributed 1.5 million gallons of alcohol — and evaded paying $20 million in taxes.
“If someone is producing illegally distilled spirits and not paying tax then we’ll go after them,” says Arthur Resnick, a spokesperson for the federal government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.