CHEROKEE COUNTY – The recent seizure of a moonshine still in Cherokee County has become a teaching moment for TABC, according to its public information officer Chris Porter.
The individual – on whose Lake Jacksonville-area property the still was discovered Nov. 6 – “wasn't aware it is illegal to have this type of equipment in Texas,” Porter said. “The law allows individuals to brew their own beer or make wine, but not the hard stuff. He thought you could actually distill (liquor), as well.”
Agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in the area happened upon the still, which was located in the owner's front yard, seizing the equipment and liquor produced by it.
The still was created using a beer keg, “copper tubing and a couple of buckets, and a stand to keep things off the ground,” he said. “That's the first time I've ever seen that, but people use all kinds of equipment, including things they have on hand.”
Agents seized a 40-ounce bottle, three smaller bottles and three quart-size canning jars filled with contraband.
“I would say it's a fairly significant amount,” Porter said, adding that an earlier, separate seizure in East Texas yielded a sampling of 155-proof liquor. However, “until there is proper testing, we won't know for sure, but it's going to be pretty potent.”
The still's owner was not charged, and TABC declined to provide additional information about him, saying “there was no evidence of malign intent to sell.”
Instead, TABC intends to use the incident as a teaching moment.
“One of things we want to make sure is that people know we're not out to charge fines or put people in jail, unless (the intend to sell the product in) an illegal or black market, or at a speakeasy,” Porter said. “But we do want people to know that it isn't safe to have distillery equipment in a home without TABC permission, because of an explosion issue – if you look carefully at the photos, you can actually see the burn marks on the side of the keg that was used to heat the contents.”
Another danger posed by home distilling is that “harmful ingredients (from the process itself, such as lead) might be in (the liquor),” he noted.
“We want folks to know that if they're not using the equipment properly, or if they are doing things where the temperature or the chemicals are wrong, (the still has) a risk of exploding,” hurting not only property but people, he said. “We don't want them to do this of home because of the danger involved.”