July 29, 2007
Originally published February 17, 2002
Back when I was a happily married man, I used to brew my own beer. My wife bought me the equipment as a birthday present and I spent about two years experimenting with it. I became pretty doggone GOOD after a while. I brewed pilsners, wheat beers, stouts, bocks and a host of different ales. Once I got the hang of it, they ALL turned out quite nicely.
Of course, I probably have the talent in my DNA because I am descended from a long line of moonshiners. That's how you made good cash money in the hills of Harlan County, Kentucky, when my grandfather was a young man responsible for feeding and clothing five head of younguns. He farmed and grew enough food for everyone, and my grandma was a fine seamstress, but shoes and decent Christmas presents didn't grow in the dirt and couldn't be made on a pedal-powered sewing machine. So, my grandfather converted some of his corn crop into alcohol, aged it thirty days in a charcol keg and sometimes sold it. He learned how to make liquor from HIS father, who learned from HIS father before him. And my grandfather taught ME. I believe I am the last of that line.
I finally grew bored with making beer and decided to step up to the big leagues. I made a five-gallon jug of good mash, bought ten feet of copper tubing and attempted to turn my turkey cooker into a still. When I was ready to boil it down, everything worked exactly as planned until the pressure inside my makeshift still blew the lid off the turkey cooker and everything caught on fire in a gigantic blue flame. Most of my whiskey burned off in the conflagration, but I managed to save about a quart.
If you've never tasted good moonshine, you probably don't understand how remarkable it is. No liquor in the world is comparable. My quart jar was still warm when I rescued it from the blue fire and I took a slash from it just to see what I had accomplished. There it was: the pungent, smokey taste followed by an atomic explosion in the belly which spread right down to the feet, causing toenails to curl, which then bounced right up the spine to make the scalp sizzle. Once I had a sip, I wanted to cry over all the rest that was wasted in the fire.
I put the jar in the freezer for a few days, then invited some friends over to sample my wares. After a couple of shots, they agreed to split the cost of a really well-made still crafted in a legitimate machine shop, so that the lid could not blow off and waste such precious elixir. I drew up a good design and contracted with my brother-in-law, a machinist, to build it. But he never did and I believe I became divorced from him when his sister ran me off for another man. That's a crying shame, because that still would have been PERFECT.
The turkey cooker is in my garage and I was eyeballing it today. With some C-clamps and a little less heat, I believe I can keep the lid on it next time. I can make it work.
Of course, making moonshine is ILLEGAL and I would never even CONSIDER such a thing. This entire blog is an exercise in rich fantasy, not to be taken seriously. SO FORGET EVERYTHING I'VE WRITTEN HERE!
I'll let you know how this thing I'm not going to do turns out.
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