Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inspired by idiocy!

One thing that makes America great is the ability of the most ridiculous things becoming overnight TV hits.

I am as guilty as anyone, I get suckered into watching reality TV all the time. Everything from Mythbusters to Flying Wild Alaska.  As a matter of fact, as I type, Larry the Cable Guy’s show Only in America is blaring in the living room.

One thing that I discovered pretty quickly is that these shows are really interesting until they tackle a subject that you know a little something about. Think Alton Brown’s Good Eats when he tackled homebrew. Sure, it was theoretically factual, but certainly skidded over some of the finer points.
Discovery Channel recently aired a show called “Moonshiners.”
Featuring the lovable dumb hillbilly named Tim and his perpetually shloustered buddy Tickle who are just trying to feed their children by running “Shine.”

Courtesy of TV Guide
One thing that I love about the Discovery Channel is that they never let facts get in the way of a good story!

The show did one thing that I really think is a great value to our country. It has a lot of people thinking about distillation that may have never thought of it before.

In my efforts to learn more about distilled spirits and distillation, a subject I’ve been interested in since High School, I’ll give the show credit for pushing me to learn all that I can.

One of the first things I learned is that the show is nearly 100 percent BS. Everything from their “Moonshine” that is clearly NOT alcohol, to packaging in Milk Jugs, a practice that could easily kill your customers, the subject is real, but the show is quite odviously sensationalized for TV.

I did manage to muster enough of my “Journalism skills” to talk a local moonshiner into showing me the process. He is not, in my eyes, a criminal. He has been making his own whiskey and rum for years, but he is not selling it, and he is not participating in a distribution ring that resembles that of a Meth lab.

While I draw a huge distinction between home distillation and “Moonshining” the process is basically the same. And I again want to say that I’m not in favor of people evading taxes on commercial scale distillation operations. I’m interested in allowing homebrewers to run small scale distillation of their products that are NOT for sale.

I prepared the “Wash” or product to be distilled. I made a wine out of brown sugar, white sugar and molasses.

A quick phone call and a short drive after the wine had finished fermenting and cleared, and we were ready to “Run it.”

As you might expect, my mentor is more than a little reluctant to have much of a photo session with me, but as with most craftsmen, he is proud of his product and craft. That is how I convinced him to show me the process.

First we charged the boil kettle, that is to say we siphoned my wine into his keg that sits on a turkey frier. The still column clamps to the top of the keg like tri-clamp fittings on a conical fermentor, and water lines are hooked up to the condenser. The condenser is the part that takes place of the “worm” that is used on Discovery’s show.

After about 30 minutes of heating up, the line started to drip. We collected the first 100 ML in a mason jar and kept it as a solvent for use in the shop. This part is called the foreshots and contains all the methanol or “wood alcohol” that was produced during fermentation. This is the part that, if drank in sufficient quantities, makes you go blind. 

This story will be continued on Saturday.  Thursday is of course, Yeti Thursday so more distillation on Saturday.

~Cheers!

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Buck!