10 Differences Between Moonshining and Homebrewing

The Process
Thirteenth generation distiller Marko Karakasevic makes adjustments to his handmade copper still. He runs a family business making whiskey and other spirits legally. © Kim Kulish/Corbisk

One of the biggest differences between moonshine and homebrew lies in their creation. All rely on sugar and yeast for fermenting but not in the same way. To make beer, you boil malt extract, hops and grains in water, before straining the mixture and allowing it to ferment with yeast for about 10 days. At this point, you add a boiled sugar/water solution into the yeast mixture, pour it into bottles and let it sit for a few weeks [source: American Homebrewers Association].

For homemade wine, you use grapes or berries, as well as water, sugar, wine yeast, the juice of a lemon, and a smidge of ascorbic acid to prevent the wine from changing color when exposed to air or light. After boiling, making a series of container transfers and bottling the concoction, your wine will be ready to drink after a few months of aging [source: McNeill].

Moonshine, on the other hand, requires distillation, though it starts with yeast breaking down a cornmeal and water mixture, called mash, to which sugar is sometimes added. The mixture is boiled in a still, and the resulting alcohol is evaporated at 172 degrees Fahrenheit (78 degrees Celsius), collected as steam and then condensed back into liquid form, usually through a series of copper tubes. Moonshine got its name from the fact that the whiskey stills were set up in backwoods by the light of the moon and away from the prying eyes of law enforcement [source: Smith].