10 Differences Between Moonshining and Homebrewing

Jail Time
A view of the giant moonshine still taken by the police during a raid in Pittsburgh in 1922. Two of the alleged operators of the still are shown with their coats off. It was one of the largest stills taken since the advent of Prohibition. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Let's say you decide to convert the closet in your guest bedroom into a pale ale production zone. In the eyes of the law, it's no problem. Federal law states that two adults in a single household can make up to 200 gallons (757 liters) of beer or wine each year, unless prohibited by the state [source: Tsai].

Although your guests may wonder why you thought beer takes precedence over their convenience, you don't have to worry that Johnny Law is going to bust down your door.

Making moonshine, however, presents a different set of issues. ATF agents frown upon such operations because of a little ol' statute known as 26 U.S.C. § 5602, which levies up to five years in federal prison (yikes!) and up to $10,000 in fines for illegal distilling.

Some states will allow hobby distilleries for personal consumption of moonshine, but in many cases you'll still need federal permits and licenses and to pay federal occupational taxes of $500 per year [source: Snider]. This allowance, and the fact that some commercial producers have added moonshine to their lineup, is why you can sometimes purchase hooch in a liquor store or bar [source: Tsai].